April 9 am

Having arrived last night in the rainy dark I hadn't formed any image of 'my street'. This morning I opened the door of the hostel, stepped out into the street and faced this. What is it? It's not even in my guide book!

Notice those pillars on the left...
...and this is what you see. Ah, maybe it's the Iglesia de San Juan de Dios. All the internet links are in Spanish!

(On Sunday I went inside when they were having services and omg, it is a rather small church on the scale of cathedrals, entirely covered in gold leaf. Gold gold gold including huge golden angels hanging from the walls holding huge golden lamps. Unfortunately they were never open except for services so I couldn't get a shot.)
Then I walked through the side doors...and This! Holy Cow, what Is this?!

I've looked it up on the internet too - it's the Hospital San Juan de Dios:

"This 16th-century hospital still fulfils its original purpose: to cure the sick. It's worth visiting both the beautiful Renaissance-style patios inside, with their trees, frescoes and ceramic tiles. The rest of the building is for the use of staff and patients.
"Juan Ciudad Duarte, later canonized as San Juan de Dios, came to Granada as an itinerant bookseller in 1536 after spending time as a shepherd and soldier. After reading holy works he decided on a religious and humanitarian vocation. He rented a house with room for 46 beds and started looking after the sick.

"In spite of initial hostility, his fame grew, followers arrived to help and funds were donated. In time he founded a charitable order that commissioned this hospital after he died in the Casa de los Pisa in 1550."
You just come upon these amazing sights. Note the trees inside the patio
They are these - still blooming and with ripened fruit too. The fragrance is amazing.
There's something going on as I saw this poster many times. When I first caught sight of it I thought it was a kind of Mardi Gras deal. That's not right!
I searched out a bookstore for the requisite map and found myself here on the Gran Via de Colon with more buildings not in my guidebook and more designer lamp posts.
The next four pictures are from within a few blocks of my hostel. I first said this is a nursery school but then I passed by today and see that it's a toy store. That's better.
But mostly the graffiti seemed random...
...and wild. (These were on the same wall, but I moved them next to each other.) Virtually every wall was covered from reachable height and sometimes higher. It seems the neighborhood has simply given itself over to graffiti making no attempt to control or cover it...
...and it's not all so very cool for sure.

It started to rain so I ducked into a cafe for my first cafe con leche of the day and dashed 'home' when it let up to do these pictures and wait for clear skies.

Now I'm at the internet cafe and it's coming down hard.
April 9 pm

I took an afternoon stroll up to the Cathedral just as the sun was peeking out.

The Cathedral is positioned right in the center of a complex of buildings so you can't really get a good overview. I'm leaving all the fisheye in to get the most possible in the picture.
This looks like a dragon slayer, and close up her face looks like she's a Girl at that. Follow the roof line in the picture above to see where he/she stands.

**"The Cathedral dragon slayer is probably St. George, one of the Archangels, thus his asexuated face with a (obviously) male body."**
From the plaza in front of the front of the Cathedral, the sign reads, on the left, Spiritual Enlightenment, and on the right, Mud Wrestling.
I was thinking about being done with the graffiti thing but it's not possible because everywhere you turn to look, there it is. I am trying to avoid the especially boring stuff.
This one was clearly on purpose and she hasn't been disfigured yet.
April 10

Another edificio from 'my street', it was originally a monastery and now it's a tourist attraction with a hefty admission fee.
Plazas. Lovely. But no food. No cups of cut-up fresh juicy fruit, no hot crunchy churros, no empanadas or meat-on-a-stick, but...
...the takeaway shops are dang good. The savory and sweet pastries are fab of course, and freshly made designer pizza by the slice is a favorite here.
I was taking the picture above and the pizza man was outside smoking. 'Hey, what about Me?'
I had the vision today. I knew it, but I hadn't internalized it.

It's the 60,000 students clustered around this smallish neighborhood that explains everything. All the youth crowding the streets, all the graffiti, all the pizza places.

