Friday, January 10, 2014

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 – Malaga, Spain – Partly Cloudy – 63F

A pretty nice – and warmer – day in Malaga, Spain.

Local Information.  Malaga (“Malaya” in Spanish), the sixth largest city in Spain (population 560,000), is located in the autonomous region of Andalusia.  Granada, located about two hours from Malaga, has a population of 240,000 and is home to one of the most popular tourist sites in Spain, La Alhambra fortress and grounds.  La Alhambra. The Alhambra (from Arabic: Qal’at al-Hamra, or red fort) was built by Muhammad I in 1238 after the founding of the Nasrid Dynasty.  Yusuf I built the Comares Palace (1333-1354),  Muhammad V ruled during the heyday of the Nasrid Dynasty and completed the Palace of the Lions (1354 – 1391),  In 1492 Muhammad XII, last Nasrid Sultan, surrendered the Alhambra to the the Spanish Catholic Monarchs.

The last time we were in Malaga, it was raining and I walked and explored the city.  Ellen and I are both on the same tour today – “Alhambra Palace and Gardens ( plus lunch)”.  My tour guide – for the bus ride and lunch is Mario.  The bus is comfortable and Mario is aware of the need for rest stops.  We have our first stop about an hour into the ride to Granada.

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View from Rest Stop

The trip takes us through the city of Granada – a large city with industry and lots of hotels along the highway.  We continue out of the city and up the mountain to the La Alhambra.  Besides the pictures taken by Ellen during a tour last year, the only thing I knew about La Alhambra was that Lorena McKennitt gave a concert here broadcast on PBS.

After departing the bus, we picked up another guide, who took us through a tour of the grounds – she was very knowledgeable but I did not hear much of what she said since I was at the back of the pack with the photographers in the tour.

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Alhambra Complex (

The tour of the grounds started off at the Generalife (from the Arabic term for Paradise or Garden).  The Generalife is an estate beyond the walls of La Alhambra and was the summer home to many of the Emirs of the Granada Kingdom.  The area is composed of several gardens and farm fields.  The Generalife is above the walled sections of La Alhambra so this spot affords great views of the whole complex and the city below.

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View from Lower Generalife Gardens

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Entrance to Walled Section of La Alhambra

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The old city of Granada in the distance

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The orchards of the Generalife

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Lower Generalife Gardens


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View from Lower Generalife Gardens

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From the garden area, the tour entered the Palacio Del Generalife.  The building of the Generalife are simpler in construction than the rest of the Alhambra – this was meant to be a relaxing environment for the Emirs away from the hustle and bustle (if that’s what they did) of Palace Life.

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Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel or Water-Garden Courtyard

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The Parador de San Francisco Hotel is located right on the grounds of La Alhambra.  The hotel used to be a palace and a monastery so it has some historical ambience to it.  It does have easy access to the grounds of La Alhambra

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Parador de San Francisco Hotel

The Palacio de la Abencerrajes was home to the Knights of Abencerrajes.  These knights are part of a legend involving the Sultan and his wife.  The Sultan suspected his wife of extracurricular activity with one of the knights so he invited them all to a party – after the party, the Sultan asked each of the knights to join him privately.  Each knight was beheaded and the blood was said to flow into one of the fountains in the Royal Palace.

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Blood stains from the knights?

From the Generalife, the tour entered the Walled Section of La Alhambra and took the main street down the hill to the various buildings and palaces of the complex. 

The Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra was originally a Mezquita (Mosque) built in 1308 by Muhammad III.  When the Catholic Monarchs defeated the Moors, the mosque was destroyed and the church built (finished in 1617).

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Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra

Next to the Church of Santa Maria is the Impressive Palacio Carlos V.  Carlos V, Holy Roman Emperor, decided to build his palace in Alhambra as a symbol of the Christian conquest of Islam.  Construction was initiated in 1526.  The design of the palace is a combination of Roman and Renaissance features.  The construction of the Palace was halted for hundreds of years until 1923, when plans were made to recover the building.  No emperors ever lived in the Palace.

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Palacio Carlos V

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Palace Entrance

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Interior Courtyard of Palace

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Pillars of Hercules – Fresco

The Comares Palace is the most important palace in the Alhambra complex.  It was the Royal Residence of the Sultan and the venue where the Sultan would meet with important visitors. 

The Arrayanes courtyard contains a reflecting pool and flanked by myrtles.

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Comares Palace, Tower, and Courtyard

Behind the South Portico, you can see the Palace of Carlos V, which is adjacent to the Palace.

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Above – Interior of the Comares Palace

Adjacent (but not originally connected to the Comares Palace) is the Palace of the Lions.  The main feature of this Palace is the Courtyard of the Lions, which sports a fountain containing 12 lions (all slightly different). 

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The 12 Lions are thought to represent the 12 tribes of Israel.  Two of the lions have a triangle etched on their foreheads indicating that these are the special tribes of Judah and Levi.  Some scholars believe the Lions were given to the Palace by the Jewish Vizier of La Alhambra.

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Palace of the Lions

The tour then exited the Alhambra through the main gate and met up again with Mario.  He led us through the parking lot, up the hill, across the street, and up another hill to the Alixares Hotel, our lunch venue.  We had discussed our veggie requirements with Mario, who relayed the information to the hotel staff.  There were several tours in the dining room and the lunch was served buffet style. There was “fish” on the buffet, along with lots of salads, and breads.  I sampled just about all the acceptable items on the buffet.  The food was different but OK – the breads were especially good. There was also wine (very good).  Not only that, but Ellen and I had a table for two.

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Lunch at Alixares Hotel

Following lunch, we were back on the bus and heading back to Malaga and our ship.  Again, despite the fact that we had consumed tons of food at lunch, Mario planned another stop.  I used it to take advantage of the the facilities and to get some great shots of nearby mountains and villages.  Others were still hungry and bought some chips and drinks.

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View from Rest stop 2

We had dinner in the Ocean View Café – too tired to get dressed for dinner – and passed on “Equinox the Show”.  Instead, we spent the evening in the Ensemble Lounge reading, solving word puzzles, and listening to the music. 

A very nice day of touring.

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