Spain 2016: Granada

towersDear Friends: It’s amazing how many of you responded to my first Spain blog. Either (1) you are in Spain right now but far away and it’s too bad we can’t meet up, (2) you are coming to Spain soon and maybe we will cross paths, or (3) you have been here recently with suggestions for where to go and what to see. Thanks to everyone – we are following many of your suggestion and, as it turns out, we will coincide in Madrid the end of the month with a dear friend we’ve not seen in more than twenty years.lush + michaelGranada: as our taxi sped through and left behind the centro historico, past charming winding streets, impressive churches and inviting cafes, museums and convents, and started up a big hilll we were sure we’d made a mistake with our hotel. Didn’t we want to be down here with the action, near all the good wine, jamon serrano and tasty cheeses? I could feel Michael tensing beside me, but held back from saying anything because I had made all the arrangements. And yes, although our Hotel Guadalupe turned out to be up there with the Alhambra, an efficient little mini-bus ran to town every five minutes. We walked down every evening and took the bus up. And since the Alhambra is vast and exhausting and impossible to see at any one time, we could retreat to our room and rest before going back out into the fray.
P1130733And fray it was!  About 7,000 people visit the Alhambra every day, and although the tourism folks have done a pretty good job of crowd control – only allowing a certain number into the most popular sites at any one time – huge tours with “whisper guides” –  speaking softly into a mic to groups of 40-50, each person with a receiver around the neck and in their collective ears. Flocks and gagglescoveys and throngs, And nearly everyone with cameras, phones and selfie sticks, making postcard poses. We simply skipped some rooms of the main sites – such as the emir’s palace with 150-foot ceiling, but there was so much to see we were happy to wander the gardens and other areas.P1130864We had expected southern Spain to be dry and hot and spare, but it is the opposite, at least this time of year. This being May, the fruits trees were in bloom – especially the wonderful orange trees – though M. and I tried one of the big oranges that plop to the ground and they are sour! –  and every inch of the Alhambra and adjoining area is lush and landscaped with flowers and trees – even the forest all around the hill that feels wild but is surely not.

P1130839Of course, the secret is water, water, everywhere, with the source obvious from the balcony of our room: the Alpujarra Mountains in the distance. In fact, the day of our scheduled visit to the Alhambra it was about 50 degrees – cold, gusty, rainy – and by the end of the afternoon the mountains were covered in snow.

Michael, the plumber, loved the waterways and waterworks: canals, springs, streams and fountains and sometimes water burbling up in the middle of a room. He inspected them with interest and was amazed that most are gravity-fed. But not all, though we never saw or heard a pump. P1130755  P1130853P1130854 P1130855P1130849

A final surprise: cats, everywhere. Roaming In the palaces along with the tourists, creeping around in the gardens, sunning themselves on plazas, and clearly a home in the forests. At first, I thought they were feral cats, but here they are placidly hanging around crowds of people in one of the squares, hoping for scraps of bread and ham and cheese. P1130872

We left Granada and the Alhambra with questions that gave rise to an idea for a new kind of guidebook. Michael came up with the name: The Back Side of Spain. It would answer such questions as How many gardeners are employed maintaining La Alhambra? What does the underground plan of the waterworks look like? How many cats live there? Are there efforts to control their population? I so, how? Are they fed or do they survive on tourists’ scrapes and mice?

So, on to Jerez for some sun and sherry (thanks, Pat, for that suggestion). But now whenever we ask a weird question we’ll wish we had that guide, The Back Side of Spain.

8 thoughts on “Spain 2016: Granada

  1. I remember spending six or eight hours wandering the Alhambra without realizing time was passing. It was late september so the crowds were thinning. We had the best falafel ever in the town below and found the perfect local bar that night and cozied up with some locals. The flamenco music started and we were swept into the clapping and fun. Two years ago my friend and I spent a week exploring the Pueblos Blancos after I had a conference in Seville. Ahhhh…Espana….I want to explore Galicia next…happy travels

  2. In Veracruz, Mexico there is a beautiful park that has hundreds of cats. The food is purchased from donations and the people who care for them are volunteers. They capture the cats and have them spayed or neutered. The surgery is donated by local vets. When the surgery is done a tip of one ear is lopped off. One side for females and the other for males. I talked to one of the volunteers and she said that people continually drop off more cats but as soon as one is noticed that does not have an ear tip missing, they are taken to the vet for the surgery. Maybe there is a similar plan in the Alhambra. In Veracruz the cats are the same, they do not particularly seek out human attention but they are not afraid either, they just go about their daily routine washing in sun or shade, depending.

  3. Judy
    We are heading to Spain, too! We have rented a villa in Malaga May 27-June 10, then will be in Barcelona for 4 days. We are planning day trips from Malaga! Would love more tips and ideas if you have time to email.

  4. Jude, I’ve never enjoyed the Alhambra as much as your blog and photos.
    I agree, the waterworks are amazing. Love The Backside idea.
    Wish we were meeting up in Madrid the end of the month. I’ll try to come up
    with a gem for you. How about the best place for Favada? Now to get the name.
    Love Char

  5. Queridos Judy y Mike, hace mucho tiempo que no visito Granada, pero leer esta nota me invita a regresar. Y lo haré. Este año no me voy a Europa porque estoy muy ocupada en la producción del II Volumen del Cancionero y en otros proyectos que me demandan atención aquí en Costa Rica pero para el año que viene si que voy a viajar por asuntos de trabajo y aprovecharé para visitar a mi amiga María José y viajar a Portugal. Pensaré entonces en viajar a Granada.

    Guadalupe

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