Alhambra - Granada, Spain
When we arrived in Spain in the port of Algeciras we had to
set our clocks ahead 2 hours. This meant it was nearly 8:00pm in the evening and we
still wanted to make some distance up the coast towards Granada before settling down for
the night. As we drove up the coast through one lovely coastal town to the next we
understood why so many people come to this region (Costa Del Sol) for their
holidays. It is simply beautiful and romantic!
One little village in particular struck our
fancy, Estepona. There we found a nice little hotel with a room overlooking the
beach and boardwalk. I had thoughts of a second honeymoon! It was such a
wonderful little town that we didn't want to leave, but we had to make it to Granada the
next day to stay on schedule.
The ride to Granada from Estepona took us east along the
coast and over the Sierra Nevada mountains into Granada. When we pulled into town it
was 5:00pm and hot as hell (not really but it just felt like it after riding for several
hours). We did our typical thing and drove to the city center hoping to find a
tourist office that would help us find a decent camping facility (p.s. it hasn't worked
yet!). It happened to be a special fiesta in honor of Granada and most stores and
offices closed early that day. We parked near a plaza filled with artisans and
vendors and Chris took off to search out information in a hotel, to no avail. When
he was about to give up, he noticed two motorcycle police
officers who happened to be riding BMW F650's just like mine! He flagged them over
and told them (in his broken Spanish) that we rode motorcycles too and would they help us
find a camping spot? The minute they saw our BMW motos they stopped traffic to let
us exit the plaza safely and they escorted us out of town to a nice little camping
spot. When we arrived we expected the nice police officers to turn around and wave goodbye but they didn't.
They got off their motos and told us to get on their police bikes so they could take our
camera to take a picture of us! We then took pictures of them and we thanked
them profusely for their kindness and assistance.
That night, our new friends, Fede and Inma came to our
camping facility on Fede's very clean, red F650 to pick us up and show us around
town. We met Fede on the internet after he sent us an email and said he would be
happy to have us visit him in Granada.
After exchanging introductions at our campsite, Fede and
Inma took us on our first tour of Granada at night. We drove up to a church which
overlooks the river Darro and across to the Alhambra, which is a spectacular castle
designed in both Arabic and Christian architecture. From the vantage point of the
church at sunset, the Alhambra is a magnificent first view of this wonderfully diverse
city. (We were also told by many citizens of Granada that Bill Clinton said that
from this site it was the most spectacular sunset he had ever seen.)
After this view of the Alhambra Fede and Inma took us for a
wonderful dinner in the old part of town for some authentic local food. The next day
we met Fede and Inma early so that we could go see the Alhambra. But as luck would have it Chris
got a nail in his back tire the day before and he and Fede went off to get it fixed, while
Inma and I bought tickets to the Alhambra and walked the beautiful grounds and
talked. When the guys returned, Chris' tire had been patched (internally) and we
went to a great local place for lunch. At 5:00pm we arrived back at the Alhambra and
started our tour of the gardens and palaces.
Unfortunately we only had 3 hours to see this huge place,
when one could easily spend all day wandering through it. It was built and occupied
by both Arabs and Christians at different times in history, so that you get the flavor of
cultures as you go from room to room in the palaces. The gardens are filled with
fountains (fuentes in Spanish) and beautiful flowering plants. In fact, Inma told me
that running water was an important factor, especially to the Arabs who treasure it so
much. This is apparent every where you go as there seems to be little channels of
running water along every path and drinking fountains everywhere.
That night, Fede and Inma took us to their office, an actual
observatory on the university campus that had been converted to a seismology lab.
Both Fede and Inma are seismologists and this is where they work. We had been having
difficulties uploading information onto the website before then and hoped that we could
somehow succeed in their office. They gave us a tour of the observatory which
included seeing the old telescope up close and inspecting the seismographs to see what was
trembling in the world. Their office is on the second floor where the telescope is
and we watched a beautiful sunset from their rooftop,
better than what Bill Clinton saw I'm sure! Well, the computer connection did not
work, again, so we decided to get dinner at 11:00pm and went for tapas at a local
bar. Tapas are a wonderful tradition in Spain. In most bars you can get a
plate of tapas free when you order beer or wine. We found this to be a great way to
stay on budget, considering the beer and wine are only about a dollar a glass each.
Then next day we decided to tackle one of the biggest
mountains in all of Europe, the Sierra Nevada! We thought, ahh, we'll have a nice
leisurely drive into the mountains, see some trees, and maybe some nice views. Not
so! This would turn out to be one of the most memorable rides I think we will have
on the ultimate journey.