We arrived in Granada under a cloak of darkness. As we tried (and failed) to follow Google Map's instructions, we were at least treated to a glittering panorama spread out beneath us for miles and miles as our car climbed the winding roads through the city.
In the end, we were forced to give up, park the cars, and find our way down to our hostel by foot.
You may remember from my previous Spain post, that I was on crutches. And I can assure you now, Granada's cobbly hills are not fun to navigate with a broken foot. Especially if you're an absolute heat wimp like me and can't deal with anything warmer than 25 degrees.
Nevertheless, the next morning we were up bright and early and searching for the Alhambra!
(Altogether now - it's behind you!)
We walked/limped a short distance to the bus stop (which felt like absolutely miles to me as I was, by this point, in a lot of pain in the foot and arm department after racking up a good 10,000 steps a day despite the broken toe AND, to top it all off, my period decided to kick-start on this same morning with a good healthy dose of cramps - the kind that make your face turn grey and your hands start shaking. Fun. In short, I was grateful for the bus!)
The bus took us up through the city and out towards the Alhambra. The city dropped away and we were suddenly driving up a tree-lined drive, bordering the walls of the Alhambra itself. We'd pre-booked our tickets so didn't have to queue very much at all and within minutes, we were through and into those mythical gardens.
From the ground, the Alhambra appears to be nothing short of a celestial illusion, floating above the mortal likes of us. Once you're up there, you'll still have to pinch yourself to be assured you're not dreaming.
We started out in the Nasrid Palaces as we had timed entry tickets and also because this is where you should aim to spend as much of your time as possible! We wandered from room to room, taking in the absolutely exquisite detail in the carvings on the walls, in all manner of materials from wood to marble to stone.
I loved how the floors also showed the relative hardiness of the different materials they'd been made with:
Our motley crew!
When walking around the Alhambra, it's impossible to walk around without tipping your head back, mouth wide open and staring in astonishment at your surroundings. The detail in the decoration is absolutely astounding. With the site's origins lying in Roman times, the Alhambra started life as a small fortress before being continually built upon and extended throughout the centuries to produce the lavish palace of today. The palace switched between Moorish and Christian ownership and you can see this reflected in the architecture which boasts both Islamic and Renaissance influences.
The fine detail in all of the various patterns is mesmerising. Some carvings lie reasonably flat against the walls whereas others seem to create myriads of tiny caves out of domed ceilings. It's difficult to comprehend how such an intricate and immense work of art was created by human hands.
("Well, I guess they had slaves in those days" Angela reminded us - and sadly, yes, the Alhambra was pretty much constructed by slaves)
Unbelievably, the Alhambra was actually abandoned for a while and was inhabited only by squatters. I cannot think of a more beautiful place to squat - I bet they couldn't believe their luck! I bet they also wish they'd managed to invoke their squatters' rights...
As we followed the route through the palaces, we alternated between gazing in awe at the wall carvings and gazing in awe at the birds-eye-view of the landscape, which swoops down from the Alhambra and into the distance beyond.
Despite the many varied inhabitants of the Alhambra over the centuries, they all followed the same theme when designing and decorating their lavish palace - 'paradise on Earth'.
I think they did a pretty good job.
Although at times you don't feel like you're on Earth at all.
We didn't see absolutely everything in the Alhambra, again due to crutches. We climbed up the towers in Alcazaba and marvelled in those unending views (and the rudeness of some people - seriously, this guy pushed in front of me so he was between me and the rest of the group because obvs I was taking too long on my crutches and THEN, he put his arm out in front of me to stop me so his wife could get past and join him! Oh my goodness, the anger. To make matters worse, they both then dawdled so much, I had to overtake them anyway. AND I then saw her sitting on her own literally 30 seconds later whilst he went off and did his own thing. Prize prick. No, I don't have an anger problem, why do you ask?)
My favourite part of the Alhambra that we did get round to seeing though, was Generalife.
Now don't get me wrong, the Alhambra is fabulous but realistically, I don't need to live in such a big palace. Generalife on the other hand is a much more manageable size and it has the most wonderful gardens!
Plus it kind of has a swimming pool which is all I really ask for in a house.
When we came back down from the Alhambra, we noticed that the weather was doing a funny thing. I had to take a picture of the temperature because otherwise people would think I'm exaggerating when I say that it was 44 bloody degrees.
So we hid in an air conditioned restaurant where we all ordered salad because we'd been eating giant portions of cheese and fried potatoes and tortilla for days and then went to Hagen Dazs for an ice cream because 44 degrees.
And then we ran (crutched) back to the hostel where we switched the air con up and slept until the evening was cool enough for us to enjoy!
We stayed at the White Nest Hostel which was perfectly placed for wandering into Granada by day and night. More importantly, it was clean and had AIR CONDITIONING. The magnificent view of the Alhambra floating above the city was also only a few steps from the hostel's entrance, bonus!