Travels in Spain – The Alhambra Palace and the Rugby Granada Cinema

Alhambra Detail

“Granada! Holy place of the glory of Spain,
Your mountains are the white tents of pavilions,
Your walls are the circle of a vase of flowers,
Your plain a Moorish shawl embroidered with colour,
Your towers are palm trees that imprison you” –  José Zorrilla y Moral

We had a good room in a nice hotel in Romilla and from the balcony we began to adjust to the pace of the place which, it has to be said was dangerously close to reverse.

The sun was shining now so we went for a stroll at what I would describe as a sort of normal walking pace but which seemed to startle a couple of the locals who were busy sitting around doing nothing and who broke out into a sweat just watching us amble by and then we came across a bar who seemed surprised to suddenly have some customers.  Anyway, it was very pleasant sitting in the sun at last and we stayed for a second beer and the barman prepared us some complimentary tapas.

I was reluctant to raise the issue of the obvious absence of restaurants in Romilla but despite my efforts to avoid it conversation inevitably turned to evening dining arrangements.  These were so limited that our only real option was to return to a service station at the side of the nearby main road.  This could have been a disaster for me but luckily it turned out fine, there was a motel on the site and an excellent reasonably priced restaurant where we enjoyed an unexpectedly good meal.

Alhambra Granada

We had an unusually early start the following morning because we were driving to Granada and had timed entrance tickets to the Alhambra Palace complex and believe me this is a good tip – make sure you book in advance on line because entrance tickets are strictly limited to a prescribed number and if you turn up on the day expecting to buy a ticket and it is full then you won’t get in.  End of!

I have been to Granada several times as it happens.  Not this one of course but the Granada Cinema in my home town of Rugby.  What a flea-pit it was.  A towering brick building built in 1933 and originally called the Plaza but later in 1946 changing its name to the Granada in the same way as so many others as they borrowed continental place names such as Alhambra, Rialto, Amalfi and Colosseum to make them sound more exciting.  Later car manufacturers did exactly the same of course and we had the Ford trio of Corsair, Cortina and Granada, Triumph had the Toledo and the Dolomite and the Seat the Ibiza and the Cordoba.

Rugby Granada Picture House

And not just Granada, I have also been to the Alhambra, that is the Alhambra public house in Coventry which was on the once a month Saturday night pub trail when I was a lot younger.

It was a short drive to Granada, one of the great cities of Iberia, located at the confluence of four major rivers and at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the highest in all of Spain and still snow capped at the highest peaks which created a picturesque backdrop as we made our final approach to the Alhambra.

At ten o’clock it wasn’t especially busy and we easily collected our tickets and began our visit to a place that with three million visitors a year claims to be the most visited site in Spain.

Alhambra Gateway

Top ten most visited are Alhambra, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Mosque at Cordoba, Santiago de Compostella, Burgos Cathedral, the Alcazar of Segovia, Roman Theatre at Merida, Casa Mila in Barcelona, the Cathedral and La Giralda in Seville and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. I have visited them all except for the Guggenheim.

We began in the gardens of the Generalife, the summer palace of the Sultans and Emirs and built in the shadow of the mountains in the coolest spot on the site away from the suffocating heat of the Alhambra itself.

The Alhambra complex was built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain during the the Nasrid dynasty who at the time were increasingly subject to the Christian Kings of Castile.  After the final expulsion of the Moors and being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, the Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who carried out retaliatory destruction of the site.

It has been restored now to its former glory and exhibits the country’s most significant and most precious Islamic architecture.

Alhambra Nasrid Palace

The 1492 surrender of the Islamic Emirate of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs is one of the most significant events in the history of Granada as it marked the completion of the Reconquista of Al-Andalus.  As part of the deal the Muslims were allowed to stay in Granada and afforded religious toleration but within only a few years the Christians reneged on this and those who refused to convert were expelled.

El Cid 1

Christians took possession of the site and added a cathedral and a castle complex and sometime later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V demolished part of the site and built himself a grand palace but then having gone to all that trouble he never bothered to move in.  What a waste!

Fortunately today much of the Palace of the Moors remains intact (restored of course) and eventually we used our timed tickets to join a queue to go inside.  It was wonderful and it immediately transported us back to Morocco and the Palaces of Marrakech and Meknes.  Architecture that foams like a carelessly opened bottle of fizzy water, slender columns, floating arches and wood and stone that dissolves into fragile lace.

Alhambra Gardens

Hanging gardens, foaming fountains and sparkling streams of water, cool welcome shade, sunshine trying to break in like a thief, startlingly fine alabaster white stucco work, geometric tiled patterns exploding with colour, decoration like stalactites dripping from the elaborate ceilings, carved columns and horseshoe arches and I immediately understood why this just might be the number one place to visit in Spain.

We stayed as long as we possibly could in the Palace complex but inevitably the flow of visitors carried us like an estuary to the exit and we left with an overwhelming feeling of total satisfaction.

Palace of Charles V Alhambra

In the heat of the afternoon we visited the Palace of Charles V and the museum inside and then the Alcazaba with stunning views over the whole of the city of Granada.

I had hoped that I might persuade Kim to walk down into the city centre and at least visit the towering cathedral but I could tell that she wasn’t particularly keen so I kept that suggestion to myself with the thought that one day we might return to Granada and see all of the things that we were now going to miss.

Granada from the Alhambra

Perhaps we should have stayed in Granada rather than Romilla but it was too late to reverse that decision now so we made our weary way back to the village and the hotel El Soto de Roma and rested a while before making our way back to the village bar for wine and tapas and later we returned to the motorway service station for evening meal where we reflected on a really excellent day.

