26 Apr

Granada – The Alhambra

I have not had much time for writing this week – my days in Barcelona are flying by!  I have a lot that I want to say about my time in Granada, but I think the pictures of the Alhambra can stand on their own without much commentary.

I went early on Saturday – the air was crisp and the sun was shining.  I am reading a novel that takes place in Spain, and at one point, the narrator travels to Granada and makes the comment that he’s the only American in history to visit the city and not see the Alhambra.  Point being, it’s what people do there.  Yes, it was crowded, but there were plenty of quiet corners where one could just take in the space and reflect.  Also – and this was by far my favorite part of seeing this site – water runs through every part of it.  Flowing down little channels on the sides of the streets, rushing from unexpected waterfalls, pouring out of constantly-running fountains, trickling down stairway banisters.

The first picture is one that I shot from the Albaicin the night before my visit; the rest are from the site itself.





View of the Albaicin


Charles V Palace






Palacios Nazaries





Patio de los Leones – under renovation


This is a ceiling in the Palace.



Washington Irving wrote “Tales of the Alhambra” in this room.



More views of the Albaicin








The Alhambra view from my hostal


21 Apr


I arrived in Granada this afternoon, and it is quite cold and rainy – a bit too much so for me to enjoy much sightseeing on foot today (I even splurged on a cab from the station).  However!  I think that makes it the perfect time to sit here on the (covered) rooftop terrace and catch up on my travelogue.  Oddly, I feel like I should have a cigarette and some cafe (neither of which will actually be happening).

pension landazuri terrace


If you look just to the right (ha, you can’t look to the right), you’ll see the Alhambra.  (I didn’t realize this until I sat down here to write, and the camera is back in my bedroom.  So that will be part of my private travel experience, I guess.)

I traveled from Cordoba to Sevilla on Monday, and the visit did not get off to the easiest of starts.  So.  I had a glass of wine and an expensive salad, took a short walk, and then a nap.  I just wanted to get oriented to the city layout, so I wandered to the Cathedral and back to my pension.  I wish I had a picture that could capture the enormity of this church – it was amazing (more on the Cathedral later in the post).



Here are my bartenders at the Bodega Santa Cruz, who would keep track of my bill by chalking it on the bar.  So much for a candid shot; I am not the first tourist who’s walked in their door.



Later that night, I took in a flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus.  It was good, and very different from the show in Madrid; I think I’ll say more about that in another post.  After the show, I wandered for just a few blocks around my pension and took this shot of a nearby lane.  I can’t believe I didn’t get more pictures of Sevilla’s wind-y ways!  They were similar to those in Cordoba, but this picture shows one that is wide by Sevillan standards – many were half this size.



The next morning, I attempted to find the lavanderia to have my clothes washed, but the recommended establishment was closed (and at the time, it looked like it was closed forever).  So I carried my clothes around with me like a bag lady and went to the Plaza de Toros and Museo Taurino.


 I have to admit, there were times when I was feeling very photo-weary in Sevilla, and I was downright frustrated with things when I walked into the Bullring entrance with a bag of dirty clothes and a hungry belly.  (Breakfast?  Spaniards don’t eat breakfast.)  Thankfully, this place was beautiful and inspiring, plus the tour was in Espanol and Ingles.  I may have gotten a little carried away with the camera…




I know it’s brutal, but I kind of wish I’d been able to see a bullfight (the fights don’t really start up for another week or two).  (Oh, don’t even think it – this city was beautiful to see, but I can’t even imagine trying to enjoy it during the actual tourist season.)




Game of Heads – did the tour guide say, “game of heads”?  Yes, I think she did.  Apparently, this is something that went along with bullfighting in the good ole days.  She assured us that it was only papier mache heads, though (so… where’s the fun in that?).

Game of Heads

After I found a cafe where I could sit down and write and have a little late breakfast, and successfully dropped off my dirty clothes at the (now open) laundry, I was feeling revived, and brave enough to take on the Cathedral.


This is the third largest church in Europe, and the largest Gothic church in the world, so…


… things were really tall.


Christopher Columbus is in there.  Seriously:
Columbus Tomb

These are some shots from inside the Giralda Bell Tower, part of the Cathedral.  Instead of stairs, there is a circling ramp to the top, to accommodate riders on horseback who were giving the Muslim call to prayer (the tower was formerly a Moorish minaret).


I found a quiet window alcove where I could just stop for a few minutes and take in the view.  It was romantic to see the city spread out like this, and it was a much-needed break from the crowds following me through the church and now up the ramp.  The rooftops made me sad, though.  I so wished I knew someone in this town, a friend that I could share a bottle of wine with up on one of those tiny patios, and talk about the day, and then go inside and have a proper dinner together.  In the end, I found Sevilla to be awfully lonely.

Sevilla Cathedral View

 Really wish I hadn’t cut off the top of the spire in this picture.

