If there's one thing I've learned about Spain and traveling around it in the past ten months, it's that there's two places you must visit. Sure, there are other places, but if you haven't been to Barcelona and Granada, well...you really haven't been to Spain at all. (At least that's the unspoken attitude I've experienced.) This school year both were on my "Must See Spain" list and happily we've been able to cross both off.
We drove the two hours from Ronda (see our time there here) to Granada and once we finally found parking near our Airbnb, we powerwalked through the city to the Mirador de San Nicolás in hopes of seeing the Alhambra at sunset. We made it, along with a couple hundred others - apparently the spot is no secret for watching the sun go down. To be honest, the Alhambra did not look all that impressive from where we were...good thing it wasn't our only chance to see it!
D - It took us forever to find parking near our place, mostly due to the fact I am not really familiar with street signage here so I was trying to be extra careful to ensure we didn't collect any parking tickets, and also because we weren't driving a Smart car on this trip so I was restricted to normal size parking spaces. Because of this, and because we were a bit too chatty with our Airbnb host, we basically had to run to catch the sunset. I don't recommend this, as sunsets are more enjoyable/romantic when you aren't sweaty and/or irritable. I can be an especially wearisome travel companion as often during these types of situations I leave Shannon 10 or 15 steps behind, periodically turn around and sigh dramatically, and say something to the effect of "can't you walk any faster?" I'm still learning how to enjoy the moment...
We spent the remainder of the evening walking through shops in El Albayzín, or the Moorish Quarter, going into the Catedral de Granada...mostly just trying to kill time until the place we wanted to eat dinner had opened.
D - We saw so many shops like the one pictured above, and I really liked all the different lamps and lights. Unfortunately, they are pretty difficult purchases, logistically speaking, so we didn't get one, which is a shame because it would've really come in handy for the upcoming "Arabian Nights" theme dinner I've been planning. You think I'm joking but I'm not. Nothing beats a well executed themed meal/party.
Finally, at 8pm, well past the hour that we usually like to eat dinner (clearly we are about as un-Spanish in our eating habits as we can get), Bar Poë opened up and we rushed the doors. The food was good, but I don't know if it was "eat-here-every-night-of-your-trip" good. I'd had it recommended it to me by friends and by blogs I'd read about Granada, and it really seemed like a place we couldn't miss. Perhaps their vegetarian food isn't quite as good as their standard fare?
D - Yeah, don't tell Shannon or any of my other vegan friends this, but I had a pork and pineapple skewer here (you know, to engage in the culture) and it was absolutely incredible. On a serious note though, I really do eat plant-based foods for the vast majority of my meals. Some might have the impression that this is only because of Shannon but that's not true at all. I choose what I eat based on my own research and convictions. One often overlooked benefit of eating plant-based foods most of the time is that makes meals with meat in them special, and not just regular daily fare.
When we were first planning a potential trip to Granada, I checked to see if there were tickets to the Alhambra available for the dates we would be there. There were not. So I read websites and guidebooks and blogs and talked to everyone I knew who had been about what we could do - there must be some other way to get in, right?! We could pay bookoo bucks for a guided tour or get up at the crack of dawn (okay, way before dawn) and wait in line in hopes of getting two of the tickets released on the day of. We took our chances, wore our layers, and split up - one of us in the credit card line and one in the cash line - and we lucked out!
D - This was an incredibly anxious and cold period of time. I imagine it was what Linus felt like while waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up, with the exception of us getting a happy ending. After getting the tickets in my line, I made my way over to Shannon with a miserable look on my face (an Oscar-worthy performance) before flashing her the tickets. I think I learned this trick from an episode of The Brady Bunch. Anyway, it's a lot of fun if you can pull it off and I highly recommend it. Oh, and the Alhambra was pretty cool too.
For me, it wasn't one certain part of the Alhambra that struck me necessarily as jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring and just "WOW!" It was all of it put together. The extensive gardens, the Moorish architecture that we keep exploring around Spain, the jumping fountains, the purple flowers, the arched doorways, the intricate patterns on the walls, the reflections in the pools, the colorful tiles, the views of the city and the mountains: all of it as a whole makes it a masterpiece to me. And while I wasn't particularly taken by Granada, if the city was just the Alhambra, I'd say it's still worth a visit. Sorry for the deluge of photos to follow but 1) what did you expect? and 2) hardly anything else in Granada is as photogenic, so... Oh and this is only a small percentage so thank your lucky stars ;)
We had lunch at a fun Middle Eastern place back in El Albayzín we'd scouted out the night before, followed by some baklava (that Danny talked about for weeks following) and market browsing. It was pretty good, but I don't know if it was that good ;)
D - This was, to date, the best baklava I have ever had. It is one of the things that actually prompted my idea to have an "Arabian Nights" themed dinner, just so I could have an excuse to eat more baklava.
D - This is a great style for wearing your backpack in crowded, touristy places. I call it "not getting pickpocketed."
We headed back into the cathedral to get a better look during the daytime. The inside is very light and white, and I quite liked it.
We finished with a walk up to and around the Sacromonte neighborhood. On our way we had views of the Alhambra, as well as of the setting sun. The neighborhood itself was a little strange at times, but there were some really pretty moments for sure, and I'm glad we decided to make the trip up.
D - Sacromonte is known for it's large Gypsy population, as well as it's large hippie population. We were surprised during our time here to see so many alternative lifestyles on display. I never knew there were so many different types of dreadlocks! I believe, if I'm remembering right, that the hippies are called something to the extent of "black feet" by locals because many of them don't wear shoes and their feet get really dirty. At any rate, this was a really interesting neighborhood to walk through, with the accompaniment of some great live music and gorgeous views.
We had our final meal in Granada at Hicuri, a vegan place that was really stellar. We split a smoothie, a veggie burger, and piece of berry cheesecake and it was all top-notch.
We didn't have to return our rental car until 7pm the next day, and the drive back to Madrid was only about four hours, but since we felt like we'd seen all we wanted to in Granada, we spent the morning at our Airbnb sleeping in, having a leisurely breakfast prepared by our host, planning our next trip (we had a week off in December that was quickly approaching), and packing up. It was a nice change of pace from our usual Tuesday - Danny's usually out of the house by 7:30am and me by 8am and then we're gone until after 6pm.
Granada probably doesn't make my list of favorite cities of Spain, but the Alhambra could sure be up there on favorite sites. I enjoyed the Moorish area of the city, although it seemed a bit touristy and rather small, and I of course liked the Alhambra very much, but some parts of the city felt rather...alternative?...and surprised me a little bit. I would have to agree with the masses here - Granada's worth visiting - but not for much more than 24 hours in my opinion. Set aside 4-5 hours for the Alhambra, then the rest of the day for the cathedral and walking around El Albayzín and Sacromonte, then head out the next morning for Ronda, Sevilla, Córdoba, the coast - there are too many other amazing places in Spain to spend too much time in Granada ;)