Saturday, March 8

Morocco-Andalucia, Day Eleven: An Early Alhambra

Today was all about The Alhambra.

We managed to get out of bed at around 6:15am, planning to get to the ticket office for 7. For once we did even better than that and were there twenty minutes early, a bonus of having our hotel opposite the place I guess. Amazingly enough we weren't even the first ones there; an American couple had made it there around ten minutes before we did and the queue was constantly growing every few minutes. It was good to know that we weren't the only desperate/stupid ones in Granada this morning.

It was all in good fun though, as we struck up a friendship with the Americans and the two Spanish speaking girls (Colombian and half-Argentinian respectively) behind us. I guess it takes something like queueing up for tickets at an insane hour to form such a close relationship in such a short amount of time but in my opinion this alone made the whole getting up early worth it - especially after we were told that there were actually two thousand tickets available for sale. Whoever told us thirteen deserves to be slapped a few times.

The Alhambra itself was as amazing as expected. Well kinda anyway. The main attraction is the time-restricted Nazrid Palace and we spent a good hour in there marvelling at the architecture and history. If I'm totally honest I was slightly underwhelmed, possibly because the place had been so hyped up but mainly since I had seen much it before during my tour of Morocco and the rest of Andalucia. In fact, rather than being something unique and special, The Alhambra acted as the last chapter in a book of Islamic architecture and history that had begun eleven days ago.

After a leisurely breakfast with our new friends we checked out the rest of the Alhambra (including the Alcazaba and Generalife gardens) just as our allotted time was up. We then went our separate ways, planning on meeting up later on that evening. I headed straight back to the hotel, hoping to catch up on some shower, teeth brushing and sleep before the events of the afternoon.

After our rest, the five of us staying around The Alhambra drove down to Granada Town Centre to doss for a bit before a Flamenco show we had booked. Driving down I realised how smaller Spanish roads are compared to those elsewhere. Driving on the right is difficult enough but I seemed to fare better in Australia and Austria where the roads seem to be wider. There have been an embarrassing number of wing mirrors clipped between the two of us driving.

Most of our time was spent just having a wander around the streets of Granada, just soaking in the atmosphere. I began appreciating the company of Spanish speaking friends; it's funny how less stressful the little things become once you have access to the language. The most impressive thing we saw was easily the Capilla Real, a huge, sprawling mausoleum toward the centre of town. We even found ourselves crashing a wedding ceremony in the catedral next door which was fun if a bit voyeuristic.

After meeting with the American contingent of our group we were picked up for the Flamenco show. Although I wasn't sure exactly how authentic the whole deal was (or perhaps I was just expecting more of a cave than what we got) I had bags of fun watching the moody dancers do their thing. There may even be evidence floating around of me having joined in, but if there was I wouldn't advertise it or anything.

We decided not to take up the offer of a lift back to the hotel, instead choosing to walk through the Albayzin, or Arab quarter, instead. We eventually ended up at Kasbah for coffees, crepes and shishas, lamenting the fact that this would be the last time all seven of us would be together. That's pretty amusing seeing how we had only known each other for a few hours.

There's not much doubt that the day had been made by the friends we made this morning - as excellent as the day's activities were in their own right, it would all have been so different without them. All the more reason I'm a bit miffed that it's happening now - tomorrow being the day my friends and I head back to London.