Friday, 12 April 2013

Nuestras Vacaciones 2: Granada

The first thing that struck me as we stepped off the train in Granada was the crispness of the  air. As we walked towards the city centre, a view of the Sierra Nevada under a cool blue sky rose up in front of us beyond the rooftops. We were definitely in the mountains now.

The second thing that struck me, a couple of hours later, was the number of young,"alternative"-type people in Granada. Where the streets of Seville, in the centre at least, were mostly populated by immaculately dressed families with boys in loafers and little girls in matching outfits with ribbons in their hair (like the Spanish equivalent of Versailles), here, a significant number were dreadlocked, wrapped in colourful scarves or walking barefoot with large dogs in the main square. Through further exploration, we realised that the different barrios of Granada each have a very different feel: the Barrio del Albayzin was young and vibrant (even on a Sunday afternoon), where we stayed, more towards the Barrio del Realejo, felt similar but quieter, while the area to the south of the cathedral was a combination of narrow streets with lots of places to eat (the Bib-Rambla), and wider shopping streets with a fairly chic feel, more international chain stores, and an average age difference of about 20 years compared to Barrio del Albayzin.

Like most tourists, our main reason for going to Granada was to see the Alhambra, and in fact we weren't there long enough to do much else. Understanding Frenchman had visited the area years ago, but, not realising that tickets for the Alhambra are limited and sell out far in advance, hadn't been able to visit Granada's most famous site. So it was a long-held ambition of his, but one that we very nearly failed to realise.

Weeks before we were due to leave for Spain, Understanding Frenchman started to talk about booking the Alhambra, and, a few gentle reminders from him later, we bought the tickets on Ticketmaster using my debit card. You choose your time slot and pay in advance, but the actual tickets can only be collected once you are in Spain. I remembered to forward myself the email a couple of days before, so that it was sitting patiently on my phone with its precious reference number ready for when it was needed. The source of our near-disaster was that, in the time between booking and the date of our trip, I was given a new bank card. The old one, which was required as proof of payment, was automatically deactivated and thus couldn't be read by a machine. This had already resulted in a distressing episode with the SNCF, when they told me that a train ticket I had bought for my mum couldn't be printed out (despite the fact that I had paid for it) and that I would have to spend 130 euros on a new one. That situation was eventually resolved, although it was traumatic enough that I haven't yet found the courage to write about it on my blog, but I was terrified that the same thing would happen in Granada, with neither of us fluent enough in Spanish to talk our way round it, and that Understanding Frenchman would once again be prevented from visiting the Alhambra.

With that in mind, we decided not to wait until our alloted afternoon time to go and pick up the tickets, but to go in the morning instead. (The fact that I had been awake since 6 worrying trying to figure out persuasive phrases in Spanish also helped.) Luckily, our apartment was just at the foot of a flight of steps that led up to the palace, so it wasn't too difficult. Even more luckily, I had hung on to the old bank card, and was able to hand it over at the ticket office along with the reference number. I held my breath as the lady typed in the details, checked the signature on the card ... and printed out the tickets. No PIN number needed, and two visits to the Alhambra were ours!

While the history of the Alhambra is both significant and interesting, the main point of the actual visit (in my opinion at least) is just to admire the beautiful architecture, gorgeous gardens and stunning views. Click on the slideshow below for a little taster of what we saw.



  1. Oh wow, that thing with the credit could have very well happen to me--I never keep track of when it is due to expire and rarely keep my old cards!

    Glad you were able to make it at the end though.

  2. I remember getting up at the crack of dawn to trek up the hill to buy tickets with a friend to see the Alhambra. The city was absolutely beautiful under the early morning light and there was a peaceful stillness in the air.

    There were probably over 200 people when we got there. We waited a few hours, taking turns waiting. We thankfully got tickets but had to return a few hours later. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I am so glad I went.

    Did you eat any tapas when you were in Granada? It's too bad that you didn't stay longer so that you could experience Granada's unique atmosphere. Yes, one of the first things I also noticed in Granada was the hippy/alternative lifestyle people. I don't know why that is. Is it because Granada is so cheap? Or maybe it's the cave dwellings behind the Alhambra? Or maybe the mountains? The history? Or is it the Albayzin? Music is also very important in Granada - there is a lot of gypsy music and people dancing in the streets.

    It definitely gets cold at night during the winter! There is a big difference in nighttime and daytime temperatures in Granada. During the day it can go up to +25 during January and the same evening it will be minus 5. I remember spending many nights shivering in my bed with my coat on. Then summer comes and all is forgotten! The cold nights become a distant memory as you roast outside under the 40 degree weather. The nights become a relief then and not a time to fear.

    I miss Granada!

    1. We missed the caves, mostly because we went to Granada without looking at a guidebook or anything. I really regretted it when I read about them afterwards!

      We did have tapas a couple of times, but I think we actually ate better in Seville. Maybe that was just because we had local guides to point us in the right direction though.

      Granada is a beautiful city. I can see why you miss it!