Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra

The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

When we picked up our rental car in Málaga and headed out for the 90-minute drive up to Granada to visit the Alhambra I was on edge. I was so excited to see this place, but we had a late start that morning and everything I'd read about visiting the Alhambra set me up to be a stressed-out fusspot. There were things to remember about the specific place to park, how to adhere to the timing of your tickets—which one is admonished to buy months and months in advance, how to pace yourself through all the different parts, etc.

The oldest parts of this Moorish palace and fortress built on a hillside over Granada are from the late 800s and the main parts to visit are the Nasrid Palaces (which have a separate visiting time within the time you book when you buy your tickets, which we bought just a month prior), the Alcazaba, the Generalife, the Palace and the baths and gardens. There are only a certain amount of people allowed in per day, given the age of the site and a desire to preserve it for as long as possible, so if we missed our opening, they wouldn't be likely to make an exception. We had a reservation for the 2PM - 8PM slot with the Nasrid Palaces at 2:30PM.

Since we left Málaga around 1:30PM (and had to stop for lunch), we were most certainly going to miss our time for the Nasrid Palaces, especially factoring in the time to walk up from the suggested parking lot I had seen mentioned in different forums. I figured I should just let it go and enjoy the drive and whatever we were able to see.

R, being the sane person that he is, just typed "Alhambra" into his phone's GPS and we ended up pulling up right to the parking lot that's part of the complex (so, a 30-second walk to the entrance vs. a 30-minute one across town and up the hillside). The total cost of this extravagant parking space was 3 Euros for the entire afternoon.

(Sidenote: We rented one of Hertz's Wi-Fi routers so we could be online whenever we wanted. This ensured domestic harmony as I did not have to tell R which exit to take and where to turn as the automated voice on Google Maps Navigation took care of all of that. Another plus: being able to pass a sign for an interesting-sounding town and quickly Google it to see if it would be a good place to pull over. Also: for posting on Instagram. Excellent use of 80 Euros).

The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Palacio de Carlos V at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Palacio de Carlos V at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

That parking spot took care of one pressure point, but what about missing our ticketed entrance into the Nasrid Palaces and everything I read that said there was no way to alter your time?

Turns out all you have to do is go to the customer service booth right outside the Nasrid Palaces and ask if they can alter your time. So they did and we entered.

And that's when things got surreal.

How do you describe a place whose lore has completely captured your imagination and then absolutely lived up to the mental hype?

I always try to read historical fiction that takes place in the regions I'm going to visit and at the start of this trip I was reading The Queen's Vow, by C.W. Gortner on the life of Isabella I. Our trip to the Alhambra coincided with her and Ferdinand's conquest over the Moors and their seizure of the palace. The chapter I had just finished the night before included them both meeting with their advisers around the Court of the Lions...

Sala de los Reye and Patio de los Leones at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Sala de los Reye and Patio de los Leones at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Patio de los Leones at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Patio de los Leones at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

There might have been goosebumps.

And some posing.

And some imagined sounds of the swooshing of queenly regalia over the marble tiles.

We continued on to see the other parts of the fortress, stopping first for an ice cream with this view, before climbing up to the turrets to look out over Granada and toward the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The Nasrid Palaces and King Charles V Palace at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
View over Granada from The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
View over Granada and Sierra Nevada Mountains from The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

The last part of the complex we visited were the wonderfully-pefumed gardens that were so lovely in the late afternoon sun. With the trickling of fountains and twittering of birds it was the perfect way to leave the Alhambra.

Generalife Gardens at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
Generalife Gardens at The Alhambra  |  Postcard from Andalucía: Granada and La Alhambra on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com
I don't think I'll ever be as enthralled by another place again...until I visit the Taj Mahal.

Updated—other Andalucía posts:
After 9 years, 9 days in southern Spain
Postcard from Andalucía
Postcard from Andalucía: Málaga
Postcard from Andalucía: Nerja + Marbella

Postcard from Andalucía: Gibraltar + Tarifa
Postcard from Andalucía: Conil de la Frontera
Postcard from Andalucía: Cadíz + Medina-Sidonia  
Postcard from Andalucía: Vejer de la Frontera 
Postcard from Andalucía: Jerez + Carmona  
Postcard from Andalucía: Sevilla    

One year ago:
One year later

Two years ago (!):
Turning the page

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XOXO,
J.