Hambre and The Alhambra

This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.

Lynn and I were going to take it easy this evening in anticipation of a long day at the Alhambra.

“Where should we eat dinner?” Lynn asked.  “I’d be happy having the tapas platter out on the patio again.”

I hesitated.  Why?  Some part of me felt it would be tacky to eat an appetizer for dinner two nights in a row.  Wouldn’t it be more “proper” to eat in the hotel restaurant?  Lynn read my look and we settled on eating in the restaurant.

I immediately regretted it.  Everyone was dressed up—the young, extremely blonde couple near us speaking some Slavic language were in formal wear—jewels, furs, the whole bit.  The menu was pricey; and as usual in fancy restaurants, the one reasonably-priced dish was a vegetarian pasta alfredo, which I could make at home for $2.00.

“It’s not too late to go out to the terrace and order the tapas,” Lynn suggested.  Again, some false sense of propriety kept me from going along with that sensible idea.  I ordered the vegetarian pasta and Lynn got a veal cutlet which came with potatoes and a heavy cream sauce.

We also ordered a bottle of cava using the time-honored strategy of picking the second cheapest wine on the menu. Within 10 minutes of tucking into our food we were groaning.

“I feel like a foie gras goose!  Why didn’t I take you up on your offer of going out to the terrace?”  Lynn smirked but didn’t comment.

Because I grew up and spent my young adulthood in poverty or near poverty, I have always been conflicted about spending money.  Sometimes I overcompensate and blow money unnecessarily just to show myself that I can, then I feel guilty or am disappointed in what I bought.  This trait has lessened since my ascension to the middle class at around age 40, but it still flares up from time to time, often while traveling.

“Oh my god!” Lynn shouted, uncharacteristically (She is English, remember.). We were in the room digesting our food.  “I’m reading reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor, and here’s one where they only gave it two stars because “the blow dryers are old.  A bloody blow dryer!  What is wrong with people?!”

Finally, on to the Alhambra, which had been the genesis of this whole trip.  Lynn wanted to see it.  I had never heard of it.  I said yes, then added on Italy and Malta. Lynn did the Spain planning and added on Madrid and Toledo.

So here we were, at the gates.

Straight off of Wikipedia: The Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the si became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes. In 1526 Charles V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor.


Much of the site has been rebuilt. It’s a massive complex of buildings and gardens. We spent about five hours there.

arabic-in-stone doorway

I thought it would be similar to the harem at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul—all about tile—but there wasn’t as much tile. To me it seemed more focused on harmonizing the built world with nature, with lots of beautiful vistas, fountains, and gardens.

There was some tile:

tiles-2 tiles

Topiary was big.


This was aptly called The Romantic Observation Point.

vista-2 vista

I admired and was intrigued by the wooden ceilings, inlaid with gilded wood.

wood-ceiling wood-ceiling-2 wood-and-gilt-ceiling starry-ceiling

We walked through the Charles V Museum, one of many buildings inside the complex.  I asked a guard to point me to the Jose Rodriguez Acosta collection.

“The collection, she is closed for renovation,” he answered.

Of course it was.

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