The Alhambra, Frozen Pizza, and Bathing the Arab Way

Traveling tends to blur the days together. Hard to believe a week has already passed since my family and I left the U.S. for Spain. Already Malaga is a distant memory and Granada is a fresh memory fading slowly.

The last couple of days in Granada were very full. The Alhambra was an amazing fortress which took 6 hours to get through, but no one ever seems to mention that when you ask. The start was a bit rocky as Christopher couldn’t find his ticket and couldn’t come in with us. Then, Kelly had trouble getting in as the scanner said her ticket wasn’t valid. Later, another entry point scanner claimed my ticket wasn’t valid and that I had already entered 5 minutes beforehand. We had duplicate numbers issued which only became more convoluted after Christopher managed to get reprints of his ticket. But, at least he got in. I wasn’t able to see the palace, but they saw it at night and vouched for its beauty. And what I did manage to see was impressive even without the palace. The artisans of this place were meticulous in the details, designs, and extraordinary workmanship in general.

But, it was much larger than I had anticipated so when I found out that the white structure on a neighboring hill wasn’t a monastery that other tourists were paying to visit, but was the other palace included in the tour we were on, I was already too exhausted and sore to really comprehend how much further I still had to walk. The look on my face as Kelly said’ “Ummm…I think that’s where we’re heading and is part of the tour.” probably was an all inclusive look of terror.

Jordan kept saying she and I were one “team” and her parents were the other “team.” Probably had something to do with how slow we were in comparison to them. The tortoise and the hare story comes to mind, for some reason.

We took a less traveled hill to get back to level ground in Granada-proper, which was an excursion in itself. It was steep, dry, with gravel and dust. There were a couple of times I had to sit on an old stone wall to take photos of flowers while I waited for strength to return. I’m a bit ticked off that the pedometer i bought from Groupon only seems to work if I’m doing jump ups, so, in effect, is worthless. I was looking forward to great rewards to myself for walking over 10,000 steps a day. (I rewarded myself anyway.) We stopped at a little cafe over a medieval bridge at the bottom, and talk about ticked off. Christopher was none too pleased that the pizza we ordered had to have been a frozen one from a supermarket with a couple of fresh sliced olives tossed on for show. No wonder they couldn’t deviate from the toppings listed! Jordan liked it just fine (although when prompted agreed her dad’s homemade pizza was much better, which is true.). The beer was great, nonetheless, after such a long 6 hours of walking. Pilgrimage, anyone?

Getting back to our terraces, and most importantly my bed for a little lie down, was a relief. And, although I would have paid top dollar for a day of rest, Kelly was good at talking me into going to the Arab bathhouse (Hammam Banos Arabes) for the next day and made reservations for 2 p.m. Sunday. Wow, such a beautiful place! It was lit with lanterns in niches, cavern-like walls, mosaic pools of hot, warm, and freezing cold water as well as a sauna and a sitting area to refresh oneself with warm sweet tea and interestingly tasting candies. Soft Arabic music floated throughout the facility and we thought the place was all ours, except for one young man, for about 15 minutes. Then the throngs of women, young, old, and in between, all chattering in Spanish and excited to be there. Our perspective was that these were local women fulfilling the tradition of Sunday baths and gossip. The baths were still absolutely worth the experience even with the clucking of all the hens.

Leaving the calle of the bathhouse relaxed, calm, happy, I tripped on one of those blasted little stone steps that jut up everywhere when least expected. Only this time, my flip flop slid on the one stone ramp and down I went right on my bum and the Arab baths were but a fleeting memory.

As we were on the way to the train station the next day in a taxi, having clopped down the cobblestone calles and stairs from the Albayzin with our wheelie luggage (except my son who is able to pack it all in a backpack), there in the same spot not far from where we saw him before, was the “baby-man” whom we are now thinking has a unique style to his panhandling method. As you can see from the photo, his grotesque clown-like features just burn an indelible imprint on the brain. Much better to think of the views of the Alhambra. Oh, and never accept sprigs of rosemary from the women milling about the churches in Spain. They will want compensation. Luckily I learned that from Rick Steves and not from experience. The other thing Rick was right about was that people not only let their dogs run loose, they don’t pick up after them, if you get my drift. Walk carefully to sidestep that and watch those little cobblestone steps. Other than those things and a certain man who dresses like a baby, it’s a beautiful town.

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