Granada

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
1
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Granada is about 400km south of Madrid at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.  It has a long Moorish history which is still very evident today.  This gives visitors like us much to do.  After finding our hostel in yet another beautiful cobblestone lined neighbourhood filled with cafes and tapas bars, we went to do our usual exploratory walk about.  After fending off gypsies trying to give us rosemary sprigs and tell our fortunes, we stumbled across an area full of stands and shops all done up in a medieval tradition.  They were selling goods from the day made the way they were centuries ago.  They had cheeses, lace, spices, and Meg was hypnotized by the baked goods merchants.  They were selling all kinds of cakes and meat pies that made the whole neighbourhood smell fantastic.  After a couple of samples and a little window shopping, we moved on as we wanted to try and make arrangements to visit what most people come to Granada for, the famous Alhambra Palace.  The Alhambra was originally constructed for defensive purposes, but was later lavishly decorated by Moorish rulers with Palaces, beautiful gardens and even a retreat for the Sultans (called Generalife) where they kept their harems.  Anyway, to get back to the story, we stopped by the tourist office to see if we could buy or reserve advanced tickets.  We were informed that you can only reserve by calling or on the internet.  We gave them a call only to find out that the earliest we could reserve tickets was for the following Wednesday... a week away!  Talk about poor foresight and planning on our part.
Considering they limit entrance to a whopping 7700 people per day, and it was the middle of October, we thought we would be ok.  As a consolation, we were told that we could try and get tickets first thing in the morning as each day they save a few hundred tickets for poor planners like ourselves.  We figured we would give it a shot in the morning.  Dejected, we headed back to our room for some dinner and a raptors game!  They were in madrid on a promotional NBA tour.  A nice surprise.
The next morning, being the troopers that we are, we got up about an hour and a half before the sun decided to grace us with its presence.  We hiked for about half an hour through dark and winding streets with few road signs practically straight up.  The Alhambra is atop a large hill of course - another penalty for not booking ahead we figure.  Once we finally found our way we were greeted by throngs of tourists (who all took the bus or cabs up by the way - lazy cheaters).  We finally found the right line and managed to buy two of the last few dozen passes for the day!  Yippee!  The most popular spot to visit on the grounds is the Palace and private gardens.  They actually tell you on your ticket which half hour you are able to enter that part of the compound.  We had the 1pm - 1:30pm time slot.  As it was 8am, we had some time to kill.  However there is so much to see up there, that by the time we got through the stunning Generalife retreat, the impressive Alhambra museum, the seemingly endless impeccably groomed gardens, and had some overpriced snacks, we had about 15 minutes before our window of opportunity began.  Just enough time to sharpen our elbows for the always enjoyable I-know-you-were-in-line-before-me-but-I-am-still-going-to-tr y-and-cut-in-front-of-you-anyway European style of lining up.  The early morning, the long dark and cold hike, the 10 euro ticket, and the hectic line was all worth it. The Alhambra is pure palace perfection.  The intricate designs of the buildings, the gorgeous fountains, pools, and gardens all topped off by the stunning panoramic views of Greater Granada was awesome.  A truly exotic palace.  The pictures never seem to do it justice, but we tried to capture what we could.  On our way back down the hill to town, we came across a festival of sorts.  That day (October 12) happens to be Spain's National Day.  This festival was filled with locals drinking, eating tapas and celebrating all things Spanish.  In the heart of it all was a stage where a traditional Flamenco performance was going on.  It looked like girls aged 5 to 15 and they were full of Spanish  sass.  The littlest of the bunch had the most rhythym and spice.  Cute and immpressive at the same time.
We had dinner on our street in what seemed like a favourite place of the locals.  We give Spanish cuisine thumbs up.  It doesn't always look great, but it tastes fabulous!  After dinner we strolled the streets and wound up at the plazas with the medieval type booths.  This time it was even busier and Meg couldn't help herself from sampling some of their homemade sweets. 
We have only been in Granada for two nights but we feel we have accomplished more than we initially anticipated.  It is a very pleasant city with a vibrancy beyond its scope of expectation.  Afabulous place that we would love to visit again.
But for now, we are off to Seville!
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