From Valencia, we caught the midnight train to Granada, a first for both of us. Despite opting out of a sleeping car, we were still able to get a solid night’s sleep. When the train pulled into the station in Granada, we were shocked at the sight of snow-capped mountains. Our amazement was not because of their beauty, but due to our breath being taken away by the sting of cold air. Our general assumption had been that moving further south would mean slightly warmer temperatures. Wrong. Apparently Granada is situated at just over 2,000 feet and in a valley between Spain’s two tallest mountains.
After putting on all of our clothes (yes, that meant multiple pairs of pants, socks, shirts, jackets, hats and gloves), we managed to get warm enough for the walk to our hostel. The weather was the first of many situations to come where we had to just go with the flow. Here are some other examples of our forced flexibility while in Granada.
Example #2: We arrived at our guest house and were told that we had been upgraded to a better room! We not only got a private room and bathroom, but the room also had a balcony with a view of Plaza Nueva. Score.
After basking in the glory of these awesome accommodations, we went to plug in our computer only to find that there were no power outlets. Have you ever stayed in a hotel with no plugs in your room? This could have been expected in SE Asia, but Spain? Last time we checked, Spain was a well developed country. But, we just went with the flow, and used the outlet in the public area.
Example #3: Our main motivation for visiting Granada was to explore the famous ancient city and palaces of the Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In a perfect world, we would have explored the Alhambra all day, but when we arrived to purchase tickets, we were only able to gain access for four hours. There is a rigid structure of viewing sessions in place to limit the number of visitors so as to preserve this historical site. To visit the main attraction, the Nazarene Palaces, each visitor is provided with a 30 minute time slot. We weren’t given a choice, it was simply assigned. So again, we just went with the flow. If you visit the Alhambra during peak season, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance and visiting during the early morning session.
The Alhambra sits on top of a large hill overlooking the heart of Granada. It was constructed in the late 1300s, which makes it even more awe inspiring. The name Alhambra comes from its Moorish roots, literally meaning “the red one” in Arabic, due to the massive red stone walls that surround the city. Aside from the ornately decorated palaces, we were continually impressed by the extensively planned and still functioning irrigation system, which carries water from the mountains down through the city, to fill fountains, provide plumbing and nourish gardens.
Example #4: One fun surprise we encountered in Granada was “tapas gratis.” In most of Spain, you pay for tapas, but in Granada tapas are provided free of charge with the order of a drink! This led us to the invention of a fun dinner activity which we call “Tapa-Hopping.” This is a twist on conventional bar hopping, where you go from place to place, having a drink (and in Granada, a tapa too) at each stop. The only tricky part about Tapa-Hopping is that you have to go with the flow, because the bar chooses your tapas for you.
We enjoyed our time in Granada, despite the cold, and the Alhambra was all we had hoped for and more (unlike our failed quest for paella in Valencia).