Trip Start May 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2014

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Flag of Spain  ,
Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Thursday we were up before dawn to get ready for Granada which we expected to be the highlight of our trip through Spain. We caught the bus into Almeria (€0.85 each) and had a coffee waiting for the train. It was bang on time, we had seats reserved (all seats have to be reserved on long distance trains apparently).
The journey took us across the desert-like region where the Spaghetti westerns were filmed. Basically it was just scrubland with adobe type buildings and cave houses. Apparently this is one of the poorest areas of Spain.
After a while it became pretty boring watching the same scenery. The only relief from the scrub were the snow clad mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the background. It was my understanding that deserts are hot. However, looking at the outside temperature reading in our carriage it was showing 2 degrees Celsius - wot!! No wonder Clint Eastwood didn't say much - he was bloody frozen!.
On the way up we phoned to book tickets for the Alhambra (not a cinema, but the Moorish palace in Granada) we were given a time slot of 13.30 to 14.00 on Friday so would be able to see everything else on Thursday afternoon.
Granada celebrated our arrival by turning on the rain. The taxi dropped us at our pensione where a little white-haired lady answered the door and greeted us enthusiastically. She chatted away 23 to the dozen in a mixture of Spanish and English even saying that Tony Blair was looking very drawn, then shrugging her shoulders and whispering  confidentially to me "Iraq". She was delightful. She reminded us of our breakfast cook at the Columba, Margaret Rose MacDonald.
She then proceeded to show us every room in the house so that we could choose our bedroom for the night. The place was spotlessly clean but probably hadn't been decorated since 1972. The electrics were a little dodgy and the gas boiler worrying.
We chose a small suite of rooms at the price of €30.00 for the night (about £10 per head).
We then started to explore Granada in the rain. In Scotland this type of weather is described as "dreecht", drizzly cold rain. Gina then celebrated this return to our native weather by buying another cardigan. After a good lunch we took ourselves to the Moorish quarter of the town and got our first views of the Alhambra - it looked pretty impressive through the rain. We then had a coffee in a splendid Victorian café in the town centre and visited the Capella Real (the Royal Church where the Legendary Queen Isabella and King Fernando are buried. They were buried in simple but elegant iron coffins in the church but their yuppie grandson Carlos insisted on slapping a really ugly mausoleum on top of them. He was also responsible for some of the ugliest buildings in Spain and adding grotesque 16th century buildings to the beautifully simple Moorish Palaces at Sevilla and Granada. The Del Trotter of the 16th century - not a man to be sidetracked by good taste.
We had a splendid, night out in Granada. After mimsying around the shops we found  a restaurant where we ordered a few cheap tapas items. When they turned up they were huge (apparently Granada has a reputation for over-generous tapas) so we spent a fortune on good Rioja to wash it down with.
Granada is one of the noisiest cities in Spain, a fact we were about to become aware of as we hit the sack. It was like sleeping through the invasion of Poland! All night we were momentarily woken by shouting then, at around 3.00 the night clubs turned out and kept pouring people onto the streets for an hour or so; then the street cleaning equipment started up; then the street bins were emptied and then the bloody rush hour started up. Still, we were reasonably anaesthetised by the Rioja so all was not lost.
On Friday morning we said goodbye to our landlady and legged it for breakfast at the café where we had tea the previous afternoon. Thus fortified we headed for the Alhambra. The rain and cold were still with us but we plodded dutifully up the hill overlooking the city and soggily entered the grounds in the wrong place. We then had another bloody mile to walk to get our tickets.
Anarchy was invented by the Spanish and is still alive and kicking in the ticket office at the Alhambra. It is a large covered building, but no more than 4 people at a time were allowed in. The rest (at least 200 of us) queued in the rain. When your turn came you wandered squelching across the bleak, dry acres of the ticket hall to a window where you have to show your passport to collect your pre paid tickets (by the way Franco is still alive and well and working as a ticket clerk in the Alhambra). All the security guards were armed with night sticks and guns.
The grounds of the Alhambra are OK but were spoiled for us by the weather. Similarly the rest of the buildings seemed a bit 2nd rate after Sevilla. However, when we entered the Nazaries (the Moorish Palace) we knew why this is one of the top attractions in Europe.
It was a delight! From the minute we walked through the door our mouths fell open. Even Gina was speechless (a slight exaggeration)! The fretwork on the walls, arches & columns wasstunning; as were the mosaics. The colours are so subtle & the work so fine.
Many of the ceilings in the King & Queen's chambers were honeycombed & had the effect of stalactites hanging down. Unfortunately the fountain of lions, which is the centrepiece of the palace, is being restored so it was surrounded by scaffolding. It didn't detract from the ambience of the courtyard though.
On the way back to the station,n with time to spare, we stumbled across the Convento de San Jeronimo. What a surprise!! The chapel was huge with a cupola ceiling & every surface was covered with frescoes. The altar was divided into 4 storeys & decorated in gold. There were statues on each level of the saints , disciples, Mary & Christ. I have never seen any thing quite like it! The cloisters had memorial stones to 500 monks laid in the floor.
By the time we reached the station we were dished The train was on time & pretty full. It seemed a very long 2hrs going back . The muzak on the train made it seem like a bloody eternity  - if I hear 'Galway Bay' once more .......... It was a selection of the worst English language lift music of all time. The European court of human rights will certainly be getting a pretty stiff letter tomorrow.
As we were both footsore, mentally unstable  & ready for our bed we weakened on arrival in Almeria & got a taxi back to the Marina. Tiercel has never looked so inviting!
On Monday we leave Aguadulce to head for Garrucha , Cartagena and all points North to arrive at Campello where we hope to stop over for a few weeks.
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