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13 nights in Cordoba, Seville and Granada, September 29-October 12

devarae

100+ Posts
DAY TWELVE: GRANADA
This was one of our mostly unscheduled days. Aside from our reservations for an Alhambra Night visit (which weren’t until 10PM) we had decided to plan for everyone to be free to do what they felt like. Mom, Dad, Dave and I went out for a family breakfast (while Bob slept in) at Wild Food, a vegan cafe that is situated in a larger hotel (there is also a bar). The decor is all very modern and the food was quite good. Interestingly it looked like hotel guests had a different non-vegan menu as we saw several folks eating poached eggs!

But I was quite happy with my porridge, with banana, homemade peanut butter, and raisins. Mom had some really good vegan yogurt and a croissant, and Dave and Dad both tried toasts (one with hummus and avocado, one with vegan Nutella and berries) as well as porridge and a dramatic breakfast smoothie bowl served in a hollowed out pineapple!

After eating, I headed off solo on a hike. I wanted to try to follow the route outlined here.

https://slowtravelitalyspain.blogspot.com/2019/03/granada-day-5-silla-del-moro-llano-del.html which I sort of managed? It seemed as if my google maps and location tracker were not entirely accurate up in the hills! I still had a lovely time though, hiking up past the Alhambra, searching out the right road, watching the occasional local walking their dog or heading out for a bike ride.

It was refreshing to get up into a more natural setting (though not entirely wild, as I was usually within site of large fields of cultivated olive trees). I loved the views of the mountains, in particular! I just wished I’d had the energy and the time to go further-- especially because I never actually got to Llano del Perdiz.

But I had to turn back if I wanted to get home in time to meet Bob for lunch, so I headed back down, stopping briefly to poke my head in at the Carmin de los Martires gardens, which looked like a place I would have loved if I had time.

Back at the apartment I met Bob and we headed out to another Indian meal at Muglia2. We weren’t entirely sure what to do with the rest of the day, so we figured that a good meal would give us the stamina to decide. The meal was very good, and afterwards we decided that we wanted to go to the Science Museum after having heard about it from my Dad (who visited it on the day Mom, Bob and I went to the Hammam). There was a tropical butterfly house, which is something I’d always wanted to visit, but never had the chance to. I think there is probably a way to get there via bus, but we hadn’t done the research and were right near a taxi area, so we decided just to take a taxi, and then walk back. I think the taxi was about 6 euros? It was worth it for our peace of mind.

The Science Museum was very good, and everyone who worked there was SO NICE. This one docent came and met us right when we entered the giant complex and told us all about the different exhibits (in English) and helped us find everything we wanted to see. All the signs were in English, which was a nice surprise. It was also not at all crowded. Lots of local kids on school trips, and a number of other tourists, but a nice break from some of the more crowded sites!

As soon as we had our tickets we headed straight outside, through the park area, to the Butterfly House. This was a magical experience-- the building is fairly large and full of greenery and ponds with brightly colored carp and turtles. Every so often a fall of mist comes down from the ceiling. They had dishes of orange segments scattered around that the butterflies clearly enjoyed feeding at. And there were so many butterflies! I was particularly excited to see a bunch of Blue Morphos, which are stunningly bright. I think we must have wandered around in there for a good 45 minutes, and I could have stayed longer. There were probably about six other people in there during that time, not counting the museum staffperson.

We continued on, wandering through the park, checking out various mechanical displays demonstrating various types of waterworks, solar power, etc. There were a lot of very cool interactive exhibits that both kids and adults were enjoying! Eventually we headed back into the main building to check out some special exhibits, including one on science and music that I particularly enjoyed (I got to play a theremin!).