**This is what I originally wrote but a correspondent from fodors.com wrote that it is not the students at all but gangs who are vandalizing the streets and the government indeed does not make a sufficent effort to control it.**
Yes, it's another bull fighting ring, this one actually in service although not as handsome as the one in Barcelona, but here it is and there was a long line of ticket buyers. I very very briefly toyed with the idea of getting in that line but good sense prevailed.
I peered into one of the gates and got this shot of the inside. It was indeed creepy and the vib was dark and smelly.
I could even do close-ups of all these 'works' but enough is enough, don't you think?
I'm here for many more days so I guess it isn't enough yet!

The weather has been a bit dodgy with off and on rain, not enough to keep me in but enough to be a bother. I haven't even gone up to the Alhambra yet because it's an all day thing and I'm hoping for clear skies (as predicted) by Saturday and since I don't leave until very very early Tuesday morning I'll have three chances. Yikes, might there be graffiti at the Alhambra?
This is my street. You can see it curving around past the hospital.
April 11

I spent the day today wandering around in the Albaicin, also spelled Albayzin and I don't know why one chooses one spelling over the other.

So I asked the guy who owns the hostel where I'm staying and it was a total crack-up to watch him try to explain, his face going into all sorts of twists and his body language soo loud.

He really really really doesn't like Albayzin, or worse yet, Al-Bayzin. He says it's a new thing the stuck-ups and 'they' (ie the growing Muslim population) are doing to make it seem more 'original' but, says he, 'Albaicin has been perfectly fine for generations and there is no reason it should not continue to be perfectly fine' Double Exclamation Point.

I think it is true that since Cynthia has been here the Gypsy influence is fading in the Albaicin and the Muslim influence is very much on the rise with a new large mosque and many women in covered dress.

Look! Sun! That's the Alhambra up there and down here under that arbor are areas full of tables served by small cafes on the right.
Here's a clip from a map of the Albaicin. Note all the streets with no name at all. When they say it's a warren, a maze, a labyrinth, well, Yeah.
It's a good thing, no rockets allowed.
More me.
Most of the streets are not so dusty nor so free of graffiti, but anywhere in here you can peer into one of these doorways and see an example like the inset.
There are also places where the alleyways come together in a plaza for a church or restaurants and shops.

Let's sit outside and eat paella!
From one of the church plazas you can see this iconic look of the great Alhambra. Clouds forming, but No More Rain!
A closer view.
This is the best shot I got to show how the lanes just mozey on by their own lights and I couldn't get any photo-feel for it except from above.

Wow, it's amazing for sure.
April 12

Me, having survived the ordeal of getting a ticket to the Alhambra. Phwww. And then I had to come back the next day to finish. Here comes The Citadel and the Palacio de Carlos V. Tomorrow I'll put in The Big Ones, the signature Palace and the Architect's Garden.

Everything in quotes I got from Lonely Planet.
The Alcazaba, meaning the citadel, offers great views of the city. ‘The ramparts and several towers are all that remain of the citadel…The cross and banners of the Reconquista were raised here in January 1492.’ Torre de la Vela is the name of this Watchtower.
The views from the Watchtower. Wow. This is the Albaicin. Check out that map from yesterday if you wonder where the streets are.
The Cathedral dominating the cityscape.
Before I saw this I could smell it, and I got a rush of home.
The main building in this shot is the Palacio de Carlos V, a ‘huge Renaissance Palace begun in 1527 and never completed’ although it looks done to me.
Inside the above imposing square building is a surprisingly very large circular two tiered courtyard. Like LP says, ‘were the Palace in a different setting, its merits might more readily be appreciated.’

The Museo de la Alhambra is in the bottom floor (it was closed when I was there) and the Museo de Bellas Artes is on the second floor.
From the Museo de Bellas Artes I was taken with these two works.

She made me look.
It's the title - 'Mis Amigos, 1906' that grabbed me. The figures are Life Size so you can really get to know these guys. And now you have a feeling for the artist too, Lopez Mezquita. a man who would paint his friends with such affection. A man and his community of friends. You don't see that much.
On the second floor, a spot for photo photo.
Here are a couple shots of fountains, water features being as prominent in Mogul architecture as any, and I want some!
And Another!
To end the afternoon on a comic note.
Last night’s highlight was a trip to the Al-jibe Baños Arabes which is meant to be a Turkish style bath, and so it seemed. It was a big place filled with pleasant steamy aromatic air, dimly lit and decorated in Sheik of Araby style, teeny little plastic cups of hot sweet mint tea, several hot soaking pools and one cold one, and a nice oily massage. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention the crowds of rowdy youth.

