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Published: April 28th 2018
Our big excursion for today was The Alhambra, Granada's main claim to fame (besides the free tapas!). We trekked the 20 minute uphill slanted brick stair climb to the Alhambra for our 8:30 am tour this morning. Whoever said vacation was "easy" has not had to endure the hills of Lisbon or Granada - the hills in the early morning do a better job waking you up and getting the blood flowing than any cup of coffee. The Alhambra is an old Moorish palace, built originally in the late 9th century and renovated in the 13th century in Granada. Alhambra means "The Red One," referencing the red brick used to build the palace. We were in a 29 person English guided tour with our tour guide Juan, and we were the only American's in the tour. There were four people from the UK, and everyone else was actually not a native English speaker (German, Polish, Russian, etc.). We walked through all the main structures of the Alhambra, including Charles V summer palace and the Generalife, a beautiful garden which translates to Paradise in Arabic.
Within our tour, we learned that most of the structure was left with it's Moorish influence
even after the Christians conquered the palace in the 15th century. The Christian's converted the Alhambra into a royal palace. Granada is an ideal place for a fortress, because it sits at a higher elevation with the mountains and provides views of the surrounding valley and is close to the coast.
On many walls were Arabic inscriptions. The architecture overall was very ornate, with intricate designs throughout. Within the Qur'an, there is a chapter that states that statues are forbidden. In all the Alhambra, we only saw one statue which was a fountains with lions around it, which is very different than all the Italian palaces that build shrines to past rulers and gods via statues. There were windows that were called "jealousy windows," which were to allow the women in the harem inside to look outside without men working in the palace seeing them. There were multiple ponds throughout the palace, one being a "reflection pond" within a courtyard of the palace.
Overall, this was a very impressive site, and we'd highly recommend the Alhambra to anyone visiting southern Spain. They only allow 8,000 visitors per day, so make sure to buy your ticket in advance! If
you're looking to learn more about the Alhambra, our tour guide recommended a book by Washington Irving entitled "Tales of the Alhambra," that we'd also recommend you check out.
We stopped for some sangria/cerveza and tapas in a plaza before walking to the Cathedral of Granada. One of the most notable things about the Cathedral was that it had two organs, one of which contained over 4,000 pipes. Surrounding the entire Cathedral were statues and areas of prayer to Saints, including Saint Teresa, Mary, Sebastian, among others.
In the late afternoon we made it to the Parque de Ciencias, which was the Science Museum of Granada. They had an exhibit mirroring various ecosystems, including coral reefs and tropics, that had animals throughout, almost like a mini-zoo. We were able to see lemurs, Chinese alligators, fish/sharks, and many more animals. The coolest part was at the end where they had a dozen pots with plants in them, and we had to find the insects in each pot. The insects were so well camouflaged into their environment they were very hard to spot! The Museum had exhibits for robotics, physics, predators, an observatory overlooking the city, as well as the
human body. The human body exhibit had a game that two people could use their minds to try to move a ball closer to the other person. To do this, you had to shut your brain off, because the machine could sense your brain activity. Cody was MUCH better at this game than I was (shocking, I know)!
We were able to watch the sunset over the San Nicolas lookout while drinking wine and beer. We were over looking Granada, the Alhambra, and the mountains, and it was beautiful! Our spot for dinner was a local tapas bar where it was us and virtually no other tourists. We were able to indulge in paella, barbacoa pork, patatas bravas, among other foods. Cody prefers our Barcelona tapas joint, but I think this is the best food we've had to date so far on our trip. Plus, the sangria was amazing!
Granada overall has been great. Since coming to Southern Spain we've definitely had to up our Spanish game and communicate with very little/no English. Our Spanish classes over the years have definitely helped us for this. Tomorrow we are headed to the town of Ronda, which is Southwest of
Granada. It will be a little cooler in temperature there with potentially some rain, but we're hoping to get some sightseeing in to the local villages as well as some hiking.
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