See what I did there? 😂
I left Madrid around 9:30am and arrived into town around 1:00. Apparently some train tracks around Granada are being worked on this summer (because who goes to the desert in July?), so you go 2.5 hours by high speed train and then do the last hour by bus.
I was anxious about making the connection- how would I know which bus? Would 20 minutes really be enough time, given some of the train stations I’ve been in lately? Also, does this mean we would still be dropped off at the train station (easily to get into town)? Or would it be the *bus* station, that was farther outside of town? Gah! Traveler woes.
Not to worry, of course. We pulled up in the middle of no where and the busses couldn’t have been more obvious. I now just needed to wait and see where we arrived. I was not above taking a taxi to my hotel, if need be.
We arrived, it turned out, at the train station. (It’s like they thought of everything.) Taxis were lined up but supposedly the bus just around the corner and only cost €1.20 with a ticket I bought from the driver. What could go wrong?
I walked around the corner and, sure enough, there was a bus stop. There were several routes but I was told to look for #lac, buy my ticket from the driver and it would only be about 4 stops to get to the center where I would be able to walk the rest of the way in under 10 minutes. And here came one now! I got my coins ready and boarded behind the others, and held my money towards the window that was near the driver.
But there was a man, standing in a uniform on the bus, yelling at me. “You need to buy a ticket from the machine at the station over there,” he told me. Or I think he told me? What I know for sure is, he spoke and pointed, I stepped back off the bus and away it went.
Ookkay. Great. So now how long until the next #lac? With a little more time to observe, I noticed that yes, people were in fact buying cards and tickets from a machine. Some who already had cards were swiping them under a scanner of sorts too, counting their rides, I suppose? I waited for my turn at the machine, purchased one ride and oh shit here came another #lac!
I didn’t even have time to scan it under the machine (since it wasn’t a card anyways?) but I just hopped on and hoped for the best. I only had to go 4 stops, and as I rode I thought that maybe they don’t have those people on every route but just random enforcers? The thought was short lived as I saw a young man make his way through the bus scanning tickets. I also didn’t really understand how it worked to be honest. How is he scanning to know it if had been scanned?? One lady’s card made the electronic “failed” sound and they had a heated discusion about how she has just done such such at the last station. It was at least buying me time and getting me closer to my stop… *if* I was going to get kicked off again for not having done it right. But when he got to me mine beeped green and I breathed easily for the last 2 minutes of the ride. 😉
I got off at my stop and easily navigated to my hostal. I had my first interaction with the women selling Rosemary as a scam. They give it to tunas a “gift”, but then when you take it they apparently grab your hand and read your palm. And then you’re suppose to tip them. But coins are “bad luck” so they need a €5 note? 😏 The guide book says to not make eye contact, say no and just be firm, which I did. But honestly, I was kind of tempted to see the whole interaction go down. 😉
The family run hostel was so cute!!! No air conditioning but so. much. charm.
No air conditioning in 100 degree heat might sound horrible to you, but it meant I wouldn’t be up half the night trying to figure out the settings that wouldn’t make me freeze to death. A fan provided just the perfect breeze and white noise and so… I siesta’d.
I had booked my Alhambra ticket for that later evening since I’d known in advance that today was going to be my “Granada day” but hadn’t yet know my train arrival or departure times. 6:30 felt safe, and that was just my palace entrance time, so I could arrive on the grounds and tour the other areas of my ticket before then. I woke up around 4, got ready and went to find the local kiosk where I had to print a hard copy of my ticket. I also thought I should eat something, but didn’t want to waste too much time, since the alahambra closed at 8 and everyone said it was a 3 hour visit and I knew would have my main meal afterwards. Hmm, something quick and fast and light and cool. Oh hey, mango ice cream! I printed my tickets and was on my way.
The Alahambra is, what should have been obvious to me, up the hill. A huge monstrous fucking hill. Why I thought this would be a good thing to do around 5:30 in the evening at the heat of the day was beyond me. I am in decent shape, probably better now after walking around Europe for the last three weeks, and I almost died. I walked up and up, my limbs dangling in that horrible posture you do when you need all your body momentum to stop you from tumbling backwards. And why did I think ice cream would be good fuel for this?? I stopped and drank water like an animal with my hands from what I hoped was a drinkable stream, but really didn’t even care. Sweat literally formed streams down my back that for a brief second I thought it was water from somewhere. You know it’s 100 degrees here right?
