Granada & Sevilla in 2016

Monica and I are planning a vacation to Guatemala later this year, but we can’t just let the summer pass without a vacation so we found a great destination in the south of Spain. A new location for us with loads of different architectural buildings and plazas to discover and it’s hot hot hot!

(links to the photo sets per day at the bottom)

On June 21st in the late afternoon I fly from Schiphol to Barcelona to stop over at Monica’s apartment as we will fly to the south of Spain together the next day. During the flight to Barcelona the sun is a bit in the way of taking lots of photos, so I had to get creative in the end.

We wake up at six in the morning on June 22 to travel to the airport and fly to Sevilla. Here we have to wait two hours for a bus to Granada to travel to our final destination. At two in the afternoon -with already lots of travel time behind us- we leave Sevilla. On the way we first encounter a lot of sunflower-fields, but quickly we are surrounded by olive-tree fields. As far as the eye can see and all the way to Granada.

Olive-trees

After a three hour bus-ride (!!!) we finally arrive in Granada, hop on the next bus into Granada, and then switch to an even smaller bus that will take us into the neighborhood where -at long last- we reach our apartment. In a little side street, very close to a plaza (square) with a terrific view to the Alhambra. The location looks good: not too busy and loads of terraces and a lot of tips and points of interest on the message board in the apartment. After a long long journey our vacation has finally begun!

A view of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas

After some rest we go for a little walk in the area of our apartment and find the Mirador de San Nicolas, a well known square, very busy and with a beautiful view to the Alhambra and then found a place to eat nearby. That’s enough for one day, traveling all day long is exhausting work.

It’s June 23, to enter the Alhambra you need to reserve well in time and Monica had reserved tickets some weeks ago for a visit today in the afternoon and so in the morning we have all the time to discover the area around Granada’s cathedral, with cozy small streets selling much touristic merchandise, many more small terraces and a great square to take our coffee. Also I find the local beer which is named after the Alhambra (an Alhambra Especial and the Alhambra Reserva 1925) and apparently in Granada you get tapas with beer. Drink enough and you can skip dinner altogether ;)

In the afternoon we take the bus to the Alhambra. I love to walk, but there is a thing as too much walking and we have plenty of that ahead of us at the Alhambra! We arrive at the Alhambra & El Generalife a little after three in afternoon and we can enter the Palacios Nazaries at six.

Walking from the entrance to the palaces takes about an hour, so we for now we have plenty of time to first visit El Generalife. It contains beautiful parks and gardens, gorgeous architecture and although I lack the photos I have to mention the Water Stairway! Stairways with water running along the railings. It’s superb and refreshing!

We then walk to the Palacios Nazaries with plenty to see along the way, but clearly an hour is more then enough time and we have some time left waiting to be allowed in the palaces. With only very little shadow under a hot sun it turns out that waiting fifteen minutes in a line can be a long long time indeed. Once the doors opened we are let into a truly magnificent piece of Moorish architecture. It is stunningly beautiful there. Gorgeously designed gardens and parks and the building itself is an unbelievable piece of craftsmanship. Of course it is packed with lots and lots and lots of tourists. Every time you finally get away from them to enjoy a more quite room somewhere either the next group is just about to enter or you run into the old group just around the next corner.

However, crowded rooms aside you should absolutely visit the Palacios Nazaries if you have the chance. The architecture and especially the eye for detail in design is superb to behold. And the view from the Alhambra over Granada within the palaces too!

Once we have finally seen all of the Palaces, we then walk over to the Torre del Cubo for a final view over Granada and then walk back towards the entrance. Having nearly reached that, we suddenly hear a huge orchestra playing. As we had seen a big stage set in El Generalife we make a last stop there. It would be a shame to miss out on a big classical concert played in the open if we were that close. It isn’t a live concert though… but there was a rehearsal of a ballet-group so we watch that for a while before leaving the grounds at nine. A long stay in the Alhambra but absolutely so well worth it.

Granada from the Alhambra, can you find the Mirador de San Nicolas?

We treat ourselves to a tour of terraces in the evening to end a great day and to plan a bit for the next day.

As we wake up on June 24 we realize that it actually already the last day in Granada! With the busy day yesterday (we walked a lot in the Alhambra) we decide that today is a good day for the tourist train that will take us along all the interesting point of Granada without too much walking. We can get on and off the train any time during the day. That’s a good place to start!

On the tourist train passing a gate to the Alhambra

The tour also takes us past the Alhambra again and I remember there’s a fantastic mural of Louis Armstrong on the way up, but on the train I’m on the wrong place to get a really good shot. Still there’s some fantastic graffiti to be found in Granada.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong

A bit onwards in the tour we reach the Sacromonte area -the ‘gypsy’ area- and we find a great location for a Flamenco show that does not look too touristy. We book tickets at the Cuevas Los Tarantos for the night show and walk on a bit in the neighborhood and manage to get lost there. A bus gets us back on track and after looking around in the area of the Mirador de San Nicolas, finding a good restaurant for a drink and rest and then hop on the tourist train that takes us back to a stop near our apartment. The train is really good for getting round in Granada, however the added touristic audio information you can buy is absolutely useless. If the noise over the cheap headphones wasn’t interfering too much, the English was hardly understandable.

