Our first day trip in Andalusia was to the city of Granada since it was relatively close to Málaga and had the most visited Spanish monument – The Alhambra. We took a bus to Granada from the Malaga bus station which was situated right behind the Málaga María Zambrano station. Our bus dropped us at the Granada bus station two hours later. As the Granada bus station was located slightly outside the city, we had to take another bus to reach the city centre. This proved to be a slightly difficult task but eventually we did manage to find the right bus.
MONASTERIO DE SAN JERÓNIMO
The Monastery of St. Jerome was the first attraction that we visited in Granada. The interior of this 16th century church was exceptionally beautiful and definitely exceeded our expectations. The entire church was decorated with detailed sculptures, carvings, frescoes, wall paintings and stained glass windows and in terms of magnificence it certainly came quite close to the Italian churches that we had fawned over in our earlier blogs. The highlight of the church was its gilded altarpiece which was quite stunning and consisted of scores of minutely carved colourful sculptures.
We explored the church at our own pace as there were just a couple of other tourists around apart from us. After that we proceeded to the church’s cloister. It was a quiet and peaceful area enclosing a garden which consisted of orange and lemon trees.
These orange trees were a feature of the entire Andalusia region and in every city that we visited we saw hundreds of trees fully loaded with oranges lined alongside the pavements.
Just a few metres away from the monastery was Basilica de San Juan de Dios. We had read a lot of excellent reviews about this basilica and really wanted to see it but unfortunately it was closed at the time.
A SPANISH LUNCH
There was a long visit to Alhambra looming ahead of us so we chose to have a quick lunch first. That lunch turned out to be the most interesting that we had on the trip. We sat ourselves in a small restaurant where the owner, a young Spaniard, himself was doing everything from taking orders, preparing food, serving and collecting bills. Now that guy didn’t speak an iota of English while our Spanish vocabulary was limited to ‘Hola’, ‘Adios’ and ‘Gracias’. The dishes and ingredients in the menu were also in Spanish hence we began using Google Translate to understand some of the dishes/ingredients. He was also enjoying this thoroughly and was also trying to explain the dishes to us to the best of his ability. Eventually we ordered some nachos and wraps which surprisingly turned out to be excellent.Later when we tried to ask for bill he didn’t even understand that so we had to do the “tossing the coin” signal to make him understand. We paid, exchanged ‘gracias’ with each other and left.
Our next stop was the Granada Cathedral. This cathedral was built after the end of Islamic rule in Andalusia. In spite of being a huge complex, its size was not immediately apparent since it was surrounded by other buildings rather than being built in an open space. We walked around the entire cathedral which gave us an idea about its size and also enabled us to see the sculpting on the exterior walls.
The cathedral was almost empty when we entered due to which it seemed even more vast and spacious. The centre of the cathedral was characterised by enormous white pillars while the chapels by the side contained intricate and stunning gilded sculptures. The gilded apse with beautiful stained glass work and paintings was the highlight of the cathedral. As the light filtered in from the windows, the entire apse was covered with a golden glow and formed a stunning contrast with the white pillars and ceiling of the rest of the cathedral.
CARRERA DEL DARRO
It is said that Granada, with its narrow lanes and cobblestoned streets, is a wonderful city for seeing on foot. Once we walked along the picturesque Carrera del Darro, we could not disagree with that statement even in the least. After seeing the Granada Cathedral we still had some time to explore the city before we had to begin our visit to Alhambra. We started walking in the general direction of Alhambra though not exactly towards it and reached a small church known as the Church of Santa Ana. As we took the narrow cobbled road to the left of the church (the start of Carrera delDarro), it seemed like we had skipped back a few centuries. There was a narrow river by the name of Darro flowing a few feet below to our right with a couple of small medieval stone arch bridges built on it. As we walked further we could see Alhambra majestically sitting on a hill to our right. One famous attraction on this road is El Bañuelo – the 11th century Arabic Baths but they were closed by the time we reached.
After strolling along the Carrera del Darro for some more time we decided it was time to finally visit the monument for which we had come all the way to Granada.