We decided to explore a bit on our way to our next stop: Granada. Looking on a map, Málaga is an obvious midpoint between Casares and Granada. However, we were saving that as a day trip later in our stay. Steve’s former boss lives there and they wanted to catch up. (Somewhat bizarrely his most recent boss is also living in Spain presently. While we won’t see him, our kids have been playing Minecraft together as they are in the same time zone!).
After a lot of map searching, we decided to stop in the small town of Antequera as its home to sites quite different than we’d been seeing recently. It’s home to a series of ancient dolmens, big enough to constitute a UNESCO world heritage site (http://www.andalucia.com/antequera/dolmens-de-menga.htm). At 5,000 (yes really!) years old they are some of the oldest and biggest of these such structures in Europe. They are roughly the same age as Stonehenge. One is even set to align with the solstice. Amazing.
After lunch at the local family-favorite restaurant (McDonald’s, you may have heard of it), we headed to Granada with a very slight detour for photos of the town of Loja.
Once in Granada we settled into our home for the next 8 nights which turned out to be a beautifully large space with a fabulous kitchen. Our host was so friendly and even bought the kids welcome gifts: a book about the Alhambra and an adult coloring book of mosaic tiles. It was about 10 steps to two groceries and a short walk to everything! A gem.
We had a relatively relaxed week here, with one full day trip to Málaga to visit friends and take the boys to the quirky airplane museum there. The rest was exploring by foot the city sites, carrying on with schoolwork and enjoying the Christmas lights and events.
Granada is far smaller than Sevilla but has quite a few museums. We skipped the churches and older houses (kids have had enough for awhile) and settled on the blockbuster Alhambra, the science museum and a trip or two to the Dunkin’ Donuts nearby (the donuts are like at home, the rest of the products are not!).
The Alhambra is the reason most people come to Granada, and Andalucía for that matter. One of the busiest attractions in Europe, tickets must be bought in advance in high season. We had our tickets, though still had to wait in line to prove Jack is under 18 (his ticket was a few euros cheaper). Sigh.
There is plenty of history of the Alhambra story available online. However, long story short it’s been a spot for fortresses since BC and the buildings you visit today were mainly built in the 12-1300s by the sultans of Granada (aka the moors) and made a palace of Ferdinand and Isabella after the reconquest by the Christians.
It’s the tilework and marquetry from the Islamic world that people come to see. Similar to what you see in Sevilla and Morocco, it’s gorgeous. That said, after already seeing amazing tile work in Morocco and similar architecture in Sevilla it was a bit anticlimactic. If I’d seen it first, I’m sure I would have been blown away, however.
Christmas time was starting to get into full gear and there some nice lights and a small carnival set up nearby. The kids went “sledding”. The hill was speedy, to say the least and their 3 runs were enough!
The Granada Science Park is an interesting spot with 4 main exhibits and a smallish, but well done, indoor zoo. There is a large exhibit on the human body, one with insane taxidermy (really) and one on music and science. The last was on safety and risk, in all areas of daily life.