The Ultimate Reason Why We All Come to Granada?

Islamic architecture inside the Generalife, confused dasher, explore granada in 48 hours, tips to visit the alhambra, the Palacio de Generalife, the sultan's leisure palaces, pebble walkaway in the garden, white washed houses of granada andalusia spainThe very pretty white-washed houses and the stunning sky of Granada.

Saying that the Alhambra is the ultimate reason why everyone comes to Granada would be a bit of a stretch. I know several travelers who skipped it entirely when they were in town. That being said, my hunch is that 96 percent of people who go to Granada go to the Alhambra.

I am part of that 96 percent, and had a really lovely time there. But like with Granada, my visit started off on the wrong foot.

– My appointed time into the Nazrid Palaces (the most remarkable part of the attraction) was at 2PM, but through a fault of my own I didn’t set off until 1.45PM. Thus, I walked ran as fast as I possibly could. It didn’t help that Granada is very hilly (think: San Francisco). By the time I arrived, I was so exhausted that I could barely speak, let alone continuing to walk and absorbing everything.

– As a directionally challenged person, I headed to the Palacio de Generalife instead of the Nazrid Palaces where I was supposed to be first. The more I walked, the more puzzling it got because nothing looked like the Alhambra that I had seen in photos prior to my visit.

– I realized my mistake after chatting with fellow visitors, but it was almost 4PM. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because I was about to become the only person in history of mankind who went inside the Alhambra but had no freaking idea whatsoever about the Nazrid Palaces.

– I thought about giving up, but for some reason I didn’t. I trekked toward the palaces and was denied at the entrance. I desperately pleaded my case with the guard, but he told me he wasn’t the one in charge and that I would have to go the ticket officer nearby and explained my situation.

– On the short way to the ticket booth, I tried to come up with all the excuses of why I was late. I was lost because I just got to Granada. I had a gallbladder attack and had to rest at the hostel. The stairs in the Palacio de Generalife were too slippery I tripped myself and hurt my ankles…

– I arrived and found three other visitors trying to do what I was about to do. Is it racist if I mention that all of us are Asian? Fortunately, the ticket officer sympathized and changed our appointed time slots. I was not denied entry anymore.

Without further ado, here is my visit in summary. Intricate wall patterns inside the Palacio de Generalife, the sultan’s leisure palaces.

Mirador de San Nicolas is the top spot for a panoramic view of Granada, but the view from the Generalife is quite inspirational as well. 

Islamic architecture inside the Generalife.

Pebble walkway in the garden. Yes, that is the amazingness of the Alhambra.

I counted my lucky stars that my visit was on such a gorgeous day. The following day was quite dreary and rainy. 

The kind of view that never ever gets old. 

Here is the beginning of the Nazrid Palaces tour. Islamic architecture in all its glory. 

Intricate arabesque pattern.

The obligatory shot of Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles) in Nasrid Palaces.

It used to be called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir (Patio del Estanque o de la Alberca).

The insanely stunning star-shaped ceiling in the Hall of the Abencerrajes. This is one of the places that I think no camera could fully capture the opulence and intricacy. 

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50 Shades of Granada Sky

Can I have this forever?

The sky in Europe never ceases to amaze me.

From RomeFlorenceVenice to Paris and Barcelona, there is something so magical and awe-inspiring about the endless sky in the old continent that has such a heady effect on me and just leaves me wanting for more. I’m not sure if it has to do with topography or pollution but since moving back to Hanoi, I have been seriously deprived of beautiful sunrise/sunset- something I had plenty of in New York. But stupid me took it for granted.

In the previous post, I recounted how Granada gradually swept me off my feet. However, I didn’t mention the defining moments, which occurred at Mirador de San Nicolas and had everything to do with the sky and light of Granada. I feel like I would do its breath-taking beauty a disservice if I didn’t dedicate an entire post to it. When you’re in Granada, you absolutely can NOT miss this spot. Yes, it’s touristy but the view is unbelievably inspirational. And it’s free.

I went during the winter months, so of course it was a bit windy up there. But come spring or fall (summer might be unbearably hot as far as I’m concerned), I can’t imagine how heavenly it will be. I loved Mirador de San Nicolas so much that I came twice and spent a total of 7 hours there in the span of 48 hours I had in Granada. Despite the crowd, both times gave rise to grand moments of tranquility and clarity. I might be the only one I know personally who has this over-consuming desire to see this vast world and I might never be well-off because of it, but I know in my heart that I’m on the right track.

Enough of ramblings. Here come the photos. Mirador de San Nicolas sits on top of Albaycin, the Arab and Moorish quarter of Granada. With a full vista of the Alhambra and the white mountain range of Sierra Nevada as a backdrop, Mirador de San Nicolas is inarguably the best panoramic spot in town. I arrived at around 4-ish on my first day when giant patches of cloud were floating in the blue sky. I thought, “wow, this is really gorgeous”.

Half an hour later, apocalyptic clouds started forming on the other part of the sky, shadowing the sprawling city below. I thought, “oh Granada, you’re so going to get wet”.

Cloud and cross, quite a foreboding combination, right?  

Meanwhile, the sky turned a beautiful purple color on the other side. The whole scene looked more like the end of autumn than the midst of winter.