Finally, we headed over for the timed entry to the BioDome, which had cost extra but came highly recommended. We were very glad about that choice! It’s a very cool complex where you walk through a series of aquariums full of tropical fish, jellyfish, small sharks, rays, turtles and more. Then up into a wetlands section with beautiful toucans and parrots and other birds (free to fly around the large room above you) as well as some small primates. The habitats seemed quite extensive and well-equipped. There were also a number of smaller tanks with bright green and blue frogs, scorpions, lizards and snakes.

After that we decided it was time to start heading back to the apartment so we’d have time to rest and eat before our evening Alhambra trip. Our plan was to walk, and I think it took us about 30 minutes. It wasn’t necessarily the most attractive walk, but it was interesting to see another side of Granada-- the giant apartment complexes and somewhat grungier business sections.

Closer to the apartment, we spotted an amazing looking bakery and were lured inside where we picked up a small meringue-filled cake and an enormous Bomba de Nata. I think the name of the bakery is Dulce Angel. Both the cake and bomba were excellent and I kind of wished I had bought a couple more treats from there!

We rested up, had some leftovers for dinner, and at around 9PM we all headed up to catch a bus to the Alhambra. We’d planned to get off at the Justice Gate stop, but the driver encouraged us to get off at the one right before that (I think) that leads up to the corner of the Carlos V palace structure. That worked out fine. We were early, and no one else was in line yet, so we spent some time wandering the complex enjoying seeing things in a different light. I particularly enjoyed going into the large open center of the Carlos V palace, which was completely empty of any other visitors at that time. Looking up at the bright moon from the center of the open plaza was wonderful.

Eventually more folks seemed to be arriving so we got into line (in the same place we’d waited for our daytime entry). We were probably about 15 or 20 people from the start of the line. It looked as if there were some tour groups just leaving. I believe this 10PM entry is the only timeslot for individuals to visit at night. You can also visit the gardens at night, but it’s at the same time, so if you want to do both you’d need to go on two different days.

Finally at 10 we were allowed in! I was actually VERY thankful we’d gone during the day FIRST, because that way I knew the layout and where the different rooms were. Which was helpful, because I was able to walk briskly ahead of the other guests and reached the Court of Lions before ANYONE ELSE. Though I did panic at first because I’d read that you didn’t get to see the entire complex on the night visit, and the door we’d used during the daytime to reach the Court of Lions was closed off! But then I realized there was another door that was now open, from inside the Salon de Embajadores (I think) that led around through the Washington Irving room and then out to the Court of Lions. There are ropes dividing off sections of both the Court of Lions and the Court of the Myrtles, so that guests have to follow a specific route that ends up taking you back out through the Court of Myrtles to exit. But there was no issue with retracing your steps-- at least not until right before the end of the visit time (we were allowed to stay until 11:30).

Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed my good fortune to be virtually alone in the Court of Lions. I wasn’t trying to take a lot of photos as my phone camera isn’t anything great. I just loved being able to be there, absorbing the atmosphere. Eventually I did run (well, walk briskly) back to find my family and see if they wanted to join me (they did). We enjoyed probably about 10-15 minutes of peaceful time just standing/sitting quietly in the big court, admiring the lions, the waterworks, the moon.

Eventually the crowds did begin to catch up, and I moved on to some of the other impressive rooms that surround the Court of Lions. And then, when it seemed most of the crowds were now centered there, I headed back to the beginning, and found the first few rooms almost completely empty!

Oh! And another fun thing: there was a cat wandering around the site! We first saw him, fittingly, in the Court of Lions. Then later stalking around the Court of the Myrtles.

Overall I am SO GLAD that we did the evening visit. For me, it was definitely much more of an “experience” than my daytime visit. The daytime visit was gorgeous and beautiful, but a bit more hectic and I was also nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. The night visit was much more serene and I was able to just be there and enjoy the experience, and it was also less crowded. If you go to the Alhambra, I would recommend doing both!

We lingered pretty much as long as we could, before finally heading out via the Court of the Myrtles. Outside, we made our way back to the bus stop only to realize that, oops, the busses stop running at 11! I had failed to do my research on this and thought they ran until midnight!

