Granada

Our second stop of the trip was in Granada for two nights from July 26 – 28. This is our first city in the region of Andalusia, which is the distinctly different southern part of Spain given the Muslim Moorish rule from the 8th – 15th centuries. It has been most evident from the architecture and often Arabic writings on the walls in buildings. So, here are the highlights!

Transportation: 

We didn’t want to rent a car in Spain since we’re focused on cities and it would just sit in a parking lot. There is no direct train from Madrid to Granada so we took the bus. It was about €40 each and we got a first class bus with wifi, a meal, and seat service. It was very comfortable and took 4.5 hours. It was also nice to be able to look out the window and see the countryside. Turns out it is an arid desert type climate here. Just dry hills and the only thing we saw growing were olive trees and the occasional small field of corn (they must irrigate). Many parts reminded me a lot of California’s Central Valley and the desert mountains of Nevada.

Our bus from Madrid to Granada

Accommodation:

We stayed at the Hotel Posada del Toro in the historic old town and right at the foot of the Albaizín neighborhood. The location was very central for tourists as we could walk everywhere and there were plenty of little shops nearby. It also had really cool decor inside our rooms with wood carved ceilings and beautiful tile work in the Moorish style very similar to that in the Alhambra. I’d highly recommend it!

Sites:

Unfortunately Andrew caught some sort of 24 hour flu because he was out of commission for the first 24 hours in Granada and missed our Alhambra tour. Luckily he recovered quickly and was able to still see the city on Wednesday afternoon along with me.

The Alhambra is the prime reason tourists come to Granada. Tickets sell out weeks in advance and I was lucky to get us a spot on a walking tour (regular tickets were sold out when I tried).

The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located on a hill above the city of Granada. It’s where the Moors had their beautiful Nasrid palaces (there are three within the complex) and the Generalife, which were their summer gardens and palace. It was amazing to see the Muslim influence in the architecture and decorations on the buildings. Pictures speak better than words so here we go…

Inside the Nasrid Palaces
I couldn’t get over the beautiful tile work and patterns adorning the walls and ceilings in the buildings of the Alhambra. I want walls like these in my future home!
The molding around the windows is called Arabesque, and this particular one was made with  a sort of plaster that they molded to the wall and then painted. It was beautiful with the lighting!
Inside the Nasrid Palace with our backs to the entrance
Inside the Nasrid Palaces (the number of people allowed in the palaces was well controlled and made for a much more enjoyable experience than other top European tourist destinations. This is also why tickets need to be booked so far in advance!)
Inside the Nasrid Palaces at the Court of the Lions
A view of the Partal Palace, which was an area including the portico of the Palace, the gardens and the palace of Yusuf III. The view across the pond through the windows was a beautiful set-up!
Walking through the lower gardens of the Generalife, which are terraced gardens outside the summer palace.
This is the Court of the Water Channel. Everywhere in the Alhambra there was a presence of water through fountains and ponds. Given the scarcity of water in such a dry climate, our guide said that being able to show so much water and to control it presented power. There were many beautiful fountains and even the Water Stairway, which had inverted roof tiles along the banisters with water running down in a cool stream!
Walking through the upper gardens in the Generalife
View from the upper gardens of the Generalife of the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba (the fortress) of the Alhambra and the city of Granada below

On Wednesday afternoon Andrew was feeling much better so we did a walking tour of the city, following our trusty Rick Steve’s guidebook.

Walking through the Alcaicería, which was originally a Moorish silk market with 200 shops and guards at all the entrances. Now, it is mostly tourist shops.
The Granada Cathedral
The Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel (the ones who started the Reconquista to reclaim southern Spain from the Moors) requested to be buried inside. They did this because Granada was one of the last Moorish strongholds that they conquered and signified their accomplishment.
The Plaza de Bib-Rambla
Wandering through the cute little streets of the Albaizín , which is the old Moorish quarter up on the hills above the old city of Granada.
Wandering through the Albaizín
Hanging out at the overlook at Mirador San Nicolás with the Alhambra, Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains behind us

Eats:

We ate at a couple places that are definitely worth a mention:

Lunch Wednesday at El Pescaito de Carmela off of Plaza Bib-Rambla. I have to admit I have liked the tapas and raciones but this day I just wanted something fresh. We found this place on TripAdvisor and were so happy about it. They had freshly grilled seafood on the menu and we got scallops, a plate of kingklip (white fish) with grilled vegetables and also a seafood cocktail appetizer. It hit the spot and felt better with days of travel and some not-so-healthy eating.

Wednesday night we treated ourselves to a nicer restaurant by visiting the Carmen Mirador de Aixa in the Albaizín neighborhood, which we read about in our Rick Steve’s guidebook and had great reviews. If you see the photos below, you’ll understand why we chose it. The food was excellent, too!

View from dinner at Carmen Mirador de Aixa with a view of the Alhambra all lit up
Appetizer salad with iberico ham and shrimp

Our two night trip in Granada was over in the blink of an eye but we thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to the South of Spain. Now, it’s off to Sevilla for a one night stop before we move on over to Portugal. Hasta Luego!

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