Leaving Valencia was hard….I woke up early to pack so I could take the last couple hours to have a cappuccino and take in our area one last time. Found a darling store that had all kinds of neat treasures. My favorite were some purses and bracelets from an artist in Istanbul. I am really loving all of the foods and items that are here from neighboring countries. Such a fun and eclectic mix! It was time to say goodbye to our little casa in Valencia and we slowly made our way back down the skinny, steep stairs stopping to laugh as we squished toes and worked up a good sweat. Now I was in the drivers seat. Felt so good to drive a stick shift. Took me back to the days of my first car. Love it. Something about pushing in the clutch and shifting gears. We were off on our five hour drive to Granada. We broke up the drive by stopping in the city of Alicante. Mike’s sister and her husband had lived here years ago and it was on our way. It was a caliente day and we stopped to explore the Santa Barbara castle. Breathtaking views and fun to walk around. After it had been a castle it had been used as a prison. It made me think of the Count of Monte Cristo. I can feel the heat changing. The humidity is leaving and it feels much drier. After castle exploring we were starving for some lunch. We tried a couple of restaurants that had been my sister in laws favorites but they were closed for siesta. We let Annalin pick our lunch stop which was Tia Juana. The craziest Mexican restaurant I have been to. They started us of with shots of vanilla tequila. The irony of eating in this wild Mexican restaurant in Spain cracked me up! Burritos and tacos for everyone! We decided to get back on the road since we still had three more hours til Granada. Sam fell asleep and Annalin listened to her tunes. As the sun was dipping into the hills we took the entrance for Granada. I’m not sure if it was the time of day we arrived or serendipitous but entering the city seemed almost magical out of a book. We pulled over to take pictures of the sunset and then hurried to our house before it got dark. If any of you have watched Amazing Race know that we felt like we were in an episode. The Airb&b contact sent me pictures of how to find out our sweet little home instead of written words. I have attached in the pictures below. It was like a scavenger hunt and we loved it! Love this Airb&b. There is a downstairs room with a bathroom and two balconies with a kitchen and pull out sofa upstairs. As we explored our new digs we all ended up on the terrace where the small town flowed around us and the Al Hambra shined behind us. Annalin asked if we were in a fairy tale and I thought that described it perfectly. Even though it was past eleven we decided to find somewhere close for dinner. (Actually more like real dinner time in Spain!) Finally getting on Spanish time. Great little spot at the bottom of the steps. Tapas and bebidas for us all. Needed to head to bed around 1:00 so we would be ready for our tour of Alhambra the next day.
Alhambra and Generalife. What is it you ask? I had to do my research as well. The Alhambra is basically a palace and community that was built….well let this google description explain it better than me…
The Alhambra (/ælˈhæmbrə/; Spanish: [aˈlambɾa]; Arabic: الْحَمْرَاء [ʔælħæmˈɾˠɑːʔ], Al-Ḥamrā, lit. is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes. In 1526 Charles I & V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by Humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but which was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.
I booked a a half day tour of the Alhambra in part because I knew that it would be a long day for my kids (and possibly for myself) and I knew the temperature would be around 100. Which is also why I picked the morning time. We met our tour group outside of a souvenir shop at 9:30 and headed in a bus up to the Al Hambra. We met our tour guide and were in a group of about 20. Met a fabulous couple from Manchester, England and became fast friends getting to know each other. They have a son who plays croquet for England and travels all over the world. So interesting to hear their stories. Our guide was awesome and so knowledgeable but I will say when English is not the first language the accent is very thick. You had to really focus to understand what he was saying. I learned so much am so intrigued now to learn more. Fascinating to see how the Moorish people built this palace and gardens. The design work and detail is so introcal it’s hard for me to imagine anyone really doing it. When you visit the Alhambra you have to bring your imagination and be able to visualize the rooms with the carpets, the bright paint colors, the candles. Water. What a source of beauty here. Amazing for the time how they got water to the palace and this city that lived within. Fountains in bedrooms, water running in little channels and the hammam. Ahh the hammam. The hammam is a beautiful Andalusian Arab bath where you can soak in different temperatures of water, have massages, a body scrub and pretty much melt into the steam and ambience of candlelight. It is relaxing, sultry and amazing. The hammams were popular at the Alhambra and they had water brought in and heated up at a “broiler” location. There is a hammam here in Granada that practices the same rituals and baths. I booked it without hesitation. For an hour and a half it was the most relaxing, calming and mesmerizing experience. Hundreds of candles lit, steam flowing, the tile and design amazing. One of my favorite experiences. I couldn’t take pictures and I’m not sure I can put it into words……Also, being in the room where Christopher Columbus got the orders from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to sail the seas that would lead him to discover America.
There was also another place on the grounds (36 acres) that the sultan used as the summer home. Gardens leading to it full of roses, orange trees, artichokes, the list goes on and on of the vegetation. Hedges cut into arch ways to walk thru. Reminded me of some type of movie where some princess is meeting her lover out in the garden. I know it sounds like too much but this place has a feel like that. Beautiful. Mysterious. Exotic.
After our tour you could tour the grounds more but we were hot, sweaty and hungry. We found a great restaurant up at the top and refreshed while we chatted about what we had seen. Took the long walk back to our casa and took a siesta. Really love the way of life here and wish it was incorporated to some degree in the states. Breaks in the afternoon and families out with each other late in the evenings….
The next day Mike and I went to the Hammam. Such a awesome experience. It was exactly as I have described the Hammams above. Different temperatures of waters, steam, candles lit everywhere, little places to lay and relax, massages, and warm water being scooped and poured over you. I could of stayed there all day. After the hammam we went to meet the kids for a late breakfast. Thinking they would be at the closest cafe….they had ventured into town and found their spot! I love it. They are getting more confident and learning their surroundings in each town we visit. Also using there Spanish more and more. Today was explore town/shop adventure day. The girls hit the local shops and the boys headed for the local park. FUN shops here!!! Annalin and I wound our way up the curvy streets. There is a lot of Moorish influence here and I love it mixed in with the Spanish flair. Beautiful lamps, flowy paths, leather goods, wall hangings, great shoes and so much more. Tea. Baskets of it and the smell wonderful as you explore. Annalin and I stopped in an Arab tea shop and picked out our flavor. We picked floral and citrus teas that went well with our lemon crepe. Hooka’s everywhere which the kids find fascinating. We have actually seen them in every town we’ve been in.
One thing that has bothered me is the dogs with the homeless young people here. Some of them have multiple dogs and I just find it odd how they can care for them properly when they are hardly caring for themselves…they are not mistreating the dogs but there is something about it I don’t like. On the subject of dogs. Parisians and Spaniards love their dogs. Lots of them out walking with them all the time. Not a lot of green space where they have them….
Came back to our casa and I made some appetizers on the terrace. We read books and chatted while we ate prosciutto, chips, cheese and nectarines. Tomorrow we head to Nerja, which is a small town on the Costa del Sol. We are excited to be at the beach but there something magical about this town we will miss. I am getting good about packing my bag. Like Tetris. (And I have taken over some of Sam’s suitcase). We say goodbye to our Granada home and head down the stone steps. Nerja is the only hotel we will be staying at on this trip and we are ready to explore the coast. Off to Nerja……
#Granada #Spain #kinggirladventures #travel #Alhambra