Spain

Thanksgiving 2017: Granada and the Famous Alhambra

The Alhambra, the most visited site in Spain, has a limit on the number of people entering on each period: morning, afternoon, and sometimes evening. Due to this capacity restriction, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance. Also, for the famous Palacios Nazaries (Nasrid Palaces) can only be granted entrance at the time slot shown on the ticket, when you are booking the ticket, you’ll be prompted to chose an available timeslot. The first timeslot is at 8:30 AM when it opens and that one sold out fast so I marked my calendar to book the ticket in August for our visit at the end of November. I did successfully get us tickets for the 8:30 AM slot 🙂

With tickets, we don’t need to enter through the main gate: Puerta de las Granada (Gate of the Pomegranates), instead, we can enter through Puerta de la Justica (Gate of Justice) which is the closest gate to Nasrid Palaces. Early in the morning, we had our hotel receptionist called a taxi for us to drop us off at the Gate of Justice. The ride up there was only 5 Euros and we got there in no time. The Gate of Justice and our tickets on my hand haha!

It was cold that morning and the sun just starting to rise! We were the 2nd group in line to enter the Nasrid Palaces.

The line quickly filled with visitors and as soon as it opens, we walked in, got our tickets scanned, and entered the most famous Moorish palace in Spain. The architecture style is the same as the other Moorish palaces we visited in Morocco and in Seville, Spain but in a much larger scale.

The Patio of the Gilded Room:

The massive woodwork of the ceiling of the Gilded Room:

Once we stepped out the first room was The Court of the Myrtles with the reflecting pool. It was so early in the morning that the sky was colorless so the reflection wasn’t as great but without the crowds.

 

I walked to both sides and took the reflection photos.

There are several halls and rooms including the Hall of the Ambassadors with the impressive ceiling:

The incredible wood craving on the walls:

As like other Moorish and Arabic architectures, mosaic tiles are a must!

The magnificent Palace of the Lions, this courtyard has 124 beautifully carved white marble columns that I had to brave the cold for photos!

The half-destroyed ceiling and look at the details of the carving on the left column, it has some blue colors.

The Hall of the Abencerrajes and another amazing ceiling:

The details on the arches:

The Fountain of Lions in the middle of the courtyard; as you can see, it quickly filled with people.

So many beautiful halls and ceilings that I lost track of which one this is:

Not all areas are accessible…like the Daraxa’s Mirador:

This one has some green color fill-ins! I think I like the blue more as it “pops” from the yellow/white.

From other windows, you can look out at the Daraxa’s Garden:

The first flat wooden ceiling:

Then, we walked through this bridge to another section of the palace, the bridge offers a good view of the old neighborhood of Granada called Albaicín.

It led us out to the garden, Garden of the Partal.

 

We walked out to the Ladies Tower:

What kind of fruit tree is this one?

The reflection of the Ladies Tower on the pool:

More of the garden:

We got out of the garden and headed to the Palace of Charles V:

Outside of the palace looked very rectangular, almost square like, but the inside is totally different! The circular design is unique that it’s Renaissance-style compared to the rest of the Moorish style in the Alhambra complex.

It was said that the ceilings collapsed due to the lack of finance to maintain it. There are several accessing stairs to go up the 2nd floor of the palace.

The angle of the sun just about right to lit up one section of the circular palace hall.

A closer look at the columns, it looked like it was made of smaller rocks!

After the Charles V Palace, we visited the Alcthroughrought the Wine Gate….does the name came from its color like red wine? There are some theories on the origin of the name, you can read the details here: https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/charlesvpalaceandsurroundingareas/winegate.asp

The Alcazaba is the fortress part where you can walk up the stairs to the towers for some good views!

The center open courtyard style of the houses:

The Nasrid Palaces on the left and the Charles V Palace on the right:

Arms Square where it looked like a maze but they were the houses for the guards of the fortress.

Some foliage on the hill of the Alhambra:

And a beautiful walkway covered by trees.

The bench and this small tree are cute!

The golden hanging vines that formed this entrance way looked very pretty and autumn like.