Alhambra Reflection

47 responses to “Travels in Spain – The Alhambra Palace and the Rugby Granada Cinema

  1. The view of the city of Granada is truly breathtaking! I also particularly loved the intricate carvings on the pillars in gold & red. Great post as always Mr. Andrew.

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  2. Brought back happy memories of our own trip to Granada and the Alhambra Palace.

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  3. Great post. Alhambra really is wonderful. Granada is the name of the service station near Exeter and I once went there in a Ford Capri!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I vaguely remember the Alhambra pub in Coventry – it was a rough one, but has since been knocked down and replaced with a Nandos!

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  5. I love all the complex touches in the architectural designs. Wow.
    Wonderful views, Andres and fabulous photos. 🙂

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  6. Enjoyed your description of the sites intermingled with your unique observations😊. Some great photos too.

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  7. With only a limited time available, we stayed in Granada- opposite the Generalife. A bit upmarket for us, but not especially expensive and well worth it from an access point of view. We did see the Cathedral but I liked the stretch beside the river better.

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  8. Dinner at the service station? Well that would get you in the good books. Lovely reflection photos Andrew. Good eye indeed.

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  14. Visited the Alhambra many moons ago and it was magnificent.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I remember well the Ford Corsair, and the Ford Granada too, which was the vehicle of choice in “The Sweeney”. English cars had very calm names like Devon, Somerset, Anglia, Herald. Nothing too dramatic!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. We also were entranced by the Alhambra, and because we were staying in Granada had the opportunity to see its silhouette floodlit above the city at night – quite magical. We thought it might be less crowded as an attraction in February – no such luck. And do complete the list: The Guggenheim in Bilbao is just fabulous, and we loved the city too..

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  17. Your usual good history. I had a Ford Corsair in the 60s. It was the only car in the street which is now packed with them as people drive in from Surrey and commute by train to Waterloo. If you count the one in Raynes Park, there were 5 cinemas in Wimbledon when I was growing up. One was the Granada. The fleapit was the Kings.

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  18. Despite having been to many Spanish cities, I haven’t yet made it to Granada. Clearly I need to right that wrong! (Point of slightly relevant trivia – Granada were the club shirt sponsors on the only occasion Coventry won the FACup, 1987).

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    • Great trivia! Yes, you need to visit Granada for sure.
      For the record, who is your football team?

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      • Derby. Born, bred and season ticket holder for many years. Have now lapsed into supporting from afar.

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      • Oh Dear. My entire family are Rams fans so it is difficult for me as a Leicester supporter especially when we were in the same division. I remember we all went to the 1994 play off final and sat in the Derby end. I was warned to keep quiet throughout but couldn’t help celebrating when the winning goal went in. I haven’t been to a live match for several years since my Dad died.

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      • Ah yes – sadly I was at that game too, as well as well over 1,000 other matches spanning more than 50 years. It sometimes still feels a little odd being a “remote” fan these days.

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      • I started to go to Filbert Street in 1964.

        Between 1990 and 1995ish I used to regularly to the Baseball Ground, my brother-in-law organised the ball boys and for his trouble could get cheap seats in one of the corners. I remember it being so cold.

        I remember a game at Pride Park when Leicester went 4-0 up inside the first 15 minutes and another when Leicester were winning 1-0 with about 3 minutes to play and I left as I had to leave to pick up my daughter from somewhere or other. As I walked away confident of victory I heard a mighty cheer and knew that it was 1-1.

        It is difficult to have a second team but I confess that mine is Derby County.

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      • I have a lifetime of football memories, my first game was October 1965 and it’s only in the last 5 or 6 years that I’ve stopped being a regular.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. It was many years ago but I remember well the year my husband went with a friend to Wembley to the Scottish-England football final on tickets given to the friend. They didn’t know before they went, but the tickets were right in the middle of the Scottish supporters, each of whom seemed to have come armed with a crate of beer (allowed in those far-off days) which was pushed under the seats as chasers to the whiskey they had in their pockets. He was terrified! Neither he nor friend could cheer or allow themselves to show any enthusiasm to any moves on the English side, they felt they would be killed.
    Pity, it was the last final he ever got tickets to.

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  20. The Alhambra is a wonder. I loved it when we visited. Granada is a tough city to get around in. It took us three hours to find our hotel! Have you read Washington Irving´s Tales of The Alhambra? He stayed there when it is was derelict and occupied by squatters. An interesting read.

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  21. Love the pace being “dangerously close to reverse”. You have a way with words!

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  22. When I was in Sacramento there was a grand old theater called the Alhambra from the 1930s that had ever so much more class than the modern theaters. Sadly, it was razed to make way for a Safeway grocery store. Progress, they called it.
    Really liked the reflection pool shot, Andrew.
    BTW, I am reading an interesting book on the Honeywood Oak called “The Oak Papers” by James Canton. Have you been there? –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually like pictures without people but I thought the reflections added something this time.
      I haven’t seen the Honeywood Oak Curt but your comment reminded me that in UK the Woodland Trust always declares a ‘Tree of the Year’

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  23. A propos of The Alhambra. I was speaking to my brother last night and he reminded me that he has stayed in an Airbnb cave in the Albaicin area of Granada for the past two years when touring Spain, very modern, very unusual, and with fantastic views of the Alhambra and the Sierras. Worth checking out if anyone’s gong that way.

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