Granada, Málaga, and Gibraltar: A long weekend and a longer blog post (with a lot of pictures!)

I had two extra days off this weekend while Maria, (my boss), was in Bilbao. So I booked a trip to the South of Spain.
It started at 10:00 Wednesday night with a late train ride to Granada. The train arrived at 9:20am, and I had about 22 hours to discover the city. I dropped my bag off at my hostel and hit the road. I walked first to the Cathedral, (every city has one, and they are all fantastic). I misunderstood, what I thought was the Cathedral was the la Iglesia Parroquial de la Catedral, the Parroquial Church of the Cathedral. Didn´t matter – it too was fantastic. My favorite part of any church/cathedral/basilica is the pipe organ. And this church had two of them. Two enormous, elaborate, silver and gold pipe organs. After drooling over a musical instrument for 10 minutes or so, I moved on.
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The next stop, after what I thought was La Catedral, was La Capilla Real, the sight of the tombs of Isabel and Ferdinand. Unfortunately, inside the building we were not allowed to take photos. But how I wish I could have! Each section of La Capilla Real housed a different set of tombs. Separating one section from another were the most ornate wrought iron gates. They were adorned with the symbol on the Spanish flag, and gold trimmings. Inside the section for Isabel, Ferdinand, and two other deceased members of Spanish royalty was a beatiful alter. Everything was so intricate. Walking down the stairs to see the caskets, everything changes. Inside the tomb, everything is very simple. There are no colorful paintings, no Catholic statues adorned with their ceramic robes, and no gold trimmed alters. Just caskets, name plates, and a floral wreath. The constrast between the upper area of the burial sight, and down by where the tomb actually sits, is beautiful. I very much enjoyed it.
Leaving La Capilla Real, I walked around the Cathedral one more time to snap some photos. It was then I discovered an entrance to the Cathedral other than the one I had used. I walked inside and realized this was not the same place. It was then I found out that the other church had not been the Cathedral, but a parochial church for the Cathedral. The real Cathedral was much less ornate – or, ornate in a different way. The majority of the building seemed very empty. The tiled floor was not covered in pews, as cathedrals commonly are. It did however, have majestic columns that stretched to the very high ceiling.
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After the Cathedral I went to Plaza de Bib-Rambla. I had read about a government-owned craft shop on the plaza and wanted to check it out. Unfortunately, I could not find the craft shop. What I did find may have been better. On a corner of the plaza sits an unassuming cafe, packed with locals and tourists alike. Their specialty? Chocolate con churros. I sat down in the cafe, which boasted on its specialized napkins, to be the oldest continually serving cafe in Granada, and ordered the usual. Within 2 minutes, I had a thick cup of chocolate, and a plate of three large churros. Now these aren´t the churros like you buy at a hockey game back home. They are more akin to large sticks of funnel cake, or zepoles without the powdered sugar. The chocolate is also not like the hot chocolate you find at home – infinitely better than the best Swiss Miss, it is thick and not very sweet. I paid my three euro and moved on.
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I walked up through Plaza Isabel la Catolica, and studied the monument in the center. It showed Queen Isabel sending Columbus on his voyage to the Americas. The next step was to walk up through Plaza Nueva to the Albayzin – the old Arab Quarter of Granada. I wandered through the winding streets, catching glimpses of La Alhambra in the distance. I made my way back to the center of town with a half hour to spare before I needed to catch the bus up to La Alhambra. I walked to Plaza de la Universidad to check out a church I had seen from a distance. I reached the plaza, but found crossing the street to see the church very difficult as there was a demonstration going on. From what I understood, it seemed to be a demonstration for free public education, but I am not entirely sure.
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I walked along the protesters to cross the street and with just enough time, saw the church and headed back to the main road for the bus.
The bus up to La Alhambra was a whole other experience. It was not a large bus, but by no means was it small enough to effortlessly navigate the narrow, winding roads of the Albayzin.
But we made it, and the adventure in La Alhambra began.
Describing La Alhambra well would be impossible, and I would do it no justice, even if I tried.  But for the sake of this post, I will do a little describing.  I walked everywhere. I made my way through the main area to the Baños de la Mezquita, with star shapes cut into the ceiling, leaving patterned shadows on the wall. I walked around the Palacio de Carlos V, with its open central plaza, and tall brick walls. And I walked through the Puerta del Vino, a colorful archway that leads to the Alcazaba, another section of La Alhmabra. After that, the map I took from the entrance desk said the next area to see was a set of three palaces. Unfortunately, the ticket I had did not grant access to the palaces. Tickets for the Alhambra sell months in advance, and having booked this trip only two days earlier, I was happy just to have any ticket to go. I moved on to the following section, Partal. This consisted of elaborate gardens and towers. There were all sorts of beautiful plants in the gardens. Rows of roses, birds of paradise, orange trees, and my personal favorite, pomegranate trees. After the Partal, the next and final section was the Generalife, another area of gardens, small palaces, and stone arches.
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I left La Alhambra to get back on the bus and see as much of Granada as possible before the day ended. I walked through the Albayzin again, meandering through the walled streets to find small churches at every turn. I found my way out of the Arab Quarter and into a plaza featuring a stone head of Columbus with a Spanish flag proudly waving in the background. I took a few more photos before it got dark, and that was all the touring for the day. I am highly confident that I saw the vast majority of that city.In the morning, it was off to Málaga by bus. In Málaga I found another very large, very incredible cathedral. Once again, within the city, it was known as La Catedral. I went inside and looked around, admiring the alter, and of course the pipe organ. But La Catedral was not my reason for travelling to Málaga, so after a half hour or so, I moved on. The next sight was the part of the reason I came to Málaga: Picasso. The city was his childhood home. I found the Museo Picasso Málaga, and went inside to have a look around. The museum was divided into 12 galleries. 10 of them enumerated stages and important events in the life of Picasso, and 2 dedicated to a temporary gallery by another artist. I started with the 10. Each gallery had a theme – childhood, number of brush strokes, women, etc. It was an interesting display of Picasso works with which I had not formerly introduced. The final two galleries, on another artist were also very interesting. The artist was Hilma af Klint. I had never heard of her before, but I will definitely do some further research about her, and her work. I continued on to the church where Picasso was baptized, and then to Plaza de la Merced, where I took a very touristy picture with a Picasso statue. (See previous post)

