Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Granada & Seville (2005)

The road between Valencia and Granada wasn't great. We left just after 3pm but didn't arrive at our hostel until after 10pm. We did stop at a small diner outside of Jaen for a quick dinner, and we also got lost at the very end due to bad directions, but I'd say the drive takes a minimum of six hours.

Driving long the interior was pretty different from the coast. There were lots of mountains and tunnels, and the people seemed a lot less used to tourists (or maybe just Asian tourists), although not in an unfriendly way. I didn't feel like I was constantly checking my pockets anymore, but very few people spoke any English, so it was harder to get around.

The hostel, once we found it, was really nice. It was called Hostal Camino Real, it cost only 39 EUR for a double with ensuite bath. The entire building seemed new, and both the bathroom and the bedroom were spacious, with a bidet and a heated towel rack in the bathroom. It was run by an older woman who sounded American (or Canadian) and was friendly and helpful. The location was super convenient for us, since we were primarily focused on visiting the Alhambra, and the hostel is right on the road leading up to it.

We'd discovered while in Valencia that the advance tickets for the Alhambra were sold out already, for the date we wanted. Our only option was to arrive early and try to get one of the 2000 tickets which were released at 8am every day.

So, the next morning, we were up by 7am, and in line by 7:40am. We were probably around 200th in line, so we got our tickets within 15-20 minutes of opening, and were inside the gate by 8:30am with our audio tour guides.

We spent the next four hours looking around, at the Nasrid palace, Charles V's palace, the gardens, the Alcazaba, and all the other sights. We had an amazing time at the Alhambra; for me it was the highlight of our trip.

I took a whole bunch of pictures before finally exiting the area around 12:45pm, tired and ravenously hungry, since we hadn't had time for breakfast. We headed into town to grab a bite, and ended up eating at a pizzeria called "Yesterday".

By 3pm we were on the road towards Seville. Although the distance was only 265 kilometers, and it only took 2.5 hours to drive, it felt like forever; I guess we were tired from our early morning, and (again) the road wasn't great.

We got to Seville around 5:30pm and checked into our hostel, Casa Sol y Luna (42 EUR/double). After an hour or so of vegging out, we went to a local bar/cafe for some tapas and "fino", a very dry sherry. Then we walked to the Cathedral, through the Alcazar Gardens, and enjoyed an ice cream on the waterfront, before heading back to the hostel.

The next day, we dropped off our laundry with the hostel owner (10 EUR/load) and bought tickets to El Arenal, a flamenco show. We got a late brunch at Cafe Bar Campanario, by the Cathedral (cheap and delicious tapas and sangria). We decided against going inside the Cathedral itself, and did some shopping in the area near our hostel instead, until everything started to close for siesta around 1:30pm. We retired to our hostel since there was nothing to do but wait out the siesta, and went out shopping again around 4:30pm, in the Calle Sierpes area. D and I ended up buying some ceramic serving plates as gifts.

For dinner we ate at El Baratillo / Casa Cheri, a very homey paella place where one woman took all the orders, cooked all the food, and chatted up all the diners.

After dinner she pulled out a guest book for us to sign, which was filled with notes from hundreds of guests from all over the world.

Finally, at 10:30pm, we went to see the flamenco show. There were six dancers, three guitarists, and three singers. It was pretty good, but not as impressive as I'd hoped.

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