Back to that other side, angry clouds had evaporated. Rays of sunlight were peeking through layers of cloud; Granada was blessed. 

I could have gone somewhere else, but I loved what I had seen on the first day so much that I made my way back to Mirador de San Nicolas the next day. Plus, when I saw this light, I had an inkling something spectacular was going to happen. 

The golden light in Granada at 6.30-ish PM. 

It was getting dark. I was about to head down to go back to my hostel when this dramatic sunset happened all of a sudden. Saying I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I was beyond overwhelmed. It was Granada kissing me goodbye in the most dramatic fashion…

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How Granada Won Me Over

This is how Granada looked this winter. New York and Paris, eat your heart out. 

Before you dive in, here is a little treat for your ears. I’m feeling utterly useless right now because I don’t have the name and address of this bar. There is this unidentified name (La Cueva Del Gato) in my journal that I have googled, but nothing clear comes up. If you happen to know this place, do say it out loud in the comment section. The internet and I would highly appreciate that. Anyway, you’ll barely see anything in the video because the room was candlelit, rendering my iPhone kind of incapable. That’s why I said it’s for the ears, not the eyes 🙂

I’m not a frugal person. Well, at least, that’s how I think about myself. But when something is so cheap that it almost sounds like free, I’m willing to scoop low and get my hands real dirty to own it. Especially if it’s airfare.

Low airfare deals give me the ultimate cheap thrill.

Seasoned backpackers to Europe keep gushing about how they occasionally bag dirt cheap airline tickets to fly between countries. Such stories always turned me green with envy because I had never ever been able to catch any travel deal in my entire life and it started making me question if there was anything wrong with me.

This time, as soon as I knew for sure that I’d travel to Europe, I made it my mission to get those elusive tickets. Partly because my budget was tight, and partly because they would be the badge of honor, the external validation I desperately needed for my self worth 🙂 So, I lurked around travel sites multiple times per day every day for two months before the departure date. Hard work certainly paid off as my Ryanair tickets from Paris to Barcelona, Barcelona to Malaga, Lisbon to Paris were all 19 euros. (The ticket itself was just 2 or 3 euros before taxes and miscellaneous charges.) “Are you fucking with me?” was the common response when I told friends and people I met.

The thing is cheap and comfort do not necessarily go hand in hand. My flight from Barcelona to Malaga taught me that very well. Since the flight left at an ungodly hour (6:15) in the morning and I didn’t want to hail a taxi at 4AM that certainly would have cost more than the flight ticket itself, I hauled ass out of Casa Consell at midnight to get on the last airport express bus of the day at Plaça de Catalunya. The bus ticket was €5.90.

I arrived at Barcelona-El Prat Airport 40 minutes later. As a naturally resourceful person, I quickly turned my backpack into a pillow, my coat into a blanket, the flat hard bench into a bed and dozed off until check-in time. Oh boy, it was a long night! But thank the high and mighty, the flight was uneventful and landed at Malaga safe and sound and on time to boot.

(Tip: To visit Granada, you can fly into Federico García Lorca Granada-Jaén Airport or Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport. Granada airport is only 12 kilometers away from the centre. You can take the shuttle to central Granada for a few euros. Malaga airport, on the other hand, is in Malaga. To reach Granada, you have to take the ALSA bus to Granada bus station for about 10 euros and then take a local bus to your hotel for about 2 euros. The whole trip takes approximately two hours. In my case, the flight ticket plus the bus tickets were still cheaper than a flight ticket to Granada airport.)

However, for the first three hours, the deck was really stacked against Granada.

I was understandably frazzled after spending a total of 12 hours at airports, on airplane and 4 different buses. To put things into perspective, driving or taking the train from Barcelona to Granada takes around 7-8 hours. Flight duration is 90 minutes.

It was annoyingly cold and rainy when I arrived, a far cry from the sun-drenched Barcelona.

Funky Meridiano Hostel was a real let-down, especially when compared with Casa Consell even though the prices were essentially the same. The room was small, dimly lit thus kind of suffocating. There was no wifi in the room. The kitchen was so-so.

The lunch I had at Restaurante Al Pie de La Torre was also disappointing. I was recommended there, and it surely looked the most promising on the street. For €13, I got a three-course lunch that I ate with trepidation. It included:

Mediocre salad mix that had eggs and ham, my two absolute no-nos.

A main dish of pork, potato and veggies that was too oily and salty.

And an underwhelming dessert. 

My head kept screaming: “Barcelona I miss you. Why the hell did I leave you for this?” 

Well, it seemed like Granada was a bit insecure and didn’t like to be hated so after reading my thoughts, she quickly cleaned up her act.

The lovely Plaza Bibarrambla, filled with restaurants, sidewalk cafes and small shops.

The facade of Granada Cathedral basking in sunshine.

Once I stepped away from the centre a little bit, I began to see her sexier, edgier side, which I absolutely love.

A slightly hilly street leading to the legendary Alhambra. I promise we’ll talk about it a separate post.

Then comes Albaycin, the most charming part in my opinion. It’s the Arab and Moorish district of Granada where you feel like being straddled between Europe and Africa. Happily so, though. 

I fell head over heels in love with the picturesque narrow winding streets that I had to come back the next day when it felt and looked more like winter. No, actually, more like autumn. 

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