Buenos Días Andalucía

When Paula and I visited Alhambra in the winter of 2010, we were thoroughly impressed and hoped that one day we’d return to see all the flowers in bloom.  I didn’t know then that in less than two years later I would be back to experience the beauty of this hilltop palace and the gardens.  As we had done previously I bought our tickets for the first available time slot of the day, 8:30AM.  Paula and I did the whole thing in 4-5 hours and had lunch at the end of our tour, but with my seniors on this trip I broke up the visit (palace & fort in the AM, gardens after lunch) to make it more leisurely.  One note- having gone to Alhambra twice now in two different times of the year, I think it makes sense to take the earliest entrance time in the summer to avoid the heat but go later in the day if the visit is in colder months…

Good morning Granada!  Gorgeous day Andalucía!  So good to see you again!

View of Albaicin from Alhambra

These 12 lions were being restored in 2010 and were housed indoors at the time.  Mom had been talking about them for days and how much she was looking forward to seeing them.  I was thrilled that they were in their rightful place and we beat the large tour groups to see them in peace.

Stunningly beautiful…

Lunch this time was a repeat performance at Parador, which didn’t let me down.  It was great in December to sit outside and warm up in the sun, and it was wonderful to be under a cool shade to dine with such lovely views again.  I looked for the black cat that curled up under our table the last time but he was nowhere to be found…  But we did have the same waiter and the berenjenas con miel (local specialty of fried eggplants served with honey) was still just as good.  Sure, you can have a fancy lunch in their dining room but why not sit outside and take in the glories of Generalife while you eat?  It’s such a great spot pause between Alhambra and the gardens.

Onto Generalife!

I figured that the seniors would be really tired but they were happy to walk back down into town.  It took Paula and me a good while to figure out where Cuesta del Rey Chico was when we were last there but this time, I had no trouble finding my way.  We stopped for some sangria once we got down and after that quick pick-me-up, it was time for the seniors to take their bath…. at a hammam, an Arabic bathhouse.  They looked a bit nervous but they were game to try it out.  I felt as if I’d dropped the kids off at daycare.  Ha!  I was free until dinner!

I hoped for a festive but casual dinner for the family, so rather than dining at the fancy restaurant at the hotel (El Claustro) I took them to Oliver.  We were there early (I had to explain that no one eats dinner before 8PM in Spain; they didn’t open until 8:30) so we strolled around a bit.  Paula and I only had free tapas at Oliver before so I wasn’t sure whether their regular food would be good.  I needn’t have worried; it was great and the service was friendly.

We walked off our dinner and joined the local families milling about and enjoying the gorgeous evening.  Of course Dad wanted something sweet to end the day, so our last stop was for gelato.  Apparently Michelle Obama visited this place (Heladeria Los Italianos) when she was in Granada; Kevin and I had gelato and some horchata earlier in the day and I can definitely recommend it.  Heck, it’s good enough for the First Lady…

Good night and thank you Granada!

Alhambra and Generalife: Definitely purchase your tickets in advance (months in advance) and print out the tickets (at ATM like machines all over Granada or Barcelona, even).  Take the bus up (really easy, either from Gran Via or Plaza Nueva), get off at the Justice entrance (not the main entrance) so that you can go directly to the palace and skip any lines/having to walk additional 10-15 minutes.  Senior discounts only apply to those with European Union passports!

Parador de Granada: Alhambra grounds, Granada, Spain

Heladeria Los Italianos: Gran Via de Colon 4, Granada, Spain

Oliver: Plaza de la Pescaderia 12, Granada, Spain

Hammam al Andalus: Calle Santa Ana, 16, Granada, Spain

Other places in Granada: I went back and looked at my photos from 2010 and re-lived my trip….

Cunini: Paula and I went almost every night for 4-5 days, to see if we’d get different free tapas and whether the bartenders would remember us.  Answers?  Yes and Yes.  We even got a free round of drinks on our last night.  The locals kept buying this potato salad so we tried it but it was nothing special.  I still don’t understand why…  Below, the famous habas (they were VERY salty) and our free drinks (jerez)

La Oliva: Calle Rosario, 9, Granada, Spain; I’m still a bit sad that I didn’t get a chance to go back to La Oliva with my family and instroduce them to its wonderful owner, Francisco.  When Paula and I stopped by in December 2010, he was about to close for the afternoon.  He opened the store for us and for the next hour, poured us bottle after bottle of jerez and let us try every tin/bottle of olive oil he had.  One of the best experiences and memories of Granada, and Spain overall.

Los Diamontes: Calle Navas, 26, Granada, Spain; Our go-to spot for lunch time tapas each day we were in Granada.  Always packed with locals, fastest service, and the coldest Cruzcampos in town.  Great seafood tapas, my first Kumato tomatoes, napkins and toothpicks all over the floor, and a wonderful local couple (gorgeous woman we ran into twice) who told us to go down the street and try La Tana.

La Tana: Calle Rosario 11 (esquina placeta del agua), Granada, Spain; A local recommendation, a great little wine bar way down the street past La Oliva.  Good wine and morcilla.

El Corte Inglés: I can honestly spend hours at any El Cortez Ingles food section whether in Barcelona, Granada, or Lisbon for that matter.

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