Sevilla Cathedral View

The next morning, I went looking for the Universidad, and instead found the Plaza de Espana.  At the time, I had no idea what I was looking at, and I couldn’t find any signs to clear things up (all I knew was that I’d run into a handful of soldiers milling around on the back side of the building, and the entrance was marked as a military zone – apparently, several government offices are located here nowadays).  Still, this “building” was something to see.  It stretches for a half-mile of semi-circle, and the moat runs in front of the entire complex.

 Plaza de Espana

Can you pick out all of the tiny lampposts in the picture above?  Each one of them looks like this:

 Plaza de Espana lamppost

I couldn’t get over all of the ornate detail everywhere in the plaza.

I did finally make it to the University, where I took a writing break, and then I wandered around for the lunch hour.

Sevilla Courtyard

If this guy plays the theme from The Godfather one more time, I’m going to rip that accordion right out of his hands and throw it in one of these cute little lanes.


In the evening, I went to the Alcazar, where I took a lot of pictures of ceilings:


The style of architecture is called Mudejar, and it is awesome:




The gardens were equally impressive.




Now I’m just taking pictures for the backyard remodel…


I could say I took this next picture because it made me stop and realize how special life is, but you can probably guess from this post that my attitude in Sevilla was a bit more on the snarky side.  At the time, this sign was telling me, “Hey, tourists.  We speak English, and we totally get you.  For a truly memorable experience, you should spend your money here.”


Sevilla.  Of course I am glad I went, but I do not think I will look back on it with overly fond memories.  It’s all in the attitude, the timing, the fullness or emptiness of your tummy at the time – so don’t take this as a thumbs-down for the city.  I simply chose to make Sevilla the place where I embraced the universal travel experiences of loneliness, hunger, fatigue, and claustrophobia.  What can you do?  I asked for experience, I got it.

At the end of this writing, I am more than 2 days into my stay in Granada, and it has been glorious – if I return to Spain, I will definitely take a longer stretch in this part of Andalucia.  But that’s for another post (or two; that’s how awesome Granada has been)…

19 Apr

What just happened?

Okay, I am in Granada, and I am working on a new post for you (with pictures, of course!), but I just had to tell you about what happened in the bar tonight.  I walk into Bodegas La Bella y La Bestia, admittedly a chain, but honestly the first lively (and non-tourist-filled) bar I’ve been to in several days.  It is a small place (the sign near the bar says its capacity is 32 people), and it is decorated in this sort of hip, over-the-top, baroque style: gold-painted chandeliers, jaquard wallpaper with velvet and glitter, occasional hot pink neon uplighting.  The bartenders all look gay to me (like, gym-gay, not fashion-gay), but who knows in a foreign country.

“Un tinto, por favor,” I say, as I find a seat at the bar.

I study the menu for a couple of minutes, slightly worried because all of the items are translated into English.  A couple more minutes pass, and I give the waiter/bartender the I’m-ready-to-order eye, and he says in English, “tapas coming”.

“Okay…,” I think.

Now, I have heard that in southern Spain, it is somewhat common to receive a (free) tapa with your drink order.  In my head, this looked like a small order of patatas bravas or a little pile of meat (ha, another post to come on the meat situation, too).  Instead, what I got with three glasses of wine was:

Primero: montadito (a small grilled sandwich) con jamon y queso, pasta salad, patatas con (hm…) ketchup and garlic mayonnaise.

Segundo: another montadito with what looked like my red clam sauce, another kind of fried potato, olives.

Tercero: montadito con tortilla espanola (potato omelette), olives, house-made potato chips.

Do you want to guess how much all of this cost?

“La cuenta, por favor,” I asked the bartender.

Oh!  I forgot to mention: when I first sat down and ordered my wine, after the first bartender told me my tapas were on the way, another bartender attempted to make polite conversation with me.  Now, I am getting along just fine with the language barrier as long as we are following the usual, “what will you have”, “I’ll have the x, y, and z”, “how much do I owe you”, “here’s your bill”, “gracias”, “de nada” script.  But this guy was way off that path and I had no idea what to say except, “no comprendo”, and “lo siento”.  At some point, he told me “su Espanol es muy mal”, and I wondered if he thought I wouldn’t understand that either, but whatever.  I was getting the tapas with my drinks, remember?

Also, until they switched over to the futbol game, we were watching some channel called “Classic 40”, which played the following videos:

  • “Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word”, Blue con Elton John
  • That Natalie Imbruglia song
  • “You Gotta Be”, Des’ree (who knew I would ever be happy to hear that song again?)
  • “Karma Chameleon”, Boy George
  • Something by Maroon 5
  • Oh! And it was about to be “Black or White” – the full version with Norm and Macaulay Culkin! – just as someone asked to turn the channel

Okay, so are you ready for the bill?


Service incluido.