European Escapades

The Magic of the Alhambra

02

May

2010

the alhambra palace on the elm wooded sabika hills
The Alhambra Palace on the Elm Wooded Sabika Hills.

A six o’clock start for us is a very abnormal thing these days as it’s usually an eight thirty wake, finally getting our arses out of bed around nine, nine thirty and that’s only with the smell of freshly brewed Earl Grey tea coaxing me up. The Earl Grey tea situation is not desperate at the moment as I managed to find some loose leaf when we were in France, but as yet our forays into Spanish supermarkets has proved unfruitful, so I am getting a little worried. Fortunately the milk situation is stable as most large supermarkets; we have been able to find small caches of the stuff, hidden near the shelves upon shelves of the fake stuff they seem to love here. But today was different and a six o’clock start was required if we were to get into the centre of Granada and up to see the Alhambra Palace without a pre booking. Seems the place is so popular that you have to pre-book a few days in advance to get in or you have to turn up at eight o’clock at the latest and wait in a queue for an hour or so and see if you are lucky enough to get one of the few available tickets on the door. We meet two guys from the campsite at the bus stop as we wereawaiting the first bus of the day at seven. Seems they are also off to try and see Alhambra and we decide to search out and share a taxi once we reach the town centre.

the fortress overlooking granada
The Fortress Overlooking Granada.

Once we get dropped off up the hill overlooking Granada itself, we walk the final few metres and place ourselves at the back of the queue of hopefuls wanting to see the palace. There are at least fifty people ahead of us already and we hope that we are early enough to be able to get four of the same day tickets that are available on that particular day. It’s a long wait until nine O’clock when the doors finally open and the ushers start letting a few people at a time in and towards the ticket office. The hours wait sees the queue behind us grow ever longer and the number of people congregating with pre-paid tickets assemble at the front entrance. At nine thirty we are in luck and we have hold of our prized tickets and I feel like I have one of Willy Wonker’s golden tickets in my hand as we now queue for the audio guides for the tour. The guys who were also lucky, head off for a coffee and we say our farewells as we head towards the gardens. Seems we can spend as long as we like on other parts of the huge complex and gardens but we can only enter the palace itself at ten thirty.

the intricate plasterwork adorns the walls everywhere
The Intricate Plasterwork Adorns The Walls Everywhere.

Before moving on, I just want to give a little history to this beautiful place we find ourselves in. The Alhambra palace is built on the elm wooded Sabika hills overlooking the river Darro and is so named because of the colour of its walls, made from the local red clay. Its origin dates from the 9th century when it was used as a fortress, but when the first Nasrid king, Mohamed I, took it to be his royal residence in the 13th century, the building of the palace complex was begun. It had successive expansions and alteration to make it what it is now, a wondrous place to visit, by later Nasrid kings. This continuing until the defeat of Boabaldi, the last of the Nasrid kings, by the Christian armies of Ferdinand and Isabella in the 15th century. Even the mark of the Emperor Charles V can be seen here, as he added to its magic by building the Renaissance Palace also on the site. Whist it now maybe one of Spain’s most revered monuments, it wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that the place was once again looked with majesty and awe. It took a foreigner however, by the name of Washington Irvine to recognise the faded glamour of the place, completing his book ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ whilst living in the ruins of the abandoned palace. Now though over five thousand visitors a day wander through its restored complex of fortress, palace and gardens, trying to take in the sheer size and beauty of this exalted wonder. There has been so much written about this site that for me to add anymore is a challenge. Also I feel that there have been others who have weaved stories of wonderment, not least Irvin himself. It was also a special place for Frances not least because this was one of the last places that Princess Diana was with Dodi, before their tragic demise in Paris.

If you do visit, I would recommend that you put aside at least five hours and don’t forget the audio guide. It does such a beautiful job of bringing this wonder alive and you can wander unhindered through the vast complex, knowing you will get to feel all of its magic and history. The numerous guided tours we saw rushing through the palace and gardens were unbelievable. It was if they were on a shopping trip picking up items and ticking them off a list, before moving onto the next isle. Not really looking at what they put into their baskets and not having the time to reflect on what they were actually looking at. We finally left the monument at around four o’clock for a very late lunch in town. The walk down through the gardens outside the palace under the walled gate and onto the Cuesta de Gomérez gave two very weary but also very happy bunnies, the time to reminisce about our fantastic day at the Alhambra and to place Granada into our hearts as one of the best towns in Spain.

the magnificent ceilings showing the heavens
The Magnificent Ceilings Showing the Heavens.
water features within a garden were so important
Water Features Within a Garden Were So Important.
look out your window onto tranquility
Look Out Your Window Onto Tranquility.
one of the numerous court gardens
One of the Numerous Court Gardens.
the magnificence of the palace cannot be described
The Magnificence Of The Palace Cannot Be Described.
the distant sierra nevada mountains
The Distant Sierra Nevada Mountains.

what would irvin make of this vista
What Would Irvin Make of This Vista?

If you go to only one part of Spain go to Granada

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 2nd, 2010 at 10:30 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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