3: Tales of the Alhambra Greetings from Spain!
18 Feb 2002
The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in the Plain
About midway through the Strait of Gibraltar, exactly when our ferry moved from Moroccan to Spanish waters, it started to rain. And since then it hasn’t stopped. It’s rained on the coast, in the valleys, the mountains, everywhere we’ve been, so I guess my sole knowledge of Spanish rainfall patterns was not so accurate. Unfortunately I’m a little down in the dumps, and Josh and I both have developed colds from the cold and rainy weather here.
Good things about Spain: hot showers, potable water, clean rooms, chocolate y churros (thick hot chocolate with donuts the fave national breakfast).
Bad things about Spain: cold and rainy, unfriendly people, expensive, smokers everywhere.
So far we have been in the southern Andalusian region of Spain, based in Granada and Sevilla. Both cities are quaintly European, with narrow cobblestoned lanes winding up the hillsides, street-side cafes filled with tapas-consuming people, a lively nightlife, and countless cathedrals, churches, and historical buildings to see. They’re all starting to blend together for me, although there are two spectacular exceptions. The Catedral in Sevilla is a fascinating church that I think rivals Notre Dame in beauty. It was built on top of an existing mosque when the Christians took over the city. The next layer of the Catedral is gothic: it’s covered with flying buttresses (I just had to use the words!), hanging spinarets, and the occasional gargoyle or two. The final level of the building is Renaissance.
Once called the most romantic building in Europe, the Alhambra dominates the skyline in Granada. From the outside, it looks like a formidable red fortress, with the typical fortifications seen on a castle. However, the inside is a delightful surprise.
There are numerous gardens and buildings within the walls, the most beautiful of which is the Palacios Nazaries. The palace is Moorish, and most of the rooms contain intricate marble carvings all over the walls and ceilings. In some rooms, when you look up, it’s as if you’re looking at stalactites hanging down inside a cave. The windows are all arched and beautifully decorated with various Arabic phrases carved throughout. Each of the rooms are built around various courtyards, with flowering trees and tinkling fountains.
There’s even the requisite haunting: a Moorish king found his favorite harem lady dallying with a rival behind a cypress tree, and he ended up killing the rival’s entire family. Their ghosts now haunt the rooms.
On the outside, the gardens could have been imported from some lordly British estate with maze-like hedges, various topiaries, and running water flowing throughout. It’s truly a magical place.
Thoughts on G.I. Jane
Being in Spain has very much made me feel like a grungy traveller.
When I first put on my travelling clothes at my sister’s house, I pretty much shrieked in horror that I looked like an androgynous bum in my big hiking boots, baggy pants, and shapeless t-shirt. Kinda like the G.I. Jane moniker that I’ve heard from certain people.
But throughout Morocco, I discovered that it was darn cool to wear pants that had huge pockets that would zip up for once I could carry all my own stuff, and there sure was a lot of stuff. So I was happy. Besides, all the men in Morocco were huge flirts, and I was getting marriage proposals when I went out without Josh, so my ego was at an all-time high.
But now here we are in Spain.
All the women are absolutely gorgeous and dressed in the most elegant stylish clothes. Josh has definitely had to restrain me from going shopping. The one major bummer about this backpacking is that we can’t really go out and enjoy the great nightlife, since no clubs will let us in with our travel clothes. (Darn it, we need to move on to those Third World countries!)
Last Glimpse of Moroccan Men
At the last Moroccan Meetnet Cafe, the proprietor requested that I translate the following phrases into Thai for his penpal(s). Note the order of the phrases.
I miss you.
I am thinking of you.
You are very beautiful.
I love you.
Are you married?
On to Portugal next.
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