We lobbed into town on Tuesday afternoon, met our Airbnb host, settled into the apartment and then started to figure out what to do while we’re here. Here’s where we stayed … it’s lovely!
Granada’s top tourist attraction is La Alhambra, whose red fortress towers sit on a hill above the town, with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada behind them. Indeed, it is regarded as Spain’s most beautiful monument and one of the best examples of Islamic architecture and art anywhere in the world. There are many millions of column inches (plus the online equivalent) written about this beautiful place, so I don’t need to add anything about the history or descriptions of the buildings and gardens – you can start reading about it here.
Getting tickets to Alhambra ranges from ‘not easy’ to ‘impossible’, depending on what you read and when you want to go. Greg had a look at the official website and discovered that the next available tickets are for November 1st. Hmm. So a bit more research yielded the information that a limited number of tickets are available ‘at the door’, on the day, but you have to be very keen and very early. Okay, we can do that, even though neither of us are natural early risers.
We got up at 5.45am, Greg programmed the GPS to take us to the parking area near the Alhambra ticket area and off we went. It still felt like the middle of the night because current sunrise here is just after 8am. The GPS took us through the middle of the city, down streets that are only accessible to buses and taxis between 0730 – 2230, and down many one-way streets. We only went the wrong way down one street, as far as we know! Eek! Reached the parking area which was already filling up. Found the queues, one for cash payments and one for credit card payments and divided our responsibilities … I joined the cash queue, Greg joined the credit card queue. The plan was that we would keep in touch via SMS and hopefully one of us would get lucky. The woman at the head of my queue had got there at 3am! As I said to her: ‘Respect!’
I’d brought my e-reader and settled in for a nice long read. No one around me spoke English, so I was glad to have something to help pass the time. Greg got talking to an American woman from Houston who had researched everything very well. She passed on lots of helpful information, in addition to telling him about her experiences with Hurricane Irma. Ticket office opened just after 8am, the queue started moving and after only a few minutes an announcement came over the loudspeakers that all the daytime tix for the star attraction, the Nazarine Palace, had sold out. But general tickets and night time tickets for the palace were still available, although the night tix also sold out fast. At some point, the queue that Greg was in just completely stopped, then started again, then stopped as all tickets had sold out.
But I kept on waiting in the queue, and was about 10 from the front when they announced that there was a final 30 general admission tickets available. I think all of us so close to the front did a head count … and probably sent up a little message to whoever they believe in as well! I was finally let into the ticket sales area, joined the wrong queue and had to join another one, but GOT TICKETS!! Yay! We also paid for audiovisual guides in English on Android phones (like an ipod, but I had to make it technically accurate because Mr Adventure might read this) and spent the next 4 or 5 hours walking around this incredible place. The gardens are magnificent, the use of water (in ponds, pools, fountains and water channels) was brilliant and the architecture was amazing. Enough superlatives, I’ll let Greg’s photos tell the rest of the story.
I should just add for anyone planning on visiting Alhambra .. it is possible to see some of the public parts of the complex for free, by entering through the Puerte de Justica, but I was really happy that we were able to get tickets and see the palaces, Generalife and Alcazaba, the original citadel.