(not the real place but it looked a little like this...I got the photo off the source of all...)
April 13

Here is the entrance salon to the fabulous Palacio Nazaries, the main attraction in a tour of the Alhambra. The inset is a blowup of the designs around the ceiling.

‘The Alhambra, from the Arabic al-gala’at al-hamra (red castle) was a fortress from the 9th century.’ The 13th and 14th century Nasrid emirs added the palace complex and an adjoining small town. The Christian conquest of the 15th century brought with it some major redecorating.

'In the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned to thieves and beggars.'
The Indian woman here and I were line-mates and hence had a nice hour to chat. We visited the Palace together and she was letting me listen to her audio tour in every room.

Cynthia, get this, the audio tour was some guy reading from Washington Irving's book!

'In 1870 the Alhambra was declared a national monument as a result of the huge interest stirred by Romantic writers such as Washington Irving, who wrote the entrancing Tales of the Alhambra in the Palacio Nazaries during his brief stay in the 1820s. Since then the Alhambra has been salvaged and very heavily restored.’
There is room after room and courtyard after courtyard, Note the facade of this building...
...here is a closer-up view.
Plenty of arches too. This style of decorative surface is molded stucco. That's what Lonely Planet says and that's what it looks like although we don't think of stucco looking like this!
Water features. Love 'em.
What's This?! Oh No?! Where Are The Lions?? And Where Is the Fountain?! Bummer. The postcard picture and it's gone, under renovation. Oh well.

This is the ‘Patio de los Leones, with its marble fountains channeling water through the mouths of 12 marble lions. The palace symbolizes the Islamic paradise which is divided into four parts by rivers (represented by water channels meeting at the fountain).

**You'll like this...from my correspondent at fodors: http://www.jgonzalezbueno.com/galerias/alhambra/grandes/Patio-de-los-Leones--72--x-.jpg**
‘This room’s marvelous domed marquetry ceiling contains more than 8000 cedar pieces in a pattern of stars representing the seven heavens of Islam.’
Another example of these very unique ceilings.
Just plain more.

You might have noticed all the glazed tile-work in varying designs which make up a ubiquitous selection of postcards.

Another cool thing, you can touch everything! I think, as LP mentioned it its opening paragraphs, the whole complex has been very heavily restored and I think there is probably just not a lot of original materials left, so you can touch it all you want and they'll just fix it again.
There are lovely paths to everywhere and that this picture has no tourists is surprising. Now we're on our way to Generalife, the Architect's Garden...
...and summer palace for the emirs. Water features highlight this garden and make the palace down right noisy. It's like a mini-palace though.
As you walk from the Alhambra into the Generalife you pass by this area of hedge-rooms!

Guess what. It's tomorrow now, I had a nice day of last minute get-it-all sightseeing and guess what...I forgot to leave! I was supposed to leave today! Now I have to hurry directly to Fez and catch Gibraltar on the way back. I have to just shake my head!
April 14

So I got up kind of late and worked on the Alhambra pictures and went to the internet cafe. Then I wandered around the Albaicin for a couple hours...
...here's a scene. In the purely residential streets it wasn't so much, but on all the commercial streets refurbishments were going on like crazy. It reminds me of the gentrification of all up-and-coming neighborhoods and it will be interesting to see how it evolves.
Then I took a very long walk over to see this Monastery, and a long walk home, and then...Oh No!...the hostel man asks me 'weren't you going to leave today?'. Oh NO! I forgot to leave!

So I left the next day and did the whole transit without stopping to see Gibraltar, going Granada-Algeceris-Tanger-Fez in 18 hours on the road! But no problem, I made it to my reservation in Fez and all is well.
HomeEurope • Spain • '08 Apr: Granada, Spain

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