Chapter Six: Granada Rooftop Oasis & I Am The Eggplant

P1010735Chapter Six: Granada Rooftop Oasis & I Am The Eggplant

Day Six (cont) – Well That Was Fast, Could You Tuck in That Side Mirror, Right Down Our Alley, Oh My What A View, An Illuminating Experience, Easy Alhambra Ticket Office, Stupid Americans (and they weren’t us), Onto The Bicycle, I Am The Eggplant, Ah Capilla (Part Uno), Weren’t You In Jaws, My (Almost) Last Tapas and Lighting Up The Alhambra

Ninety minutes after take-off from Barcelona, our Vueling luxury jetliner touched down in hot Granada.   It was at the Granada airport where we had the fastest transition from landing to luggage to transportation in passenger history.

Because I had wisely (yes, it happens) booked the first row of the aircraft, the four of us were also the first ones off.   Before I could say, “I wonder how long it takes to get our luggage?” our bags were the first ones off the plane.  Next stop… Apartamentos Turísticos Alhambra.

5AI had contacted Ana via email at our Granada residence before we left and sent her our flight information. We stepped outside and there was the taxi driver (€35) she had booked, patiently waiting for us.  If this had been LAX, we wouldn’t even be off the plane yet.

Within a half hour we were in Granada driving toward our lodging in the historic Albayzin Quarters (UNESCO World Heritage site…of course).  Then the fun truly began.

Our Prius headed down a narrow road, which up ahead became even narrower.  So skinny in fact, there already was a car having big problems navigating a small opening.  Looking at his predicament, I assumed that auto paint shops must be a lucrative business in Granada.

1Behind that car were some pedestrians loitering in front of our taxi.  Our driver just shook his head in mild annoyance.

Finally, the other car started moving (slowly), the woman pedestrian hopped on a nearby motorcycle and started following the car. Before we moved any further, our driver asked Kim, “Could you fold in that side mirror?”  Our driver did the same on his side. We knew we were in for an interesting ride.

2I didn’t see how our cab was going to fit in this narrow passageway, but it did…barely.  In front of us, the car and the woman on the motorbike (as you can see we were right on her ass…literally)…

3…were taking their sweet time, much to our taxi driver’s irritation, however we finally started moving at a rapid pace (the Prius inches from some serious body damage) and within a few minutes we were at our destination, somehow without scraping the side of the taxi.

P1020030It was 22 steps up (slightly) to Apartamentos Turísticos Alhambra. Since we arrived before 5 p.m. and the reception desk would not yet be open, Ana had provided me with a “secret code” to enter the building. The keys to our two Side-View Apartments were waiting at the front desk.

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The reception room of the Apartamentos Turísticos Alhambra is unique, as is the building. This area near the front desk is described as “a cave reading room.”  The studio-type apartments are (according to the website) built around an ancient tower.  “The cave-reading room surrounded by the music of the water of the fountain and by the 1st defensive wall of the city, dates from the 11th-12th century.”

6                                               6A

Up we walked to our respective apartments.  Both apartments had a small living room/kitchen, a bedroom and a nice bathroom (good shower). There was a view of the Alhambra from these side rooms, but we were just about to discover the view to end all views.

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We continued up a couple of more flight of stairs to explore the terrace (aka rooftop) of Apartamentos Turísticos Alhambra.  I knew I had booked a place with a view, but Ana did not have their new website up by the time we left (it’s up now), so I didn’t know quite what to expect.  Wow!!

7Straight across from our rooftop stood the mighty Alhambra. The panorama was extraordinary. This would be the perfect spot for an early evening happy hour, and I would only have to wait one more day to enjoy this rooftop oasis for my rendezvous with vino.

IMG_2228Suddenly the iced tea I had been guzzling for the past week did not seem as appealing.

P1000314There was also a covered area for those who aren’t sun-worshipers.

P1000316We met two couples from the U.S. Navy who were stationed in Rota. They told us that Granada was their favorite town in Spain. Since they were In The Navy, I wanted to tell them we were Village People also, but I didn’t want to act like a Macho Man.

P1000315Ana would not be here during our stay (it was her birthday weekend), so instead we met Anas at the front desk. The only difference between the two…he’s a guy and has an extra vowel at the end of his name.  Anas gave us the lay of the land and an easy place to pick up our Alhambra tickets for the following day (we had pre-booked both a daytime and nighttime tour online…which you must do to ensure getting in).

P1010687We hiked down a narrow walkway to the Rio Darro, made a right at a church that never seemed to be open and started to walk toward Plaza Nueva on Carrera del Darro, the street that parallels the river.

P1010689Along the way, my view of architecture was changed forever.  The colorful light fixtures illuminating the front of the store mesmerized me.

8I told Tracy I wanted to sell our house immediately upon returning and buy a Spanish house and install these Moorish light fixtures.  Once again, she told me that she gets all the pets in a divorce settlement.

F&Remi copyMeanwhile Tracy and Mary took a look at some scarves and other trinkets.  Even I enjoyed browsing through this store.

9We would return.

10The walk along the river into town is a short one, but as we would find out, you sometimes have to carefully dodge tour buses and crazy motorcyclists.P1010691We passed by Iglesia de San Gil y Santa Ana (a former mosque with Mudejar architecture) and the Plaza Nueva (we were advised not to eat at the restaurants surrounding the fountain…”not very good”).

P1010743Our mission, should we decide to accept was to find Tienda Librería de la Alhambra, Calle Reyes Católicos, 40.  We hoped our Alhambra confirmation documents would not self destruct in five seconds.

