“Ay de mi Alhambra”

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“Dale limosna, mujer. Que no hay en la vida nada como la pena de ser ciego en Granada.” (“Give him alms, women. For in this life there is nothing so pitiable as to be blind in Granada.”) Truer words were never written. Hands down Granada is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and to be blind here really would be a terrible shame. If Granada is famous for one thing, it must be the Alhambra. The Alhambra is an incredible palace complex built in the 14th century by the Moorish rulers in Al-Andalus (present-day Andalucía), and it is one of the top tourist attractions in Spain (which can be a blessing or a curse). Surrounded by the luscious gardens, palace, and orchards of the Generalife, it warrants at least half a day visit.

View of the Alhambra palace complex from the Generalife gardens

Because the Alhambra is one of the most-visited tourist attractions of Spain, there are a limited number of tickets sold a day, either in advance online or the day of. I definitely recommend buying the tickets online in advance, so you won’t have to waste time waiting in line and risk missing such an important monument. You can find the website here. The ticket includes visiting the Alcazaba, Generalife, Nasrid Palaces, and Medina. You have to pick a time to enter the Nasrid Palaces because that is the part of the visit that is limited. So your ticket will say a time, and you’ll have to be at the Nasrid Palaces then, and then you can explore the rest at your leisure. Spain is great at making simple things rather complicated. You can buy the tickets directly here from “La Caixa” website, and then you can print them at any “La Caixa” ATM around Spain. It is a huge bank chain in Spain; trust me, they are everywhere.

So Kate and I staggered up the enormous hill to the Alhambra in about 90 degree weather on Saturday afternoon for our 2:30pm entrance time to the Nasrid Palaces. I was so excited to see one of my favorite places in Spain again, this time not on a guided tour! I’m such a control freak when it comes to traveling, so going on any sort of guided tour just about kills me. We picked an afternoon time for the lovely light and seeing the sun start to set over Granada. Just accept now that there will be boatloads of tourists, but there a bit less around the siesta hour. At this point in my recollection of the trip I wish I had brought a hat because I burnt the hell out of my scalp and ears. Cringe! Just imagine how hot it was in early April for me compared with the people who go there in July and August. I remember some girls fainting when I went in high school because it was about 120 degrees. ¡Joder, qué calor! (a very important Spanish phrase to know) Anyways, light clothes, sunscreen, a camera and water and you’re set!

So we began our visit wandering around the beautiful Nasrid palace; this is what people come to see when they come to the Alhambra. It was built during the end of the Moorish reign in Spain, and after the Reconquista it was taken over by Catholic Monarchs in 1492, and parts were used by Christian rulers and then elaborated later on. Designed in the Mudéjar style, the palace epitomizes Moorish architecture within Spain, and is a fabulous combination of buildings incorporated into their surroundings with the lines between inside and outside blurred. Filled with the smell of flowers, colorful tilework, abundant fountains, spectacular views, and intricate carvings in Arabic, the Nasrid palace is a wonder to behold. Cheesy to say, but totally true!

Typical wall in the palace

Intricate Mudéjar carvings

Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles)

La Sala de los Abencerrajes-where legend has it the last ruler of Granada had the Abencerrajes knights beheaded

Patio de los leones (Courtyard of the Lions), which is famous for having in the center a fountain supported by 12 marble lions, which have been under restoration for years, at least since 2007, when I was here last! Fail!

This is what the Patio de los leones SHOULD look like…

Once we finished exploring every nook and cranny of the Nasrid Palace, we headed out into the gardens and palace of the Generalife. It’s at least a 15 minute walk over there. The Generalife used to be the summer palace of the Nasrid rulers, and it was built in the early 14th century. The complex consists of beautiful gardens and orchards, beautiful trickling fountains filled with koi and gold fish, and some beautiful views overlooking the Nasrid complex. The whole area smells like fresh flowers! Heaven! It is definitely worth hiking over there in the hot sun! The palace now consists mostly of the Patio de la Acequia (Water Garden Courtyard), which is a beautiful long fountain surrounded by flowers and a covered pavilion overlooking the gardens and palaces. Just incredible. For me this particular spot is special because I took almost the exact same picture of it when I was 16 years old with my little disposable camera. It has been framed on my desk at my parents house ever since. I love revisiting favorite places!

There are so many more things I could write about the Alhambra, but I’ll leave it to you guys to visit one day and discover it’s secrets yourselves! Shadowed by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains and overlooking the city of Granada, the Alhambra is truly a sight to behold and most definitely not to be missed on a trip to Spain!

Palacio del Pórtico

Me in the Generalife overlooking the Nasrid palace, gardens, and Granada

So many flowers!

Me in the Patio de la Acequia

These beautiful flowers were everywhere! I think you can imagine how good it smelled!

View of the Albayzín neighborhood from the Alhambra

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