If the Alhambra’s on your list of “must see’s,” you should order your tickets in advance…..so that’s what we optimistically did back on October 25th…..we ordered four tickets with a 9:30 a.m. entry time. That seemed reasonable at the time, but when the 6:00 a.m. wake-up call jarred us from a sound sleep, we began to question our judgment. Kris, with infinite wisdom, had prepared the coffeemaker last night…..and it’s aromatic scent beckoned us like moths to light (save that there wasn’t any light this early in the morning). We stumbled through our showers, dressed haphazardly and headed down to the car for the two hour ride to Granada.
Starting out in the dark had one perk…..watching sunrise on the Mediterranean. Sunrise is my favorite time of day…..when the still, calm of the night slowly gives way to the hazy first light of dawn……it’s unfortunate that I so rarely see it.
The drive took us through steep hills, small villages, vineyards and olive groves….but we weren’t prepared for the stunning beauty of Granada. We first saw it in the distance, nestled at the foot of Spain’s Sierra Nevada snow-capped mountains……it looked like it could be Shangri-la…..but only from a distance. As we neared the city, we were immersed in Monday morning traffic and miles of strip malls and light industry…..which were happily left behind as we left the city and climbed up the road that leads to the Alhambra.
With the lots almost empty, we parked near the entrance, walked the short distance to the kiosk to pick up our tickets and were in line at 9:00…..just as recommended…..30 minutes prior to our reservation time.
Our tickets were scanned shortly after 9:00 a.m. and we were admitted into the grounds of the 14th century Moorish palace. We started a slow stroll toward the Palacios Nazaries (Nasrid Palace)….about a 15 minute walk away…..enjoying the gardens along the way. There was a nip in the air, so when we passed a hotel with the promise of coffee inside, we stopped for a bit of a warm-up. We ordered our drinks and one by one, trekked to the small restrooms (the sink was so pretty, I had to take a picture). As we sipped our warm drinks, I re-read our guidebook….and re-read it again. Yikes! We had misinterpreted the instructions. Our half-hour reservation window wasn’t for entry to the Alhambra grounds….it was for entry to the Palacios Nazaries! We would only be allowed to enter this top sight between 9:30 and 10:00. We quickly paid our tab and raced over to the palace. With only minutes to spare, our tickets were carefully scrutinized before the rope was dropped and we were allowed to enter the queue that was waiting to enter the palace.
The palace was amazing. After touring so many cavernous, somber Gothic and Renaissance buildings, the Palacios Nazaries was like a breath of fresh air….with small rooms, colorful tiles, intricate plaster walls, and bright courtyards, it was absolutely exquisite.
We wandered through the palace, seeing the tiles that inspired M.C. Echer and the room where Washington Irving wrote “Tales of the Alhambra.”
Next to the Palacios Nazaries is the Palace of Charles V…..built after the Christian Reconquista reclaimed Granada. It’s circular courtyard within a square building was one of the most interestingly designed buildings we’d seen, but it seemed palty next to the Palacios Nazaries.
Our tour continued at the Generalife…..with fountains and gardens (some planted over 600 years ago), it must have been a welcome respite during Spain’s hot summers.
The magnificent Alhambra…..
“On such heavenly nights I would sit for hours at my window inhaling the sweetness of the garden, and musing on the checkered fortunes of those whose history was dimly shadowed out in the elegant memorials around.” ~ Washington Irving