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The Alhambra

Monday 12th January

Ever since we decided to visit Spain Lucy has been insisting that we visit the Alhambra and being the wonderful, loving husband that I am I squeezed the wallet dry to make her happy. We are staying on an ACSI campsite just outside Beas and using my vast knowledge of Spanish managed to get the site owner to book us two tickets. All the guide books insist that you prebook tickets since they only let 6000 people a day into the bit you really want to see and doing it online added €1.40 per person to the ticket price of €14

At this time of year you can get away with it, if you didn’t have tickets you’d need to queue for 10-15 minutes but we were rushed through to the front since we were VIP ticket holders! You have to specify a time to visit the palace itself but there are another three areas to look at and you could always add two or three hours to the time you think you might get there and still have plenty to see.

We had to get up at the godforsaken hour of 8am, why anyone would want to get up at that time beats me, it’s still dark and the sun hasn’t risen yet but I am told that some people do it every day and trundle off to somewhere that they call work – don’t fancy that myself.

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We have a bus stop right outside the site and this is our view. €1.40 for a 45 minute bus journey along more twisty turny roads picking up s variety of people on the way. There’s always lots of kissing as people get on the bus and walk down the aisle meeting friends and acquaintances.

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We’ve got lots of photos to get through, I’ve done my best to pick out the best of the 300 photos that I did take, everywhere you look there was something new to see. Here we have one of the streets in Granada leading to the Alhambra.

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History lesson. As you all know, the Moors conquered Spain (and later nearly France). In 1237 Mohammad I installed his court on the Sabika Hill and started the construction of the Alhambra.  Water was diverted via aqueducts and a small town, or Medina was built just outside the palace.

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I had to put these two photos in. For the last three years I have been going to the Thurrock Marquetry club and just before getting to the Alhambra there was a small workshop producing these fantastic pieces of marquetry. They don’t do it quite like I was taught but the last piece I worked on was an Islamic based design which I saw repeated everywhere. My piece was never going to look anything like this work though.

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At your designated time and date you have to be at the entrance to the Alhambra. You get in a big queue with 200 other people and on the hour you are let in, can’t see that staggering big groups is the way to do it, I would have thought letting a dribble of people through would have been better but who am I to argue? Top tip – At the designated time the barriers will open and you are let in after having your ticket scanned. Hang back, keep to the back and take your time. You have as long as you want in this area so why not wait until the bulk of the crowds have rushed through and then you have more time to marvel and less selfie sticks getting in your way.

Anyway, as soon as you get in you are confronted with decorated walls and ceilings containing very intricate designs, mostly worked in plaster but also ceramics and on the ceilings, wood. It really is astonishing and you really don’t know where to point your camera.

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Room after room.

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Courtyards as well. This is the courtyard where you would have met the king, he would be on the steps in the middle and you would be overawed by the detail. Note the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, you’ll see that water plays a very major part in Islamic design.

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Lucy is listening to her audio guide. It is almost impossible to take photos without other people in them, especially Japanese tourists taking selfies.

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Into another courtyard, myrtle bushes growing either side and each end decorated like….

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…this.

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Every piece of wall is highly decorated, even bits that were out of sight, or were meant to be out of sight.

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Small alcoves with ceramic tiles at the bottom and painted plaster above.

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Ceilings get the same treatment.

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This is thought to be Mohammed II’s throne room. 

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Another courtyard, the channel in the floor contains running water.

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The Hall of the Ambassadors, just look at that ceiling. The windows allow sunlight to light up the room in an ever changing pattern as the sun moves across the sky.

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In 1492 the Catholics managed to overthrow the Moors and Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon carried out extensive repairs and alterations.

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As previously mentioned the Alhambra and associated buildings consist of a number of areas, all important to the history of Sabika Hill. This is Puerto de Vino, the gateway through to the defensive part of the complex. 

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Everything is built on top of a steep sided hill giving outstanding views of Granada from up on high. A small detail of the city.

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These rooms are the living quarters of the garrison.

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In 1526 Charles V, after his marriage to Isabella of Portugal visited Alhambra and decided to build his own palace right next door.

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It is a massive square building with a central circular open space which is meant to symbolise the centre of the world.

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Royal rooms are located around the edges and now hold a museum and temporary exhibitions. Most of them were closed since it was a Monday(?) but we did get into one of the exhibits, all about Flamenco dancing and the music.

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The fourth part of the complex is the Generalife (pronounced henna rail leafy so it doesn’t sound like it has been sponsored by an insurance company) which is the garden and recreation area of the Kings of Granada. 

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More fountains and water.

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Another courtyard.

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And more plaster work decoration.

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From outside the Alhambra doesn’t look to inspiring but then it was all part of a defensive position and the decoration was put in the place where it was needed most, the insides.

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If you are within a thousand miles of Granada make sure you visit the Alhambra, it really is awe inspiring, totally worth visiting but give it a full day, don’t rush in and out. We are both back at the van now, absolutely shattered buy happy. We can now spend a few more days lazing around recuperating.

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