Why doesn’t this picture look steep? I swear to god it was so steep.
I would like to pause here and say that there was talk of maybe some different people in my life joining me for various parts of this journey. While I think of and miss them each at different times, I also know it would have had to be a different trip. To those people I would also like to say: you dodged a fucking bullet. Not walking up this hill, per se, but walking up this hill *with me.* There was no one for me to whine and complain to, and so I couldn’t! If there had been someone there, I know I would have made that miserable experience all the more excruciating.
I finally reached the main entrance with the ticket booth, taxi line (AAH! *@!&ing TAXI LINE?!), and bathrooms, showed my ticket and I was in. My cheeks felt like they were on fire and my heart was still beating fast. But, I was here.
I had about 40 minutes until my palace entrance so I followed the path to the Generallife gardens. And yes, the were really beautiful. Think where the Sultan summered. Not too shabby.
Close to my allotted entrance time, I walked back around the grounds to the other side with the Charles the V place, Palacios Nazaries and the fort, Alcazaba. The Palace tour was spectacular. It’s the kind of place, at least for me, that is hard to capture in photographs. I kept wishing Saamanta or Greg were here because I know they could capture it much better than I could. I always go for the obvious shot and they can’t ever really turn out in places like these. I know they would have taken away more subtle moments. Regardless it was beautiful.
In this courtyard it was the main source of “nature” for a lot of women of the palace. The wooden screened were put up by jealous husbands to allow women to see out into the courtyard but they couldn’t be seen.
and marveled at what life would have been like here!
In the palalce, water was considered sacred and it’s seen and heard everywhere. Also you notice there are no statues or illustrations of people in the ornate stucco decoration, as a literal interpretation of the q’uran forbids it.
Below is the “ship” room, or the room you waited in before you went and saw the sultan. People think it’s so named because of the ceiling which looks like the hallowed out of a ship. Instead it’s because of it’s nick name, “Baraka”, which in Arabic mans divine blessing or luck, which you would clearly need before your meeting. It was shortened to barca, the Spanish word for ship. (Ie- Barcelona!)
In this room Columbus approached Isabel and Ferdinand for the last time to finance a voyage. Ferdinand and other advisors laughed him off, but Isabel was the one who approved.
The courtyard of the lions.
These 12 lions are originals from the 14th century. When the conquering Christians raided Alahambra, they took apart the fountain because they were so fascinated by how it worked, delivering water to all four corners -figuratively, of the world, and literally, the four corners of the palace. They rendered it useless in doing so but it’s functionality was just restored in 2012!
Do these repetitions and patterns look familiar?
Apparently, M.C. Escher was inspired by the walls of the Alahambra when he visited here!
After my tour, I had about 45 minutes until closing and deciding between the other palace or the fortress, I decided to hike the Alcazaba, or “red castle.” It’s the oldest part of the ruins.
The four flags are : the flag of the EU, the flag of Andalucia, the flag Spain and the flag of Granada.
There was a strong Mediterranean breeze up there , (or maybe a desert wind? I’m not a meteorologist.) but whatever it was, it was amazing and powerful and made the moment that much more impactful. And I still can’t believe I only added Granada at the last minute. It’s a must see.
I made my way out of the park and back into the main square just as the evening was getting started. My plans for the evening Involved food but I had also heard about a famous look out point in the Jewish neighborhood of Alzcaban, called St Nicolas, and while *the idea* was nice and I’m sure the view was breathtaking, I just couldn’t even fathom the idea of what was described as another “strenuous uphill walk.” Next time? 😔
Instead I recuperated on the amazing rooftop terrace of my hotel (taken from earlier in the day aka “before”)
I wanted a meal. In fact, a sit down meal. I had read about a stand out morrocran restaurant and so I thought hey, when in Granada….. I got their speciality: lamb tarnin with dates and almonds. It was delicious, ended up costing about €20, but I ate the whole damn thing.
