Granada is located about 2 hours or so north-ish of Málaga. In order to facilitate a full day’s trip, the bus picked us up at 6.20am. Yes, that says “am” and it was very, very “am.” The bus was comfortable and fairly quiet so, between napping, we watched the Spanish countryside roll by as the sun came up. We saw olive tree farms, which were really pretty.
Olive trees aren’t very large or bushy. Our tour guide, Paco, who spoke five languages fluently, explained to us that the olive picking goes in stages. First the green olives are hand-picked and washed and packaged for eating. The remaining olives on the trees are left to turn black. Once they turn black, nets are spread on the ground around each tree and the trees are shaken gently, causing all the olives to fall onto the nets. These are the olives pressed into olive oil. Paco was also very proud of the fact that the olive oil from that region was just that – olive oil. No other additives or preservatives.
Yes, we brought some back.
We arrived in Granada about 10am and were taken to what is known as “Old Granada” which is where the older buildings, their major Catedral and the small shops are located. There, Paco gave us a brief history lesson and then left us to our own devices for about an hour, afterwards we’d have lunch and head to Alhambra.
We decided to tour the Catedral and peek at the shops. If you ever do this, be sure to skirt the crazy women with herbs. They will grab you, hand you an herb and start prattling on about something Spanish and then want payment. I handed the herb back and walked off. It was weird at best.
The Catedral in Granada is gorgeous as well. Not nearly as immense as the one in Málaga but still full of beautiful artwork, statues, and stained glass. There are orange trees everywhere and there were two musicians outside playing flamenco music on guitars. They were incredibly talented and gave the whole place so much atmosphere. It was a small corner of history tucked in amongst modern buildings, cars and modern clothing.
We got back on the bus to head up to Alhambra, which wasn’t too far outside the city. We were greeted with gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, many of which were still capped in snow.
Upon reaching Alhambra, those of us who paid for lunch were taken to a restaurant for lunch. Now, in the US, if you pay for a lunch on a day trip, what do you get? A ham sandwich, a Coke, some chips and maybe an apple.
We had a full three course meal with wine in a private dining room.
After we were pleasantly stuffed and a little buzzed, we were taken to Alhambra and split up into groups according to language for the official tour.
Alhambra is breathtaking. And huge. And so full of goosebump-inducing history.
Alhambra was built by the moors when they occupied Spain and is where the Sultan lived with his wives and court. It is in this location that Christopher Columbus was given permission to find a sea route to India. (yes, goosebumps) The architecture is so incredibly detailed, with arabic carved into the tiles, the ceilings an homage to their religion and perfect symmetry in nearly every room.
We also saw the room Washington Irving stayed in when he visited in 1829, where he wrote the book Tales of Alhambra. Of course I bought a copy.
There are gardens everywhere and fountains. Loads of fountains as water plays a very important part in their religion.
The whole tour took about three hours to complete. We didn’t go see the summer home because, after 3 hours of walking, standing, and climbing stairs, the phrase “40 more minutes and most of it is stairs” was not at all appealing.
We returned to the bus and began the long drive back to Malaga, arriving around dinner time. Not really wanting to find a restaurant, we went to Club Marbella (our breakfast spot) for dinner and were pleasantly surprised with a live show of belly dancers with our food.
It was a long, tiring but impressive day and we were especially excited for our trip to Gibraltar the next day.