The journey across southern Spain continues. As it does, so too does the desire to return to France. The temptation exists to take a direct route back but there’s also the realisation that now is the opportune time to discover the remainder of the route back to France instead of having to repeat it again at a later date.
There’s also the realisation that sometimes whilst traveling, a great deal of persistence is required before the rewards begin to be reaped. Although the travels through Spain to this stage haven’t been regarded as the most enjoyable, there have already been specific examples of this – the Plaza de España in Sevilla was one such.
The Patio de los Leones of the Alhambra in Granada turned out to be another one. I’ve already documented my thoughts on the Alhambra elsewhere on this blog so I won’t repeat myself and in any case Granada had much more to offer.
Most tourists will come to this place for one of two reasons – the Alhambra or the Sierra Nevada. This mountain range, one of the tallest in Spain and a hot spot for skiers in the winter season, is clearly visible from all parts of Granada. Because of it’s relationship with the two, Granada attracts a steady level of worldwide travellers. Not as many as, say, Málaga, but there’s enough that warrants the town to adopt and accommodate the foreign population.
That’s not to say that all the locals here speak English, but they are more accustomed to the prospect of dealing with people who can’t speak Spanish.
Granada turns out to be a town well worth visiting even in the absence of the Alhambra or the Sierra Nevada, although one suspects that this might not be the case if the two didn’t exist. For Granada separates itself from the other Spanish cities through it’s well cleaned and maintained streets, parks and facilities. For this, it takes a fair deal of financial investment and it’s imagined that a great deal of this would result from the tourism generated by the ever popular Alhambra or the ski haven of the Sierra Nevada.
Regardless, it makes for a pleasurable outing in the city. The inner city, that is. The outer suburbs aren’t necessarily bad, it’s just, as most suburbs are, they are more designed for the residential member of society rather than a traveling tourist. It’s the old town, with the cathedral at it’s centre, that’s worth exploring.
The cathedral itself is impressive, and rises over most other buildings in the area, but doesn’t really live up to the levels attained by some other cathedrals seen throughout Spain previously. The streets surrounding it are great for a few hours walk and provide a great mixture between roadways for the automobile traffic and pedestrian only streets cloaked in shadecloths to limit the sun and the heat, reminiscent of Sevilla and Málaga before it. These streets and alleys are reserved purely for pedestrian access and it makes for a more relaxing stroll while enjoying the surrounding architecture.
The architecture here is interesting. It’s here that I first stopped to observe that the architecture was not too dissimilar to that of a typical French town. Looking back, the architecture here really isn’t that different from that seen in Málaga or Sevilla but I never remember getting the same realisation in those towns.
Granada lacks a primary, central park, however. There are parks around town, but they are not of the kind where one could just lay down and relax in the sun for a few hours, instead displaying many plants and not containing many lawned areas to sit upon. That being said, the area surrounding the Rio Genil, the primary river through Granada is a nice park with plenty of benches to sit on.
This is a prime example of the “well developed infrastructure” that was mentioned before that separates Granada from other Spanish towns. From the centre of the city, a large open area containing a fountain turns into a large, well paved walkway that leads a couple of hundred metres down to the river area. This walkway is shaded by several trees above and remains a cool area to stroll around even in the middle of the day in summer. In the evenings here the street performers converge and it’s a very worthwhile journey to stroll down and enjoy the hive and buzz of the activity and the creativity of the street performers.
As modern as these areas are, Granada contains a great deal of history. One of the university buildings there is ancient and in years past has been an insane asylum and before that the private hospital of the royals of the area. There are monuments marking many historical events, from the Queen approving Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World to the kings of past eras. The cathedral, already mentioned, unfortunately charged for entry inside but search a little outside of the centre and you’ll find four or five other such churches, albeit smaller, that allow free entry to admire the architecture.
All of this makes Granada a very enjoyable town, and it was here that I first found myself not longing to get back to France. On one of my final days there, I walked the town feeling completely content and sure of myself. This was a first for my time in Spain.
Was I finally enjoying the Spanish culture and lifestyle? Or was Granada really just better than the rest? Whatever it was, I was re-energised. Return to France was still the target, but now I was genuinely looking forward to the remainder of my time in Spain.
Again, the persistence reaped the rewards. And what a welcome reward it was.