Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 17: Granada - Memories of Alhambra

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As I sit at home to write this blog on a ride we did four/five months ago, the world is facing a dangerous pandemic, the Covid-19. To help slow down the spread of this pandemic & have it eradicated, I am STAYING HOME and not going out unless really necessary.
Stay Safe, my friends.

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 17: Granada - Memories of Alhambra
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 17 Tuesday, 12th November -  Alcala la Real To Granada
This is part of a cycling tour of Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering a walking tour of Granada and the Alhambra:
Cycling Distance: N.A.     Level: N.A.
Time : 9:30 am to 6:30 pm
Time Taken : 9 hrs. (including bus rides, visiting viewpoints, and a long visit to the Alhambra, lunch and lots of photo opps.)

This is page 15 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D16 Granada 1       |       Go To Other Days    |   Go to D18-19 Barcelona 1 >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    It's a non-cycling day; we took the Alhambra Red Minibus to visit several places including the Alhambra. We boarded bus #30 or #32 at Plaza Isabel la Católica Bus Stop #4 and for visiting the Alhambra got down at the Alhambra-Generalife Bus Stop #2. The regular bus fare ticket which can be used for 60 minutes cost 1-40 per pax. Click here for more detailed bus fares and routes.
3. Weather
    In Granada morning and afternoon temperatures averaged 9°C & 14°respectively, while evening temperatures was about 10°C.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather; and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
    At Granada were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:
  1. Iglesia De Santo Dominigo (GPS: 37.17295, -3.59460).
  2. Viewpoint at Calle Honda del Realejo (GPS: 37.17386, -3.59389).
  3. Viewpoint of Alhambra from Plaza San Nicolas (GPS: 37.18136, -3.59333) at the Albaicín (Albayzín) neighborhood.
  4. Iglesia De San Nicolas Granada (GPS: 37.18131, -3.59253) at the Albaicín (Albayzín) neighborhood.
  5. Inside the Alhambra (GPS: 37.1768, -3.58883) (entry €14.85 per pax).
             -  Alcazaba (GPS: 37.17697, -3.59238).
             -  Jardines del Paraiso (Gardens of Paradise) (GPS: 37.17624, -3.5872) & Jardines del Partal (Partal Gardens) (GPS: 37.17642, -3.58780).
              - Palacio del Generalife (GPS: 37.17800, -3.58547).
              - Iglesia Santa Maria del Al Hambra (GPS: 37.1764, -3.58918).
              - Palacio de Carlos V (GPS: 37.17682, -3.58995).
              - Plaza de Los Aljibes (Square of the Cisterns) (GPS: 37.17577, -3.58775).
              - Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palace) (GPS: 37.17734, -3.58976) (fixed 1/2 hour time slot for each visitor) .

5. Meals
a. Breakfast - Self made at apartment.
b. Brunch - Take away sandwiches from Restaurante La Mimbre (GPS: 37.17451, -3.58505).
c. Dinner - at Casa Cristóbal los Arcos (GPS: 37.17285, -3.59235)
    1. Starter tapas, baked potato (disappointing), 2. Minced meat soup, 3. Deep fried squid, 4. Paella rice with lamb, 5. Kid meat stew (overall food was so-so only).

6. Accommodations
    Two nights aApartamentos Campo Del Príncipe (GPS: 37.17224, -3.59256) in Granada which we had pre-booked through Booking.com; two nos. 4-pax apartments at a total of €248.50 per night (or €15-53 per pax per night).
    Address: Calle Escutia, 4, 18009 Granada, Spain.
    Phone: +34-619383266
7. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

8. Communicating with Locals
    In Spain, except in rural areas, many young locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants.
     When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

9. Navigation
     Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty.
    Kevin was using a Beeline navigation unit that synchronized with pre-planned routes on his phone app. Sin & me were using the Garmin GPS units and had pre-plotted our daily routes into respective GPX maps usable in these units. We had pre-loaded the PortugalSpain & France Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. Do ZOOM out to look for turning points further ahead; and ZOOM in at complicated junctions, otherwise one may make a wrong turn (it did happen to us sometimes).
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. In Spain, Google Maps does work in Cycling Mode.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


A day earlier we had arrived at Granada from Alcalá la Real and did some pleasant cycling at the Realejo and Genil Riverside areas.Today will be a non-cycling day, we leave our bikes behind and took the bus to visit some viewpoints and later spend long hours at the jewel of Granada, the Alhambra!
Pssst.... one of the main reason of visiting this jewel was because some of us were K-Drama fans and one of its better series titled Memories of Alhambra was partly filmed in Granada.


