Granada : Alhambra and Other Sights

After an hour and 45 minutes of bus ride with views of coastline during the first half of the journey, we arrived at the central bus station just before it turned dark. At the bus station, we bought our bus ticket for Madrid at the kiosk, and hop on a taxi to our apartment. We were very impressed at how our cab driver skillfully navigated through the narrow one-way lanes uphill. In the end, the fare was only 7 Euro. We stayed at a traditional white Spanish house via Wimdu and everything exceeded my expectation. With its high ceiling and cute furniture the apartment looked much bigger in person than in picture on Wimdu. The view of Alhambra from the roofop was spectacular:

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Our host gave us an intro of what to see and where to eat, and then show us to the rooftop with magnificent view of the Alhambra. Right then and there I knew we were going to have a wonderful time in Granada.

After we started the first load of laundry, we headed out to the main square in search for some tapas. Originally we wanted to go to the place our host recommended but it was closed for the night. We saw a buffet place which Mug mug was eager to try, but I am not a fan of buffet so we went next door to a tapa bar. Mug mug spoke spanish to the hostess and figured out how it works. We could order a drink which comes with the chef’s selection of tapa. Mug mug was dubious about “chef’s selection” but seeing as everyone else in the tapas bar gets delicious-looking plates, I insisted that we give it a try. And guess what?  For 2 Euro, I got a large glass of Sangria and pork-pintxos with fries, just like other customers.

We ordered another drink and get more generous-sized and delicious tapas. There was also an egg dish with sautéed peas. After a few tapas Mug mug wanted to head back to the buffet place and they said if we don’t want to do the “all-you-can-eat” we could pay 2 Euros for a drink and 2 tapas. We picked Paella and a large piece of fried stuff (which turned out to be a cold greasy fried ham sandwich) and man were they terrible. As I suspected, the food tasted like they have been out all day. By that time, it was clear to us that most of the customers there were clueless tourists who were lured in by the restaurant’s lavish display of colorful (yet unpalatable) dishes. Had we paid for the 10 Euro all-you-can-eat price, we would have had to live with the sunk cost and wash down the crappy tapas with prepackaged beer.

The next day, we took a bus downhill to the town center to get our Alhambra combo tickets. The combo tickets includes admission to Alhambra, the Palace, and six other historical sites in the Santa Cruz neighborhood. The historical sites were nothing to write home about and if I had the choice I would have bought the Alhambra + palace ticket only. Unfortunately by the time I bought the tickets (a month in advance online), the cheapest tickets were sold out, so we each paid a few euros extras for the combo ticket.

After checking out the six sites we headed to the restaurant our host recommended and was looking forward to a great meal, but was disappointed. The fried seafood does not taste fresh or anything special. In fact we suspected that the fried squid was pig’s butt with chemicals masking its true taste.

With a full belly we made our way to Alhambra. Having seen our share of Moorish Alcazaba, Alcazar, Initially I had worried that we would be weary of Moorish architecture by this point but the Alhambra totally blown me away. The Alhambra was massive and deserves an entire afternoon.

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We started with the garden, Palace of Charles V, then made our way to the Nasrid Palace, and the Alcazaba.

IMG_3434 (800x450)IMG_3449 (800x450)IMG_3471 (800x450)IMG_3475 (800x450)Every time we turn we were amazed by either the stunning view of Granada town below, or the intricate architecture of Moorish ingenuity.

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After Alhambra we made a quick visit to the newer part of the town. There were shops and squares and the architecture fondly reminds me of Italy. We walked around a little with our sore legs and reluctantly headed back to our studio for some rest before dinner.

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For dinner we headed back to the square we went the night before and decided to go for a prix fixe menu for 25 Euro with appetizer, 2 main courses  (seafood Paella and pork stew), desserts, and drinks. At first we thought it was 25 Euro per person but the waiter told us that it was the total price. After we sat down he quickly served us our drinks (beer for mug mug, Sangria for me), and brought us our appetizers (a cold soup and duck salad). The duck salad was fresh and perfectly seasoned, and the walnuts adds some texture.

At this point mug mug started to worry that there was a misunderstanding and the meal was actually 25 euro was per person, but it was too late so we may as well enjoy the meal. As soon as we finished our appetizer, a large pot of seafood paella was served.The seafood was not the freshest but the rice was cooked perfectly – which was unusual since we often found rice in Spanish restaurant to be too undercooked for our taste. Then the pork stew came. For dessert, we choice the fruit plates since we were both full at this point. After we were done, Mug mug asked for the bill and it was 25 Euro for two! An amazing value given the quantity and quality of the food we consumed.

After Seville, Ronda, Malaga, and Nerja, I thought we had gotten a pretty well-rounded taste of Spanish towns: Seville with its vibrant old town and Plaza Espana, Ronda with is rugged cliffs and perfectly aged bridge, and Nerja with multiple shades of turquoise. Surprisingly, Granada tops them all and I am glad that we visited it towards the end of the trip. The Alhambra was stunning from every angle, and so was panoramic view of the spanish whitewashed houses. It was both a simple joy and a wonder to navigate along the narrow cobblestone streets and discover beautiful views along the way.





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