Granada

We had a great, if short, stay in Granada. We didn't expect much of the city beyond the Alhambra, the famous Moorish palace, but were very pleasantly surprised by the city itself. We stayed in a small 2 bedroom apartment close to the Cathedral and the city center which made it very easy to walk everywhere. Unfortunately, we were also right across from one of the popular bar areas (specifically the Boom Boom Room, open from 10p-6a), so we were awakened Sunday morning at 7a by a massive street brawl outside our window. Well, brawl is a little bit of an exaggeration, but they made plenty of noise.

Matching a pattern we've repeated many times on this trip, we arrived in Granada well after lunchtime and absolutely starving. Further, it was after the start of the siesta period so there were few spots open for lunch, and those that were open were absolutely packed. After much h-anger induced squabbling we finally settled on a place at the top of the Albaycin neighborhood near the viewpoint to the Alhambra. After sating ourselves, we spent the remainder of our first afternoon walking around the Albaycin neighborhood, wandering the narrow pathways and checking out the fantastic views of the Alhambra, both in the afternoon and then early evening when it was lit up. We found a neat little subterranean store where Walter and I both bought hand made leather-bound notebooks and Jie found a nice scarf.

The next day was all about history, first by touring the Alhambra itself, including the Palacious Nazaries, the 700 year old Moorish palace that was the last to hold out against the reconquista and featuring the very room where Christopher Columbus convinced Queen Isabel to fund his exploration voyage to go West instead of East. The palace was amazing, and we found it remarkable that after the Catholic King and Queen took the palace from the Moors they refrained from destroying the beautiful Arabic inscriptions and other decorations. All the better for us! After a short nap we took in the city Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, burial place of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. The Cathedral was massive, built upon the site of a mosque that was torn down after the Catholics took back the city. The Royal Chapel was another excellent histoy lesson for Walter, as we saw Queen Isabel's personal bible and the box filled with jewels she supposedly gave to Columbus to finance his voyage. Good stuff.

There was also a massive religious celebration while we were in town; apparently the last Sunday of September is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patron saint of Granada. There was an enormous parade of barefoot people holding candles, along with marching bands and firecrackers and all sorts of other stuff. The strange thing was the complete lack of signage about the event anywhere (in Spanish or English) and the fact that no one at our hotel or at tourist information thought it at all worth mentioning. Anyway, it was fun to see the parade, even if we had no idea what it was for...

On to Madrid, our 38th* and final city in Europe!

* - not including day trips