The Alhambra is far from Granada’s only attraction. After our tour of the Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife and the many other pleasures of the Alhambra, we try to take in the other sights of Granada.
Warning: getting around Granada requires a good map or GPS. For some reason, this is the first time I’ve gone on a trip without careful maps and plans for every place I plan to visit. There are a couple of ways out of the Alhambra. The most obvious one, down from the Parador and through the Puerta de Vino, curves sharply left to a steep one-lane way downhill. This is not the same way that we came in from the parking lot. It deposits us at the bottom of the hill at a blind corner of two very narrow streets — barely wide enough for two cars to pass.
Tip: Orient yourself in Granada
The Alhambra in total is oriented almost exactly west-to-east, with the oldest part, the Alcazaba fortress, pointing westward toward the Plaza Nueva and the Cathedral of Granada. This is the point from which most of the streets seem to radiate.
The Darro River flows westward, along the north side of the promontory that the Alhambra sits on, before it goes under the city itself. The city covered over the Darro in the 16th century.
But don’t trust Google Maps — it shows roads down from the Alhambra to the city that don’t exist. The map in the guide-book is oriented with east on the top, though, so it’s confusing until you compare it with a real map. Get a good tourist map from the tourist office early, and study it closely before you get there.
Our destination after the Alhambra was what Frommer’s guide called “the most romantic street in Granada,” which would be saying a lot. However, the car’s gas gauge was right on empty, and my first priority was to find a gas station. At the blind corner coming out of the Alhambra, we turn left, toward the highway. Several roundabouts later, we find a place to fill up. Then it’s back to the centre of the city.
We park at an indoor parking lot with distressingly narrow spots. It’s a good thing we have a small car on this trip. We walk to the Plaza Nueva, past the monument to Isabella I, then the Plaza Santa Ana, which is really more of a continuation of the Plaza Nueva. There are tourist shops here and gypsies hawking all kinds of junk, as well as restaurants and bars and ice-cream stands.
The small Church of Santa Ana is built on the site of a former mosque, and is the spot where the Darro is covered over. It’s also across the end of that tiny stream from the beginning of the Carrera del Darro, which is not only romantic, narrow and picturesque, but also very crowded with pedestrians. We pause to let the man with the trolley of fish, destined for the restaurants at the top of the street, get sufficiently ahead of us.
There are museums and other historic buildings along the Carrera, but we can look up and see the Alcazaba over the Darro. The Carrera ends ad the Paseo de los Tristes, or Avenue of the Sad Ones, apparently so named because funeral corteges used to pass here. It’s now a very pleasant pedestrian park, a widening in the bank of the river where restaurants have set up patios.
The food here is great, and very reasonable. We choose one of the many patios lined up along the bank, and while we wait for our order, watch people stroll past. There are many, many tourists, but locals as well. A young woman sits on a park bench and begins playing guitar, busking. We can see the Alhambra and, to the left, the Generalife.
After lunch, we stroll uphill, away from the Darro. This is the Albaicin, the old Arab Quarder. It’s all white-washed walls and wrought-iron gates giving glimpses of courtyards filled with fruit trees. At the top of the hill is the Mirador de San Nicolas, a lookout spot that give you a great view of Granada, the Alhambra and the Generalife.
All too soon, we have to leave. It’s a long drive ahead of us, to Seville. Basically, we’ll be crossing Andalusia again. But we promise each other to come back to Granada one day.