First we pulled into the Alhambra parking lot which was right across the street from our hotel and parked, then walked over to Hotel Guadalupe. It was on a quaint little street with a few shops and restaurants overlooking the Alhambra. The hotel itself was lovely. (I must say, I did pretty good with booking the hotels this trip.) It had a fancy marble bathroom like the hotel in Madrid, and all the linens were monogrammed with the hotel name.
We also had a package for a missionary who is assigned to Granada that we wanted to drop off at her piso (apartment). So we loaded it into our bag and were on our way. Our first view coming around a bend down the big hill was this:
So it was in this city that Christopher Columbus came to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel to ask for funding to sail to the New World. (We actually stood in the room where this happened! But more on that later...) And the Spaniards take great pride in Christopher Columbus and his expeditions. They have statues of him all over (even in Barcelona, but we'll get to that later as well).
When we got down to the old town part of Granada, we came to a beautiful plaza with a huge fountain and a statue playing out the King Ferdinand/Christopher Columbus scene.
The city was quaint and beautiful, with lovely architecture. It also has narrow streets and is so bustling that they restrict motorized vehicles to residents and public transportation vehicles only. This is one reason we opted to stay where we did. Lots of unknowing tourists drive around down in the town and then a traffic ticket shows up in the mail at their house weeks later! (Spaniards have the traffic camera thing down pat.)
This is who the city was named after.
Then we made our way to the Royal Chapel Cathedral down town. It was ginormous! I think it may have been the biggest cathedral we saw in Europe. I'm confident it was even bigger than the Notre Dame in Paris. This is where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are buried, as well as the King and Queen who succeeded them.
Unfortunately, we got to the cathedral about an hour after it had closed and we were so bummed. It may be one of the biggest regrets of our trip. I would have loved to go inside. If the outside was any reflection of the inside, I'm sure it would have been amazing.
Then we grabbed a pizza pastry and ate while we walked towards the missionary Piso to drop off this package. Unfortunately when we got there, we realized it was an apartment building with a locked lobby and buzzers, so we couldn't just leave the package on the porch. The missionaries weren't home (as we figured they wouldn't be), so we waited a while, went and got another pastry, waited another while, and then finally left to head back to our hotel. It had started to pour rain and was dark by this time, and we didn't know the neighborhood well enough to know we wouldn't get mugged. We trekked it back up the HUGE hill in the rain and then crashed at the hotel until the next morning. I think we walked more on this day than any other single day of our trip! Between Gibraltar and Granada's old town, we were sure pooped.
(And we mailed the missionary package from Barcelona back to this missionary, so no harm was done and no import taxes had to be paid. Yay!)
TUESDAY, MAY 21
We woke up bright and early, skipped breakfast and checked out of our hotel quickly. We dumped our luggage in our trunk and made it into the Alhambra by about 8:30 AM, which was great because there were hardly any crowds yet.
The grounds were beautiful and huge, over 75 acres. Paths like this one lined with trees are part of the free grounds that anyone can walk through.
Parador hotel located inside the Alhambra grounds. Can you imagine staying inside the Alhambra? Amazing. (And only $330 euros a night!)
The Palacio Nazaries is the Sultan's royal palace, or the "jewel of the Alhambra," as they say. The rooms inside are decorated top to bottom with wooden carvings, molded plaster walls, ceramic tiles and filigree windows. Here are a few pictures of the incredible details.
This is some original Moorish tile flooring in the Grand Hall of the Ambassadors. I can only imagine how vivid and beautiful the colors were in its prime. This is where the sultan sat on his throne.
(Fun fact! Incidentally, they didn't say yes to him in this room. After many hours of discussion that included numerous marine experts, scientists and mathematicians to double check Columbus's plans, Ferdinand and Isabel actually said no. Then as Columbus rode out of town Isabel and Ferdinand talked things over, they decided they weren't sure his calculations were correct but they didn't want anyone else to fund his expedition and claim the glory. So Ferdinand himself actually rode out of town and caught up with Columbus and agreed to fund his expedition on a dusty road somewhere outside of Granada.)
Many windows have wooden screens like these, which allowed the women to look out without being seen.
In Moorish times, the fountain was a sundial, with the mouth of one lion at a time spouting water in accordance with the changing time of day. (Remember that this was all purely water-powered.) After the Christians took over, some curious Spaniard took it apart in the 1500's to see how it worked and they've never been able to fix it. Amazing!
Muslims taking pictures of themselves dressed as Muslims. Oh my, we laughed at that for a good while. And I think they did too.
Luckily the basement held the Alhambra museum, where some of the actual surviving Alhambra art is stored (some of the pieces on display are now replicas -- like the lions holding the fountain). The basement also held the exhibit about the restoration of the Alhambra and the man who directed it, and it was absolutely fascinating.
To be continued in Valencia & Sagunto...