Return to España Day 12-Granada and The Alhambra

My husband and I had designed our second trip to Spain to be more relaxing than our previous trips to Europe. The first half, the half in Barcelona, certainly was relaxing. However, the second half had been much more tiring. Between bad luck and just seeing a new part of the country we were exhausted by the time the twelfth day of our trip arrived. That day just happened to have the earliest start of our trip.

Like the day before we were taking a day trip. However, this time we were going to Granada which was twice as far away from Seville than Cordoda had been. That, of course, meant an earlier start. The pick-up time for our day tour was 6:00 am. Since the tour company had our old hotel information we had to allow ourselves time to walk to the meeting spot. Due to the extra walking time we had to leave our hotel no later than 5:30 am to make sure we had more than enough time to make it to the meeting spot by 6:00. To say that we were extremely tired would be a massive understatement.

The one good thing about getting up so early was that it allowed us the chance to see the streets of Seville when they were completely empty; since the Spanish are so nocturnal nobody was out at that very early hour.

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Even the metro wasn’t open yet.

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When we got picked up we were a little disappointed. The tour bus wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the bus had been the day before. Not to mention the people on the bus were a little too energetic and friendly for our tastes. Luckily, our group was so big that it needed two buses and the second bus had some empty seats on it. Before we left Seville they let six of us switch from the crowded bus to the other bus so that things would be more even. My husband wasn’t sure if we should switch, but I figured the other bus couldn’t be worse, so we moved. I am so glad we did because the second bus was not only more comfortable but the people on it were much more low key, like us.

Once we were on our new bus we were off on the three hour ride to Granada and our ultimate destination of the Alhambra. Like the day before I stayed away for a little bit but then fell asleep.

About halfway to Granada we stopped at a truck stop so that everybody could use the restroom and get something to eat. While I was looking around at what to eat I was annoyed by a woman on our tour. She started up a conversation with me because she “heard somebody else speaking English.” This annoyed the crap out of me. When I travel internationally I put a great deal of effort into learning the language of the country I’m visiting (check out my blog on this very topic). It bugs me when people expect people in other countries to always speak English with them. At least try to speak their language. What made this woman even more annoying was the fact she told me she’s lived her entire life in California and Arizona. Really? You’ve lived your entire life in the American Southwest and you haven’t even tried to learn Spanish?

Anway, I digress. I was also very tired. So much so that I had a disaster while I was standing in line to pay for my breakfast and I spilled my coffee everywhere. I was so embarrassed. It was karma too. On our first trip to Spain in 2011 my husband had a sandwich fall apart on him. When that happened I gave him the nickname Disaster Diane. When I had my disaster at the truck stop my husband correctly pointed out I was now the one that was Disaster Diane.

After our brief break at the truck stop it was back on the tour bus for the second half of our trip to Granada. I enjoyed taking in the Spanish countryside, especially noting where the high speed trains go. It baffles me that here in California we have to fight tooth and nail to get the first ever high speed rail like built from San Francisco to Los Angeles and in Spain (not to mention most of the rest of Europe) they have high speed rail and they are constantly working to expand it.

I don’t know what I was expecting Granada to look like but it certainly wasn’t what I got when we arrived. I didn’t realize that it sits at the base of a large mountain range. Shame on me but I didn’t’ know there were mountains in Southern Spain that were big enough or cold enough for people to ski on but apparently they are. I also wasn’t expecting the city to be as big as it is I think I was expecting something like Cordoba. There is a marked difference between Cordoba and Granada. Cordoba is a large town and Granada is a small city.

The Alhambra is located above the rest of the city as you begin the climb up the mountains.

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As we exited the tour but I was very excited.

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I had been wanting to see the Alhambra ever since I saw it on a documentary on Islam a few years ago. It was definitely the number one place I wanted to see in Southern Spain.

I have mixed feelings about doing guided tours. When you do a guided tour you get tons of great information that you wouldn’t get otherwise. When I was in Peru last year I found it was the best way to go (check out my blog on the day I had day tour of Cuzco: https://jeremyochsgonzales.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/peru-day-3-cuzco/). I had enjoyed our day tour the day before in Cordoba (check out my blog on that day: https://jeremyochsgonzales.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/return-to-espana-day-11-cordoba/). Yet, at the same time I don’t like them. I feel like sheepeople and I don’t like being able to go at my own pace. My husband and I were kind of forced to take a day tour for the Alhambra. Apparently, it is so popular that unless you get there really in the morning you might not get in. If you’re not staying in Granada the only way you can really guarantee a spot is if you book a day tour. It would be a giant disaster to rent a car and drive the three hours from Seville to Granada and not get in. Our tour was broken up in a several smaller groups. Our tour guide was named Gustavo and he was very knowledgeable and friendly but at the end of the day I do feel like our time at the Alhambra was a bit rushed and it does feel like a bit of a blur two months later.

