On the morning of the 17th, we left the town of Sevilla and travelled eastward through Andalucía to what was once the grandest city in Spain, Granada. Granada, today, is a booming city which sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its most notable tourist site is the Alhambra, a Medieval Moorish palace and citadel. We’ll be seeing that on our second day in the city.
After checking into our hotel, we walked approximately 1/3 mile to the Granda Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Incarnation. It is one of only two Renaissance churches in Spain. It’s earliest beginnings were Gothic, it was built in the Renaissance style, and it was decorated in the Baroque style. Walking through the Renaissance interior was reminiscent of St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London.
After our tour of the cathedral, we exited and paid again to enter one of the side chapels in the church, the Royal Chapel (apparently the church and this chapel are run by different religious orders.) Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside (Photos which follow were found online). The primary draw for tourists is to see the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs. They chose Granada for their burial to make a statement: Granada was the last bastion of Islam in Spain during the Reconquista. When the Moorish king, Bobadil, handed over the keys to the city to King Ferdinand, the Reconquista was complete — All of Spain was under Christian control once again. Ferdinand and Isabel, by permanently planting themselves in Granda, indicated that it would never be removed from Christian rule again. Also, resting next to the Catholic Monarchs are Philip the Fair and Juanna the Mad (daughter to Ferdinand and Isabella). An unexpected treat in visiting the Royal Chapel was the wonderful collection of paintings by several Netherlandish masters, including Hans Memling, Rogier van der Weyden, and Dirk Bouts. Another room had the crown and scepter of Isabella and the sword of Ferdinand.
Our last adventure for the day was to wander through the Albayzín, Spain’s best old Moorish quarter. At times, we felt we were back in the Middle East (reminiscent of our trips through Muslim neighborhoods on our Israel visit last year). The shaded,small cobbled lanes with colorful corners and flowery walls was relaxing (although the first half was all uphill). We somewhat randomly chose small lanes and alleys which led us to the top of the hill, upon which sits the Mirador de San Nicolas, the bell tower attached to the almost 500-year old church of San Nicolas. From the top of the bell tower, and to a lesser extent, the patio beside the church, we were treated to awesome views of the Alhambra and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains.
After ambling back down the hill, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and retired to our hotel, the Hotel Granada Centro, to rest for a busy, next day in Granada.