In the Glow of Alhambra

I have about two weeks before I get on the road again and I’d like to at least finish posting our family trip to Spain and Portugal before leaving.  So for the next few days it’s back to Europe but as it is election day today in the U.S., let me first go VOTE!  I’ve been astounded by the number of phone calls my parents get from various pollsters and election campaigns everyday, some asking to volunteer and some asking who we’re voting for.  There are campaign signs and posters all over the neighborhood, and political ads are all I see in the mail and on TV.  The amount of money, manpower, paper, etc that have gone into this election!  I am excited and happy to participate in this democratic process, but I’m ready for this non-stop advertising madness to end.  The nearest polling place for me is my brother’s old elementary school, which is walking distance from my parents’ house so I’m going to bundle up and get going.  When I get back, I’ll be transporting myself to España.  Ole!

Okay!  There weren’t any lines and I voted as soon as I walked in, but I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any “I VOTED” stickers.  I know every vote counts but I’m glad that I got to cast my vote in Pennsylvania, a possible swing state.  Now, onto Spain.

We welcomed another beautiful sunrise from Barcelona.  This was our last morning in this fair city in Catalunya but our trip to Spain was just getting started.  By evening, we were sitting in the glows of the Andalucian sun and making new memories in Granada.

We had a quick flight from BCN to GRX and checked into our hotel right on Gran Vía, AC Palacio de Santa Paula.  A converted monastery, all the facilities were quite modern at this hotel but some of the charming old characters were still present.

Courtyard at AC Palacio de Santa Paula, Granada

After checking in and having lunch at the hotel, we headed out for a stroll.  During my last trip to Granada, Paula and I tried a few places for churros y chocolate and I confirmed with Paula the week before this trip that our favorite one was the place with all the napkins on the floor (Churreria Alhambra not Gran Cafe Bib-Rambla).  I was happy to see it still open for business and on this sunny day, had its awning fully extended out to the plaza and tables set up for customers.  My family got to have their first experience dipping piping hot churros into dark sweet liquid chocolate (as I recall, Cafe Bib-Rambla‘s chocolate was too watery and Paula & I liked the chocolate here better).  I had a long afternoon/evening planned for the seniors and needed them to have enough energy.  We scarfed down the churros, hot chocolate, and some ice cream (and soda and beer), all of which spelled AZUCAR or sugar!

Just a few steps away from the plaza was Calle Alcaicería, a mini souk (I mean a tiny little version, just a street or two) a first architectural glimpse of the incredible Alhambra we were going to visit the next day.  My seniors excitedly roamed and looked at what this little market had to offer.

We moved on to Plaza Nueva and then followed the waterway up the path (paseo de los tristes).  But the big plan I had for the evening was to watch the afternoon sun set its glow over Alhambra.  Paula and I had climbed up the steps and hills of the labyrinth that is Albaicin, and relying solely on our instincts found the place where people congregate.  The views were so impressive and memorable that I didn’t want my family to miss it.  We got lost a little along the way but that’s part of wandering around the narrow streets of the old Arab quarters of Granada…  We reached the mirador in time to see the splendor.

I was prepared with “Alhambra” beer to toast the sunset over Alhambra.

These three photos below are from December 2010 when Paula and I visited the same spot; see the snow capped mountains?  I asked my family to imagine it since this time around we were wearing shorts and enjoying the warm breezes all around us.

Mom wanted to watch the stars come out and I think she would have stayed there for several more hours, but we convinced her we should get some dinner.  I wish we could have dined at one of the Carmens but it wasn’t to be this time, and Estrella de San Nicolás (a restaurant right next to the mirador) was closed.  We walked back down and dined at Puerta del Carmen instead, a restaurant I’d been to before.  It would have been great to have my family take part in the fantastic tradition of free tapas in Granada- for each adult beverage you order you’re given a free tapa in this wonderful town (just realized that I didn’t post anything from Granada back in 2010…  Must have been too busy eating and drinking).  But I couldn’t very well have my four seniors on their feet fending off a crowd of people at the bar…  not so much at places like Cunini or Oliver, but at Los Diamantes?  Whew!  It was tight squeeze for me and Paula then, definitely not happening for my family now.  We showed up at Puerta del Carmen without a reservation, but luck was with us and we were seated within 10 minutes.  A great meal of some local dishes (like habas with jamon) and surprisingly good steaks were enjoyed by all.

Our main event for Granada was to start bright and early in the morning, so we were soon off to bed.  I hoped that Alhambra was everything Mom expected and more, but I knew it would be.  More on that, tomorrow.

AC Palacio de Santa Paula Hotel: Gran Via de Colon 31, Granada, Spain; restaurant at the hotel is called El Claustro, worth checking out

Mirador San Nicolás: Calle de la Atarazana Vieja, 1, Granada, Spain

Alhambra: Calle San Carlos, 5, Granada, Spain

Puerta del Carmen: Plaza del Carmen, 1, Granada, Spain

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