On the far corner of Plaza de la Merced is the other part of the reason I came to Málaga: La Casa Natal de Picasso. That is, Picasso’s childhood home. I toured the house looking through artifacts from the artist’s life and furniture that he had used as a child. It was quite an interesting experience.

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I spent the rest of the day touring more parts of the city. Málaga has a structure similar to La Alhambra, but really there is no comparison. I took sometime to check it out anyway. I was interesting, and had I seen it before La Alhambra I would have been more impressed, but La Alhambra came first in my travels, and bested Málaga’s Alcazaba. The night in Málaga ended with me catching two flamenco dances at a local restaurant.
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In the morning, I went to the bus station to catch a bus to La Linea de Concepcion, the border town on the edge of Spain and Gibraltar. By mistake I had booked two return tickets, instead of a round trip. So I got a ticket, but instead of a direct, 3 hour trip to la Linea, this trip went first 3.5 hours to Algeciras, and then another hour to La Linea. Whatever. I got to La Linea and made my way immediately for the border.  La Linea de la Concepcion is a sad little town, that is actually very creepy.  Especially in the rain.  I had no desire to spend more time there than absolutely necessary.  Across the border, in Gibraltar, I went through customs – again no passport stamp! – and walked toward the Rock.
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To get to the cable car station, you walk down this very strange pedestrian road.  It as if someone took everything touristy (with the exception of the real attractions) about the UK and stuck it on this street.  And people have British accents!  Anyway, I walked down the road to the station and bought my ticket to the top.  The cable car moved very quickly – six minutes to go 412 meters.  Now, Gibraltar is known well for the Barbary Apes that occupy the area.  And rightfully so!  As soon as we reached the top cable car station an ape jumped on top of the car, and another clung to the outside of the window.  Needless to say, I found them terrifying.  They just don’t care.  You aren’t allowed to bring plastic bags up the Rock, as the apes will grab them, even if they are in your purse.  As soon as we got out of the cable car, an ape walked up to a woman with a tissue in her purse and pulled it right out.  I walked around the rock for sometime, until the rain got gross.  I did get to see some interesting things with the apes though.  I saw one nursing from its mother, while the father ate bugs out of her fur.  I saw two fighting.  I saw them leap through trees.  And I saw them jump on top of moving vans and go for a nice ride.

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And this one, from outside the Trafalgar Cemetery, which might be my favorite (I know some of you have seen this already)

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And that was it.  I went back to Málaga for the night, and caught my plane back to Barcelona wary the next morning.

This coming weekend brings no travels to other places, but Friday is All Saints Day – providing me with another long weekend for adventure.  Let’s see where the days take me!

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