The tour involved a lot of walking.

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Once we were broken up into our smaller group we headed for the entrance.

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Everything we saw was beautiful.

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We had a little bit of down time as Gustavo went to get our tickets. I really wish he had had us wait by a gift shop instead of by some random cannons that weren’t even a part of the Alhambra back in the day.

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When we did have a chance to visit a gift shop it was only for ten minutes and it was combined with a bathroom break. I only had about two minutes in the gift shop and I didn’t buy anything. Gustavo had said we would see all the same souvenirs in Granada after our tour. He was wrong. I really regret not buying anything in my two minutes.

Our first stop was a part that was much more modern and built long after the Catholics took over. In fact it was never completed.

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It was the palace of Carlos 5th of Spain.

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It was impressive but it wasn’t the Moorish stuff we had all come to see.

Once we were in the Alhambra itself I was in awe. It was everything I wanted it to be. The architecture was the classic Moorish look I wanted to see.

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I’ve seen so many beautiful palaces in Europe but this one stands apart. It isn’t more or less beautiful than the other palaces. It is just different.

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Although there were lots of people there we were able to take lot of great pictures.

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One the favorite things I learned on our tour was about the difference between the Muslim fountains and the Christian fountains. The Muslim fountains are nearly silent.

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Whereas, the Christian fountains have the clear sound of running water.

I have to admit I preferred the Muslim fountains. I really loved our time at the Alhambra.

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But I wish we could have gone at our own pace. But at least since we were with a tour we did have Gustavo to take a picture of us without worrying about our camera getting stolen.

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After we exited the actual Alhambra we made our way along its defensive walls.

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Our next stop was the gardens called Generalife.

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These gardens were really beautiful.

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By now the sun had come out and it was getting very warm. I once again was happy that were visiting Southern Spain in April rather than the summer or fall. Gustavo talked about how hot it gets in those months and how he wants to move to the UK because he doesn’t want to be hot anymore.

One disappointing thing for my husband was that we didn’t get a proper map of the Alhambra as part of our tour. He’s big on collecting things like this. After we left the Generalife and waited to board our bus we saw lots of people with their maps heading inside. This was very frustrating for him because we knew that most of those people wouldn’t hold onto their maps, especially the little kids.

After we boarded the bus we headed back into Granada.

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Our tour had come with a walking tour of the Jewish quarter but we decided not to do it so we could take our time with our lunch. I don’t know if this was the right decision or not. If we had gone on the tour we would have had to rush eating but then again we would have seen a different part of the city and maybe, just maybe, we would have seen a little tourist shop. As it was we were able to take our time eating lunch, but my husband’s food wasn’t good and it gave him a stomach ache.

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We were able to take our time exploring a little.

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But we were only able to find one little tourist shop and its selection was quite small. This was very frustrating. I was kicking myself for not buying something during my two minutes in the shop outside of the Alhambra gates earlier in the day. We did buy something because with time running out we knew that was as good as it was going to get.

Then we were back on the bus. Our three hour ride back to Seville seemed to take forever. The difference was I wasn’t tired enough to sleep. Thankfully we had my I-Pod so we could listen to music. We stopped at the same truck stop that we had stopped at on the way there. We were able to buy some Granada souvenirs there. It was kind of funny that we weren’t able to buy what we wanted in Granada itself but instead got things at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. But you do what you have to do. I once again found myself holding back on what I bought for fear of the weight of my suitcase. Why oh why hadn’t I listened to myself back in Los Angeles when I knew I was over packing?

When we got back to Seville we switched back to our original tour bus. Once we were back in our original uncomfortable seats with the loud talkative people were more thankful than ever that we had been able to switch earlier in the day. After getting dropped off we took a taxi back to our hotel and hung out in our room for a little bit before heading out to dinner. Instead of returning to our hole in the wall place we tried a nicer restaurant we had been eyeing the two previous nights.

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The food was amazing.

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It was everything I love about Spanish cuisine.

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Not to mention it was very reasonably priced.

As we returned to our hotel we were sad. After almost two weeks we only had one full day left in Spain and it was supposed to rain the next day. Rain or no rain we determined to make our last day count.

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