Anas had told us the official bookstore of the Alhambra was the best place to pick up our actual tickets for the following days’ excursions.   We went inside, and, after producing the confirmation for the online purchase (and also the exact credit card that I used), he printed out our day and night tickets (it took five minutes).

tumblr_nju803HWbc1r9a32bo1_1280As Jon Stewart might say (well, sadly not anymore), “Then came our moment of Zen.”   An American couple came in (who obviously had not read how to purchase Alhambra tickets), and the guy loudly said, “I’d like to get tickets to the Alhambra for tonight.”   Of course, they were sold out.  “Well, how about tomorrow morning?”   Um, that would be a negative.   Same for tomorrow night, he was told.  Our uninformed tourist would be leaving the following morning, and I could see he was none too pleased.  I hoped this couple hadn’t come all the way to Granada just to see the Alhambra, because it seemed they were SOL.

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Before crossing the street to explore “new” Granada, we gazed up to see a huge statue (at Plaza Isabel la Catolica) of Columbus asking (and being granted) permission to take a vacation in the Bahamas.  He did not have on a pair of shorts.

11AAwnings, which we assumed are very popular in the summer when temperatures rise to more than 100 degrees, cover the main drag in hopes of keeping melanoma to a minimum.

P1010694As Kim (aka “Mappman”… dubbed that because he was in charge of both maps and apps) led the way, we entered the Plaza de Bib-Rambla complete with a fountain featuring Neptune on top (the Gigantones Fountain was built in the 17th century).

P1010695With lots of restaurants, food was a short walk away…to a bicycle.  We needed a snack, and this establishment provided one of the more memorable dishes of our entire trip.

P1010699La Bicicleta, Plaza Pescaderia 4, is where we decided to plop ourselves down before touring the nearby cathedral.

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Our jovial waiter, who was as funny as he was informative, offered us some interesting choices.

13While I poured my last iced tea of the trip (deftly, I might add), we ordered. The four of us enjoyed a Manchego cheese dish, but the star of the show was the Aubergine.  Sticks of lightly fried eggplant were stacked like Lincoln Logs and drizzled with brown cane sugar syrup that poured like honey.

P1010697“It tastes like French toast. I am the eggplant…goo goo g’joob,” I said, devouring as many of them as I could. I really have to learn to share better (and come up with better song lyrics).

15Unfortunately, our extended Aubergine stop meant we arrived at the Catedral de Granada a few minutes late (it closed at 6:30).  Situated next door was another church, which I assumed (incorrectly) was the Capella Real. “Ah Capella,” I told our group confidently (and without instruments).

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After a few minutes inside, Kim stated, “Ah, you’re wrong.”   Ferdinand and Isabella were nowhere to be seen.  Instead, we were actually inside Iglesia Del Sagrario (Church Of The Tabernacle), which occupies the spot where the major Mosque Of Granada used to be located.  That “church/mosque” thing happened a lot in Spain.

17We noticed its magnificent and expansive Central Dome.

P1010711There’s a Statue of The Virgin On A Cloud.

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The church was completed in 1704…

P1010712 The organ was pretty cool, and once again Iron Butterfly popped into my head.

P1010718After seeing a crucifixion statue…

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…and some other pieces…

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…we moved on to get a better feel of the city.

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In the square adjacent to the church, there was a little flamenco routine going on that had a small crowd captivated. Mary asked me when we might see some flamenco. I told her there was a place I believed we could go on Sunday night that looked pretty good.

17BGranada certainly had the spice (and spices) of life.

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We quickly ducked inside another church, Colegiata de los Santos Justo y Pastor…

20…and then walked around town, passing a church we all wanted to see on another day, Basílica de San Juan de Dios.

P1010721 (1)There was also a group of musicians rocking the street nearby.

17CWe continued the walk a little longer, but the eggplant was wearing off, so it was time to eat.

P1010722Anas had recommended a restaurant known for its typical Granada cuisine, Bodegas Castañeda, Calle de Almirecos 1.

P1010730When we arrived a little past 8, the inside was packed, but we secured the last table outside.

21Our waiter, who looked like he could be the twin of Richard Dreyfuss, came over and chatted with us.

P1010725                                    Granada

He insisted on ordering for us, so we could enjoy the best experience. Although he was funny, his choices did not overwhelm us.

P1010726Dishes included fried potatoes, eggs and sausage, pork with asparagus, tapas with fish and tapas with ham.

P1010727The food was sadly unexciting, and I swore I was done with tapas this time around.

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After dinner, it was about a 15-minute walk back to the apartment.

P1010733While Tracy and I scoped out the Alhambra view from our rooftop, Mary thought she had spied a quick way up to Plaza de San Nicolás and see the view from that vantage point, so she and Kim started upward.

P1010734The view from our establishment was great as the lights shone on the Alhambra.

P1010736A short while later, Kim and Mary returned, and although they never came close to finding Plaza de San Nicolás, they said they had stopped into a restaurant that had all the makings of a great place to eat. It also came complete with a stupendous Alhambra view.  Since we were going to the Alhambra twice on Saturday, that particular dinner would have to be scheduled for Sunday.  Our first flamenco experience (besides the one in the street earlier in the day) was suddenly in jeopardy.

22Tomorrow’s itinerary certainly would test our endurance and, due to unforeseen events, the nighttime visit to the Alhambra…

23…would become a little more complicated than we expected.

Next: Day Seven – No Justice, Alhambra By Day, Taking A Bath, Nice Knockers, Going To A Garden(s) Party, A Tonic (and Gin) For What Ails Me, Pillars Of Success, Are You Sure I Can’t Take Photos, Vino With A View, Music I Can Hear Music, I Love A Parade, I Hate A Parade, A Coronary Waiting To Happen, And Justice For All, In The Nick Of Time, Alhambra By Night, I Really Hate A Parade, Are We In Sevilla Yet and Getting In The Swing Of Things

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