Thursday, March 29, 2012

Traveler Al's "Almost a Last Hurrah" Voyages - Malaga & The Alhambra

Ornamentation - Palace of Carlos V - The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

The first stop of my new voyage on the Celebrity Constellation was Alicante, Spain.  The weather on this day, Monday, November 21st, 2011 was very rainy.  I decided to stay aboard the ship to read and save my legs for my up coming tour to the Alhambra the next day.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 the weather was still a bit uncertain. The port area of Malaga, Spain where the ship docked was sunny and dry, but there were foreboding dark, clouds over the high ground around the city that threatened stormy weather inland. 

Leaving the Marina at Malaga, Spain

Malaga Marina light house - Note Celebrity Constellation in the background

Early morning - Malaga, Spain

The Province of Andalucia, Spain


Our tour bus left early for the approximately 2 hour climb and drive out of Malaga to inland AndalucĂ­a, the Spanish province where the Alhambra or “Red Fortress” is located. 

I noticed there was a lot of prickly pear cactus at the sides of the road. Just outside Malaga, there were little groups of isolated houses perched high on the steep hillsides. It would be a long commute back to the city from these lonely homes.


 A town in the coastal mountains of Andalucia

The main products of the area are almonds and olives in generally small hillside orchards.  As we neared the inland valley nearer to Granada, the city next to the Alhambra, we passed fields of asparagus and stands of popular trees.

Getting near Granada, Spain

Near Granada, Spain

The Alhambra sits on a promontory of several hills to the northeast of the city of Granada.  The complex of palaces and forts is heavily walled.  Originally all the walls and buildings were whitewashed which has long been washed off leaving them red from the color of the exposed, local building materials.

The walls extend for approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) around the entire complex.  The labor to build much of the complex of palaces and fortifications was provided by Christian slaves held by the Arabs. The Arabs held much of Spain until they were completely expelled from the Spanish Peninsula by the two Spanish Monarchs – Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492.

Ticket offices and visitor entry

Looking towards the main part of the Alhambra

It started to rain as we walked into the Alhambra complex. The site is very large and comprises 4 or 5 main palaces that are arranged in somewhat of a helter skelter fashion. 

It is a long walk from the entry point to the Generalife   
(Hay-nuh-rawl-ee-FAY), a palace that was used as a guest house for official visitors and as a summer residence for the Emirs and Sultans. There is also a set of very welcome and needed public restrooms build under the stairway up to the Generalife.
The Generalife is across a deep ravine from the majority of the buildings and gardens of the Alhambra.  The Generalife has some of the most beautiful gardens in the Alhambra.  The palace was often used as a rural, cooler, summer residence for the sultans and emirs resident in the Alhambra.

I did not climb the flights of stairs that it took to get to a clear view of the Generalife. I wanted to save my legs for the rest of the tour.

The tour guide, a very nice lady, advised me to start following the path into the promontory where the rest of the palaces were located to get a bit ahead of group.  I went ahead on my own taking photos as I walked along past the walls and down the lengthy pathways to the place where the rest of the palaces are located.

Walkway to enter the promontory and main area of the Alhambra

Cats seem to love these old places

View as you cross the bridge to enter the main part of the Alhambra

The long, long walk towards the end of the promontory where the majority of the palaces are located.

The garden inside the shrub lined walkway shown above.

La Puerta de los Siete Suelos - The Gate of the Seven Floors

Alhambra street to the Palace of Carlos V. The end of the promontory is just beyond and is a very heavily fortified area.

Pool in the Court of the Myrtles - Part of the Palace of the Blessings

The Court of the Myrtles

Soon we were seeing the beautiful decorative work of the Alhambra's walls and ceilings.  To me this was the attraction of the place I had wanted to see with my own eyes since I first saw pictures of this magical place when I was a child.  Exotic writings and patterns on the walls, ceilings that looked as if they had been formed from cake icing.

The designs are done with molds and the use of stucco and alabaster dust.

Detail of a ceiling corner area - Notice the differences in the little cups formed by each of the decorative "stalactites."

