“If you were to visit just one city in Spain, it should be Granada” – Ernest Hemingway.
We had a leisurely start to the day with breakfast in our apartment and it was gone ten o’clock when we finally left and walked back into the city.
We began the day in the Albayzín neighbourhood which is an important cultural area of the city which is recognised by inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list for the protection of cultural and natural heritage. The area has a distinctly Muslim heritage with architecture and street arrangement based on Almohad, Berber design which stretches back over eight hundred years to when the North African Moors were in control of almost all of Spain but strongest here in Granada and nearby Cordoba.
Of all the foreign nationals living in Spain the greatest number are Moroccans and as we pushed our way through the busy streets, politely declining invitations to take tea or to look inside the shops I was immediately transported to Marrakech and Fes, Meknes and Tangier. This was an interesting part of the city which reminded me once again at just how varied and diverse is the country of Spain.
Although we didn’t have entrance tickets to the Alhambra Palace we decided to walk there anyway because we had been told that it was possible to gain access to parts of the complex without tickets. It wasn’t very far away but once again the walk involved a steep climb especially towards the latter stages through the woodland approach to the city gate.
Once inside it was indeed possible to see quite a lot of the Palace grounds even without admission to the formal gardens, the Palace or the Alcazaba but we could walk around the battlements and enjoy the views over the city, visit the Palace of Charles V and some minor buildings outside of the main complex.
In a moment of mad optimism we did visit the ticket office but it was not to be and so an hour after we had walked up to the Palace we began our slow walk back down.
After a light lunch we now went our separate ways, Kim and Lindsay went to the shops and because men don’t do shops, Mick and I didn’t.
So I visited the Cathedral. Mick doesn’t do Cathedrals so he sat outside and waited.
An interesting one this, unlike most cathedrals in Spain, construction here was not begun until the sixteenth century as it had to await until after 1492 and the acquisition of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada from its Muslim rulers. While its earliest plans were Gothic the construction of the church in the main occurred at a time when Spanish Renaissance designs were supplanting the Medieval preference in Spanish architecture of prior centuries. As a consequence of this the interior is light, bright and airy with soaring white columns and high windows and a fine collection of Renaissance paintings to boot. I liked it, it was different to so many other Cathedrals in Spain.
On the way out I visited a small museum with examples of Muslim architecture which I didn’t really understand and there were no interpretation boards to help so didn’t linger and then the City Hall, the Ayuntamiento, but as I wasn’t registering for citizenship or applying for a Spanish bus pass this didn’t take terribly long either.
We all joined up again at a pavement café in front of the Cathedral and wasted away the last of the afternoon over beer and wine and then returned to our accommodation to prepare for the evening. This didn’t take a lot of planning because as I have mentioned before once we find a place that we like then we generally tend to use it again and tonight was no exception.
The food was good but the highlight was the street entertainment, not a musician or a dancer or a singer but a street corner beggar who was an absolute professional when it came to wagging a paper cup at people and putting on a show that ranged from high drama to low despair. He was quite successful too and every time a coin was tossed into the cup he scooped it out, examined it and swiftly put it in his pocket so he could present an empty cup to the next victim.
The next morning we got caught in a ‘sting’ ourselves. We were leaving Granada to move on to nearby Guadix and we were doing quite well navigating our way out of the city until a moment of hesitation was spotted by a man on a tatty old scooter who approached us, went in like a stiletto and convinced us that we were going the wrong way (even though we had a perfectly reliable SatNav) and invited us to follow him and for some unexplained reason we did.
The SatNav was frantically giving instructions to turn around but we just blindly continued on until we reached a point at the opposite end of the city to where we really needed to be and he pulled up, approached us, told us to follow signs for the motorway and held out his hand for payment. We were going to give him €5 but Lindsay, feeling generous offered 10 at which point he demanded 15 which was completely absurd but Mick didn’t want a screwdriver being run down the side of his shiny new car so we meekly paid up and went on our way.
We made our way to the motorway junction and drove a completely unnecessary ten miles or so to get back to the place where the Satnav would surely have taken us thirty minutes sooner. We should have got a discount on the €15 for all the extra fuel he had wasted for us!
We had been thoroughly tucked up, completely skewered, absolutely kippered but once on the open road and heading towards our destination we soon saw the funny side of it and laughed about it all the way to nearby Guadix. People have got to make a living somehow I suppose.