An Andalusian adventure III: East meets West in Granada
Our Andalusian adventure concluded in the city of Granada. We had factored in 4 days of exploring this city into our trip and I have to confess by the time we had reached there, I was already a little burned out. We'd been super prepared for our trip and we knew that we had wanted to see the main attraction: The Alhambra. However, when the time came around to book it- in February because we were very prepared for our trip- we saw that all of the tickets were sold out! So, in our desperation we bought something called the Granada card. This travel card gave us access to public transport, the Alhambra and 9 other tourist attractions. The card itself was 40€ and I wouldn't really recommend it. Firstly, Granada as a city is quite walkable; despite the stooping hills and cobbled pathways, if you're mobile you'll have no problem getting around by foot. Secondly, the card itself included many attractions that we normally would not visit, for example the Science Park. I would only recommend that you get the card if you want o guarantee a visit to the Alhambra. We also heard that if you want to risk it, you can try heading onto the official Alhambra website at midnight because they re-release cancelled tickets for the following day. It's a bit of a risk, but I've heard that it often does pay off.
Our hostel was located in the Albaicin neighbourhood, which is enriched in Moorish and Arabic influences. The succulent smell of the souk permeated the air and as you meander through the alleyways your senses are impacted by the smell of sweet Moroccan delicacies and incense. Each day that we spent in Granada I fell more and more in love with it. Initially I was apprehensive because we were sending a lot of time in one spot and I had extremely high exceptions for the Alhambra. When the day arrived, it was overcast, rainy and generally there was a mood of discord amongst myself and the girls. This, of cars was inevitable after spending almost 24 hours a day with each other. I'm somewhat of what I like to call an "extroverted introvert". When I'm surrounded by friends or family, I'd say that I'm a high energy, fun loving person. I have quite an active social life and I like to meet up with friends when I can. However, after bouts of intense socialising, I often feel drained and I need to to decompress and be alone for a while in order to recharge. We hadn't really had that opportunity during the trip; we were "go go go" squeezing in as much sight seeing as we could and I was running on empty. Needless to say that, on my part at least, the atmosphere was a little frosty at times during our day at the Alhambra.
Despite this, I really enjoyed the day overall. The Alhambra is the crowning glory of Granada, the main section are the Nasrid Palaces, gardens, Generalife and fortifications. You really do need a whole day to fully digest everything that you see. It's a lot of hills and a lot of walking, but it is so worth it. My favourite part of the day was seeing the Nasrid palaces. You have a specific slot that you can visit this part of the alhambra, if you miss your slot then unfortunately, you might miss this coveted gem. We were so eager to see it that we queued up 30 minutes in advance.
I have to say that the Alhambra, truly is magnificent- the architecture and preservation of the palaces is outstanding. At every corner it is seeping with history and information and I feel as though a visit to Granada isn't complete without seeing it. Even if you can't get tickets in advance, parts of the Alhambra are free to view and are open to the public.
So, I suppose you might be wondering, what else is there to do in Granada if the Alhambra is the main attraction. Well, there's actually a plethora of things to do. The Albaicin neighbourhood has a hub of activity- it's definitely hipster central. You're sure to find your typical gap year, hippy student lazing in one of the many niche cafes or strumming a guitar in the cobbled plazas. One often things I loved the most was taking a walk and wandering through the neighbourhood. through our hostel we went on an evening walking tour of the neighbourhood which culminated ion seeing the sunset at the Mirador de San Miguel Alto. If you head there for the sunset with a beer in hand, you can catch the golden hour and also take a some really good photos- it's the perfect end to a day of walking and exploration.
The culinary scene is extremely varied in Granada- there is fusion of Middle Eastern and Spanish cusine amply available at every corner. Whether you're looking for kebabs or paella- you can be sure to find it. It isn't just the quality of the food which is outstanding, but also the quantity. Whoever said less is more, had clearly never visited Granada! Here in the south of Spain there is a really interesting custom when it comes to tapas. In Valencia, if you order a beer or glass or wine, sometimes you'll be served some olives or peanuts as a mini 'tapa'. Granada takes this to a whole new level. I was forewarned that I might go up a dress size during our mini break and honestly, I was very close. An amazing dinner hack for Granada is to go to a bar and order a drink. It can be anything; beer, wine, sangria; whatever you like. Then, you'll either be asked to choose something from a specific tapas menu or the waiter will bring over a pre-selected dish. Now, heres the fun part; these tapas are free of charge. So if you order a 2€ beer you might also get a portion of tortilla or some croquettes. If you decide to stay at the bar and order more drinks, more food will be provided for you. You can have a full, varied meal, by simply paying for a few beers. Not bad is it?
Another thing that we also did in Granada was shop. It was hard not to, there were lots of small boutiques and marketplaces- many of which had beautifully handcrafted jewellery, magnet and photo frames. I try to collect memories and not things when I travel- only really indulging in a postcard from each place that I've visited. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but splurge a little in our final part of the trip- I convinced myself, as a way to curb my "treat yourself" mentality that its always better to help smaller, local businesses.
In terms of our Granada card, we did use it but not to its full potential. We visited a Casa Zafra, a monastery and also the Granada Cathedral. At this point I was slightly fed up with churches but I found the Cathedral very informative because there was a free audioguide included- however it was a little too thorough and each audio section went on for quite a while.
So that draws our Andalusian adventure to a close, I really enjoyed the trip and spending time with my two favourite chicas Paige and Steph. Travelling in a group of friends is definitely eye opening but I would 100% do it again. Keep you eyes peeled for a new blog post coming soon; there's a lot of travel content coming up!