That was the end of Alcazaba. We walked toward the very end of the complex to the most famous garden – Generalife. We passed by the Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra:

The colored stones on the wall of the church:

Interior of the church is much simpler than I expected given all the details of the Nasrid Palaces.

I didn’t know there’s another hotel up here besides the luxurious Parador de Granada.

On the way to Generalife, we had to walk through this long walkway of trees like a garden maze but just a straight row. There are some lovely openings that you can peek out like this one:

And a garden of flowers, some are still in bloom!

More trees to Generalife…

Our tickets got scanned again to access The Generalife and the garden is HUGE and crowded!!! Since there were a lot of people, we just followed the flow of people and occassionally had a little break in between!

Here, it offered some great views of the palaces of Alhambra that we just visited and also the vineries.

My favorite purple colored flowers.

The famous pool in Generalife called the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch:

See how pack the garden is at this time of the day – not even noon yet!

More lookouts of the Alhambra’s palaces.

The Court of the Sultana’s Cypress Tree:

Out of the crowds for a moment of peace 🙂

In my opinion, Alhambra is nice but it didn’t “wow” me perhaps I have seen the Moorish palaces in Seville and Morocco but this is a larger scale. The gardens were very nice but the crowds made them not as enjoyable. I preferred the Alcazar in Seville better for some reason. I asked Brian what’s he thinks about Alhambra as this is his first time seeing Moorish palaces. He said it was too overwhelming for him that he didn’t enjoy it as much. We spent a good 3+ hours in Alhambra and we were starving LOL! We took a taxi down back to our hotel for 5 Euros, took a little break, and head out for souvenir shopping and lunch (restaurants open at 12:30 for lunch yikes so late).

The shopping area of Granada city, I love the golden colored trees!

The colorful buildings are quite nice too!

The blocks of streets filled with souvenir shops like souks in Morocco!

The pashmina scarves here are even cheaper than in Morocco without the need to bargain LOL!!! It was Brian and Sokunna’s first time in Spain so they got to try out the local breakfast churros, a fried-dough to dip in melted chocolate.

Then when it was around 12:30 pm, we walked to Bar Los Diamantes, famous seafood tapa bar in Granada; they have a few branches too, we went to the one located at Plaza Nueva. The tapa bar is packed with people and the seating is first come first serve almost like school cafeteria with long benches. The free appetizer that came with Brian’s beer was fried salty fish…very salty LOL!

We ordered seafood paella and it was surprisingly not as salty!

A plate of clams and they were super small!

And grilled squid, yummy.

Lunch was 45 Euros for 4 of us, it wasn’t impressive consider the thousands of reviews!

While we were finishing up lunch, we heard protest noises from the outside and the protestors even spray purple gas woahhhhh!

No idea what they were protesting about so we continued our walk to Albaicín neighborhood to see its white streets and the view of Alhambra. On the way, we saw three guys playing songs on the bridge:

And a woman performing flamenco dance in the square with the view of Alhambra above the hill:

The “white village” here wasn’t quite near as nice as the ones we visited.

The zig-zag way and stairs up to Mirador San Nicolás was a long walk and finally, we made it!

Don’t be fool by the gorgeous panorama photos from the viewpoint here, in reality, it looked like this:

It was super crowded and loud, I didn’t enjoy it at all!!! And to get a decent photo, you’ll need to crop, zoom, or do a pano, otherwise, too many obstacles in between:

The weather wasn’t great thus the sunset will not be worth the wait so we decided to leave this noisy place! The walk down the hill via another way thanks to Google:

The window filled with flower pots!

More peaceful street but then Sokunna finally told us that she was feeling something was pulling her purse….she was carrying a cross-shoulder purse and naively placed toward her back. When she looked back, an old lady was on the back of her and she immediately looked down pretending nothing happened and then walked quickly away!!! Sokunna didn’t know what was going on and her purse was opened quarterly! When she told us the story, we were like OMG why didn’t you say something immediately??? That old lady must be trying to pickpocket her otherwise no reason why she was being so close to her! She learned her lesson without a loss at least!

