Gor­geous Granada

DAWN COLLINSON HEADS TO SPAIN AND FINDS MOOR HIS­TORY THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A SCIMITAR AT

Grimsby Telegraph - - Get Away -

IT’S rare that a to­tal stranger cares about your travel ar­range­ments. And rarer still for them to care so pas­sion­ately that their re­sponse to your poor plan­ning is a firm slap. But maybe that’s be­cause not every rev­e­la­tion in­volves a woe­ful fail­ure to pre-book for a world-renowned site, fea­tur­ing on at least two mil­lion other tourists’ to-do lists every year.

Our Air BnB host­ess in Seville could barely dis­guise her frus­tra­tion. In fact, she made no ef­fort to dis­guise it at all. “So,” she said, on hear­ing our in­ten­tion to visit Granada. “You’ll al­ready have your tick­ets for the Al­ham­bra...”

There was an awk­ward pause.

“Of course,” she added, by way of driv­ing home the point that any­one who didn’t have tick­ets 12 days be­fore they hoped to see it was an id­iot.

We’d con­sid­ered it, ob­vi­ously. It’s very much the kind of thing you con­sider when you book flights and a ho­tel. But then some­how it had fallen by the way­side.

Surely it would be fine. And if we had to queue, then we’d queue. That is, af­ter all, what we Brits do best.

But we were wrong. Be­cause at the Al­ham­bra, queu­ing is not an op­tion. No tick­ets, no en­try, and since this is an an­cient mon­u­ment, con­sid­ered by some to be one of the won­ders of the world, they don’t just let end­less num­bers tram­ple through it.

A quick glance at the of­fi­cial ticket book­ing web­site (tick­ets.al­ham­bra­p­a­tronato.es/en) re­vealed they were booked up for weeks in ad­vance, clearly by peo­ple far bet­ter or­gan­ised than us. Luck­ily, hav­ing de­liv­ered her sharp slap – wrist, not face (she didn’t care quite that much) – she re­vealed that she knew an agent who could rec­tify our mis­take. It turns out it’s just a ques­tion of know­ing the right peo­ple and she did so there­fore, by de­fault, we did. We made the trip to Granada, af­ter a scorch­ing few days in Seville, by train and roughly three-and-a-half hours later we ar­rived at the main sta­tion, ready to head via taxi to our ho­tel – the NH Granada Cen­tro. One of two ho­tels in the NH group in the heart of the city cen­tre, it has a per­fect lo­ca­tion for any­one want­ing, as we were, to see all the ma­jor sights on foot.

We only had around 36 hours to cram ev­ery­thing in so prox­im­ity was key, and in a city where his­tory lit­er­ally looms large over ev­ery­thing, it seemed wrong some­how to opt for a su­per-mod­ern char­ac­ter­less base from which to ex­plore it.

The NH Granada Cen­tro oc­cu­pies a restored his­toric build­ing, sym­pa­thet­i­cally dec­o­rated in a clas­sic An­dalu­sian style with hard­wood floors, an im­pres­sive stained glass ceil­ing in the foyer and in­tri­cately carved head­boards on the large comfy beds. Staff are friendly, rooms are a good size, mar­ble bath­rooms have a real bath and there’s an ex­cel­lent buf­fet break­fast served each morn­ing (with an ar­ray of var­i­ous olive oils for the locals’ favourite toma­toes and olive oil on toast).

The Al­ham­bra is un­ques­tion­ably Granada’s num­ber one at­trac­tion for tourists, vis­i­ble from most streets and square in the old city. It’s well sign­posted too and an up­hill walk of around 20 min­utes from Plaza Nueva saw us ar­rive at the cas­tle ramparts. It takes a com­fort­able two or three hours to wan­der around the cen­turiesold Moor­ish ar­chi­tec­ture, with its tiled mo­saics, pat­terned plas­ter­work and gar­dens. Ar­guably most stun­ning of all is the Pa­tio de Ar­rayanes, with its rip­pling cen­tral pool and sur­round­ing arched cham­bers in­clud­ing the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the king.

The Al­ham­bra’s tran­quil­ity is one of its most beau­ti­ful fea­tures so, while the fact that num­bers are so strictly limited might be frus­trat­ing for ticket buy­ers, it’s im­pos­si­ble not to ap­pre­ci­ate it once in­side.

But there’s far more to won­der at in Granada than just its most dom­i­nant relic, and a stroll down the pretty Car­rera del Darro along the river is a must, espe­cially if you’re in the mar­ket for a lo­cal buy to take home. While the cas­tle sits high up to the right, to the left the nar­row cob­bled streets wind their way up­wards, through the white­washed houses of the Al­baicin district, the old Ara­bic quar­ter, where tapas is fab­u­lous and a frac­tion of the price in the river-side tourist traps.

At the Plaza Saint Ni­co­las we even caught some im­promptu fla­menco busk­ing, set up with just a por­ta­ble board to dance on and a gui­tarist, so for a cou­ple of eu­ros tossed into a box our Granada ex­pe­ri­ence was com­plete.

Nar­row cob­bled streets of the Al­baicin district Al­ham­bra: Granada’s num­ber one at­trac­tion

NH Granada Cen­tro lobby

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