Day 5 Sevilla to Granada-
It's still dark out when we walk the 5 blocks to the bus station. We had been a little concerned about taking the bus, but this turns out to be unfounded as it was very nice, with good seats and even a bathroom (which I did not use). The side of the bus had a number of symbols for the "amenities" it provided; A/C, TV, reclining seats and my favorite, the "WC" which was not just the letters, but a symbol of a little guy sitting on top of the "w" of the "WC". The trip takes about 2.5 hours, slightly faster than the train at 3 hours, and costs 17 euro each. Again, we're treated to an odd choice of movie ("The Bridges of Madison County"), bring your own headphones if you want to watch.
We arrive around noon and stop at tourist desk in the station where we ask about the best way to get to our hotel which is not in the town center, but rather up at the top of the hill near the entrance to the Alhambra. The helpful woman at the desk speaks excellent English, gives us a city map, and tells us we can take the public bus into town and then switch to another bus which would take us up to the Alhambra and our hotel. Easy right? Little did we know that the first city bus would turn into a one hour tour of outer Granada. It takes forever, seemingly making figure eights around the city. We would find a landmark, look at the map, and then be completely confused as to why the bus seemed to take such a circular route. Then, once at the cathedral, we found the connecting minibus but it did not accept the ticket from the first as a transfer. We should have taken a taxi, it would have been much faster. Once we get off the bus at the Alhambra entrance (the bus goes no further up the hill) we walk uphill, around a bend in the road, to find the Hotel Guadalupe.
The Hotel Guadalupe (3 stars) turns out to be very nice. I'd selected it for it's proximity to the Alhambra because I knew we had a limited amount of time and wanted to maximize our time there. I'd checked out the Parador as an option, but at a minimum of 250 euro per night it was pretty steep and plus, they were fully booked. At the Guadalupe we have room 411 with a "view" toward the Alhambra (and it's parking lot) and minuscule balcony. The room has a wall of windows, ochre colored walls, and lots of heavy, dark wood furniture. We could not get the TV to work, so I don't know if there were channels in English or not. The bathroom is nice, with good amenities, but oddly configured with the bidet and toilet closely opposite each other, making access to the shower a bit of a cotortionist's trick. The room next to us, # 412 (?) has a full terrace with table and chairs and a much grander view, probably down to the city below. We have a quick lunch in the very touristy restaurant next to the hotel which was mediocre, but cheap. Both the hotel and the restaurant have resident cats however, always a good sign to us feline lovers.
Since I'd bought the tickets to the Alhambra online before we left, I thought all we had to do was walk up to the window and pick them up. When we arrive, there are two long lines waiting for tickets so I just walk inside the ticket area and up to one of the booths. Then I realize that I had committed a grand faux pas; I had cut in line in front of all the other people waiting to pick up their pre-purchased tickets who were being let into the ticket area one at a time. Whoops! I quickly went to the back of the line. As we wait, afternoon tickets sell out by 3 PM. It takes us about 20 minutes to go through the line to pick up our tickets. With it, we're given a map and told we have to be at the Nasrid Palaces for our 4:30-5PM entrance time.
Since we had enough time, we decide to hit the Generalife first.
This area of terraced gardens and summer palace sits well away from the Fortress and Nasrid Palace area. From it, there are beautiful views of the city below, as well as the fortress. The gardens are stunning, with secret rooms created from hedges and water everywhere in the form of fountains, pools and even a long stairway with water running down the handrails. There also seem to be stray cats everywhere, presumably well fed by the abundance of lizards and birds we saw and probably by the mice and rats we did not see.
Next, we walk back toward the fortress and Nasrid palaces. Here is where I wish we'd rented an audio guide as it was a little hard to determine what we were seeing. As we walk to the fortress, we can see the outside of the Parador at the Alhambra from the rose garden. At one point, near the entrance to the Parador, it gets a little confusing, as it seemed we were leaving the grounds of the "Alhambra" and re-entering the city through a gate. There is even another little hotel here (Hotel America?). I guess this is why at each section of the Alhambra, they rip off a little corresponding piece of your ticket.
The fortress was really interesting, with fantastic views of the city below from the top. There is even a small section of ruins where you could see the remains of ancient housing.
The Nasrid palaces are overwhelming in scope. Room after room of beautiful tiles, secret gardens, ornate ceilings, etc. The only disappointment for me in places like this that there is never any furniture or any glimpse into kitchens or private rooms to get an idea of how people really lived.
We choose to forgo our daily nap in favor of a trip by mini bus down the hill and up into Arab quarter called the Albacin. We walk through and are a bit disappointed, expecting more tea shops and shopping opportunities. Turns out we were in the more "residential section" of this neighborhood and the shopping street is only about 3 blocks long off the Plaza. After dinner we find this street and buy some tea and a long shimmering pink silk scarf from a vendor who insists we take some incense and burn it before we leave Granada (for luck).
We walk around more and go into a chapel of the cathedral and to light a candle during mass, but don't not go into the main cathedral (3 euro fee). The area immediately surrounding the cathedral very touristy with shops selling tacky souvenirs.
We have tapas at Bodegas Castenada on Calle Almireceros 1. The bartender gives us free tapas of little squares of tortilla and olives, and we order smoked tuna (called mojama?) and Manchego Viejo (aged, with a nutty flavor like a fine parmesan).
The food comes, accompanied by amazing Marcona almonds, Jerez oro sherry and a Rioja, and totals 11 euro. The bartender is very nice and very willing to answer questions, which includes a sample of wine from the barrels behind the bar.
After a stop at an internet place, a search for an ATM, and a cold wait for the minibus back up the hill to the hotel, we arrive back at the hotel bar for a nightcap of Solara Oloroso Dulce (sweet sherry) before bed.
day 5 total 9.2 miles!