2005-12-31: Granada

31st December 2005, Spain Day 7

We woke up late this morning. I let Edyta sleep but she was upset at missing the morning for travel. I think we were lucky to make it to breakfast before it shut or we would both be upset. The breakfast at this hotel was the worst of the lot. The sausages were frankfurts left in water. The bacon was boiled and left in water. The scrambled eggs were sloppy and left in water. The hot water was luke warm. The milk was warm. The sugary breakfast food was rubbish. We hoped that this was just because we were so late for breakfast. Tomorrow will prove it one way or the other.

Bridge over quiet rivers


We went out onto the streets to get some more supplies. I needed batteries for the camera as it the existing batteries had finally gone flat, and with no recharger available we weren't going to have a photographic record of the day without them. We wandered around the outside of the cathedral in town (the one that is supposed to have the royal family of one stage buried in it). All we got were beggars and old gypsy women. The gypsies would grab at you, shove a rosemary branch into your hand then read the other one, doing some weird blessing as they read you fortune. Satisfied that you didn't know what was happening they then rubbed their fore finger and thumb together ("The finger thing means the money"). At that point you shove the rosemary back into their hands. Edyta was a bit concerned about being bailed up by these old women but we got out of there safely. The streets around the cathedral where truly narrow and full of more tourist store stuff (standard Spanish issue, nothing special in this town). We did find a free entrance into the cathedral but then found a mass was on, so we left before the burning of the heathens begins (I'm not really sure how a Catholic mass works, but I think it involved burning people you don't like and then rubbing something the priest tells you to too absolve your sins).

On the flat we went into a courtyard once used for coal sale. The doorway looked interesting anyway. This town was the last stronghold of the Muslims way back (now days it is just wherever they migrate too). There is lots of Arabic influence in the buildings around the town, as well as the standard Spanish Catholic remodelling. A very winding road led up the towns mountain (they all have them here) to the Alhambra, or the massive fortress and gardens built at the top. Rather than walking we took the bus, except we caught it just as it came down the hill so we had to stand squeezed in with all the other tourists as it the tiny bus (a little bigger than a van really) hurtled up and down narrow streets, often leaving the door Edyta was standing next to open to let air in the bus. At last we got to the top where I bought a ticket. The thing about Alhambra that I then discovered is that you get a morning or afternoon ticket. The morning tickets were sold, so we got an afternoon one, but it was still morning. We walked a bit of the castle walls but not to far so as to not wear Edyta out. Then we had some really expensive but dismal canteen food.

Finally we were allowed into the grounds. While the girls at the information desk speak excellent English, the ticket checkers inside the grounds don't speak a word. We found out that the main Arabic palace can only be entered at a certain time by following the gesturing of the first guard as she pointed at the times. We thought she wanted us to wait for the tour to be come pick us up but she was actually pointing in the general direction of the palace. Given half an hour to kill before we had to enter the palace (if you miss your time you miss out buddy, buy another ticket) we decided to walk the gardens of Generalife. There we had another ticket lady try to point out the time of the palace entry, where the garden path went and how to get to the palace. Edyta and I through she was telling us we weren't allowed in, but we went in anyway and after walking through the ho-hum gardens for a bit figured out what she was saying. The gardens were full of running water, taking full advantage of a natural spring somewhere at the top. We got to the end of the garden path just as our entry time started but I wasn't worried as it should only have been a short walk to the palace entrance.

A window

Gardens inside the palace

A pillar

Outside the castle walls

The architects garden

The lions bring luck

In fact it was 15 minutes at a very brisk pace. The gardens and palace area are huge. Luckily there was a mob of people waiting to get in and some very disorganized crowd control. We didn't get in till another 15 minutes later. Inside was something we hadn't seen yet in Europe, Arabia. The walls were decorated with hand carved intricate patterns. It is in total contrast to the European style of decorating things. The place is quite amazing and worth the effort to get into. We didn't linger for too long though, there were still the old fortifications to walk (now mostly ruins being unearthed by archaeologists) and the palace built by Holy Roman Emporer Carlos V. Once done with the sights we left the little oasis to get back to the hotel. We decided to get a bit to eat before looking later for a main meal. Most the stores were closed at their normal time, however we found that McDonald's was closed too. This was very strange. To make sure we had something to eat we went to Burger King, the only open place around. Having had something to eat we went to the hotel and waited till 10pm to go out.

Seirra Nevada

Happy New Year

Granada from above

At 10pm the town was empty. We weren't sure if any of the places were open. A few bars had opened but they were for reserved guests. The restaurant we'd picked the day before was open but was also full. There were very few people on the streets, just the odd couple and small groups walking around dressed in party clothes. Most people out at this time were tourists. We managed to find a store doing crepes and milkshakes (as well as Arabic tea) and had a good dessert in there. Everyone was disappearing, even the street vendors selling the little possessed dog toys whose eyes glowed after they barked were moving on. Not sure what to do we went back to the hotel. At about 11:30pm the Spanish started to emerge onto the streets and the parties started. We left a little later to the party up the street we were on. There was a band playing salsa music and people moving through the crowd trying to sell bottles of champagne from shopping trolleys. The music stopped with about 5 minutes to go. Then a big audio visual display started using the building with a clock on it as the backdrop. This showed a few highlights from 06 years and then midnight was reached. There was a tolling of a few bells and people were quiet. Then a clock started counting up from 1. It reached ten and I was ready for the celebration but instead went to 11. I though maybe it had to do with the leap second being added, but then the count went to 12. I was wondering if it was every going to reach new years now when everyone shouted and started splashing champagne all over the crowd (which had Edyta and I, in our only clothes, ducking for cover). The fireworks were let off from the building with the light show and exploded not much more above our heads. The square filled with smoke that left me spluttering. We didn't stay long afterwards and figured we could always listen to the party from our room, as there was no way to avoid the noise.