Myth Busting in Granada, Spain

Karie on Aug 23rd 2008 10:09 am

Our desire for getting the best deals on everything has really taught us to be flexible.  Budget airlines are budget-friendly for a reason – meaning that what you save in money, you usually pay for in some other way (time, leg room, sanity, etc.).  So, in order to get the best price on getting to Granada, our flight left at 6:30am, and returned at 11:30pm the following night.  This was even cheaper (and much faster) than taking a train or bus.  So we had 2 completely full days in Granada, but only 1 night of hotel, which further helps the budget.  Instead we paid in lack of sleep.

Several people here have told me that Granada is their favorite place in all of Spain.  However, as we were on the bus headed from the airport into the city, I found myself looking out the window at this beautiful city and daydreaming about anything but.  It occurred to me that the rose colored tint had worn off my glasses, and I wasn’t fully appreciating what I was about to see.  Sometimes – at least for some people – after doing a significant amount of travel, you can find yourself thinking things like, ‘oh yeah, another 400-year old Cathedral… these ancient ruins look just like the last ones we saw… how many royal palaces did they need anyway?’  I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I guess I started to take some things for granted.

We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and immediately headed out to find some breakfast, where I shared my jaded thoughts with Scott.  We made a commitment to try to see Granada as if it was the first time we set foot in Spain, and when the sleep deprivation started to reveal itself in the form of grouchiness, we were to remind each other (ok, he was to remind me) that we were having fun.  This actually worked, and we had a great time in Granada.  We were also able to test a few “myths” that we had heard for validity… a la MythBusters style (except not at all scientific and sans special effects):

MYTH #1: Granada gives away free food
VERDICT: CONFIRMED
If this were the only thing we liked about Granada, it probably would’ve been enough.  Almost all restaurants will give you a free tapa if you order a drink.  It usually doesn’t matter what you order to drink (soda, bottled water or cerveza), or what size it is.  The only thing that changes what free tapa you get is the number of drinks you order (as they typically get better with each round).  We found the helpings to be quite generous, so if you’re really thirsty, it’s actually possible to make a whole meal out of free tapas.  Granted, you might not be saving any money in the long run, as drinks can add up too, but it was fun to try.  I kinda felt like I was getting away with something.  Apparently there are other places in the Andalucía region that also do this, but it seems to be the most popular in Granada.

MYTH #2:  The Alhambra is the best attraction in all of Spain
VERDICT: PLAUSIBLE

Is the Alhambra the most impressive compound of palaces, gardens, fortress, etc.? Yes.  However, I personally think the Alcázar in Sevilla is still my favorite palace in Spain.  Now, I’m not ready to give Sevilla’s Alcázar the title of the “best attraction in Spain” either – I’m only using this example to justify why I cannot confirm the Alhambra myth.  I don’t want to discount the beauty of the Alhambra, as it is absolutely worth the trip.  It’s enormous, and there’s so much to see.  The Generalife gardens were spectacular, and the intricate detail of the stone & woodwork in the Nasrid Palace is unmatched.  Really.  You might drool.

So why do I still prefer the King’s summer vacation home in Sevilla?  Maybe because it caught me by surprise.  I knew what to expect from the Alhambra, but had heard nothing of the Alcázar before our visit to Sevilla.  Second, while the intricacy of the Alhambra is impressive, in Sevilla there was a greater use of tile than stone or wood, and I am a huge sucker for Spanish (or Moorish) tile.  I’ll never forget walking into one particular room in the Alcázar that was completely covered (ceiling, walls & floor) in a combination of at least 15 different tiles. That might sound horrendous, but when you see it it’s absolutely stunning (click here for a glimpse).  It was so lively it just made me smile, and when I get that kind of emotion from an otherwise empty room, it’s hard to compare it to another palace.  That being said, most people would probably disagree with me and say that the Alhambra takes the cake hands down. You decide.

MYTH #3: if you buy tickets to the Alhambra in advance you can spend the whole day there
VERDICT: BUSTED
Close, but not completely accurate.  I do highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance (which you can do online).  The way it works is that you pick the morning or afternoon time slot (8:00am-2:00pm or 2:00pm-8:00pm) and you are assigned a time within that slot in which you can visit the Nasrid Palace.  The way I understood it is that your time slot only applies to your entrance to the Palace, but if you have a ticket you are free to spend the whole day visiting all the other attractions within the Alhambra.  In actuality, you are only free to see most things within your time block – not the entire day.  For example, our time block was 2:00-8:00, with our Nasrid Palace visit scheduled for 5:30.  This meant we were welcome to see everything else any time between 2:00-8:00, but the only set thing on our agenda was the Nasrid Palace.  The only exception was that you could visit the museum at any time, which took us, oh, about 15 minutes.

Luckily this worked out ok, as we found our time slot to be sufficient to see everything.  I had read so many reviews of people who said they could spend the entire day there, but I guess we just aren’t those people.  4-5 hours was a good amount of time for us, and even allowed us some time to sit and relax in the beautiful gardens.

MYTH #4: Your current mood makes all the difference in the world on whether or not you like a city, or even an entire country
VERDICT: CONFIRMED

Granada is just a lovely place.  Once I decided to check my attitude at the bus stop, I was able to appreciate all it had to offer.  Even the 100 degree heat was bearable… and of course, the inevitable flight delay coming back home.  It was a wonderful 48-hour whirlwind.

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