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Granada, Spain

Our last city to visit was the infamous Granada. It seems fitting that we ended our trip in such a well-known place. This was a spur of the moment decision, since we had previously decided to go back to Valencia after Málaga. We rode our bikes to the bus station, boarded the charter bus, and were there within two hours. The ride was smooth and comfortable. I was anxious to see the Spanish countryside, but it was quite similar to Southern California.  You could hardly tell the difference at times.

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We rode our bikes to the hotel, as usual. Even in the daytime, the weather was already much colder than it had been in Málaga, since Granada is inland quite a bit. We knew it would be really cold at night, as it had been in Ronda.

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Our hotel was really nice; one of the best we stayed at during our whole trip. We settled in, then left to get something to eat. Afterwards, we ventured out into the city to get the lay of the land. Admittedly, both of us were already disappointed because we expected Granada to be a small city, like Ronda. I don’t know why we thought that though. After experiencing Ronda, then having culture shock in the big city of Málaga, we were looking forward to being in another cozy town again. Alas. Granada wasn’t quite as big and busy as Málaga or Valencia, but it still had the city vibe and wasn’t as quaint as we were hoping for. We rode our bikes around the downtown area and then chose random alleyways to go down to get out of the traffic. Without foresight, we came upon a very, very steep pathway that led up to the most famous site in Granada – the Alhambra.

We went up the path, which looked just like any nature path in a park, and found ourselves at the entrance to the Alhambra. Unfortunately, we arrived at the exact moment that the complex closed, so we didn’t get to see it that day. Instead, we walked further up the hill and found a dirt path leading to a lovely viewpoint overlooking the city. The sun had just set so it was getting quite cold, but we stopped to take some pictures anyway.

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There were beautiful snow-capped mountains behind us which turned out to be the Sierra Nevada Mountains! After living near the Sierra Nevadas in the US, it was nice to see the original mountains in Spain.

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It was absolutely freezing (to me, of course) by that time. We rode our bikes down a very long hill with the wind in our face and went back to the hotel. We thawed in the room and then did some more laundry in the sink. We ordered dinner in since neither of us felt like heading out again.

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Before we went to sleep, I did some research to find out if visiting the Alhambra was worth it. It’s highly touristy and the number one spot in Granada, but we wanted to be sure. In the end, we decided that we might as well see it since we were there, so we bought tickets online to have them ahead of time. We found out that you can visit it at anytime during their business hours, but there was one section (the Nasrid Palaces) that could only be accessed at a specific time. Apparently this spot was so popular that they had to give you a designated time, and then you were only allowed to be there for one hour! If you missed your slot, then you had to buy another reservation. We chose a time later in the day so we could see the city a bit in the morning and then finish up at the Alhambra.

We started out with a morning walk through the city. I love my dad’s new nickname for Casey: the Jumping Bean! It’s so perfect.

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We saw a hilarious little carousel with kids riding horses made from rubber tires. The guy in charge of the ride was pedaling on a bicycle in order to spin the kids around. Pretty clever and really funny!

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This sign made us laugh. What does it mean? I can think of a number of interpretations.

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More beautiful gothic architecture! Just gorgeous.

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This cathedral was just amazing from the outside. The curvature is such a neat design.

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Our front desk clerk at the hotel told us to go to a certain lookout point where you had a great view of the Alhambra high up on hill. We followed a map and eventually found it. It was packed with people! But it did offer a great view. The only downside was that everyone was just lingering and loitering, sitting on the low wall, so that you couldn’t get close enough to take a decent picture of the view. Or you had to stand right next to people and hover over them to take a picture. Meh.

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We left after a few minutes since there was no place to sit, and I was getting mad that people wouldn’t move out of the way. There was a small café where we got a snack.

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It was almost time to venture to the Alhambra. We had walked all the way up to the viewpoint (which was a long ways up), so we took a bus down the hill, and then took another bus back up another hill to the Alhambra entrance.

At this point, the blog lends itself more to photos than writing, but I’ll give you some background first. The Alhambra is made up of five general sections: the Generalife gardens, the Alcazaba, the Towers, the Nasrid Palaces, and the Charles V Palace. We weren’t able to see everything that day, unfortunately. Casey didn’t want to spend all day there, so we didn’t go early enough to see everything. I would have gone earlier, but I admit that we were both getting a little tired of seeing the same type of old, Spanish buildings. Of course they were all different, but they were all similar in a way. Maybe if we had come to Granada first, we would have gone earlier and seen the whole Alhambra complex. But it was what it was. We only got to see the Generalife gardens and the Nasrid Palaces, so that is what you’ll be seeing today as well.

Many different rulers resided there and contributed to building the Alhambra, either by adding onto it or destroying parts of it. The Generalife gardens were built as a sort of sanctuary for the residents to stroll around and relax. It was a nice place. It seemed like it would have been quiet and tranquil hundreds of years ago. Since the gardens are on the highest part of the hill, there was a great view of the city and of the rest of the Alhambra.

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It was now almost time to see the Nasrid Palaces! Remember, they give you a specific time, so we didn’t want to be late. We had to walk about ten minutes across the whole complex to get there though, so it was quite the trek. On the way, we saw tree-lined paths, a little building called “Hotel America,” and the outside of Charles V Palace. We also briefly went inside an old, Arabic bath house. There were lovely star-shapes cut into the ceiling to let in light, so I took a quick picture of that. Then we stood in line to enter the Nasrid Palaces and finally went in.

