Heading to Granada
After leaving Marbella on the Costa Del Sol in Spain, it was easy to pick up last minute bus tickets direct from Marbella to Granada. We had almost cancelled our trip to Granada after having been robbed in Madrid. But as soon as we arrived, we wished we had booked more time in Moorish Granada.
The bus trip was about 3.5 hours with a few stops including a bus change in Malaga. Not all coach buses in Spain have bathroom facilities so be careful if you book a bus for a longer trip. The stop in Malaga saved me!
Check in at noon at the Granada Melia was easy but we soon again discovered the risk of checking in early. Not all Melia’s are created equal. We again ended up in the room of last resort. Two immediate service calls were needed to fix the phone and the safe. We didn’t get the double bed we had booked and the twin beds were hard as rock. When we complained about no air conditioning the next morning, the head concierge finally moved us to a deluxe room. Not only did this fix the problems with the first room, it offered a nice patio and a great view of the Alhambra hill. This was the room I was made for. Too bad we would only enjoy it for one night.
Quickly unpacking our carry on bag, we headed out to explore. After 15 minutes of discussion at the tourist centre, we were sent in search of wifi to purchase our Granada passes. If you buy the passes online, you save the price of the mandatory purchase of audio guides. The pass would get us a confirmed entrance time to the palace at Alhambra, various other tourist spots, access to the local buses and with a small 4€ upgrade would also get us the Hop-On-Hop-Off (“HoHo”) bus. It was well worth the 40€.
Wandering Around Granada
During our wifi search, we found a little taverna with wifi. The owner spoke good English and engaged us in conversation while we had our two cervesa with free tapas, all for the big price of 4€. David found Alhambra Negra beer and would search everywhere to find that beer again!
David took this opportunity to ask about tipping etiquette, finding that locals tipped only at 5% if the service was really good. He suggested spots for us to visit and David took his card to make sure he provided good feedback on TripAdvisor. Our 2€ tip far exceeded the 5% guideline.
With our pass finally in hand, we went to the Cathedral stop to validate our HoHo ticket and begin our round trip overview of Granada. The clerk tried to upgrade us to a two day ticket but we ended up very glad we declined. We got seats on the almost empty upper deck. Even with that perch, it was hard to see any of the sights the audio guide pointed out as we drove around Moorish Granada. Most sights were not on the side of the bus we were pointed to, if we could actually hear on the poor audio system.
We did the circuit around Moorish Granada to identify places we would want to see on a longer return visit. David was disappointed to miss the science museum, especially since it was free with our pass. Having done the bad circuit once, we would abandon the HoHo bus in favour of the cute little local mini buses that could get us back to everywhere we had planned for our short visit.
Our First Glimpse of Moorish Granada
After a quick stop at the hotel to change shoes we grabbed the mini bus to go up to the Albayzín Moorish quarter for sunset. It was clear as we wound our way ever upwards thru narrow streets why only mini buses could make this route.
There were 3 different lookout spots on the map but I chose St Nicolas for our son Nick. While this spot would not really give us a great sunset view, it provided an amazing view of Alhambra high on the other side. As night came and Alhambra lights came on, the view got even better.
We enjoyed the spot high in Moorish Granada with thousands of our new best friends,each vying for spots on the wall. There were vendors in the square and street musicians all trying to catch the eyes and Euros of the tourists. A group of locals rode thru the square on horses, stopping occasionally to sing.
Local police presence kept the street hawkers away but we still kept our valuables close. David took pics of the St Nicolas sign and church to send to Nick. It was a very nice first night in Granada.
Being A Tourist in Granada
In the morning we declined the hotel buffet and went local. The street behind our hotel had several choices of near American breakfasts where I could order yet more pig. While we had seen no pigs in our travels, it appeared that the Spanish thrive on all varieties of pig dishes. David figured the pigs were all hiding in the thousands of acres of olive groves we travelled through. The few times we had found turkey or beef as brief respites before we were back to pig options again. At least the scrambled eggs had flavour.
