Gosh, it’s Friday again! The week has passed me by in a bit of a blur; it was school holidays here (again) last week and it always takes me some time to get back into the swing of things again.
We made the decision not to go on a beach holiday this year but instead to have short city breaks and last week we went to Granada for a few days. It’s been on our list for quite a number of years but it’s not been until now that we’ve thought it would be a good holiday for the girls as well. (There was some muttering when they realised there was no pool and no beach on the itinerary, but we did go to the Hammam al Andalus (Arab baths) which were deemed to be a suitable alternative.)
Granada is a lovely city, and easy to get to with a direct flight from Manchester. Then we hopped onto a bus and before long were in the city centre. Granada is a very diverse city and over the years has been home to Jews, Muslims and Christians, all of which is evident in the architecture and, of course, in the famous Alhambra Palaces. We stayed in the Albaicin district, originally home to the Muslim inhabitants of the city, in an apartment along the Carerra del Darro.
It’s a very pretty street overlooking the Darro river and overlooked itself by the Alhambra which is actually a walled city containing royal apartments, gardens, fortifications and barracks. The name is given to the red stone that was used for the walls and the Alcazaba fortress.
The Albaicin area is a warren of narrow alleyways built into the hillside which were intended to keep the buildings cooler in the heat of the summer. We found them irresistible and walked for miles up and down them, following the twists and turns to see where they would end up. It’s very easy to walk around Granada; we quickly found our bearings and didn’t worry that we would get lost as we followed the tiny streets.
In the last photo, you can see the Alhambra. I never got tired of spotting the towers through the alleys, and we even had a view of it from our apartment balcony. Apartments work brilliantly well when you’ve got a family that doesn’t fit easily (or cheaply) into hotel rooms any more!
One of the first things that we always do in a new city is to take the sightseeing bus. We like to get an overview of the place that we’re staying in, and it also makes it easier for us to work out where we want to go back to spend more time. We used the City Tour train – it’s a land train which goes right round the city and through the narrowest of streets – I was very glad that I wasn’t the driver! It’s very reasonably priced too, and in the summer months runs until 11pm. The ticket price also includes a free walking tour, but we thought we might be pushing our luck with small daughter if we went for that too 🙂
One of the things that we were told to make sure that we saw was the Alhambra lit up at night. We could have walked to the viewing point at the Mirador San Nicolas but instead got back onto the train and saved our legs – it’s much easier to walk down the hill!
The sun was just setting and the palaces looked spectacular. The building on the right is the Alcazaba fortress and on the left are the Nazrid Palaces (they’re the ones with the famous photos that you might have seen of the interior of the Alhambra) and the Carlos V Palace. I hadn’t realised it was lots of separate buildings before we visited, and it’s an interesting place to walk around.
By the time we walked back down the hill, it was getting quite dark. I loved that we could see the Alhambra walls almost around every corner.
By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, we were hungry so found ourselves in a tapas bar. There’s a tradition in Granada of free tapas whenever you buy a drink and we were quite happy to follow that tradition! Big daughter and I took a liking to tinto de verano, which is similar to sangria but without the fruit, and my husband discovered a local beer which he liked very much. Small daughter only drinks water so she’s a cheap date 🙂
If you ever go to Granada and want to visit the Alhambra, buy your tickets well in advance. It’s quite easy to do this online and there are a number of ticket options. We bought an Alhambra General ticket which gives you access to all of the palaces plus the Generalife (the recreational estate of the Nazrid sultans). You are only allowed into the Nazrid Palaces at the time specified on your ticket, so booking early gives you more choice. It’s very busy – over 8,000 tickets are sold every day and you’re unlikely to get one if you turn up on the day, so we were very glad that we hadn’t risked that.
It’s well worth the effort of getting a ticket, though. We followed the audio tour around the grounds, stopping to sit on the walls and eat ice cream and watch the parties of school children being corralled into formation for photographs against the dramatic backdrop. We had fun spotting our apartment (it’s in a building on the bottom left of this picture) and wondered why any army would be daft enough to try to attack the fortress when there is no easy way up the hill.
You’ll be pleased to know that I’m not going to bore you with hundreds of photos from the Nazrid Palaces nor give you a history lesson (you can find that here), but I will tell you that they were stunning and the plasterwork which decorates the walls is just beautiful. I could have spent far too long looking at the shapes and the patterns, but you are moved along by the Palace staff at quite a smart pace in places – how else do they get 8,000 people through the buildings in one day?!
The bottom picture was taken in the Palace of the Lions, although I have to be honest and say that I think they’re rather funny-looking lions!
I was really pleased when we went to visit the Hammam baths after our visit to the Palaces to find the same plasterwork interior as I felt that I could get a proper look at it without being chivvied along – and there’s something very decadent about lounging about in pools of water with nothing more strenuous to do than admire the decor!
We knew our holiday was a success when none of us wanted to get back onto the plane home. Even small daughter wanted to stay a bit longer and we’d worried that she would be the one to be bored by the change in holiday style.
We’ve chalked this one up as a resounding success!