Fortunately there happened to be a taxi coming down the road just then-- thank goodness!-- and I hailed it to take my parents and Dave home. My Mom was bravely offering to walk all the way but given how much she had already done today I really didn’t want to make her do that on her injured leg!

Bob and I, on the other hand, did walk home, but it was pleasant and not too hard, as it was all downhill. And it meant I hit an all-time high for daily stepcount on my FitBit (over 35K steps!). We arrived home shortly after midnight and I basically just collapsed into bed. Another tiring but marvelous day!

View from my morning hike:

MorningHikeOlives.jpg


A dream fulfilled:
BlueMorpho.jpg


Medusas!:
Jellyfish.jpg


Bomba de Nata:
BombaDeNata.jpg


Alhambra at night! The plasterwork definitely had a different look in the shadows:
AlhambraAtNight1.jpg


When I hustled back to the beginning, and found the first few sections deserted:
AlhambraAtNight2.jpg


Nighttime in the Court of Lions!
AlhambraAtNight3.jpg
 
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devarae

100+ Posts
DAY THIRTEEN: GRANADA
Our last full day! It was definitely sad to think of leaving, though we had plenty of things we were looking forward to back home. And as I said earlier, I tend to overdo it when traveling, even if I don’t have much officially “planned” I do end up walking a lot.

We had no specific plans for this last day. But over breakfast at the apartment Mom and Dave and I decided we wanted to go buy a few souvenirs in the shops nearby, and at the Cathedral. Dad wanted to go check out some sites he thought might be good places to take photos. And Bob (perhaps most wisely for someone on vacation!) was going to sleep in.

I hadn’t actually been to the Cathedral, but at that point in the trip I was kind of running out of steam to appreciate such things. Dave had gone, however, and wanted to get a souvenir from the museum shop. Thankfully we were able to get in via the outside door, even though we hadn’t bought tickets to the cathedral that day, and made our purchases.

We continued on at a relaxed pace and found a few more things, before heading back to the apartment again. Once we had all reunited and gotten ourselves together, we headed out for a last family meal, at Restaurant Hicuri Art Vegan.

This was another really excellent and memorable meal! Both for the food, and the gorgeous murals on the walls inside and out. I had a “Hicuri Burger” with the most delicious vegan sour cream, on an orange-flavored (and orange-colored) bun. The desserts were also very good (a dense, moist carrot cake, a three-layered chocolate cream torte, and a tart, creamy cheesecake, all vegan). We were highly impressed by the vegan and vegetarian offerings in Granada!

After lunch, Bob, Mom and I took the C32 bus (it stopped right down the street) up to the Alhambra (a slooooow trip as we ended up behind a school bus) then back down again and up into the Albaicin.

We got off near the Mirador San Nicolas, which Bob and Mom had not yet seen. It offered lovely views, as expected, though a host of merchants selling jewelry and other trinkets had taken up most of the shade and benches to set out their wares on blankets. So we didn’t end up lingering for too long. From there we walked back down through the streets filled with shops and tea houses.

Partway down we paused to refresh ourselves at one of the tea houses, where I got a mint green tea with pine nuts (good, but I could only drink so much) and Bob got a delicious milky chai. I also had a pistachio baklava bite that was crisp and tasty.

We continued on, and eventually made our way back home to the apartment. We spent some time prepping for departure. Bob and I went out for pizza at Pizzametro for our last dinner in Granada. Yum, eggplant and cheese!

Then it was time to go back to the apartment and finish packing, alas! Our flight from Granada airport was scheduled for 9:45AM. At our landlady’s advice, we were planning to take the 7AM airport bus which stops along the Gran Via (Bob and I had scoped out the stop earlier in the week) so we had to get up early (but not horribly early).

DAY FOURTEEN: RETURNING HOME
We departed on Saturday, October 12, which happened to be a national holiday for Spain (I had not realized this when booking). We were a bit concerned this might impact us somehow, but had our fingers crossed!