We wandered around the Moorish Granada city centre, stopping often to admire the architecture and statuary. You could see the Moorish influence in much of the intricate stonework.
We had two “must do” things on our list. In the morning we headed for the cathedral. Entering the vast cathedral, we found it stark in comparison to most other large churches we had visited. But as we move towards the altar, the decoration increased and gilt and silver became common adornment. The twin organs were huge and beautiful. The silver pulpit was the centre piece of the altar. Looking up high, the columns and arches going off in the distance were an awesome sight for any engineer to behold.
David had kept his camera away thru the visit and let me sneak iPad shots but he finally couldn’t help himself after he saw the oriental tourists snapping flash pics. After he had been around once, he went back with his camera to replace all my shots. He took his cue from others to taking flash shots, unconcerned if he was now kicked out. It was an awesome sight and well worth our morning.
Arrayed outside the cathedral were vendors selling spices and tea. The aroma was enticing but they all blended together making it hard to distinguish one over the other. I was trying to be polite to the first two women who tried to push sprigs of herbs at me.
When the last women got right in my face with a sprig, I reacted with a loud bark to get her to back off. I was sure she cursed me and all future grandchildren as she shouted at my back. Her shouting didn’t in any way slow down the loud monologue delivered by megaphone by the old guy on a bike. Who knew what his problem or cause was. But freedom of speech was alive and well in the new Spain.
Rushing back to the square, we hoped to be in time to get chocolate and churros before service stopped for the morning. We would later discover that our churrario served churros well past the hour that tradition dictated. We had learned that we really only needed one order with a second coffee, but even that was a piggish sight.
Alhambra Will Leave You In Awe
We were headed to Alhambra at our booked time. The mini bus dropped us at the entry point (much closer than the HoHo could get us). We spent the afternoon moving from one jaw dropping sight to another. It was an artist architectural wonder that we are so glad we had not missed this treasure of Moorish Granada!
Our Last View of Alhambra
Having dragged my sorry butt back, David prepared a great relaxing spot on the patio for me to recover. The chair was reclined, the footstool padded with a pillow and the ice pack was moved from sore spot to sore spot.
I lay back and relaxed, listening to the sounds of the neighbourhood around me. David was stoic, declining to relax or was maybe just anxious to pare down his 600 pics from the day before I started to roll my eyes.
The view from our room in one direction let us see the Sierra Nevada mountain range off in the distance. As we wilted in the heat, it was hard to believe there would be skiing so close by!
We waited until sunset in our room to see what the Alhambra hill would look like. It was a great parting shot!
David had been craving a return visit to his gelato store to get a second dark chocolate gelato in a dark chocolate cone. I indulged my sweet tooth with a bowl of frozen yogurt from my favourite shop. We joined the locals by the fountain to eat our ice cream and cool down in the lee of the spray.
Saying Goodbye To Granada
The new bed was so much better. But we both awoke feeling the effects of our walks the previous day. I felt no shame at sinking into a hot tub. David followed me in, admitting that he too was feeling the effects. We would have enough energy to hunt for a local breakfast and haul our bags back to the bus station.
Being robbed in Madrid had initially inclined us to reduce the number of hotel changes we would make. We had seriously considered canceling the two days we had planned for Granada. Granada could be a day trip from Malaga but most people suggested that two days were barely enough. We were so glad we did not cancel! Moorish Granada exceeded our expectations and there was still lots left to see on a longer return visit.
We considered the train to Barcelona but when we discovered the train still went through Malaga, we stayed with our original bus plans. It was easy to get tickets at the kiosk just before departure with assigned seats. Five stops later, we figured it was only sorta direct. As the bus filled we were glad we had arrived a little early to buy tickets. We were off to explore Barcelona!
Have you visited Moorish Granada? What is still left on your Granada plan?