Exploring Spanish Cities

img_2391One of the cities we visited in Spain was Ronda. Ronda is a mountaintop city in the province of Malaga, Andalusia. The town is set dramatically above a deep gorge. Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge spans the gorge. Plaza de Toros, a legendary 18th-century bullring, is one of the touristy city’s landmarks.

Another hill side town we visited was Compéta. It is on the Costa del Sol and is eye blindig white. img_2529Up in the hills, along hairpins and winding roads, we drove. Along the way we had been told to keep out an eye for another village with a beautiful cemetery. Of course, passed it and then had to drive a few extra kilometers before we could make a U-turn. But it was worth it. I’ve never seen such a unique cemetery: it reminded me of a beehive. Apparently this is the only round cemetery in Spain. The origins or reasons are not known but new graves are stucco’ed on top of each other. img_2523

Another few kilometers uphill is Compéta. We parked the car as soon as we could and then walked through the steep, white village and on for a hike in the hills.

Then we made our way to Grenada to visit the Alhambra. As a small boy, Kees learned about the Alhambra and never forgot his visions of this mystical, mysterious place so it was high on our bucket list. The first lesson we learned here was: plan ahead. All the websites had told us to buy entrance tickets ahead of time, even though we would visit on a Tuesday in November. So we went to book online, about 3 or 4 days ahead of time and were told that all tickets were sold out. The websites also stated that a limited number of tickets would be available on the day of the visit but you would have to line up at 8 AM. We read several accounts of people who tried this, only to stand in line for a long time and then to be told there were no more tickets for that day. We hoped to avoid that.

img_2547It seemed to us that we would always be able to join a tour and obtain tickets that way. But when we tried to book a tour, they were full – even two days ahead of time! We were now starting to worry.

But when we arrived at our hotel (see the previous blog of our crazy race through Granada), they told us they would check online that night. And voila, tickets magically appear for sale again. We were happy not to have to join a tour group but to buy the (much cheaper) regular tickets. We rented audio tours at the entrance so that we still had all the pertinent information on the history of Alhambra. The only other confusing thing that was online, was about selecting a time. It sounds like your ticket is limited to a few hours each day, but this is not true. You just need to decide which time you’d like to tour one of the sites: a palace. They limited the number of people inside so you pick your own time, show up and get inside. The rest of the place is open to you all day, both before and after your palace tour.

img_2584We had pictured Alhambra as a Moorish mosque. However, it is an ancient walled city with remnants of houses and streets, restored palaces and gardens. You can easily walk around all day.

Click here for historical details and a virtual tour: https://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/historicalintroduction.asp

Our hotel was in Albaicin, a neighbourhood that is believed to predate the Alhambra, which has its origins in the 9th century. We found it reminiscent of Jerusalem.

The old palaces, reflected in pond, with fountains and incredible ceilings were the highlight of our visit.img_2597

If you visit Grenada, we do recommend the hotel at which we stayed (http://www.casabombo.com/espanol/) but be sure to contact them for directions! I’m told they can even meet you somewhere. If you go by car, I’d stay somewhere else! But the rooms and the views are great.

Right in the backyard of the hotel, but you have to walk around the ‘block’, is a treasure of a restaurant: https://www.facebook.com/trilloalbaicin/  It absolutely had the best food we had in all of Spain but was pricey (so we celebrated our last night in Spain – a day early…).

And then our month of exploring Spain came to an end. I learned many things. I didn’t know that Spain had so many mosquitoes…. I learned that most people here drink coffee in glasses rather than cups. I found more dog poop and people smoking here than I had expected, kind of like Holland ten years ago. I learned that basically all stores and offices close at 2 PM, then stores and restaurants all open again at 7 or 8 PM. The streets are deserted around 3 or 4 PM, but around 7 PM people start to reappear. They stream back into the streets, populate the squares. Kids, people with strollers – they all come out at night, especially on the Plaza Mayor of any town. It was neat to see such a social street life.img_2606

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