Today wasn't originally on our itinerary, but Clare keeps in touch with her family whilst we're away and it transpires that her great-aunt and -uncle know this part of the world and named their favourite place. We looked it up in our Rough Guide and the relevant chapter started convincingly: "If you see only one town in Spain it should be Granada." High praise, and so we booked a coach and reserved tickets to the Alhambra, the site that Granada is most known for.
My initial impressions weren't good. We had rather a trek from the bus station without the aid of a map and the distance meant that we saw a Granada that was no different from anywhere else; roads with lots of traffic, people going about their day, and nothing out of the ordinary. Fortunately I caught a glimpse about half an hour into our walk of a sign (well, piece of paper) inside a shop window stating "Hay mapas" and so, after waiting in a queue behind one of those people who don't actually want to buy anything but just get in the way with their unruly kids, we acquired the necessary material to confirm the way that we would have to go. Hindsight makes me particularly grateful because I'd have normally chosen to follow the current road to oblivion instead of leaving it there and then to peel off in the direction of the old town, the existence of which we corroborated upon arriving at a gate.
A bit of navigational wizardry was needed from this point to find the main street (the trick being not to actually pass through the gate) upon which the cathedral was built. We found it without too much fuss. I was initially unimpressed, although it turns out that the bit on the main road is the rear (hence my thinking it looked rather plain), and by looping around we got to see the front of it.
It was situated in a very pretty courtyard.
We knew we probably wouldn't get an evening meal, so thought we'd get lunch. Clare played it safe, getting a pizza. I ordered the daily meal thinking that gazpacho couldn't be too far away from tomato soup. I was wrong; it was foul. Clare was wincing when she caught a smell of it - she wasn't the person that had to try stomaching it!
Afterwards we roamed the streets and chanced upon some perfectly nice buildings and monuments ...
... and narrow streets.
Walking along the very pretty side of the the cathedral ...
... we eventually saw the monument to Isabel.
We saw plenty of other things too, of course!
The monument to Isabel was the landmark that we were looking for and our clue to branch off northward, which took us to a beautiful building ...
... which was the centerpiece of an exquisite square.
From there and with time to spare we went on a very pleasant riverside walk. (Well, streamside.)
We passed a church ...
... and eventually came to a pretty square.
Alhambra loomed over us.
And having glimpsed Alhambra, so we headed off for it. It was a long walk uphill but we felt that it was more genuine to go on foot rather than on the local mini-trains or, heaven forbid, take a taxi, as we saw others do. We knew we were on the right track when we saw a gate at the end of the street ...
... an in passing throught it bid goodbye to the old town.
We passed a bright orange building with a telling dome which we believed might be part of Alhambra but which, it transpired, was a cash-in hotel.
With plenty more sweat we arrived at the summit and got the pleasure of knowing that we could walk right in rather than have to stand in line, since we'd already purchased out tickets. We immediately left the main path so as not to have to engage with the masses of tourists and immediately hit upon an avenue of trees.
We were surrounded by enchanting greenery ...
... beautiful flowers ...
... and stellar views of the fortresses, town and mountains.
There were plenty of beautiful sights:
Once we'd spent time soaking in the beautiful greenery, we headed off to the Generalife, which were private gardens. We were in for more of the same! There were beautiful, colourful gardens:
Views into the distance:
And mixtures of both:
I can't do it justice verbally, other than stating that I can now picture why the hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the wonders of the ancient world, so I shall instead invite you to click on an image to watch the slideshow.
We had a bit of time before we were allowed into the palace, so we thought we'd go on another stroll in the direction of the fortresses that we could see earlier from below. Unbelievably, we were treated yet again to beautiful floral displays en route:
We soon arrived at the Alcazara, the fortresses. The weather was searing but we climbed to the top.
We were rewarded by views well into the distance, including of the cathedral and square that we'd earlier visited ...
... and where we'd just walked from.
Finally came the part that was to prove Clare's favourite bit of the day, and which would not only cause my camera to run out of memory (a problem I sort of solved by deleting photos that I didn't think were the best on there) but also killed its battery; 17:30 was imminent, that was the time on our tickets to see the palace, and so off we went.
Ultimately, there's little I can say about it descriptively, other than that it appeared to come from another world. Pictures are as good as a thousand words and, fortunately, we have plenty of those.
I'll post below what I think are the cream of the crop but you really must view the slideshow or you'll miss out.
We were running late for our coach by the time we had exited the palacio and negotiated the Alhambra to find the way out, so we took one of the taxis that was dropping off the people who weren't walking up to it as we had earlier. The driver took us by the back streets, which served to give us an idea that Granada isn't just a one-trick pony. That had been my earlier impression, since the cathedral and its surroundings were nothing special compared to places which we'd been lucky enough to see earlier, such as Salamanca and Córdoba. The Alhambra is astounding, a reason to come on its own. It appears, though, as though Granada has some other things in store for us. At the point that we left Clare was already making plans to come back in the future and go in at 08:00 to avoid tourists, so it seems that we'll be back at some point