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Entries about granada

Barcelona and Nimes

Leaving our friends and Spain

sunny 86 °F
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We only spent 48 hours in Barcelona having been there a few years ago. Everyone except Diana traveled there from Granada. She stayed in Granada an extra day and then returned to Madrid and home. The most roundabout trip to Barcelona was easily Doug and Karen's. They drove back to Lisbon, Portugal to return their rent-a-car and then flew to Barcelona. Why, you ask, would they have taken an eight hour drive instead of the one hour flight? Remember the plane they missed way back in Seville? The least expensive way to deal with that issue turned out to be to rent a car, drive to Seville, and then use the car throughout Spain. However, dropping a car off in another country in Europe jumps the cost by hundreds of dollars, so they drove back to Lisbon, dropped off the car, and flew to Barcelona Tuesday morning. Homer and Wendy and the three of us also flew Tuesday morning but from Granada.
The others did more in Barcelona than we did; we mostly chilled and ate good food with them. We also visited the one place I will go back to anytime I can: Sagrada Familia. Personally, I think this is the most beautiful and interesting building in the world. Take a look at the pictures I've posted and see if you agree. They are scheduled to complete the church in 2026, and if they are anywhere close, I intend to come back and see the completed masterpiece.
After a lovely goodbye dinner with Wendy and Homer and Doug and Karen, the three of us headed out next day on a train to Nîmes. The train travel was excellent, and a little after 8 p.m. we arrived refreshed. After some searching for each other, we found our host, Jean Luc, who graciously escorted us from the train station to our apartment.
The walk was interesting on multiple accounts: first, the 10 minutes turned into nearly half an hour as we had to roll our heavy suitcases along cobblestone streets, but more importantly, we walked past a couple of unexpected treasures. Despite being a Thursday evening, Nîmes was hosting a festival and a French rock band that models itself after the Rolling Stones was playing a concert, specifically playing a concerts in the 2,000 year-old Roman arena. Turns out Nîmes has one of the world's largest and best preserved Roman arenas (think Coliseum). We all wished we could have attended the performance, but alas, the tickets were sold out.
When we arrived at our apartment, it turned out to be on the third floor of a beautiful building overlooking the tree-lined canal. Everything about Jean Luc's place was delightful except dragging our large, 50 lb. suitcases up three flights of a small spiral staircase. The main staircase and elevator were being renovated. I could not help but think of "Big Bang Theory," but I suspect our alternative staircase was meant for servants, never for anything like a suitcase. To his credit, Jean Luc took one of the suitcases and marched to the top with it.
While in Nîmes, we enjoyed the city, touring the arena as well as a well-preserved Roman temple, climbing to the top of the guard tower in the old city wall with a magnificent view in all directions, and eating French dinners until midnight.
We also took a day trip to Avignon to see the Papal Palace that served the popes when they temporarily left Rome. A note on that, this was in the 1300's and the "palace" was a Medieval castle, stark and not a place I would have wanted to live. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing it and Avignon while being very happy about staying in Nîmes instead of the more touristy city.
The highlight of our time in Nîmes however was the day Jean Luc and his fiance, Arielle, picked us up and drove us to the beach town they live in. The town, La Grande Motte, reminded us a great deal of Santa Cruz, beach front, boardwalk rides and amusements, restaurants, and condos. Of course this was on the Mediterranean Sea, but the French appear to enjoy their beach towns much as the US does.
We spent a lovely day with our two hosts, even got a chance to go out on Jean Luc's boat (he's an avid fisherman), toured another town, Aigues-Mortes, a walled city that is famous for being the launching point of the first Crusade, and finished by having a lovely, late dinner with Jean Luc and Arielle.
Having our Airbnb hosts spend an entire day showing us around Provence was unexpected enough, but what made the day all the more interesting is that neither of them spoke English and none of us speak French. A few words each, but mostly we spent the day pantomiming or using our phones as translators. The five of us did tolerably well I think.
We recommend Nîmes as a good place to spend a few days, and if you have a car, there are a few other sights, such as a Roman aqueduct, that are within a 90 minute drive. We didn't see those, but if we had another day, that's how we would have spent it.

Posted by randjb 07:10 Archived in France Tagged barcelona granada jean sagrada familia avignon nimes luc arielle Comments (0)

Alhambra - Updated

Worth the trip? Check the new note at the end of the entry.

