Monday, May 9, 2016

Day Trip {The Alhambra}

The Alhambra, a Moorish palace, is located in Granada, Spain.  My parents are here visiting and we decided this was a great trip for us to take together since none of us had seen the Alhambra.  The Alhambra reminds me a little of Versailles -- large grounds with many different sights to see once you are inside.
First, a little background -- the Alhambra was the last Moorish stronghold in Europe.  While the Christian Reconquista was taking most of the cities in Southern Spain, the Moors in Spain held out in Granada (at the Alhambra) until 1492.  The Alhambra is part palace, part fort, part World Heritage sight and part lesson in medieval architecture.  It's first palace was built in the 11th century, but most of the work in the area was done in the 13th and 14th centuries when the Nazarids (Spanish Moors) built the Alhambra into the fortress-palace-village that you see today.  {However, what you see today has been heavily restored due to a lot of it being destroyed over the years by Charles V and Napoleon.}

Now that you've had your brief history lesson, a little about getting to the Alhambra.  Typically, most people spend the entire weekend in Granada because there is lots to do and see, besides just the Alhambra.  But you need to plan your trip to the Alhambra pretty far in advance (upwards of 8,000 people a day visit the Alhambra).  Our original plan was a weekend in Granada with my parents, however when we went to look at tickets for the Alhambra one month a head of time, they were all sold out for the next three months -- eek!  So we had scratched the idea of Granada and had planned other day trips instead.  But Trevor and his coworker looked again last Friday and saw that they had tickets available for the next day, so we went for it!  So instead of our long weekend in Granada, we took a day trip to see just the Alhambra.  It was a lot of driving (roughly 3.5 hours one way to Granada from our house), but it worked for us.  You'd want to plan a whole day for the Alhambra even if you were in Granada for the weekend.  We moved through everything pretty quickly (and also didn't see it all) and were there for 4+ hours....

[Side note about Alhambra tickets: there are four main sights within the Alhambra that you can visit (Palacios Nazaríes, Charles V's Palace, Generalife Gardens and Alcazaba).  The best ticket to get is the Alhambra General ticket which allows you access to all of these places and it is the only ticket that gets you into Palacios Nazaríes during the day which is a MUST see if you are at the Alhambra.  The general ticket allows for a 30 minute time slot for you to enter the Palacios Nazaríes -- you can only enter during this 30 minute time slot, but you can stay as long as you like!  Make sure you buy a morning time slot (meaning before 2pm) because then you can get into the Alhambra when it opens, go to the Palacios Nazaríes during your time slot, and then keep exploring the Alhambra.  If you have an afternoon time slot for the Palacios Nazaríes, you can't get into the Alhambra until 2pm.  I know that is confusing so just remember -- Alhambra General ticket with a morning time slot for Palacios Nazaríes!]

Anyways -- before I get to the massive amount of pictures we took throughout the Alhambra, another note... The Alhambra is NOT, I repeat NOT active toddler friendly.  The grounds are large and filled with trees, plants, and water features that were a toddler's (or at least our toddler's) dream come true -- so many things to touch, play with and water to want to jump in...  However, everywhere we looked there were signs telling us "do not touch" -- made for a not so happy toddler a few times!  So the stroller was great to allow our babe to munch on some healthy snacks and still see what was going on, us to move through the grounds/gardens at a much faster pace... Everyone was happy.  Except the stroller is not allowed into any of the sights within the Alhambra.  This is frustrating, but it makes sense -- so many stairs and so many people that a stroller just would not work.  Which means you need to wear your babe (you also have to wear your babe (or a backpack even) on your front when you go into the Palacios Nazaríes).  But if your babe is anything like our babe, she can only handle being worn for a little bit at a time.  She wanted to run around and play in this fun new place.  It was frustrating for all of us.  We got very lucky that our time slot for the Palacios Nazaríes was at her nap time, so she slept in the carrier the entire time we were in the palace which was perfect for everyone.
However, with all that said -- I still highly {HIGHLY} recommend the Alhambra.  You can check your stroller in a very secure area AND they even let you rent a baby carrier if you need one (seriously, how cool is that?!).  So if you happen to be in Granada with a toddler, then please still go to the Alhambra, just be prepared.  We will happily go back but probably wait until Serafina is a little older!

With all my tips out of the way, let's get to the good part.  The pictures of this gorgeous and insanely unreal historical sight.  I am a huge history nerd and could spend hours learning about all of this, so seeing everything in real life is my happy place.  It just boggles my mind the amount of intricate details carved into the marble and ceilings and how everything was laid out with purpose and meaning.  And how the Moors knew enough to use lead in the pillars holding up parts of the palace to allow for flex in the case of an earthquake.  And standing in rooms where Christopher Columbus asked Ferdinand and Isabel for money to make the passage to the Orient...  In my mind, it just doesn't get any cooler that seeing history come alive.

First we walked through some of the gardens to get to the more main sights of the Alhambra:

Next up the Alcazaba which was the fort of the Alhambra.  While it was very cool to walk around, we made the mistake of letting Serafina walk through as well and there were a lot of steep stairs, drop offs and just not safe places for her to get into.  The Alcazaba is a quick stop (in my opinion) but still go to see the amazing views of Granada and the Alhambra (since the tower is the highest point of the Alhambra and it allows you to overlook the grounds and Granada).

We wandered around to a few more sights (not really picture worthy but still cool to visit if you have time -- like the Charles V Palace and the church on the grounds).  It was then our turn in the Palacios Nazaríes which was so incredibly worth every minute of the long long day!  The Palacios Nazaríes is the Moorish royal palace and it is breathtaking.  It truly shows that while the majority of Europe was living in the Dark Ages, the Moors were living large!  The Moors considered water to be the purest symbol of life, so everything throughout the Alhambra was decorated with water in some form and the Palacios Nazaríes was no exception.
yes, those are extremely intricate carvings in the marble

this room is a perfect cube from top to bottom (and it was also in this room where Columbus made his final plea to Ferdinand and Isabel to attempt to find a sea voyage to the Orient)
seriously, this ceiling was insane

my adorable parents
Finally, we went to the Generalife Gardens which was at one time the sultan's fruit and vegetable garden.  This place was gorgeous and the gardens were just plain amazing -- we were very fortunate to visit in the spring when just about everything was in bloom!

While it was a long day (we left our house at 5:45am), seeing the Alhambra was so worth it -- I think everyone should put this place on their bucket list!

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