The tourist train heads leaves us

At the square near our apartment we get a little taste of flamenco with a public show as we sit in the square. In the evening we wait for the tourist train to take us to the Flamenco show. It turns out it’s really busy with cars and taxis as there’s a wedding on nearby. But we have time to spare, so we wait. However as we wait and wait, no tourist train comes and in the end we decide to take a bus. The first one rides on as it’s full. It’s the same with the next bus. A third one is off duty and races past us as well.

As I learned in Duolingo: A ‘reina’ is a queen, so para mi reina :)

By now I’m getting pretty desperate. We don’t have much time anymore and no taxi will take us on as they’re all full. Finally -with 10 minutes to spare- we finally catch a bus, but in the afternoon we calculated that from the place we’re heading it’s still 10 to 15 minutes walking to the Flamenco-place. Imagine our surprise as the bus goes around the corner at the end of our street and we’re already at the street where the Flamenco place is. It was literally a 5 minute walk. We can laugh about it now, but at the time we were really desperate :) We’re well in time, sit front row and the flamenco is fantastic. A full house, a singer, a guitarist and four dancers made a spectacular evening.

We were really impressed. The show is played in two sets with fantastic dancing. The women in dresses look a bit more elegant, but the male dancers give impressive performances too. After the show we celebrate our last evening in Granada in a great wine bar with a good vermouth.

It’s June 25 already and today -I feel it’s at least a day too soon- we have to leave our Granada-apartment. We leave early in the morning so wel will have more time in Sevilla. We take a coffee on our way to the busstop and before we know it we have left Granada. The bus ride back to Sevilla feels a bit better, but that’s mostly because there were no bus-rides and flights before it. In the end it’s still a three hour ride. As the olive-tree fields change to sunflower fields, I know we’re nearly back in Sevilla. We found out where to go when we first arrived in Sevilla a few days ago and finding our apartment now takes little time. Once we are settled in, we go out to discover the neighborhood.

The Santa Cruz neighborhood is absolutely fantastic. Cozy streets, lovely terraces and a great atmosphere. However where the beers come with tapas in Granada, here in Sevilla that is not so much the case. I get my first test of avoiding gypsy’s at the front of the cathedral (which is like most cathedrals impressive in sculptures and architecture).

“La Giralda”, the tower of Sevilla’s cathedral

Having passed my test (I did not buy anything at all and I’ve not been cursed) we find our way to the Plaza de Espana. The name of the square is pretty common in Spain, but this one is pretty spectacular. The fountain is constantly crowded as it’s hot and everyone wants a bit of the spray that the wind blows away from the fountain.

Rowing at Plaza de Espana

The palace is incredible: it’s huge, fantastic architecture with many mosaics. We end our stay there with a bit of rowing. You can rent a small rowing boat there for half an hour or a full hour. I can recommend that whole heartily, it’s a lot of fun! Especially trying to take photos while you’re drifting along into bridges of other rowers or trying to row together :)

Persuaded Monica to join me on a little boat. Had lots of fun!

Later in the afternoon we find La Campana, a popular meeting place in Sevilla. A tad expensive, but really good coffee! When we walk around in the center in the evening, we stumble upon the Gay Pride parade. We watched that for a bit: lots of loud music, overdressed guys and girls and that was a lot of fun to watch!

Ahum, yes… this then :)

We were near the ‘Mushroom-structure’ but could not enter it because of that parade, however we would get round to that later.  Today was a really good day, from the lovely Granada to the gorgeous Sevilla. And I have rowed!!!

On June 26 -a Sunday- there is yet another busy day with a lot of impressions ahead of us! We start the day visiting the Casa de Pilatos. More of that  gorgeous Moorish architecture combined with impressive sculptures and a beautiful flowered wall. The detail in the walls is incredible!

From there we wander around in Santa Cruz some more until we find ourselfs at the terraces next to the cathedral again. Next to the cathedral is another imposing building: the Reales Alcazares, the bigger brother of the Casa de Pilatos.

Reales Alcazares

There is a huge line of people waiting to get in, but it’s totally worth it: the location is simply amazing and I’m very much impressed by all the Moorish art, it looks absolutely stunning. Room after room after room. The gardens here are very much bigger then the ones at Pilatos and then there’s even a bath in the ‘basement’ here. Serene and simple beautiful!

Reales Alcazares ‘bath house’

We have a rest in the gardens and catch a bit of the water-powered air-organ that plays in the garden. It’s impressive in how it works, but musically I’ve heard better :)

Statues pushing up a balcony somewhere in Sevilla

Wandering the streets we also pass Sevilla’s bullfight arena Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, but discovering we can only go on a guided tour at set hours we skip it. I was mainly hoping for a few photos inside, not a grand tour. Before we head to our next cultural activity, we walk some more and find the location where Monica stayed in the hotel during her previous visit. We take a few tapas on a square nearby where we discover the absolute best tapas that I’ve had so far: Swordfish in orange-wine. It’s so good we order a second plate!

