"I want the arabic Granada, that which is art, which is all that seems to me beauty and emotions." - Isaac Albeniz
Aside from a yearning for the Mediterranean Sea, the other reason that pushed me to book that ticket to Andalusia was that the Alhambra had served as a filming location for the Game of Thrones. I do not even know why I felt so compelled, because I have not followed that show since season two. Although I do know that whichever location that show chooses to display had to be absolutely stunning, and I was right. La Alhambra was beyond magnificent, and Granada was much more than just La Alhambra.
Being a faithful customer of Singapore Airlines, I chose to start off my journey on SQ68, a truly long-haul flight that makes a stop in Barcelona before jetting off to Sao Paolo. As with most SQ flights to Europe, the plane touched down early in the morning, and I chose to spend away the next 6 hours in a dayroom at Air Rooms Barcelona Airport. A bad mistake, because room stank of something bad, and it was not particularly clean.
Once my next plane landed in Granada, I jumped into a taxi to Room Mate Leo, possibly the best reasonably-priced hotel in Spain. I extensively deliberated this hotel between the fancier NH Victoria, but the price here wins by far. This hotel was perfectly located, with blazing wifi and the best breakfast buffet. Stay here and don't look elsewhere.
Spain must be so different from the rest of Europe, because the shops open until very late. This works well because my hotel was smack in the middle of the shopping district and there was no lack of activity to make me feel unsafe. Food was everywhere, but I ate very good Italian takeaways most of the time to escape the curse of solo dining. In retrospect, I really did not have to worry about that, and ate well for the later part of the trip.
Granada is unique because it was the last Spanish city to be held by Muslim rulers before Isabelle won her Catholic Crusade. This legacy lives on in their architecture and the language. The Alcaiceria is the Arabic market, and the Albaicin is the Arabic quarters, both of which are worth a visit to just wander around. A walking tour at the start is recommended. If there's time, drop by one of the Carmen houses to get a feel of the moorish architecture Granada is so famous about.
Of course, the winner by far is the Alhambra. I was so enchanted by just the idea of La Alhambra that I made it the star of my visit. Ticket sells out months in advance, and I bought four tickets on different days just so I will not miss catching the Alhambra on a good weather. I ended up visiting it twice and it turned out to be just perfect. The complex is huge and overwhelming. I cannot imagine how some can just do everything in three hours.
La Alhambra is the culmination of 800 years of muslim rule, the longest of all the Spanish cities. It is the height of Arabic architecture, set so perfectly in the Mediterranean. As opposed to common beliefs, Granada, or rather, Andalusia, was not just ruled by one Caliphate. Rather, multiple dynasties sat on the throne, imposing upon the Al-Andalus their distinct cultures. Amongst others, the Umayyads, Taifas, Almoravids, Almohads, Marinids and, of course, the Nasrids.
Perhaps the most beautiful and the most anticipated compounds in all of Granada are the Nasrid Palaces.
I have seen famous works by the Renaissance Masters, and surely they are beautiful. I have spent hours thinking about the passion in the art. But I had a different kind of appreciation for the Alhambra. It made me at ease. The tireless carvings evoked constancy and a brand of quiet willpower. It might sound terribly cliched, but it wasn't anything like I have seen before.
Conclusion: Would I return to Granada? I don't know. This feels like the magic will last only once in a lifetime. I am afraid that if I return, I might be disappointed. I really liked Granada, but it does not call out to me to to come again. I spent a week in this exciting place and I did not feel that any moment was wasted. Perhaps for the first time ever, I finally spent enough time at one place. I felt that I had the taste of Granada through and through. Cheers to Granada!