At around 6:30 we made our way up to the bus stop, where we soon spotted several other folks with large suitcases, which was comforting! We knew the bus probably wouldn’t show up right at 7 as it supposedly stopped at different location first. But I think it was only a few minutes later that it did pull up-- a big, full-size bus with storage underneath the body for our luggage. We tucked everything away, paid the drive (3 euros each, much cheaper than a taxi would be), boarded, and were on our way!

Taking the airport bus worked out fine, and I am happy with how it worked out. We traveled comfortably and arrived at the airport around 8. Granada airport is quite small, and there were just two flights being checked in. It was a little confusing which line to stand in at first, but eventually we figured out which was the IberiaAir line. Unfortunately, it was not moving AT ALL. It seemed as if they didn’t actually start check in for another 15 minutes. And because we had stopped at the bathrooms, we were at the end of the line. Oh well! It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we did eventually get to the front and checked in successfully. Then it was just a short walk over to the security area, and a quick pass through that and out to the gate. And it ended up we were still plenty early for boarding. It was bittersweet to walk out to the plane, with a lovely view of the mountains in the distance.

Finally settled in our seats, we breathed a sigh of relief… only to hear an announcement from the pilot that we were going to be delayed 40 minutes because of the national holiday! Apparently the military needed access to the Madrid airport (where we were transferring to our flight to Boston). Eep!

Well, all we could do was see what would happen. Thankfully the wait was in fact just 45 minutes, no longer, and our layover in Madrid was 3 hours. More crossed fingers!

We landed in Madrid and set off on the adventure of trying to make it to our Boston flight in time. We were in terminal 4, but needed to get to 4S, which required a transfer via a special tram.

Thankfully, my mom had suggested that we look into whether she could have a wheelchair to assist in her transfer, based on our experience flying from the US, which had been very tough on her injured leg. My dad had found the phone number to call to arrange that a few days earlier and I had done so. It was quite easy, and is apparently something the airports are required by EU law to offer. And it meant that she and I were met upon exiting the plane by a small van that swooped us across the tarmac directly over to terminal 4S (Dave, Dad and Bob had to go the normal way). Once there, she was seated in a wheelchair and assigned an agent to take her to our departure gate. He moved at a brisk pace, whizzing us through the various checks and then right to the gate and down the passage to the plane doors.

I am SO grateful that this service exists, and that we had arranged to use it, because there is no way Mom could have made it in time otherwise! We waited a few nervous minutes before we finally spotted Dave, Dad and Bob making their way on board. Phew!

We had an uneventful flight after that, and arrived in Boston in time to catch the 4:30 bus back to Maine, where Bob and I collected our car and drove home. It was chilly and gray, but we were happy to be back in our beloved house, eating Thai takeout, with a long weekend ahead of us to recover.

Art at Hicuri:
HicuriArt.jpg


Vegan desserts:
VeganDesserts.jpg


Tea time:
TeaTime.jpg


Granada airport:
LeavingGranada.jpg
 

devarae

100+ Posts
GENERAL THOUGHTS
I am so glad we decided to visit Spain, and in particular this part of Spain. The al-Andalus cultural influences in the food, architecture, etc are so fascinating and beautiful. I am particularly grateful that I read the book The Ornament of the World before our trip, as it really helped ground me historically.

Language: I studied Spanish for five years in school, but have not kept in practice and am by no means fluent. That said, it was really nice to be somewhere that I was familiar enough with the language that I could communicate roughly with waiters and taxi drivers and so on when needed. I had also printed out sheets of important phrases for everyone else-- including the needed phrases to ensure my vegan family members could order what the wanted to eat. But we did also find that English was quite common in the tourist areas, as well.