Superb tile work is seen through out the complex. 

Notice the intricate patterns of the woodwork in the door panels

Next we entered the Hall of the Ambassadors, the largest room in the complex.  This is where Christopher Columbus received the support of Ferdinand and Isabella to make his voyage to the East.

Columbus was hoping to find a new route to secure the spices and other trade goods from India and Asia - but he found the New World instead.  

The rise of the Islamic empires - the Seljuk and the Ottoman Empires - had stopped the flow of trade goods, particularly spices,  into Europe that came over the Silk and Spice Routes from India and Asia.  The price of pepper and other spices was valued ounce for ounce the same as gold at various times while the Silk Road trade was cut off from Europe.

I suppose you could say that the rise of Islam resulted in Columbus discovering the Americas.

The biggest room in the complex - The Hall of the Ambassadors

Christopher Columbus received the support from the King and Queen to make his voyage in this room

The artist MC Escher studied the tile work in the Alhambra as he was developing his use of "tessellation" in his tricky paintings that created artificial perspectives on a flat plane.

Find out about Tessellation by clicking here.


Near the Washington Irving rooms. Note the Alhambra's wall zig-zagging up the hills in the distance.

The writer, Washington Irving, stayed at the Alhambra and  wrote "Tales of the Alhambra" from the inspiration of that visit.

The inscription translates to "Washington Irving wrote, in these rooms - his "Tales of the Alhambra" in the year 1829".

I am not sure what the inscriptions in the ceiling mean.  Washington Irving rooms

Fireplace in the Washington Irving Rooms at the Alhambra

An inner courtyard with fountain - The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Roof of the Turkish Baths or "Hammum" on a lower level

Paving of an inner courtyard, The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Doorway and window at the "Room of the Two Sisters,"  The Alhambra

We entered the Room of the Two Sisters as the end of our time at the Alhambra approached.  The room is named after two marble "sister" slabs in the floor on each side of an inside fountain and pool in the room.

In my opinion, this room is the high point of the mixture of the styles of architecture - Moorish, Arab, Gothic and Baroque achieved at the Alhambra.  To be in the room is like being on the inside of a large, sugary confection.  

The ceiling molding decorations or "stalactites" has over 5,000 individual moldings - no two are the same!  The beauty and complexity of this room overwhelm your senses.

Entering the Room of the Two Sisters

The fantasy of the ceiling of the room of The Two Sisters.

Detail of the molding work in one of the corners of the room.

To make the views of the ceiling, I laid my camera flat on the floor in the center of the dry fountain pool using the camera's self timer to make the exposure.  Photo has been color and contrast enhanced to bring out the details. The photo is taken with natural light with a slow exposure.

The fountain water wets the stone, evaporation off the stone cools the air around it during the blistering Spanish summer weather.

The Court of the Lions has been under a major renovation for at least 3 or 4 years.  From our view of this part of the Alhambra, it looks like it might be possible that the renovation will be finished by the summer of 2012.

Renovation work at the Court of the Lions.

View of some of the fortifications from the inside - The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

A stone lion and his mate are available at the stone and tile shop just outside The Alhambra

Shops and restaurants near the entrance to The Alhambra

The hotel where the tour group had lunch

We were serenaded during lunch.

Flemenco dresses were on sale at some of the shops near the hotel.

Our tour group left The Alhambra and Granada for the long drive back to Malaga.  We arrived just 15 minutes before the Constellation was due to leave port.  

I was tired with sore legs due to walking the great distances between the different places in the Alhambra. But, I had fulfilled a childhood dream to view the magical, Moorish palaces of the Alhambra with my own eyes.

Next time - Itinerary change to Gibraltar

Please click the colored link to view my other blog about living in Hawaii "Life in the 50th State"
Please give me photo credits if you use or share my photos for non-commercial use.
I use a Canon G-11 digital camera on a mono pod - usually without flash

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Your comments and criticisms are my reward for the effort to do this blog – they are appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my travels.


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