Andalucian Adventures – Part Seven

Granada – Day one

Orgiva is but an hour away from Granada so we had always planned to revisit this city. We first went there a mere 28 years ago so we thought that it was time for another look.

Back in 1995 we just went on a day trip to view the Alhambra Palace so we had not explored anything of the city itself. This time we were determined to see more and found an apartment in the city centre for a very reasonable rent – especially as it included free parking.

Our bright, modern apartment was easy to find and had everything we needed for a two night stay. It was warm, comfortable and within easy reach of the sights, restaurants and bars. ‘Old’ Grenada is quite compact and it was an easy stroll to the Cathedral in the centre of town.

The cathedral was built on the site of the ‘Great Mosque’ as a means of marking the end of 600 years of Muslim dominance. Started in 1523, it took almost 200 years to finish and transmuted from gothic to renaissance style in that time. Like most cathedrals, it’s pretty impressive when you first enter. The vast space echoes to the sound of visitors’ feet and their quiet voices. There is a double set of impressive looking organ pipes so I can imagine that hearing a choir sing and music being played would be quite glorious.

The main entrance to the Capilla Real, the Royal Chapel, is within the Cathedral but you actually have to exit the cathedral and enter the Capilla at another door. It is here that King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile are interred. Their marriage in 1469 led to the unification of Spain so this chapel is obviously a pretty important one for Spanish people. However, we were rather more keen to explore the streets of Granada rather than its monuments so passed up the chance to go into the mausoleum.

La Capilla Real

In the narrow streets around the Cathedral there is the Alcaiceria – the Great Bazaar of Grenada. Interestingly, the name comes from the Arabic al-Kaysar-ia which means ‘the place of Caesar’, from the time when Emperor Justinian granted Arab traders the rights to sell their goods in the Roman Empire.

The original bazaar remained intact until it burned down in the 19th Century when a factory, ironically making cardboard matches, caught fire. Today’s bazaar is but a pale version of the original 200 or so shops and largely sells tourist knick-knacks but it’s nice to wander the streets.

The Alcaiceria

The moorish influence continues in the area of the City known as Albaicin. This part of Grenada was established in the 11th Century by the Zirid Monarchs and although little remains of the original architecture you can still find traces of the old city wall. We entered through one of the gates – Puerte Elvira. My Welsh sister-in-law is named Elvira, though usually shortened to Vi. I suspect she didn’t know she had a street named after her!

Puerte Elvira

The streets of Albaicin are narrow, cobbled, full of little shops and cafes and lead ever uphill. We were a little tired and hadn’t intended going that far but somehow the streets and tantalising views drew us on. There were quite a number of tourists struggling up the lanes with us and we only realised that we were headed for a famous viewpoint when we suddenly came upon a square with hundreds of people gathered.

We had found, without meaning to, the Mirador de San Nicholas, renowned for its sunset views of the Alhambra Palace and the mountains of Sierra Nevada.

The Alhambra Palace

We would visit Alhambra on the morrow but we were by now a little tired and thirsty. Granada is noted for its Tapas bars and restaurants and Centro has a wealth of places from which to choose. However, many of them are closed from 6pm to 8.30pm which is too late for us to start eating so we had to limit ourselves to ones which kept more tourist hours.

We managed to find a likely looking bar and ordered a small beer which arrived with a simple but tasty ham and bread tapa. We then ordered a glass of wine which arrived with a very nice cheesy morsel. The thing is that the quality of your tapa increases with every drink you buy and they are all supplied free of charge, or at least, included as part of the cost of the drink.

We fancied moving on from this bar and so wandered more streets. Bodega Castaneda is a very popular bar with tourists and locals alike and is known as the old man’s bar for the number of seniors who prop up the bar there and pass the time of day.

Bodega Castaneda was full

However, it was rammed full when we arrived. Fortunately, they have an offshoot dining area just opposite the bar and we were fortunate to grab a table inside.

Coats and hats essential for dining al fresco

By now it was getting on in the evening and the bars and restaurants were beginning to fill up. Even though it was on the chilly side revellers were sitting outside in the street, sometimes huddled around gas heaters and often wearing several layers of clothes. They’re a tough lot the Spanish and won’t be put off going and having a good time just by a bit of inclement weather.

Having eaten and drunk our fill we made our way back to our apartment, got lost several times and having to ask the way in our poor Spanish, before arriving back home. It was a good start to our mini break, the weather had been mostly cool but sunny and we had another day to explore more of this interesting city.

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