Great travels make for great experience
Spain has long been a country which, of necessity, merges and celebrates cultures, beliefs and learning, and no city more exemplifies this than Granada, the last Moorish foothold before King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella swept their foes from Spain and ruled jointly a unified country where before there had been only fragmented kingdoms. The story of the “Catholic Kings” is, of course, a tale of conquest, but not just militarily. The match between Ferdinand and Isabella was, according to most historians, a case of love at first sight, with both parties brushing aside familial disapproval.
Aside from the poetically beautiful Alhambra Palace – where Ferdinand and Isabella lived, loved and raised their five children (including Catherine of Aragon, who would go on to be the first wife of England’s Henry VIII) after the conquest – Granada has much to offer modern-day lovers in search of a romantic getaway or holiday, with picturesque, intimate dining and accommodation, as well as rich, sensuous sights, sounds and textures.
The Parador of Granada was once a 15th century convent within the Alhambra, but now 21st century couples on lovers’ holidays can experience the unrivaled majesty of a European medieval castle that was once a sacred palace for Moorish rulers. The complex could not be any better located for exploring Granada, while the rooms within are elegant and modern, featuring air conditioning, minibar, Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Venture out of your room for a quiet nighttime walk and soak in the sights and sounds of rippling fountains, bird song and ornate decoration.
Hotel Abadia is located in the very heart of Granada, a charming and romantic accommodation that has recently undergone restoration. Nonetheless, it is still a beautiful example of 16th century architecture, with a stunning patio area that features traditional Granada art. There are 19 rooms within the hotel, all decorated to reflect the city’s lively cultural melting pot, while the hotel also offers free Wi-Fi and tour booking for adventurous (and hungry) tourists.
The much-touted Alhambra Palace is, of course, the most famous and celebrated monument in the city of Granada. Aside from the love shared by Ferdinand and Isabella which flourished in the palace as their family and influence grew, the harmonious architecture and exquisite, exotic detailing in the palace, indeed, in the whole of the complex (which is like a walled city within a city) hints at the sensual, even the erotic. The Jardin de los Adarves, or Garden of the Ramparts, dates back to the 1600s; take a hand-clasped stroll through the stately yet welcoming trees, shrubs and flowers, while the ever-present trickle of fountains soothes. Water proves to be an essential aspect of Alhambran architecture, as the Patio of the Myrtles, with its long, beautiful pond flanked first by the myrtle plants and, more imposingly by the Palace of Comares.
The Cathedral of Granada, with its absolutely astonishing Renaissance and Baroque interior, was built by the Catholic Kings in place of what was once a mosque. Try not to hold your breath as you gaze up from the Capilla Mayor (sanctuary) to the harmonious but spectacular dome. The unique experience of such grandeur is one that will stay with you and your lover for a long time after.
Before sunset head toward the Mirador de San Nicolas, across the river valley, where you can view the Alhambra as the beams of fading sunlight pinken the stone towers. If you’re lucky, you and your beloved will get seats on the stone benches, watching a sunset just as magical as any on a beach.
Supper can be as indulgent or simple as you wish, but Andalusian cuisine is a must in Granada, whether it’s gazpacho at the Parador of Granada’s on-site restaurant or ensalada de remojon at La Mimbre. The staples of Andalusian cooking include fried fish and shellfish, jamón (ham), olive oil, chickpeas, olives and sherry wine. Be aware also that in Granada the locals take their last meal of the day very late so you might find you and your squeeze eating quite alone – which could suit you just fine.
For a little something extra with your meal, try the Jardines de Zoraya restaurant in the old Moorish district of Albaycin, which features nightly flamenco dancers at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The sultry, passionate dance should bring your blood to a fever pitch!