Monday, July 15, 2013

Granada, Spain: Alhambra, Pension Austria, etc...

We took the bus from Murcia to Granada.  The most famous site in Granada, and perhaps one of the most famous sites in the world is the Alhambra. It was originally built as a fortress in the late 800's and in the 1300's became a royal palace. It has gone through many conquests and reconquests and what remains is a fascinating mixture of architecture.  We had tickets to visit the Nasrid Palace, which only allows a certain number of visitors in each hour.  Our tickets were for 7:00 in the evening and we were able to visit the other parts of the Alhambra the two hours prior to going into Nasrid Palace.  Ben had been there before and after seeing it myself I could see why he (and clearly many others :) are impressed.  Pictures really don't do it justice, but of course, we make an effort. 
View from the balcony of the inner court gardens.  Lots of citrus trees.
If you are like me, you recall the name Alhambra from the card game, "Authors" (which Shane, Kate and I played with both our Myers and Teixeira cousins :).  Yes, Washington Irving really did live here in the Alhambra back in 1829 when he wrote that book.
If you are like Ben, then you knew that the Alhambra was a really neat place and you spent your free time constructing an award winning replica of the Court of Lions (see photo below of the actual court) for high school Spanish festival competitions.
The interior décor has unbelievable detail.
The Alhambra is not the only thing interesting about Granada.  The photo above was taken in the ancient "water treatment plant" (I'm sure Ben's dad, Ron, will appreciate this :) in Granada.  We happened upon the historic site and noticed that they gave free tours.  The guide spent an hour and a half telling us about the history of the area, explaining the scale models of the water systems and giving an overview of various cultural perspectives. 
We ate a nice lunch in this restaurant somewhere in the narrow streets of the Albayzin section of Granada.  There are several Turkish, Iraqi and other Middle Eastern-type restaurants in Granada.  The "menu del dia" specials are pretty good--a "3 course" offerta for about 8 euros.
Ben in front of Pension Austria, Granada
We spent 2 nights here in Pension Austria, a hosteleria we read about in Rick Steve's Travel Guide.  It was very clean, comfortable, convenient and the cost was extremely reasonable. We could walk up the hill to the Alhambra (caution, it is not an easy climb!). (By the way, we don't automatically recommend every place we visit.  One in Seville won't get a bad review from us, but neither will it get a recommendation.)  Here's the link for Pension Austria.  The photos on the website very accurate and this site is quite user-friendly.;label=pension-austria-QYeaBEPDLvlEWoiTF1PRCwS19528251553:pl:ta:p1:p2:ac:ap1t1:neg;ws=&gclid=CNvwq8ijsrgCFTMRtAodWEYAFQ

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Murcia, Spain: wonderful hosts and excellent tapas @ La Tapadera

Our friends from Lexington, Alejandro & Carolina (she is a teacher at Ben's high school) and their son, Santi, are spending the summer in Murcia and they invited us to visit them.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and Alejandro's family.  They gave us a great tour of their city.
When you go to Murcia, you might not be lucky enough to have Alejandro & Caro as your personal guides, but you should certainly go to La Tapadera~Cocina Mediterranea for tapas.  Victor & Elena, the friendly owners, offer classic as well as creative options.  One of our favorites was eggplant topped with goat cheese and a honey glaze.  Gazpacho, croquettes, duck, quiche...the list goes on. 
La Tapadera is conveniently located just a short walk from the center of town:
Calle Saavedra Fajardo, 2,  30001 Murcia. 
Victor & Elena
 Croquette w/ sauce
Dulce de leche :)
Alejandro & Carolina
Breakfast on the patio of Alejandro's parents' home.