Last bits of Spain

I always appreciate a bilingual menu. I can’t remember the last time I ate at an “American cuisine” restaurant in the states that had a menu with translations into Spanish, German or French. Apparently other countries are more considerate than we are.

However, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the translations. Restaurants in China had my favorite incomprehensible menu items of “lilly bread over snow mountains” and “Backs of beans on rosy waves,”  but here are some good ones from Spain:

Can I get the Italian creaking mass on top of the hot daggerboard back? And a side of habitats tender? Thanks so much. Sounds delicious.

I like this sign as well. I’m giving it the Princess Bride “I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean” prize.

Spain

We drove under the Greenwich meridian marker on our way into Barcelona

Aragon SpainI didn’t realize you could physically mark time…

I love this picture from my last morning in Barcelona when I got up early to see the Picasso museum and watch the city wake up.

Spain

And this street art from Granada.

Spain

The painted street signs in Madrid

Spain

Unnecessarily beautiful street lamps of Barcelona

Spain

And the ridiculous “sidewalks” in Ronda

Spain

Despite all these posts and pictures, there were so many things I didn’t get to see in Spain so I know I’ll be back.

This feels like a good post to end on because I’m going to take a blog break for the month of September. I’ll be back in October.

Happy fall.

Spain

Last day in Spain

Involved a lot of driving, as I’d predicted.

I thought maybe I’d stop in Cordoba and see the Mezquita but after battling my way into the city, driving down a one way street that unexpectedly dead ended because of construction, reversing half a mile to get out of said one way street and then making 3 or 4 futile circles around the Mezquita looking for parking while Mrs. Tom Tom yelled “Turn Left. When possible turn around. Make a right turn and then a right turn. You have arrived at your destination. Turn left. When possible turn around.” until I turned her off and decided this was not the day for the Mezquita.

So… I hit the open road to Madrid, enjoying very official highway signs like this

Spain

And ended up at the Holiday Inn Express near the Madrid Airport. Que pena!

But let’s not dwell. In my last night in this delightful country, allow me to share a few things I’ll miss most about Spain:

Drinking my morning cafe con leche (x6) on the public square

Granada Spain

And drinking my evening sangria on the public square

Granada Spain

Every city in Spain has multiple public squares. Some are little parks and some are courtyards with fountains but each is ringed with cafes and outdoor seating. In two weeks, I think I ate 2 meals sitting inside. The people watching view is much better outside.

This is the casual happy-hour standing-around portion of the day that lasts from about 4pm until 10pm. At 10, everyone gets serious about finding a place to eat dinner.

As to dinner, well, I’ll save food for my next post.

The Alhambra

I’ve been without internet access for 2 days now. Like dog years, 2 internet free days in Spain equal about 200 vacation years or possibly more if you add in the lack of phone access. So much can happen in two days.

When Corey and I met up in Atlanta, he proudly announced that he was going unplugged for this vacation because he only had his iPad, his iTouch and his iPhone.

There’s no correlation between my lack of internet and Corey’s definition of “unplugged” except that the one made me think of the other and Corey makes me laugh.

And none of this has to do with the Alhambra so if you’ll stop asking me questions, I’ll post pictures! Geez… some people’s kids.

How about this for starters?

The Alhambra, Spain

That’s the Court of Myrtles in the Nasrid Palace. I’m going to apologize right now for the quality of my pictures in this post and just say that I think I forgot how to use my camera. I took a billion pictures and so few of them are any good, or do any justice to this place.

Despite what you may see, however, the Alhambra is Spain’s greatest Moorish palace built in the 14th century by Islam rulers and then taken over by Ferdinand and Isabella in the 15th century. As a tourist attraction, it has one of the more rigorous entrance rituals I’ve encountered because they only allow 6,000 people into the Alhambra per day and only 300 people into the Nasrid Palace at a time. It’s such a popular location that they only sell 1,000 tickets per day to walk up visitors and the rest are advance sales. Chances are good that if I hadn’t bought my tickets online, you would not be subjected to my terrible pictures. Aren’t you lucky? Or something?

I bought my ticket online and chose a 30 minute window to visit the palace and then had to arrive an hour before my appointment time to pick up my ticket. The website assured me that if I was late, I wouldn’t be admitted. Even arriving early for the palace, this represented about a fifth of the line

The Alhambra, Spain

The palace is beautiful with every inch of exposed space covered with exquisitely intricate decorations stamped in plaster and carved in wood.

Granada, Spain

You can still see traces of paint. It’s largely monochromatic now but apparently it used to be painted and gilded as well. The craftsmanship in the Alhambra is overwhelming.  I look at places like this and can’t imagine the amount of work, time and the number of people necessary to build something like this.

Can you imagine this ceiling as a riot of color?

Granada, Spain

or this archway?

Granada, Spain

Interspersed within all this decoration is this phrase repeated something like 9,000 times throughout the complex

Granada, SpainWhich means “Only Allah is Victorious.” I find it interesting that Catholic rulers Ferdinand and Isabella took over this palace and renovated parts of it but didn’t disturb any of these phrases. Maybe their interpreters neglected to fill them in on the meaning? or perhaps their aesthetic senses took over.

The gardens are equally as beautiful.

Granada SpainAnd though Granada has grown since the 14th century, even back in the day I imagine the Alhambra served as a green oasis in the middle of an urban area, like a Central Park for Muslim royalty.

After I saw La Sagrada Familia I felt like seeing another cathedral would be like climbing a mountain after summiting Everest. Fun. Cute. But really?

After the Alhambra, I’m pretty sure I’ve visited the pinnacle of Moorish architecture. But with little else to compare it to, I might need to visit a few hundred more just to make sure. When I get that chance, you’ll hear about it.

Tomorrow: Andalucia.

Granada Spain

Granada

This is one of my favorite cities so far. It’s gigantic and sprawls over several hills

The driving streets are a mess

and the walking streets are narrow, twisty and seemingly all uphill. But 20 Euros gets you this:

Granada SpainWhich comes with icy cold AC and free wi-fi (or wee-fee as they call it here)

I love the Arabian influence in the marketplace

And the churros

Granada Spain

And the cloistered nuns that sell dulces

And of course, the Alhambra

Granada Spain

But that’s a story for tomorrow…