Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Granada & the Alhambra (Spain, day 7)

If you visit Spain and spend anytime at all in Seville you must take a trip to Granada.  About 2 hours away by car, the drive along is spectacular, and in the winter filled with snow capped mountains in the distance.  We went for one thing, which is what everyone heads to Granada for, a visit to the Alhambra.  Just like Cordoba, Granada had much more to offer than just the Alhambra - although it was spectacular.  

Lets start with adventure.  Although this point only really applies if you're driving and staying in the old city - then it's full of adventure.  The streets in this part of town are narrow - extremely narrow.  So narrow in fact you often have to find a door way to step into to let a car pass you.  If you're driving take a smaller car - you'll thank me for it.  Your nerves will worship me in fact.  Thankfully my hubby has nerves of steel and we paid for full insurance on our rental so our adventure was manageable.

One of the wider streets in the old town.
The second thing about Granada is the view.  It's magnificent.  No matter where you are.  The alleys are quaint and perfect for photos.  The country side is spectacular.  And any view of the old city and the Alhambra... well just take a look at my photos.  The first four are the view from our room.

The third thing was the food.  Don't get me wrong, tapas is fun, but I was ready to sit down to a meal and eat a full dish.  Thankfully we chose a great restaurant for a late lunch on arrival and had probably one of the best paella I've had in my life.  No menu envy here.  (**Menu envy is that thing where you wish you'd ordered what someone else on your table had. I optimize my dining experience so I'll never regret it.)

The fourth thing I loved about Granada - the Alhambra.  This is by far the main attraction and you should book in advance to do it.  Also you should allow at least 3 hours for your visit.  There is so much to see and it is spectacular.  I keep saying this with every new site I visit in Spain but it seems like it just keeps getting better and better.  And they are all different.  I'm not going to bore you with the history - you can look that up yourself - just promise me you'll visit if you get to Granada - event if it's raining.  It's worth it!  I really couldn't decide which pics to post so I just posted a random snippet.  I dare you to go there and only take 10 photos.  It's impossible.

Granada - we were only in you one day and night - but it was worth every moment.

Want to read all my posts on Spain?  You can find them here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A little Ole' in Seville (Spain, day 4, 5 & 6)

Seville fascinated me.  The city had a very different feel from Madrid, and I guess that's because of the history.  I should have got an inkling of what it would be like after learning some of the history of Cordoba - a mixing pot of Jewish, Arabic and Catholic people living side by side at some points in history and waring with each other at other times.  We took a great walking tour in the morning that was offered by our hotel.  It's advertised as free and you pay what you think it's worth at the end of it.  We actually enjoyed it so much we paid more than what we would have if we'd booked our own tour.  Anyway I digress.

The thing that fascinated me was the every changing history of Seville over the years.  That there were times in Seville's history when Gypsies, Arabic, Jewish and Catholic people lived side by side and were content.  Sadly it seems like we've lost that art in some parts of the world today.  Anyway it struck me on hearing the stories of kings, priests, and other invaders forcing people out of their homes and to conform to a culture that was not their own, that somethings haven't changed much over the years.  Someone, somewhere has always put people under intense pressure to confirm, adapt or move - because they are not comfortable with it.  Someone, somewhere has forced people out of their homes, their jobs, their land - because they don't think they deserve it or have a right to it.  Oversimplified?  Sure - but at the heart of it the lack of ability to appreciate diversity seems to still be so prevalent today.

The thing that fascinated me in Seville, and to a lesser extent Toledo and Cordoba, was the length to which the latest occupants went to to transform people's lives through the transformation of architecture.  Mosques became Synagogues, which became Cathedrals.  Spires were transformed to bell towers.  Halls of prayer became places for choirs.  I guess they embraced recycling early ;-)  And thankfully it means we get to see this mix of architecture and culture in each place we visit.

My favourite things in Seville.... the Alcazar - completely breathtaking.

Flaminco - it's not just Ole.

Walking the streets.

Holidays are fun!

Want to read all my posts on Spain?  You can find them here.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cordoba - an unexpected surprise (Spain, day 4)

Do you read guidebooks and websites obsessively before you visit a place?  Are you ever then disappointed by the visit because it doesn't live up to the hype?  It's happened to me before.  One of the reasons I usually only glance at the guides the night before my visit now.  So I don't set my expectations too high.  For me Cordoba was just the opposite.  I glanced at it in my hubby's guide book the night before we went.  Only 1 page dedicated to it and three sites listed.  Suffice to say my expectations were set pretty low, especially after our visit to Toledo.

Arriving at the train station which is unremarkable and set in the newer part of town I was glad my expectations were low.  Now there was nothing wrong with the train station or it's location, but it was just another train station in another city.  When you travel as much as I do for work these things are unremarkable.  We headed out to the day and I was determined to enjoy it for what it was - another city, but nothing special.  Boy was I wrong.

Making our way to the old centre the scenery soon changed from modern wide boulevards to the cobble stone lanes that I love.  Our first stop was Alcazar - where we wandered through buildings and gardens and even climbed a tower for our first view of the old city on high.

The surprise of the day was heading over the bridge and finding a medieval markets of sorts.  What I mean by that is the market was styled in a medieval style - all the vendors were dressed in garments depicting what I guess a medieval market looked like and the booths were tents with flags everywhere.  The thing is they were selling modern items and delicious food - and chocolate.  Regardless of the unique clash of period costume with modernity it's a market and markets are awesome.  We spent a lot of time wandering around, sampling meat and cheese. This is Spain after all - meat and cheese is pretty much a staple.

Heading back into town we visited the Cathedral and spent the rest of the day wandering the town.

Cordoba was just a day trip - one that I had not been excited about.  I love it when a town proves me wrong.

Want to read all my posts on Spain?  You can find them here.