Sunday, February 22, 2009
For many, many more pictures, check out my Alhambra album.
The Alhambra, located in Granada, is one of Spain's great treasures. I can describe the trip, I can post pictures, but the feeling and the experience is unimaginable.
We were up at zero-dark thirty, grabbed a bite and hit the road. We went east to Malaga, then north and east again. The roads are well-marked, and once you hit Granada, finding Alhambra is simple. Figuring out the parking was more difficult, you park, pull a ticket and pay when you leave.
Next you walk down to the admission gates. We bought a guidebook, I am glad we did. We skipped the audiotour. The Nasrid palaces are so popular, you are assigned an entry time. We had to hustle to get down there at 9:00, we'd parked at 8:30. It was chilly and damp, and in winter there is a lot of restoration work going on. We finally found the line, our map wasn't too specific and there was more than one way to go. Yikes. But there were only a handful of tourists in line. One man was upset that it was hard to find the way to the line, the nice guides and docents kept shuffling him off to another place in line. He complained a lot to us as we spoke English. I think the guides spoke more English than they were letting on, and I don't blame them.
We had to wait for a guided tour group to enter, then we were allowed in. There isn't a set plan for going through the palaces, but the way through flowed fairly well.
The Nasrid palaces are Moorish structures, with elaborate arches and vaulted ceilings, fountains and courtyards. When the Christian monarchs came in, they acquired the palaces and knocked openings in walls to make them into one vast palace. We were disappointed that there were no lions under the Fountain of Lions, they're in the shop so to speak. But as the other tourists and the guided tour went at a faster pace than we were moving, Larry and I often were in the grand and awesome rooms all by ourselves. I swear you could hear the history leaking off the walls. I won't go into details, if you look through my facebook pictures, each place I snapped has a description.
We left the palaces and entered into a series of gardens along the walls. We didn't go up into the many guard towers. There were gardeners out, and one friendly little red cat. She trotted up to us along a low wall, and purred and asked to be petted. I put my arm down and she curled up in the crook up my elbow, snuggled in my cape. When we walked away, she trotted into the gardener's shed. I was impressed by the way the Spaniards were caring and careful of the feral cats.
We explored other parts of the Alhambra, the cistern grounds, more gardens, the Medina, the archealogical digs (no, you can't go down in them. we skipped the cathedral, becasue my feet were dying from walking on cobblestones. King Philp's palace is interesting, it has a wonderful museum which is free for tourists. And of course, we found the gift shops, one was dedicated entirely to inlad wood. Nice! One had a dress-up as a Moor portrait gallery, I wish I'd insisted we do that. By this time, the groups of school kids on field trips arrived, which changed the energy in a fun and interesting way.
We went through the Wine Gate into the Alcazaba ... which means citadel or fortress. This is the oldest structure, with massive towers and remains of homes and baths behind the great walls. Larry climbed the high towers, I was exhausted by now. We skipped the Generalife gardens, I just wasn't up to plants and sore feet.
On the way to the car, an old gypsy lady stopped us and told our fortune, read our palms, in Spanish, after handing me a sprig of rosemary. Really, she had the shawl and the hunch, as if she'd stepped from central casting. No gold earrings, though. She told me I was faithful and kind and a good mother. Two out of three ain't bad. Still, we were careful and hung onto our purses! Larry gave her a handful of coins, three Euros something. She insisted we give her five Euros. We shook our heads and kept going ... you don't get to set the price for begging, do you? So I think I have a gypsy curse as a souvenir.
Hint: if you are going, get there early.