Route - Campo de Principe>Plaza Isabel La Catolica>by Alhambra Red Minibus>Plaza San Nicolas>by Alhambra Red Minibus>Alhambra>Palacio de Carlos V>Alcazaba >Palacio De Los Nazaries>by Alhambra Red Minibus>Campo de Principe..
Cycling Distance: N.A.     Level: N.A.
This is a non-cycling map for visits to the Plaza San Nicolas viewpoint and the Alhambra. It shows the various points of interest visited.

Granada located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, sits at an average elevation of 738 m (2,421 ft) above sea level. Which means it's a hilly city AND which also means that there should be several nice spots in this Realejo district for great views of the Alhambra.... OR so we thought.
With that in mind we took a walk to a nearby area which supposedly have a great view; but bear in mind one has to be suitably high up to view far. So at Calle Honda del Realejo we  started climbing upwards. As we climbed up we turned around often hoping for a sight to behold, but there were too many houses blocking the view. Halfway and about two hundred feet up slope and with no worthwhile view in sight, we decided to turn back to head for the recommended place to view the AAlhambra, i.e. Plaza de San Nicolás. or often called Mirador de San Nicolás (Saint Nicholas Viewpoint).

Our trip here wasn't a waste though. On our walk back, saw some nice murals and also a restaurant with tempting legs of Jamón ibérico hanging from the ceiling. Is the the usual way to store these legs, or were they put up there as decoration and advertisement? Perhaps the cold dry air helps it cure better.

Instead of walking all the way to Plaza de San Nicolás, we decided to opt for alternatives. The best way to get around Granada town and to the Alhambra is by the Alhambra Red Minibus, using either Bus #30 or Bus #32. Click here for the Alhambra Red Minibus routes. and here for the different fares & travel cards.
We boarded the bus at the nearby Plaza Isabel la Católica Bus Stop #4. and bought the regular ticket at 1-40 per pax, this has unlimited uses within 60 minutes from activation.

The Mirador (viewpoint) is located at the Plaza de San Nicolás in the Albayzin neighbourhood and is famous for the charm of its surroundings, its cobbled streets, white houses, tapas bars, and its people. But morning time is not the right time for viewing, the sun coming up from behind the Alhambra cast too much a glare. Perhaps an evening view or night view would be better.
Just next to the viewpoint is the Church of San Nicolás built in 1525 in the Mudejar and Gothic style, it was built on a mosque like many of the other churches in Granada.

At a nearby bus stop we hopped onto another Bus #30 to head for the Alhambra, this time stopping at Alhambra-Generalife Bus Stop #2. From there it was an easy walk to the Alhambra, but we decided to visit the Generalife, entering via the Jardines del Generalife (Generalife Gardens). And we were WOWED by gardens; amidst all the green were splotches of bright orange and red creepers adding their character to the place.

And then there were the fountains and waterways!
The Generalife seems to be an odd name for a palace, sounding more mundane than regal. Being English educated, to me it sounded so generalized when read in an English way.
But the name comes from the Arabic word جَنَّة الْعَرِيف‎ Jannat al-‘Arīf, which literally means "Architect's Garden". The name becomes very appropriate as the Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada.

The colors were not just to the sides and bottom; bright yellow leaves brightened us up from above.

With all the greenery around, we succumbed to the temptations of posing in different poses at the green hedges and .....

..... with the bright and colorful flowers too.

An interesting place was the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel) where a central water channel with small intermittent fountains ran along the whole length of the courtyard.

At the far end is the Torre de Ismail (Tower of Ismail), although just a three-storey building, sitting at the edge of an escarpment gives it a good panoramic view of the city below. It's probably named after Ismail I of Granada, a cultured and refined man, who significantly added to the Alhambra complex and the palace of Generalife.
Lots of windows here with great views, and perhaps also for some Romeo & Juliet moments.

Other than the scenic gardens, the building had elaborate architecture, with well decorated arches, and even doorways had detailed embellishments. The girls just love these!

A view of the Pueblos Blanco of Granada from one of the windows of the Torre de Ismail.

From here too one can view across to the Western complex where the Alcazaba fortress , and the Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palaces) are located.

With a short climb of steps upwards, it was out through a corridor that will connect us to the Western Complex .....

..... via the Jardines del Paraiso (the Gardens of Paradise) and the Jardines del Partal (Partal Gardens). beautiful gardens with green archway boulevards, hedges cut to look like castle ramparts, and after that going through a wide pathway of tall shady trees.

A nice place for a pause is at the shady gardens next to the Parador de San Francisco.  It looked like perhaps a church, but it's not; it's a hotel sitting right in the middle of the Alhambra complex - the guests are so blessed.

Inside is a souvenir section that sells wooden items with nice inlays, such as trays, photo frames, jewelry boxes, etc.

Here too, the moments of green a beautifully broken by areas of red and yellow; some even though simple gives postcard quality photos, like the above. Those red leaves of the creepers are real ones but looked like they were painted on. Surreal, yah? Salvador Dali, Spain's famous artist son would be happy.