Underneath the ‘Mushroom’

As the afternoon is now hurrying along we go back to ‘the mushroom’, the Metropol Parasol. An impressive and huge modern piece of art that was first despised by the Sevillians before they took it into their hearts. Not only can you visit it, you can also walk on top of it looking over Sevilla. We do that as the sun sets and the light is magical.

Sun setting on top of the ‘Mushroom’

Seeing the sun set behind the mountains, the last light fading away over Sevilla is a beautiful sight, a terrific place to end the day… I practice my Spanish in a bar with a barman that insists on replying in English… “Que? No habla Espanol?”.

The next morning, on on the 27th of June, I wonder if it could get any better then the previous days. Well, in a way it could. Today has an unexpected surprise planned for us. We want to take it easy a bit today (we say that all the time and still end up walking miles and miles and miles) and so head into Sevilla again, where we find a perfume store which has a piano in the middle open for anyone to play. A lovely idea, but as it turns out a bit loud. We next decided to visit the Cathedral of Sevilla -especially La Giralda, the tower- and got in a long line to enter. It was hot again outside and a guy was selling fans and cursing the people for not buying any. Being religious he took it as an act of God punishing him that his fans were constantly being blown from the wall. That at least kept us amused till we got into the cathedral…

One of the many leaded window panes

Once inside we saw the huge cathedral. Columbus’ tomb is there and the many leaded window panes and high ceilings are magnificent. Once we saw most of the church hall, we climbed the many floors of the La Giralda tower to get a wide view over Sevilla.

A view over Sevilla with the bull fighting arena in the middle

As I’m busy taking photos I happen to look at the entrance to the tower and see an elderly man enter. I take a good look and another one and tap Monica on her shoulder. “Did you see that man with the beard just now? I’ve never seen anyone look like Indiana Jones so much as that man!”. We walk in the opposite direction so I can show the lookalike as Monica notices the body guards. I suddenly see the woman that’s with the man and recognize her as Calista Flockhart. It is Harrison Ford! In real!!! Star Wars’ Han Solo, the one and only Indiana Jones and Rick Deckard (Bladerunner). I didn’t want to bother him for a photo with him, but I snap a quick shot of him, for proof. Who would believe us otherwise??? We scan all the terraces the remainder of the day in hope of finding ‘Harry’ again.

Hey, is that? Surely it can’t be! Yes!!! It is, it’s Indy!

We take a tonic at the terrace at the top of Corte Ingles, a location with more grand views over Granada. No Harrison and Calista here though, except for several Han Solo action figures inside the store :)

In the evening we go the the river to get a view of the beautiful Puente de Isabel II, one of the many bridges over the river. Especially in the night it’s a beautiful sight. Sevillian youth is at the base along the river and on the other side of the bridge are many river-side terraces. We however go back to ‘our’ side of the river to have a last beer in the Mercado Lonja Del Barranco, a place that our apartments owner mentioned. You can order some tapas and beer in different locations all leading to the same terrace. It seems a lovely location, but at the late hour we arrive, most of the people have already gone home. Not everyone has vacation it seems :D

A 30 second photo of the Puente de Isabel II bridge, the fisherman did not move!

On the 28th of June, our last day in Sevilla, we have no plans and we have seen all that we wanted. We vacate the apartment in the morning after I have taken my last panorama’s from over Sevilla from the roof of our apartment and then drop off our luggage in the busstation to take it easy for the rest of the day.

If you look over the roofs (enlarge the photo) you can actually see birds flying

We are however quite surprised when we see my photo of Harrison Ford in the newspaper of Andalucia. First in the Internet edition, but then we find it in the printed version. It’s without a doubt exactly the same photo that I posted on Instagram the day before. On one hand it’s funny but it’s also a bit worrying. By now we have walked so much in the past few days that we really don’t want to walk too much today. A tram takes us back into the center where we spend our afternoon until it’s time to head to the busstation.

A lovely quiet square to spend the last hours of our vacation

The bus takes us to the airport where our first disappointment turns out to be a delay of an hour in my flight schedule. Not much later Monica’s flight to Barcelona was also delayed for an hour so we can keep each other company for a bit more. Then my flight is delayed for yet another hour. Instead of leaving at 19:50, my flight will now take off at 22:00. After a long wait (fearing more delay or even cancellation) I finally board the plane and fly back to the Netherlands. As it well into the night now, I take some photos of illuminated cities as we fly.

A city in France, covered by clouds

I enter Schiphol at 1:30 at night and have to wait until 5:45 in the morning for a train to Groningen. I stay awake all night, board the train and roll into the trainstation of Assen around eight in the morning. A 45 minute walk  later (I always miss the bus connection on my returns) I am finally back home. Tired as heck, but home, ready for the next trip!

Photo sets in days:
June 21: Flight to Barcelona
June 22: Traveling to Granada
June 23: Visit Alhambra
June 24: Flamenco
June 25: Back to Sevilla and the Plaza de Espana
June 26: Casa de Pilatos, Reales Alcazares & Mushroom sculpture
June 27: Cathedral de Sevilla with Harrison Ford
June 28: Leaving the apartment and delays at the airport
June 29: Night shots flying to the Netherlands
All photos together