GRANADA --> SEVILLE
We were staying at the Saray Hotel Granada - one of the highlight hotels of the trip due to the access to free WiFi. That night we Skyped home and got to see Louis! - albeit very jumpy and temperamental.
The television was not nearly as good as our hotel in Madrid - with no options to change the programs into Spanish. Nevertheless the hotel was very spcious with truly comfortable beds - and truthfully we weren't there very long till we were woken up very early again to continue on our way.
As the sun rose, we drove to the Alhmabra Palace. It was up upon the high mountains - in which gypsies live in caes quite literally nestled into the mountain sides. The time and altitude of Alhambra combined created a very chilly climate as our local guide - a truly enthusiastic and passionate man - took us around the attraction.
The benefit of coming so early was seeing the whole city of Granada below bathed in morning sun; and also the quietness of the place as the other big tour groups were yet to arrive.
Firstly, we were taken through the beautiful gardens - intricately designed and maintained in various geometrical shapes and designs. Throughout were various water features and fountains to create a natural paradise before we even entered the Palace.
As we ventured within the city walls and into the actual Palace, we were able to see the absolutely amazing architecture and adornations decorating every room from ceiling to floor. The Palace was built by the Moors in the 13th Century, heavily influenced with Gothic architecture and Arabic culture.
Arabic script was inscribed all over the Palace walls, mosaic tiles all over the floors. Even Krystal acknowledged the magnitude of the detail - commenting on the great shame that no one bothers to create such beauty anymore in modern architecture. We were also able to see some of the private quarters of the royals. Their actual rooms were tiny, barely enough for a mere futon type bed with lots of cushions like you could imagine in an Arabian nights type movie.
We also walked through the Generalife, the royal summer residence - more crazy gardens and water features and moreover gorgeous buildings.
There was one particular building, square from the facade but inside containing a circular room - the only one of its kind. Epically awesome with amazing acoustics (despite all that wasted space as krystal would say.)
One of the highlights of this trip to Alhambra though would have to be the freeloaders - a young Asian couple who quite literally followed our tour group round, listening to our guide to hear all the information for free...those Asians.
Then we finally continued on to Seville. We were dropped off right at the bull-fighting ring where we met our local guide. She first took us to the cathedral, another beautiful building with amazing sculptures everywhere and slightly creepy tombs.
Oh and this is when we truly realised how obsessed the Spanish are with Christopher Columbus who they have monuments and tributes for everywhere.
Walking through the streets of Old Seville, I realised THIS is what I imagined all the Spanish towns to be like. Cobbled, uneven streets, narrowly winding through the city. Tall, colourful buildigs opening out to courtyards with cafes and retaurants all around, with plenty of outdoor seating and fountains in the middle. Mosiac tiles every now and then, iron wrought balconies and laundry hanging out the windows. This was the quintessential Spanish town.
(What's more, the city gates of Old Seville showcased the aqueducts used in old Roman times - a gret appeal to my nerdy latin side.)
Then we came to our hotel Melia Leberos Hotel Seville. The elevator system was rather interesting - a control panel was outside the group of lifts and you pressed the lvel you wanted to go to. THen it would appear with the letter A, B, C or D indicating which of the four thus labelled elevators would take you to your level. It ended up being really quite effective and efficient in transporting two whole tour groups up to our respective levels.
In the lobby, there was also a hotel bar that was really quite pretty. It was all lit up like it was a nightclub.
That night, Krystal and I went on the optional excursion to the Flamenco Show. It was a rather old building with many round tables mounted around the room and then a few rows of seats in which we sat. There were tables sporadically placed down the rows of seatss to hold our drinks. Krystal and I tried the homegrown Sangria drinks as we enjoyed the show.
All the music was live with two guitarists, an anvil player (yes as in a blacksmith's anvil) and two singers who took it in turn. The music was definitely...interesting. Very folk-like and obviously very traditional. The dancing was spectacular.
THe beauty of flamenco dance is that dance is typically movement stemmed from music and reacting to the beats and melodies of a song. Flamenco is all about the music. The music manifests from the dancing itself. The dancers create the beats from the movement of their feets and various forms of body percussion - either clapping or clicking or tapping on their bodies. Then the other dancers sit around in a very interactive role, clapping and exclaiming as they watch the movements of the principal dancer. It is all very involved and absolutely beautiful.
The odd thing was the very strong, stern - almost angry - facial expressions of the dancers. THe women were constantly having their brows furrowed, with a hard-set mouth. Nevertheless, this seemed to increase the passion with which the dances were performed that clearly showed in the tension of their bodies in every moment.
There was also such variety in each dance - from mere dancing to dancing with scarves, capes, fans and then a knife (that came out in the short extract from the famous musica Carmen.)
It was a fantastic night - a wonderful representation of something so quintessential to Spanish culture and very much worth the extra cost to the tour.
And I almost forgot to talk about the most exicting thing for the day. The Spanish all eat very late and so though we only arrived at the hotel around 9 in the evening, the streets were swimming with people. We went across the street to the mall there and what should we find at the restaurants but TGI FRIDAYS!
Now though we've been to New York we never actually went to dine at TGI Fridays, so of course we would have it in Spain instead. The great thing was that this meant the waitresses were much better at English than the ones we had encountered in Madrid, and moreover the menu was in English so I know exactly what I was eating. It was fantastic...all the waitresses wearing cool hats, free refills for soda and just basically a really good meal.
A great end to a fantastic day.
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