dolorosa_12: (le guin)
I got back on Saturday from a week's holiday in Andalusia with my mother, but because I had to go back almost immediately to work, I only just got the time to write about it now. In short: I loved it, I thought it was incredible, and I would go back again in a heartbeat. I had been worried that everywhere would seem too overwhelmed with tourists — more like theme parks than cities, in the vein of Venice and Prague, both of which I've been to — but although the presence of tourists was obvious in all three cities, they were not completely overrun and it wasn't as if we had trouble walking down the street due to the crowds (which is what I found in Prague). If you do visit these cities, however, and want to visit big tourist attractions, I would recommend booking online in advance, as we did, as some of the places allocate most of their available bookings to big tour groups and it's almost impossible to get a ticket on the day.

We flew into Seville and spent three days there, during which time we visited the cathedral, Plaza de España, Real Alcazar (a beautiful old palace with wonderful gardens), and an amazing underground bathhouse with a salt bath (you float around, buoyed up by the salt as in the Dead Sea), spa, steam room and trio of warm, hot and cold pools.

After that we took the train to Granada, where we stayed for two days. The main reason to go to Granada is to see the Alhambra, which we did. I spent the entire time wandering around in complete and utter speechless awe. It's certainly one of the most incredible places I've been in my life, and I was overwhelmed with emotion to be there. Here are some photos I took, and here are some videos of one of the many fountains in the Alhambra grounds. In addition to the Alhambra, we discovered a pretty little park while walking around on our last half-day in Granada, filled with fountains, peacocks and orange trees.

Then it was onwards to Córdoba for our final two days. We again took the train. Our main focus in terms of tourist attractions in Córdoba was the mosque-cathedral, which has the history of the city, and the area more generally, written in layers into its architecture. I have a photoset here, but it's hard to capture the sheer size and scale of the interior. We did not book in advance for this, but I do recommend showing up at opening time (a little before 10am) as we did, as it meant we were able to wander around the building when it was nearly empty, and almost completely free of large tour groups.

After Córdoba it was back to Seville, and then homeward. (The less said about the two-and-a-half hour wait at Stansted for Ryanair to unload our bags and announce the carousel on which those on our flight could collect them, the better. Suffice it to say that I describe flying Ryanair as 'playing Ryanair roulette': you're always braced for something to go wrong, and eventually something will go spectacularly awry.)

I've travelled quite a lot, and seen many amazing places, but I would have to say that of all the places in the world that I've visited, this corner of Spain is probably one of my favourites. It's a really pleasant region in which to be a tourist: trains are cheap and reliable, the cities are easy to get around in by walking (and public transport is good if walking is going to be a problem), and food is both delicious, and unbelievably cheap (I was astonished to find that two people could eat a really nice dinner which included wine and mineral water for about 30 euro). I'm the sort of person who finds places whose difficult, complicated history is written into the architecture to be completely emotionally overwhelming (and I probably didn't help matters by deliberately bringing my copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan and making a point of reading some of it in every city, culminating in a tearful reread of its final pages in the hotel in Córdoba). Andalusia obviously has a lot of this, and it hit me really hard — in a good way.

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