17 October 2013

La Alhambra was every bit as good as I expected

The reason that we stopped in Granada on our way back home from Morocco was to visit La Alhambra, and that proved to be a good plan.

The weather was kind but the traffic less so as we took the coach on the short ride up to the top of the hill. There we were split into two groups each with our own guide; apparently La Alhambra limits the size of groups and ours at 37 was too large.

La Alhambra was both a palace and a fortress so it commands an imposing site above the city and within the sturdy walls there are some very beautiful buildings. It is those beautiful buildings that I have concentrated on in selecting photographs for this post but that is not to deny the imposing grandeur of the defencive buildings.

My other excuse for concentrating on the palatial buildings is that in the three hours that we spent there we did not have time to visit the main parts of the fortress. There may well be treasures there that I would have included had I seen them.

Like many palaces, La Alhambra had been added to many times since building started in the 11th century (that's a thousand years ago!) through to the last main updates in the 16th century, by which time Spain was a Christian country.

The overall effect is something like Las Vegas with its collection of diverse and extravagant hotels except that here the individual buildings are more modest in scale and more interesting in execution.

The tour took us from one amazing building to another and each was a surprise, especially as they were usually fairly simple on the outside and it was only once I got inside that I could see how fantastic they were.

I like surprises.

A lot of the pictures that I have chosen feature courtyards with water and that is because I love courtyards and water as much as the Moors did.

The rooms off the courtyards were suitably palatial and decorative. The style throughout was Moorish and so very much the same as that we had seen across Morocco. I have shared lots of photographs of walls, doors, ceilings and arches from there so rather than show similar pictures from La Alhambra I have concentrated on the fantastic buildings that make La Alhambra different.

I have included one picture of the decorations just to prove that there are some. Actually there are lots and it is a beautiful place as well as a grand one.

I did not go to La Alhambra for the views but it is on a hill (remember, it was a fort) so its overlooks Granada and as I like looking down on buildings I have included one of the several pictures that I took from the fortress walls.

The map in the top picture gives an idea of the layout of La Alhambra and the two points that I want to make are that the buildings are spread throughout a large site and there is a lot of greenery.

There was a reasonable amount of walking involved as we moved from one grand building to the next and we often had to queue a little while to enter them. La Alhambra manages the flow of people within the site, not just in to it, and we had to show our entrance tickets several times as we moved around. The simple objective was to stop any of the buildings from becoming overcrowded and it worked.

La Alhambra is Spain's most popular tourist attraction and tickets were sold out on the day that we went but, despite operating at capacity, it was still comfortable to get around and we were able to see everything clearly.

More importantly, none of these pictures is polluted by people, with the possible exception of The Court of the Lions (the one with all the columns) where there were always people in the centre of the courtyard admiring the lions.

At least this was Spain in October so people were sensibly dressed; what really annoys me is the people who go to places like Kew Gardens wearing bright red or yellow kagools!

In concentrating on the buildings I have underplayed both the decoration and the gardens. There are some hints to what the gardens looked like from the greenery around some of the water features but the sole purpose of the plants in the gardens was not to decorate buildings, they were also allowed to flourish in their own rights. I have lots of photos of pretty flower gardens but I left them out partially because of space restrictions and partially because they are not unique to La Alhambra.

This is just a summary of my highlights of La Alhambra selected from the 80 photos I posted on Facebook which, in turn, is just a selection of the 200 or so that I took in the three hours that I spent there. And I did not cover all of the site in that time and covered some of it faster than I would have liked.

I hope that I have done enough to show why La Alhambra is so popular and so talked about. It really is very special.

I could have stayed on at La Alhambra after our tour had finished, there was still enough time left on my ticket to go to the fortress, and that was tempting. More tempting though was the thought of exploring Granada so that is what I did.

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