Sun 05/25/08 (day 26)
Ronda to Granada
Day twenty-six: We drove from Ronda to Granada over winding and narrow roads part of the way. Once again we were impressed by the amount of land devoted to raising olives. I encourage you all to keep cooking in olive oil and eating olives, Spain is counting on you. We are not staying in the Granada Parador, it is always booked a year in advance, so we are in the Alhambra Place Hotel, which was built in 1929 and has a view to challenge any that we have had thus far. The common areas are very Moorish consisting of large spaces, colorful tiles and Asian rugs, see the pictures. We walked down the hill for a great Spanish lunch then hiked back up the hill. Tomorrow we will have a guided tour through the Alhambra , and will attend a Gypsy demonstration of the Flamingo. Ron is experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, but is keeping his spirits high. Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonized southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
Wed 05/28/08 (day 29)
Day twenty-six: We drove from Ronda to Granada over winding and narrow roads for an hour before we reached a major highway. Once again we were amazed by the amount of land devoted to raising olives. I encourage you all to keep cooking with olive oil and eating olives, Spain is counting on you. We are not staying in the Granada Parador, it is always booked a year in advance, it only has 40 rooms and 20 are being renovated, so we are in the Alhambra Place Hotel, which was built in 1910 and has a view of both the old and new city . The common areas are very Moorish consisting of large spaces, colorful tiles and Asian rugs, see the pictures. We walked down the hill for a great Spanish lunch then hiked back up the hill. This evening we went and found the Parador and are glad we are at the Place. Tomorrow we will have a guided tour through the Alhambra , tour the city, and in the evening will attend a Gypsy demonstration of the Flamingo. Ron is experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, but is keeping his spirits high and his butt low. Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonized southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
Day twenty-seven: Our morning started as usual with a full breakfast at our hotel, convenient but pricy at 15 Euro per person. We departed our hotel for a guided tour of the Alhambra; the architectural jewel of Granada is not all of Spain. The compound situated on one of the two hills of Granada consists of a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th. Century. The cornerstone of the Alhambra is the summer palace called Generalife, what impressed me the most was the detailed plaster carvings that covered the walls and ceilings of almost every room. Each series of rooms had its own patio and fountain. The Moors used water, which came from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through a series of aqueducts to feed theses fountains. Many of which operated still today using the natural force of the flowing water to create spouts and sprays in their patios. Surrounding the summer palace was the remains of the city that grew around it over the years, including the Monastery of La Cartuja, now the Parador, many churches, and the fortresses for protection and the city wall. The second dominate building is the massive Place of Charles V, an example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, which was started in the early 1400’s but was never completed or lived in by anyone. Today its center courtyard is used for concerts and receptions. Overall the Alhambra was quite impressive for its size, its detailed craftsmanship, and the quality of its preservation; what was missing was the furnishings and decorations that must have been there 1000 years ago.
This evening we were picked up by what we thought was a small bus to go to the other side of Granada for a Gypsy dancing and cultural program. We soon found that our small bus was quite large for maneuvering through the narrow streets of Granada. We maneuvered down one of Granadas two hills and up the other and came to rest in front of a Gypsy Cave dwelling. We were escorted into the cave, no more then twelve feet in with and what appeared to be sixty feet deep. This contained a kitchen, living space, bed room and bath; the living space would serve as the stage and seating area for our evenings entertainment. Within minutes the chairs in the back and down the sides were full and the family of entertainers gathered at the far end of the room from which the staged their production. Mom organized the affair while dad attended to the tickets and refreshments, son #1 handled the announcements, son #2 played the guitar, and son-in-law did the singing while the daughters, daughter-in-laws, and granddaughter did the dancing. The pictures can tell the story better then I can. We ended the evening about midnight all feeling that it was a fitting end to our adventure through Spain.
Day twenty-nine: Today we made a short drive to Malaga. Malaga sits on the Mediterranean Sea; our Paradora overlooks the city providing a panoramic view, but that’s where this Paradora and city’s charms end. Maybe it’s because we’re burnt-out and ready to come home or maybe the past 28 days has set a standard that Malaga is not capable of meeting. We’ll be up at 4:00 am tomorrow morning to get to the airport, drop off the car, and catch a 7:30 am flight to Madrid and arrive in Birmingham 19 hours later at 9:30 pm.
Day thirty: We were up at 4:00am and on the road at 5:00am on our way to the airport. After a short drive down a one way street the wrong way and a shorter trip down a sidewalk to get off the one way street we were on the main thoroughfare which we were told would take us directly to the airport. Ron commented that the cab in front of us “must be going to the airport, there’s a guy in the back seat where else would they be going at this time in the morning?” Three miles later we were greeted by a red flashing sign directing us off the highway, “Road Construction.” …. “Follow the cab.”….. “There are no signs for the airport.”….. “Follow the cab.” The cab wound through side streets, roundabouts, back onto a main road and still no signs for the airport. “Maybe he’s taking that guy home after a hot night.”…. “We’ve got no other options now, follow the cab.” The cab led us on to another interstate, still no signs for the airport. “We need to turn around and get directions; we’re heading out of town.”….. “Let’s follow the cab a bit further, we have time, and there’s no one out to ask directions.”….. Two miles further on the interstate, exit signs but no airport signs, four worried travelers. “There’s a sign for the airport, below the sign for Madrid, follow the cab.” We made it to the Malaga airport in plenty of time, but I don’t know what would have happened if that cab and that guy had not been going to the airport at 5:15am in Malaga Spain on May 28, 2008.
Trip Summary: Spain is a diverse, beautiful, friendly an old country. In our 18 days I can not recall a rude person, oh there were some who were a bit intolerant of our inability to speak their language while we were expecting them to speak our, but that’s the American way. I found Spain a romantic country and I think that was because we chose not to stay in large modern cities after we left Barcelona; instead we stayed in villages and hamlets, most often adjacent to cobblestone streets, thousand year old buildings and beautiful vistas. Spain, for me will be about olives, wine, old towns, whitewashed villages on hillsides, beautiful mountains, fishing villages, art and history. I wish I knew more Spanish. I’ll learn more about the Moors, the Jews, Gypsy’s and the Christians of Spain, I’ll drink more Spanish wine, eat more Spanish olives and I’ll cherish the memories that Nita and have gathered with Ron and Avie over this past month.
Each time I travel overseas I ask myself, “are we doing it right, are we living life the way it was meant to be lived, is there a better way, a slower less hectic way?” Is too late for me to change my lot, but if I had it to do over I would like live in a city like Hondarriba pursue painting, writing, and a different pace. I’d fish more I spend more time with nature and I’d pay more attention to a smaller world.
I’m sitting on the Madrid airport floor listening to James Blunt on my I-Pod plugged into an outlet recharging my computer and I-Pod before I get on our six hour flight. From down here I see people of all colors, varied dress, I hear many languages, some are in a rush some meandering. We are all just trying to get some where today, no one is trying to take my stuff or tell me what to believe or how to live, and as they walk by they look down at the 63 year old kid, grin and move on. Why can’t the rest of the world learn from those of us in the Madrid airport today? We’ll all get to where we want to go.