sunny 100 °F
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The Alhambra is on most lists of things you must see in your lifetime, and I am sure if we hadn't already been to Seville and Cordoba I would have felt the same when I saw it. The fortress is massive, the views from the top are unparalleled, the palace architecture and ornamentation splendid, and the gardens are glorious. Altogether, the Alhambra lives up to its reputation.
But even so...
Having just traveled in Seville and Cordoba, I could not help compare it with the alcazars in those two cities. Neither Seville nor Cordoba has the magnificent setting of the Alhambra, which sits above Granada like a crown, watching over it and providing views across the entire valley out to the Sierra Nevada.
Cordoba's alcazar sits in the middle of town, with only modest views, and was used by the Spanish Inquisition and thus has been extensively modified. Gone is the palace architecture and rich decoration. Even the changes the Inquisition made have been modified as viewing dozens of small cells for prisoners probably would not be the best attraction.
Seville's alcazar, however, has been well preserved, probably because it was built by a Christian king. Plus, through luck or restoration, it has much more of the color that originally covered the now white plaster, and while the plaster work is worth every second you spend examining it, color adds the dimension needed to appreciate what it once must have looked like.
As for the gardens, many of the Alhambra's are modern simply because Napoleon's army destroyed much of the grounds and a fair amount of the palace, not wanting to leave a fortress behind them. Only the quick reactions of the people of Granada saved the Alhambra from being completely burned to the ground. Meanwhile, Cordoba's gardens are a water paradise and as for Seville's, they are Dorne- what else needs to be said. (If the reference makes no sense, check "Game of Thrones.")
All in all, if I had to pick one of the three to revisit, I would choose to return to Seville's alcazar.
UPDATE:
For a far more complete set of pictures of the Alhambra, and frankly better photos than I took, go to:
http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.it/2012/03/tales-of-alhambra.html
He founds some places we did not visit that show aspects of the Alhambra that had I seen, might have changed my mind about which was more beautiful, Seville's alcazar or the Alhambra.

Posted by randjb 00:33 Archived in Spain Tagged alcazar seville alhambra granada cordoba Comments (0)

Granada

Halfway point

sunny 105 °F
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Granada marked a special point in our trip: we reached the halfway point between when we left San Francisco on June 10 and when we will return to Boston, August 19. Originally, Granada was also to be our wedding reception/celebration, but as Wendy and Homer threw us a great party in March, we were delighted to simply be joined by them and Diana, along with Karen and Doug who were still traveling with us. Unfortunately, Mark and Mary had to cancel, though they might be glad they did (more of that in a moment.)
Wendy, Homer, and Diana arrived together from Madrid and got in about noon. We and the Perry’s drove from Costa del Sol through Ronda, then to Granada. Debbie was stuck doing the driving as I had no driver’s license (see Paris). We pulled in around 5 p.m. and worked our way through the last winding streets to the villa. Homer had warned us that a car could not fit through the final alley leading to the villa, and he was right. With some help, we unloaded – three large bags, each 50 lbs., backpacks, a camera case, and one overnight bag. You don’t get to travel light when you’re going away for three months and in temperatures that ranged from snow to 105 degrees. Did I say 105 degrees? Yes, Granada was in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave.
Debbie and I returned the car, took a taxi back, and got our first look at the villa. Not sure how old the house is but it was beautifully done with dark wood shutters, wood beams in most of the ceiling, and an amazing amount of books, knickknacks, figurines, and what-have-you’s covering almost every flat surface in the place. Surrounding it was a beautiful, though overgrown, garden, a large swimming pool to one side, and a guesthouse in the back. The villa looked just like the pictures and should have thrilled us all. But it didn’t.
Remember 105 degrees, and then add no air conditioning except in the master suite and the “tower” room on the third floor where no one went except Diana to sleep. Homer, Wendy, and Diana had already spent hours in the pool before we arrived as it provided the only relief. I joined them almost immediately. The first floor including living and dining rooms and the kitchen were all but unusable.
Still, good friends altogether cannot be kept down, and we headed through the winding streets on the side of the steep hill the villa was perched on to find dinner. Turns out, a lot of restaurants in Granada are simply closed in July – maybe the heat wasn’t so unusual after all. We poked our head into one of the few open restaurant doors, a not very promising looking place, and were delighted to find the actual restaurant was in a large courtyard inside. Good food, good drinks, the weather cooling around 11 p.m. and good conversation that night.
That night, only those of us in the air-conditioned spaces got much sleep, and because we accidently put Chesirae directly under the air conditioner, she was so cold, she couldn’t sleep either! Then, the next morning as reported by Karen and Doug, the beds had been rock hard. We had earlier gone out to the guesthouse to get two single mattresses out of those bedrooms to give Diana and Chesirae better bedding, but we had no help for Karen and Doug and Homer and Wendy. Had Mark and Mary made the trip, we would have had to try and put one couple in the guesthouse, so not only would we have had two more people on hard beds, the guesthouse was even hotter than the villa! Holy sleep deprivation, Batman! We did manage to cool things down a little with fans and windows open at 6 a.m.
But enough about the villa as we all adjusted and truly enjoyed our time together. We took a walking tour of Granada through the old part of the city, the shops, some of the walls and gates, and the cathedral. If you visit, I recommend going inside the church. Spain has a church on every corner, but most of them are Gothic. This was a very large, white, Baroque church. Diana tells me they too are common in Europe, but this was the first cathedral in that style I had seen. Very impressed.
Together with friends, we enjoyed the days immensely.
Next, the Alhambra.

Posted by randjb 12:58 Archived in Spain Tagged granada villa karen wendy diana heat doug homer Comments (0)

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