Castles and Palaces and Gardens Oh My!

These are my final days in Torre del Mar but still so much is planned. I’m visiting the Alhambra in Granada, and will be in Córdoba to see the Mezquita. For those just joining, I’m travelling solo in the south of Spain looking for a retirement destination while visiting some key historical sites.

The drive to the Alhambra was beautiful. The landscape is mountainous and more severe. Passing the Sierra Nevada with snow-capped peaks had me comparing them to our beloved Rockies. They ski here. You don’t usually associate skiing and Spain.

The roads are very well maintained and the A-7 seems to be the highway that connects everything. From Torre del Mar it was 1.5 hours. Arriving before 11:00 we were able to get parking.

Tips: if you do visit the most popular attraction in Spain, make sure you have tickets organized ahead of time; you will need your passport throughout the day. They regulate the number of people visiting. Wear comfortable shoes!

The Alhambra cannot be visited without a history lesson, and Cipriano, our guide provided one on the Moors, the Nazrids and the Christians. If you want more info, visit here.

Needless to say there is a lot of walking. I had a late night saying goodbye to my Norwegian buddies, and I should have listened to my gut and not had that second whisky. lol Accessibility is an issue at many of the historical sites. You won’t find many ramps or handrails and stairs can be deep and steep to navigate. We spent 1.5 hours in the palace and gardens before even getting inside the Alhambra (the fortress). The water system is really an engineering marvel, and if you are a photographer you will have plenty of subject matter. The gardens are incredible. You can get high on the the fragrance of jasmine and roses and fall in love with the wisteria hanging from trellises. The water pools reflecting the colours of the garden and the stone walls and sky – Magic! I could have spent more time there.

I still need to digest everything I saw this day, but what I did come to understand was the many different conquests and power struggles that was evident in the architecture.

After five hours of walking, I started to struggle. Knees were fine, my feet and ankles were tired. I was slower, but still moving. The time had come to get lunch, yes lunch at 4:00 pm. I would recommend bringing snacks with you and definitely water. I had only a quick coffee and believe me you need energy and I can’t imagine visiting in the heat. At least it is cool today.

We drove to the Albaicin or Albayzin, the old Arab quarter in Granada and wandered the streets of cobblestone until we found our restaurant in the main plaza. Cipriano and I split a meat platter and after some nourishment, he led us through the beautiful streets to a square/plaza with a lookout. People were gathered around, sitting on the wall listening to a fandango singer and his guitar. The fountain in the middle was splashing in competition to his singing. When he finished, people clapped and donated some coins. The sky was black and it was obvious bad weather was coming our way. Before we headed to the car, we took a final glance of the Alhambra from across the river. It’s size is magnificent. I recommend seeing it from this vantage point. We then high-tailed it to the car, but got caught in a downpour. Seeking refuge under a balcony, we watched how rivers of water found a path through the narrow streets and hail bounced off the cobblestones. The storm was short-lived and before we knew it we were back in the van heading home.

View of Alhambra from lookout in Albayzin

14000 steps registered on my phone, a text to Anne-Grete declining dinner and wishing them a good trip home, I fell into bed. Córdoba is tomorrow.

We had a full van today for our 2 hour drive to Córdoba. People from the Netherlands, England, and a German sister with her Canadian brother. I introduced myself and tried to add some energy to the van, but it wasn’t to be. I sat quietly and thought perhaps they are tired or shy. The couple from the Netherlands spoke to each other in Dutch, and the English couple sitting next to me only spoke when I spoke to them. Cipriano knew the German woman up front and spoke German to her. I stared out the window enjoying the landscape and magnificent views. Hopefully this gang will warm up before the end of the excursion.

Arriving in Córdoba, we parked and headed to a café for breakfast. The place was loud and full of locals. Cipriano waves at the owner and they wave back with a shout of recognition. Nothing is quiet here. The tiled floor doesn’t match the ceramic walls, and everything clashes. I love it!

Breakfast in Córdoba café

We crossed the Roman bridge and through the Gate to be confronted with a beautiful bell tower. We met our guide who would take us through the Mezquita-Cathedral. She was extremely knowledgable and friendly. Once inside, all I can kept saying is wow! The columns and arches are spectacular. 850+ columns! No matter where you looked, there was something new and beautiful. Of course there is lots of history, but basically the Christians came in and converted a part of it into a cathedral. Mass is said daily. The altar and ceiling is jaw-dropping and I would have loved to hear that organ which still works.

We then went through various patios and made our way to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, also known as the Alcázar of Córdoba which once was the principal residence of Isabella and Ferdinand. Also this was the place where Christopher Columbus asked for their support to look for a new route to India. There seemed to be a problem with the ticket machine and the crowds were growing restless as another storm was approaching. Cipriano worked his magic and got us in. We quickly toured it and observed mosaics, beautiful gardens and the statue of Christopher Columbus in front of Isabella and Ferdinand.

Christopher Columbus, Isabella and Ferdinand

Moving on, we headed to the Old Jewish Quarter. Again, narrow, cobblestone streets, but what is beautiful are the flowers hanging from balconies. We missed the Patios de las Flores festival starting May 6th, where you can gain entry into people’s yards to see their gardens but this was quite lovely. On our way to lunch, that storm hit and we were drenched to the bone laughing and avoiding the huge hail stones. I think this is what was needed for the gang to warm up to each other. We laughed as we walked quickly to the restaurant which was an old hotel for riders. I ordered a bowl of salmorejo a local dish made from tomatoes, bread, olive oil. It was delicious. I ordered another dish but it was fairly tasteless. We made it back to Torre del Mar by 7:30 pm. A long day, but well worth the drive. I ended my day with a video call with Uncle Bill, packed up my things to get ready for check out tomorrow.

Friday and its check out time. I’ve cleaned and washed everything, Raquel and Dario are coming to pick up the keys at 11:45 pm and my taxi is coming at 2:30 pm. I hand in my keys after a lively conversation with my hosts who thanked me for taking care of their place. I left for a final walk around Torre del Mar.

I’m sad to be leaving but know I will return. I wander the streets and find a seat on the Paseo Larios where I watch the locals head for a coffee and breakfast. My stomachs grumbles, signalling it’s time for a bite, so I head to Las Yucas at the top of my street where Luis is picking me up. Once I had breakfast, I texted Raquel and Dario to come join me for a cerveza. 30 minutes later, they are teaching me how to properly cheer and some common phrases. We were laughing and getting loud in true Spanish style. It was a blast and a terrific way to end my stay in Torre del Mar.

4 comments

  1. Hi Donna, so happy to see you on your adventures post lockdown. Reading your blog was such a treat as I’m sitting here nursing baby #2 on this cold rainy day in Cambridge. But your blog made me feel like I was right there with you sipping on some coffee on a warm sunny day, keep the blogs coming!!

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    • LMAO — the knees are just fine Vicki. Must be all the churches and synagogues I’ve been visiting. I was at the Málaga Cathedral today and lit a candle for everyone back home.

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