Weather: It was around 80-90 degrees fahrenheit every day, and we never saw a spot of rain. Most days the sky was clear blue. Occasionally there were puffy white clouds. For the most part we stayed comfortable, aside from the times when we were out in sunny areas with no shade. We did each carry water with us constantly though (we just reused plastic bottles so they were lightweight)! There were places to refill our bottles in most places. We also sometimes froze extra waterbottles and brought them with so they would melt during the day (also handy for keeping picnic lunch fixings cool).

Groceries: We always enjoy visiting local grocery stores! The places we shopped all seemed to have a good variety of offerings, including non-dairy milk for my vegan family. It seemed that in most of them you needed to use a glove to select your produce, and were meant to weigh and tag it yourself. Fortunately I remembered this from Italy so I understood the process. It was, as I expected, a bit more challenging to find stores open on Sunday, but not impossible.

Aseos: For whatever reason, I had never run into this term prior to our trip. When looking for “Spanish Tourist Phrases” the suggestions for asking where the restroom was all involved “el bano” or “W.C.” But “Donde esta los aseos?” seemed to be what most restaurants and sites expected, and it was the most common way I saw the bathrooms labeled. Now I know!

Food: For the most part, the food on this trip was amazing! I had been a bit worried, knowing how pork-heavy Spanish food can be (not just for my vegan family members, but for myself, as I don’t eat mammals and I am not a fan of seafood). But with a bit of research and planning, we ate some really delicious meals!

Money: We mostly used our bank cards to get money out at ATMs, which we were able to do easily in all the places we visited.

Phones: Bob and I used our US phones with the International Roaming feature turned on. (I wasn’t planning to use my data, and did not ever really miss it). This worked great. We mostly just used our phones to touch base when we were split up and trying to reconnect or make plans, so the cost was comparable to what it would have cost us to get Spanish SIM cards. My parents and Dave got SIM cards but unfortunately the ones they got only covered calls within Spain, and didn’t cover texting. So because Bob and I had US numbers, they couldn’t call us. But we could call them. So it mostly worked out. But I mention it for my own future reference, and for anyone else thinking of getting a SIM card oversees, to keep in mind who you need to call.

References and Resources: I downloaded offline maps of all the places we were spending time onto my phone, and was able to use them (with Location turned on) to navigate everywhere except up on the hills in Granada. I also had offline downloads of the route maps for local busses, my itinerary, all our various tickets, and some other things I knew I might need to refer to. I did not bring any other maps or guidebooks, but I had read a bunch of them (as well as a ton of trip reports and blog posts!) before our trip. I find that for my travel style, I have a better time if I do my reading and research before, rather than trying to look at books or listen to audioguides while I am in a place. I also did use our apartment wifi to research things during the trip as needed (like, say, what the best bakery in Seville was).

Expectations and Actualities: I had expected that Granada would be my favorite of the three places we stayed in. And as it turned out, it was my least favorite! Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but for whatever reason it didn’t click with me the way Cordoba and Seville did. Other than that, the things I expected to be highlights were indeed highlights: the Alhambra, the Real Alcazar, the Mezquita. Surprise highlights were: Las Setas and the Plaza de Sevilla. Both of these gave me some really thrilling, magical experiences.

This was a trip where the overall level of enjoyment was very high, but I didn’t have any really strong moment where I felt that “I MUST RETURN HERE AGAIN” feeling that sort of aches inside of me after I leave. Which is fine! I don’t get that feeling on every trip I take. So far in my life I’ve really only felt it in Paris, Venice, the Cotswolds, and the Amalfi coast. And Maine, where we now live! :) But just for my own reference, I like to analyze these sorts of things to better understand my own travel style and refine it to make future travels even more fun.

And that's it for my report. If anyone has questions I might be able to answer let me know!
 

veronicafrance

100+ Posts
Thanks for this interesting report! I really want to go to the science museum in Granada now -- we might manage that in the next couple of weeks. Like you, I much prefer Seville to Granada (have only spent a day in Cordoba and need to return to explore more).
 

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