The one monument that I had yet to see in Granada happened to be the most important and historical in the city; therefore it was the one to which I most wanted to go. Courtney and I woke up around 12, which was too late to catch the morning opening hours of the Alhambra. They had a 2 o’clock opening so we aimed to make it for the afternoon hours. Unfortunately, but likely intelligently, the Alhambra only allows a maximum of around 2000 visitors into the site per day. They suggest purchasing tickets in advance, but I assumed it would not be too necessary because we were visiting in the off season when there shouldn’t be too many tourists. Well, I guess I ignored the fact that I would be visiting during Halloween weekend which is a long weekend in Spain meaning that Granada had a lot of visitors to both enjoy the city’s nightlife and too see the Alhambra. We tried to make reservations online, but it was impossible. I had a feeling that we wouldn’t get in, but there was no point in not walking up to the beautiful monument to at least attempt to purchase tickets.
Even the walk up the mountain to the Alhambra was beautiful. The side of the paths were lined with man made ‘creeks’ where water cascaded down the mountain on paved ‘drains’. For the first time in Granada, or really in Spain for that matter, I found myself in a place covered with the presence of trees. This was actually nature; the abundance of bright green trees a rarity in the arid Andalusian area. We walked up the path soon reaching the entrance to the ancient structure.
The rain had subsided for my final day and the strong sun shone brightly on the stone walls of the city before the city. The Alhambra, built by the Muslim occupants of Granada (and southern Spain) in the early middle ages (closer to the year 1000 than the Renaissance), is a fortified city atop a mountain. It housed all of the occupants of the area behind its massive protective walls situated in high ground making attack from below nearly impossible. More importantly, however, is the natural abundance of water. The area if Granada, and specifically the mountain on which the Alhambra sits is an oasis in the otherwise generally arid area. As an originally desert peoples, water is extremely important to Muslims. It’s a sign of stability and progress. An abundance of water, on the other hand, means wealth, and showing off that water displays power. The Alhambra does that with numerous fountains that display the water visually, but also audibly by making the sound of the flowing water as loud as possible. The outside of the city was beautiful and I can only assume what the inside looked like because they had sold out for the day. They still had tickets for the garden section of the Alhambra so we decided to walk through those.
The gardens were magnificent. There were pomegranate trees lining the hill. The word for pomegranate in Spanish is granada, which I found to be intriguing. How many cities are named after a fruit? There were fountains and hedge bushes, flowers everywhere, old stone and brick structures, but most impressively an incredible view of Granada in the valley. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. It was gorgeous and peaceful in the valley. It almost looks as how I imagine most southern European cities and towns to look. What else can I say? The pictures say it all…
Besides the stunning view of the city and beautiful bushes, plants, trees and flowers we walked through one of the old residencies in the city of Alhambra which had Muslim designs, ivy laden walls and of course water everywhere. The entrance (I think) to the house had a long fountain spitting water into the air endlessly, surrounded by water plants and flowers; a sign of the opulence and power that one can obtain from controlling natural resources. We dawdled and enjoyed the cool shade around the house and looked out over the valley at the white city surrounded by mountains. We walked up stairs lined by flowing, clear, cool water before returning to the entrance of the gardens. Was I disappointed that we could not enter the actual city? Absolutely. But the gardens were beautiful, and I’m sure one day in my life I will return to Granada with Courtney.
After grabbing something small for lunch we went back to the hostel where we finished some work and tried to pick a place to eat Paella for dinner. We finally found a place (well Courtney picked a place she had walked past every day and thought looked delicious) and left the hostel around 9 to get our last meal in Granada together until the next time we travel there together.
For starters we ordered a spinach salad with Iberian ham, cherry tomatoes and toasted goat cheese. Besides being the most vegetables which I had consumed all weekend, the mix of ham, crispy and hot, yet creamy and sharp goat cheese, sweet tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise dressing made for one of the best salads I have ever eaten. It was almost as if the dressing were made with pork fat instead of oil (which is a real possibility). It was amazing, yet huge, which left neither of us extraordinarily hungry for the paella we had ordered, but it was too good to resist. It was my first paella in Spain and it was great! While very different from other paellas I have eaten (this one was much wetter), the seafood was extremely soft and tender. I ate through the shrimp shells without a problem and the mussels fell apart in my mouth. Even the chicken wad irresistible. All of these delicious morsels left the rice soaked in a delicious broth with waves of saffron and the taste of the sea. Spectacular.
Granda truly is a marvelous city, one perfectly accustomed to the horrendously unhealthy lifestyle of students. It’s open late and provides free food with drinks. In America this would lead to disaster but in Spain, like other Continental European countries drink and eat for pleasure instead offer any other reason. Therefore the apparently harmful culture is fine and magical and wonderfully enjoyable. Courtney always tells me of the importance that Spanish people put on relaxation and it’s easy to see everywhere. Past the lifestyle the city itself is also unbelievably beautiful. And while I’ll always be preferential to Italy, I now know what has attracted Courtney so strongly to Granada.
She needed a switch if cultures away from the demanding and scheduled life of Boston College (especially for someone as involved and social as she is) to a place where relaxation rules. It has allowed her, I think, to learn how to put her priorities in place. Instead of always trying to do and trying to please she has discovered the ability to sit, think and do nothing as is the custom in Spain. She can live for herself without worry. It’s a beautiful thing and something I hope she takes back to BC because that school could use an ‘off’ switch. I’ve always been a major proponent of relaxation. I’m glad Courtney has seemed to learn the art. It makes me extremely happy to see her so happy.