Just 20 mins drive, south of Granada, direction Motril, you will find a whole load of small, white villages, each with their own character and charm, dotted throughout the Lecrin Valley.
Known as the 'Valley of Happiness', this is a beautiful area full of heart-stoping gorges, vast pine forests, row upon row of almond, olive, orange & lemon trees and with breath-taking views of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada.
Many of these villages appear to have changed little over the last few 100yrs - mules still meander through the streets and fresh produce is driven around the 17 or so villages, sounding a horn to alert locals that theyve arrived to do business.
I only did a whistle stop tour this week but will be returning to my particular favourites, Restabal and Melegis (which has the most amazing viewpoint sculpted by an artist from Zaragoza). I will report back with more findings.
At the end of Gran Via de Colon you will find Parque del Triunfo, which is a parque newly restored and a very nice spot in the center of the city. All though it is close to the sounds of the cars it is a nice break from the normal city scene.
The Park have recently gone through big changes and now have a rather modernistic look, but it is still a nice place to enjoy a cold beer or maybe cool down your feets in one of the fountains ;)
I happened upon this garden as I was walking west on the Gran Via de Colon. I thought perhaps the building in the background was something of importance but it doesn't appear on any of my maps so all I can tell you is that I think it's a religious building of some sort, perhaps a convent or a monastery?
The gardens were built on the site of the old bullring in 1960. It seemed like a nice place to have a seat for a bit with lots of nice trees (although not much shade), shrubs, fountains and a monument to the Triumph of the Virgin.
I stumbled upon the Monasterio de San Jeronimo quite by accident, I was out wandering around the Old Arab Quarter and decided to take a look along the Gran via de Colon and I thought I was heading back to the hotel.....
If I had checked my guidebook I would have realized you could go inside!!!!
A few facts: the Monastery dates back to the 16th century, it was the first monastery to be founded by Ferdinand and Isabella following the Reconquista, designed by Diego de Siloe. If you should happen to think to go inside (duh!), you may find beautiful stone carvings and a spectacular interior.
Closed for siesta in the afternoon, open from 10-1:30 and from 3-6 pm. Cost to enter is 3E.
If you're planning to drive out and explore the many villages scattered throughout the fertile valley surrounding Granada, you may well be puzzled by some strange looking buildings and spend time with your travelling companions arguing about what they could be used for!
One of the products grown in this area is tabacco (I was more surprised by the cotton fields tho!). There are numerous 'open weave' buildings, the originals are pictured here, the more modern version are built in brick and they are used for drying the tabacco leaves. When growing, tabacco looks like tall cabbages!
If you were dropped here blindfolded, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were in an alpine region of Europe. It is so beautiful, green hills, sparkling clear blue water backed by stunning snow-capped mountains. The lake has a pebble 'beach' surrounded by pine forests. This is a great walking/picnic area and close enough to Granada city for a great day out. Avoid Sundays, it will be packed to the brim with locals.
Take Alhama de Granada turn-off from A92. 'Embalse de Bermejales' is sign posted.
Pomegranates are everywhere in Granada, on floors, adorning walls, carved into stonework and doors and even sticking up in the street for unsuspecting tourists to walk into and bruise their shins
when you visit Granade look carefully and see how many different typse of things you can see with the pomegranate symbol on them, you find them in the most unexpected places
the pomegranate symbollises fertility
Realejos is the old jewish neighbourhood in Granada - it is on the opposite side of Alhambra from Albaiczin.
It is not quite as charming as the Albaiczin, but is worth a visit. Realejos is also filled will small narrow streets, old charming buildings, and if you get to the Campo del Principe you will be able to enjoy a beer and tapas while enjoying the view of the plaza and the hotel Alhambra on the hillside.
Take a walk following the river from Plz. Nueva is a nice and impressive area of Granada - the newly restored area where the bars/restaurants have put up their chairs and table for you to be able to enjoy the view of the Alhambra while dinning.
Right after the "bar-area" you can cross the river (turning right) and take the "cuesta de los chinos" up till the Alhambra, which is a very nice alternative route going to the Alhambra - instead of always going up the Cuesta de Gomérez.
It's kind of corny but a very cute spot. When walking to or from the Alhambra look to the side for a big tree stump. This stump is hollow and you can climb inside for a cool picture. It's on the path from Plaza Nueva to the street Cuesta de Gomére.
If you wander around Granada in the evenings you may run into street musicians performing. Usually standing towards the edge of a small street not on the main drag, these people are enjoying themselves as much as everyone watching. Make sure to keep your ears and eyes open, especially in the areas around the tea houses.
The Zaidin is the area after the river. It is very modern with high rise blocks. Accommodation will be cheaper here. The area has some really good bars too if you find the ones in the centre too crowded. I work here in an English Academy called Columbus Language School. If you're in Granada for a while and fancy English/French/Spanish/guitar classes why not stop by?
It is an Ok shopping district too. You get a great view of the Sierra Nevada and there are lots of parks and green spaces as well.
Because of the large Marrocan population, Granada is full of charming and typical tea houses. I recommend the one called Al-Andalus in the street called Caldereria Vieja which also worth taking because of its arabic crafts shops, as well as cute and cheap bars and restaurants. Also, this street takes you to the bottom of the Albaicin district where you should absolutely wander around and climb up to the San Nicholas square and mirador.
Other than wonderful teas, Al-Andalus also serves delicious typical pastries as well narguiles (water pipes.)
This chapel served the Spanish Christian Royalty during the time that Granada was the capital. This is where the greatest of the Spanish rulers - Queen Isabella, King Ferdinand and Charles V - are buried.
This is a must see sight in Granada. Most visitors spend just enough time in Granada to check out the Alahambra, but I highly recommend walking the Grand Via section of town to see this chapel, the cathedral and the colorful squares.
My favorite thing in the chapel (it's actually in the lobby leading to the main chapel) was the exquisite painting that depicts the symbolic win of Christianity over Islam in Spain. In this vivid painting, Boabdil the Moorish king concedes defeat by handing over the keys to Granada to King Ferdinand. The Alahambra forms the backdrop for this historical event.
The chapel was built on the site of a older Moorish mosque, as was the Cathedral.
Columbus financed his voyage to the new world by winning the graces of his queen in Granada - this event is immortalized in stone by the sculpture of Columbus unfurling his contract in front of Queen Isabella.
According to the contract, Columbus would keep a portion of the riches he brought back from the spice colonies and also earn the title of governor of the new world. In return, he promised Isabella that he would spread Christianity in her name in all the places his voyage would take him.
Unfortunately, neither party got what they wanted.
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