Leaving Granada

And so a second year gets under way (note, two separate words) in which we’re unlikely to get to Spain. It might just happen later in the year, if the rest of the world catches up with us and Israel (who’da thought it, huh? Us, I mean) on vaccination and there aren’t any deadly variants cooking up somewhere as we speak. That’s a lot of ifs, though, and I’m not one of those people that think they have some sort of legal right to a foreign holiday every year. A cautious, risk-averse approach was probably in my genes even before the legal training synapses kicked in.

Meantime, we have many, many memories to fall back on, and the recent stirring of the house’s contents with a big stick as we prepare it for sale has brought a few of these to the surface. For this blog, I’m going to focus on Granada, which we visited along with Ubeda and Malaga in Spring of 2014.

In many ways the trip was bitter-sweet for me, as we’d lost my beloved Dad at the start of that year. I was undoubtedly still grieving him – we all were – but whether that meant I was more plugged into a sort of melancholy about the place than I would have been otherwise, I can’t really judge.

Most people go to Granada to see the Alhambra, the famous palace the Moors built at the height of their domination of Southern Spain, only to be kicked out by the Christian Reconquista. There’s a spot where the departing Moorish king, Boabdil, had his last look at the shimmering, beautiful city his ancestors had bequeathed him called Puerto del Suspiro del Moro (The Moor’s Last Sigh).

To me, for whatever reason, the last breath of that sigh still lingered over the beauty of the place. And I’m not alone. Gertrude Bone, writing in the 1930s of her pre-Civil War wanderings round Spain, (1) spoke of the rich fields of crops around the city, and how they reminded her of what must have happened as Ferdinand and Isabella’s troops bore down on the city: ‘that grim advance across the Vega, beating down, burning, destroying, and at the end that little tablet in the tower of the Vela within the Alhambra: ‘this day the Catholic Kings entered Granada.”

But I don’t want to put you off the place. Granada is great, not too touristy because most of the visitors get bussed in and out from the Costas, leaving the town itself to the locals and a few more intrepid travellers. The Alhambra is still one of the wonders of the world, although one word of warning: the demand for seeing the place is so great you have to book a slot, and if you’re on foot from the town, don’t underestimate the time it takes to slog up the hill to get there.

We lingered too long over breakfast the day we went, and missed our slot. Fortunately my rough Fife charm and (more probably) the fact I spoke Spanish elicited from the rather forbidding lady at the velvet rope that we had only to go to the shop and get the time changed to a later one. We did so, and strolled up at the rearranged hour to be let through by Senora, who then held up a stern hand to halt a milling band of Germans who looked set to follow us unbidden. I found this as amusing as the then teenage Daughter and Heiress found embarassing, of course.

If my heart still says Cordoba’s Mezquita (Great Mosque) is my favourite Moorish relic, the Alhambra has still to be seen to be believed. Bone again: ‘How the Moors used water too, playing with it, festooning it, working it like precious metal or diadems in the radiance of the sunlight! The cypress avenue in the Generalife leads to beauties of lyrical waters. But what remains is not as interesting as the Mosque at Cordoba is interesting. Something already a little on the decline and weakened seems to cling about the palace of the Alhambra…’

There’s a regular feature in the Times of London that asks people which artists and writers they would ask to a dinner party. Gertrude Bone would definitely be on my list. I think we’d have a lot to talk about.

(1) Days In Old Spain, Gertude Bone, illustrated by Muirhead Bone, MacMillan and Co, 1939.

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