Stay alert even in quiet street like this, remember you are in a big city, not little villages anymore!

Scary to park like that!

And this…unbelievable!

We walked down the stair and it has good views of the cathedral and the city.

What a cute wall!

We walked by a white wall of someone’s house and it reminded us that we need a white background for our visa photo to Cambodia LOLLLL and we decided to have our passport photos right there!

Mission completed LOL! Once we walked down to the Granada Cathedral, we saw a dried fruit and tea stand so we checked it out. The seller told us to try out the dried fruits and we did, ahhh, they are good! I got a mix of dried strawberries and aloe (first time I had it), mango, coconut, kiwi, and orange flavored cranberries! Those weren’t cheap though as they are by pound and heavy…my little bag cost like 5 Euros!

Photo of the cathedral exterior:

And the square in front of it:

We didn’t go in as the admission is 5 Euros per person; it’s not famous enough for us to pay that much to check it out! Sokunna and Brian were exhausted with all those walks LOL so we decided to head back to our hotel. Photos of our way back to the hotel:

The center courtyard has a “wish tree” that you can fill out the wish card (provided each night) and hang it up.

Our bed and simple room:

The restroom:

Toiletries:

We rested a bit, had our remaining fruits from Frigiliana, and then head out for dinner. We were so sick of the salty Spainish cuisine so we looked at Tripadvisor for something else….Italian! It was a long walk to Sapore Italia but very enjoyable that we get to see the other section of the city. The city at night was very lively filled with people at cafes and restaurants and some stores were still open!

There is no English menu so it must be not touristy! We used Google Translate to help but some didn’t make sense. We asked the waitress and she tried her best with her limited English to help. Brian ordered Norwegian lobster stuffed ravioli and it was very good!

I ordered the seafood pasta and it was the best dish I had in this trip so good!!!!!! It was so good that Sokunna and I decided to have another order of it haha! It has a slight hint of spiciness that we both enjoyed in addition to the fresh seafood!

Sokunna ordered the caramelized foie gras stuffed ravioli, it was different but we don’t like the sweet taste of it.

Jason ordered a steak with pasta, it tasted very good too!

Look at how much I enjoyed the seafood pasta!

For dessert, we ordered tiramisu and panna cotta (had that in Matera and loved it so want to try it out here). Both did not disappoint!

We finally have a filling and satisfying meal, we wished we discovered this restaurant earlier so we can come back for more meals! Our bill was only 80 Euros after 30% off booked with Tripadvisor (via The Fork, the restaurant booking website that I use in Europe)!!!

The next morning, our flight was at 10:10 AM so we have the receptionist called a taxi after we checked out. The ride was no traffic and cost 30 Euros. The airport, like I mentioned before, was so small that it only has one cafe shop where we had breakfast.

We took Iberia from Granada to Madrid and then Madrid to Boston. Our connection time was only 1 hour and 10 minutes thinking should be enough as I had transitted through Madrid many times and it never was busy. Not sure if it was due to the Sunday after Thanksgiving that people were going back home that the airport was jam-packed! The lines through immigration was a total nightmare, it was so crazy that I have never seen anything like that! We were so scared that we’ll miss our flight yikes! Once we squeezed through the line and had our passport stamped, we ran to the gate…OMG…I haven’t run so fast in my life for a long time!!! I was out of breathing and sweating but made it on the last boarding call! After we got on the plane and seated, I was watching the door to see if any sign of Brian and Sokunna. After a few minutes that the door was about to close, they made it too phew!!! I guess a lot of people were in the same boat so it was actually past the boarding time and still the door has not closed. It was such a crazy experience that I know now that for future Thanksgiving and Christmas trips, I will make sure we have enough transit time, it’s not worth the hassle!

Overall, the Southern Spain Thanksgiving trip was enjoyable; the villages we saw were much prettier than the villages in the Cotswolds, UK. The long 4 days weekend was about the right time to have such a trip to see few villages and the weather was very pleasant for sightseeing. Our favorite on this trip: Ronda!

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