But we won't be seeing the Nasrid Palaces yet, there is a allotted 1-hr time frame for each visitor to enter the place, and it's not our time yet. Instead with time to spare we visited the Palacio de Carlos V (Palace of Charles V). This Renaissance building, located on the top of the hill of the Assabica, was commanded by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who wished to establish his residence close to the Alhambra palaces. However, the building has never been a home to a monarch and stood roofless until 1957.

Although looking squarish and stocky on the outside, the interior conveys a different atmosphere and a totally different architectural style. Inside is a circular space called the Patio, and running around are the rooms of the places in a two-storey structure held up by a Doric colonnade at the lower level and stylized Ionic colonnade at first level.
For Anne, it's another unique place for great photo opps!

While waiting they turn, most just hang around the Placeta de los Aljibes (Square of the Cisterns) which is so named because cisterns were built in the gully between the Alcazaba and the palaces. Others will climb the nearby towers to get another good view of Granada. This one here is the Torre del Cubo de la Alhambra.

Right on cue of our time slot we were allowed into the Nasrid Palaces; together with the entry ticket, some form of identification (usually a passport) is required to be shown to the guides there. Entry is via the Puerta del Vino (Wine Gate), which is supposed to be one of the oldest constructions of the Alhambra, it could date from the period of Mohammed II.
Right after the gate are not the palaces yet, but a garden called the Jardín de los Ardaves, or the Garden of the Ramparts - an appropriate name as it's a narrow and long garden that run along the terrace formed by the castle rampart walls (see photos above). It's a beautiful garden with a mixed of planting, stonework and fountains; at the far end, which lead to the Alcazaba palace buildings.

Right at the entrance into the Palacio De Los Nazaries (Nazri Palace), was a singage with recommendation of the route to follow to view this area, i.e.:
1.  Sala de Mocárabes (Muqarnas Room),
2. Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions),
3. Sala de los Abencerrajes (Hall of the Abencerrajes),
4. Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings),
5. Sala de las Dos Hermanas (Hall of the Two Sisters), and
6. Mirador de Lindaraja/Daraxa (Lindaraja/Daraxa viewpoint).

As we entered, we looked up and admired the fine workmanship done to the column heads, and arches.
The walls were finely lined with carving, and more interesting were the cornices which were lined with carvings known as mocárabe/muqarnasThese are a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture and are sometimes called "honeycomb vaulting" or "stalactite vaulting". Muqarnas is significant in Islamic architecture because its elaborate form is a symbolic representation of universal creation by God.

The love story with the arches continues, this time with rich timber door decorated with Islamic geometric pattern, set in a wall lined with decorative Arabic calligraphy.

We entered the last section of the Nasrid Palaces, the Mirador de Lindaraja/Daraxa (Lindaraja/Daraxa viewpoint), with views on one side overlooking Granada and a gazelle silhouette standing strikingly in contrast to the background behind. The gazelle is the symbol of the Alhambra.

On the other side were windows with intricate design overlooking the Jardines de Daraxa (Daraxa's Garden) below.

Just before we exited the palace was the El Partal, "the portico" - these are the remains of the residence of Sultan Yusuf III, the northernmost of the Nasrid Palaces. Seen here is the picturesque arcade, tower and pond of El Partal.

As we exited, was another reflecting pond, this time a lily pond reflecting the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra.

To one side green, red and pink creepers crawl over an archway .....

..... and the setting sun shone right onto the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Alhambra, bathing it with glorious orange rays!

From the Alhambra-Generalife Bus Stop #2, we took one of the red mini-bus back to the Campo de Principe locality and took a walk back to our home-stay through side-lanes that went into a dim tunnel. But somehow the low lighting shining onto the earth colored walls made this a naturally balanced photo.

We emerged back out into the light just next to the Iglesia De Santo Dominigo. It looked like another beautiful church but our growling stomach deterred us from going in to admire it.

Hoping to have another nice dinner, we went to Taberna Tofe but too bad it was closed. A waitress of the next door restaurant, the Casa Cristóbal los Arcos, invited us in. We thought that since it's in the same Plaza Campo de Principe area the food should be good. Unfortunately this was not the case. They did not give any complimentary tapas with our wine orders and when we mentioned that other places did, they reluctantly served us boiled potatoes and daringly called it tapas! The other dishes were also so-so only.
So no photos of the food but instead shown here is one of many nice paintings of Flameco dancers found hanging on their walls.

Although we did not have great food today, the visit to the Alhambra more than made up for it.
Tomorrow we leave Granada but we will leave it with lingering Memories of Alhambra!

¡Es bonito. ¡Gracias!!
(That's "It's beautiful. Thank you!!" in Spanish)
(For more photos of the Day 17, Click Here)

This is page 15 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D16 Granada 1       |       Go To Other Days    |   Go to D18-19 Barcelona 1 >

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