Tomorrow my bus wasn’t until 5, so I had more time to explore. But…. I had also gifted myself a treat. The day before, before leaving Madrid for Granada, I had purchased an entrance at the Hammam, Turkish style baths. And if there was ever a time when I would appreciate it, it was tomorrow. I feel into bed, the fan blowing and slept soundly!
I woke up, had to repack (the curses of only one night somewhere) and reflected on how quickly my trip was going now! Tonight, I would arrive in Sevilla and after that, only one more stop before home! I had started my trip with a print out of train and special sightseeing tickets but now, being down to only one (and one bus ticket from Sevilla to Lisbon), felt like a such a physical realization of how my trip was coming to an end.
I checked out at 11 and left my bags at reception. I wanted to mail postcards and get coffee before my noon appointment. I asked the abuelita at the check out about where the post office was. She explained to me that no no I should just buy the stamps from the tobacco shop two streets down. Okay, sure, why not. I found the shop, bought the stamps and then asked him where to mail them. Oooh, It felt like a scavenger hunt! He pointed and gave directions in Spanish that I didn’t fully understand but I interpreted as “it’s this way near the something metro stop. It’s not too far*.” The last sentence I completely made up based on the tone of his voice and slight head shake. It also could have easily been “you’ll never find it.”
And to be fair, I couldn’t. It was here I found my third person on the scavenger hunt and had to ask a police man for directions for what I think was the first time in my life. And directions to the post office! It’s like I was literally a living page out of Chapter 1 of a language learning textbook.
Post office found, post cards mailed, coffee drank, I headed to the baths. And Oh my god. I had been in a Hammam with Saamanta in Isranbul so I knew the gust (and I was slightly surprised at the price of this one) but holy cow this one was nicer, more exclusive and more relaxing.
You pick a time for entrance (always on the even hours) for an hour and a half entrance to the bath, and any massages (which are 15 minutes, and an added expense, are taken out of that hour and a half.)
It was a beautiful setting, but all marble, wet and dark as fuck. How this wasn’t a liability waiting to happen is beyond me.
(From the Internet)
They explained the different rooms to me: a tea room, steam room, cold, medium, and hot pools, and that someone would come get me when it was time for my massage. When I heard the bell, my time was up.
Ok! Gracias! I said! But I was kinda confused.
How would I know if the bell was meant for me…? It was only when I was sitting in the cavernous marble steam room (that was larger than some of my hostel rooms) that I figured it out. Oh! Everyone picks an entrance time, so everyone who picked the same noon time as me will all have an hour and a half and we all leave at the same time. Then they have half an hour to refill tea cups, pick up towels and start all over with the next group. Got it. While it limits your time in the bath, it also limits the amount of people at any given time. I think there were maybe 15-20 of us, but with the 5 rooms/pools and people being pulled out for massage services, it felt like less.
Waiting for when they were going to call me for my massage felt a little like a ticking timer and I couldn’t immediately fully relax but soon I got into my soaking routine. Then it was my turn for the 15 minute scrub (traditional) + I had booked a 15 relaxing massage for after. It obviously took up a lot of my hour and a half soaking time but it. Was. So worth it. I was done just as the bell was ringing and made my way into the changing room feeling blissful and rejuvenated. If that wasn’t the best €55 I’ve spent so far on this trip I don’t know what is.
Afterwards, I had a few hours left to wander Granada and eat lunch before making my way back to the hostal to collect my bags and head to the train station. (You’ve maybe figured out that I much prefer waiting versus rushing.) I didn’t take many pictures this afternoon. I was zoned out and loving it. 🙂
I found a fresh juice place and sat in the shade in a plaza for a while to replenish from my spa experience. I went on a walk past the cathedral and the former authentic silk trade now made into a tourist market.
I waited until as late as possible to grab a bite to eat so I hopefully wouldn’t be too hungry on the train and then caught a taxi to station. My first taxi of the trip, but what’s the point of spending all that money on soaks and massages if I was just going to stress my body by lugging all my baggage to the station. 😉
At the Granada train station we learned we would be birding that bus for an hour back to the same train station we came in at. (This time the bus was almost full. I felt good about this because I knew it meant the train would wait. These are the things I think about. Seriously.)
We pulled away and I felt my time in Granada was too short but fortuitous to have been here at all. Now on to Sevilla, and my last stop in Spain! 💃