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Honestly, I don’t know why the Nasrid Palaces are so popular that they need timeslots to accommodate people. It’s basically a palace with lots of rooms, patios, and courtyards. I’m probably dumbing that down completely, but that’s essentially what it was. The main thing that struck us, and everyone else around, was the immense DETAIL in the architecture. The walls, ceilings, columns, floors, everything was completely covered in detailed tilework or incredibly intricate carvings. We had seen beautiful detailed work in other buildings, in other cities, during our trip. But I guess this was the ultimate in detail and design. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular. Anyway, on to some photos!

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While walking through the rooms, I noticed how cold it was in there without any breeze at all. I could just imagine how wonderfully cool it would be in the hot summer.

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I read online that a lot (maybe all) of these carvings are actually poems! Isn’t that cool?

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Here are couple more of those built-in shelves, if you will. Still adorable! You might not be able to tell, but they mimic the room that they are built in. Meaning that they look like a miniature version of the room that we were standing in. It was so cute.

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The ceiling in this next room was just gorgeous. Well, the whole room was gorgeous since it was completely covered in tile and carvings. Not one inch was bare. Casey and I kept wondering how long it took them to carve these intricate details into the walls.

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This next room was extremely unique. The ceiling rose up into a huge, star pattern and looked like it was dripping with stalactites. It’s called “mocárabe, honeycomb work, or stalactite work.” It consists of multiple layers of vertical prisms slowly rising up into an apex of tiny arches. The tiny windows at the very top also let in strategic angles of light in order to see the dozens of honeycomb curves.

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This ceiling was really built at an angle (like a rhombus). It wasn’t me taking a picture at an angle.

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Casey spotted this pretty stained glass ceiling. It was roped off so no one could see it, but he leaned over and found it. After that, many people after us also leaned over and took a picture.

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What is this, a llama? I don’t know, but we saw this guy numerous times around the Alhambra. I think he’s the mascot or something.

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And then it was over. It was almost closing time, so they pushed us out into the night again. We ended our tour in a little garden, and then had to find our way out. We wanted to go back to the main entrance, but the gate was locked and we ended up feeling locked in for quite a while. We walked back and forth trying to find a way out, and it took some time to spot the pedestrian path leading back down the hill. We were tempted to just spend the night at the Alhambra and see more of it the next day. After all, they locked us in, right?

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There were more persimmon trees here, just like we saw in Ronda. I loved them quite a bit. They still remind me of Halloween for some reason. I wonder if they would grow in Washington??

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This is Charles V Palace. Apparently he demolished a huge section of the Alhambra to build his palace. On the way out, I saw a teeny tiny little sign noting the “Alhambra.” The sign was about six inches across and three inches tall. You’d think such a huge, popular place would have a bigger sign!

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We descended the steep path and walked through the park, through the city, into the night, back to our hotel. We saw some interesting graffiti and murals as well.

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And that was it. That was the Alhambra. That was Granada. The next day was uneventful. We went on a walk, found a science museum, and took pictures with Albert Einstein. Both of us didn’t feel like doing anything special. We were honestly worn out from sightseeing, if that can be possible.

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We did find a cute bakery where we treated ourselves to a croissant filled with whipped cream. Mmm. We also tried a Spanish specialty called pionono. It’s a small cylinder of sponge cake that you can eat in two bites. It’s really tiny. We had no idea what they would taste like, so we ordered an original pionono with a crème brulee cream topping and another one with a mandarin orange cream topping. WOW! That’s all I could say. As tradition dictates, sponge cake is generally always soaked or brushed with some type of liquid to moisten it. These cakes had been completely soaked in something so it was 100% moist and soggy. Personally, I couldn’t eat it. The soggy texture was way too strong for me. Casey didn’t mind the texture as much, but they weren’t his new favorites either. We’re glad we tried them though. I loved their menu  with pictures of all the desserts and clear prices for all of them. Great idea.

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The day slowly passed and we took the night train back to Valencia. I wrote about this in depth already in a previous post: Back to Our Home Away from Home.

I guess in my conclusion I should state that we had a really wonderful time. We are so glad that we chose to go on this trip and see new cities in Spain. Next time, I think we both might plan a little more ahead of time so we know what each city has to offer. On the other hand, we really had a good time just doing it live and seeing what we wanted when we wanted. We both love to explore cities like locals and just enjoy whatever our feet or our bikes lead us to at the time. So who knows what we’ll do next time.

Well, I’m done! You’re done! That was our Southern Spain Trip! I thoroughly hope you enjoyed reading about it and seeing our pictures. I’m going to put the rest of them on our photography website so you can browse through all of our photos if you want to. Since it was hard to insert galleries into each post (like I did for the post on Sevilla), I think this will be the easiest way.  I’ll let you know when they are all uploaded and ready for viewing. Thanks for reading!!

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To Valencia We Go

We are finally making our way back to Valencia tonight. We’re taking the train and leaving Granada around 9 PM and arriving at 4 AM! Apparently this train is designed to be a sleeper train since it’s at night, so the seats are more comfortable and there are beds as well. We took the cheaper route and just have seats instead of beds, but the seats sound like they’re better than airplane seats, so we should be quite pleased regardless. Alas, it’s been a nice trip and we’ll be back in our Spanish flat soon enough.