Today our plan was to drive to Granada by a long way around because we wanted to go to Nuestra Senora de la Cabeza, which entailed driving up a mountain. When we had driven 30 km, (three left to go) we came upon a traffic jam, caused by two buses that were trying to meet on this narrow road, and there wasn’t enough room. We turned around and drove back to Cordoba and took a more direct route toward Granada. We stopped in Ubeda on the way, where we ate lunch at a lovely parador which provided really interesting food. After we ordered, they brought us several hors d’oeuvres, gratis. One was made with onion, rice and pig blood, and was very good! I had cream of garlic soup and peppers stuffed with partridge (perdiz) and Claire had gazpacho and partridge salad. All this food and good house wine made a robust and lovely lunch. After resting a bit, we drove on through Baeza, then admired the beautiful scenery all the way to Greneda. We departed from our ‘Spanish’ breakfast the next morning and had eggs and bacon at the Victoria Hotel. Then we went to tour the wonderful Alhambra.
The Alhambra is a huge complex of buildings, which was started as a fortification in the 9th century, turned into a palace-fortress, then enlarged and embellished in the 13th and 14th centuries. Later the Alhambra’s mosque was replaced with a Christian cathedral. Carlos V added a Renaissance palace and later still in the 18th century, it was abandoned to thieves and beggars.
It really was a splendid complex with its many towers, palaces and gardens, and it provided lovely views overlooking the city.
Ferdinand and Isabella are buried in the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) that adjoins the Cathedral. It was built to be their mausoleum. They actually lie in lead coffins in a crypt under the marble monuments in the chancel.
Chikita Restaurant was our site for lunch/dinner. Our 3:00 meal included lots of sangria, fish soup, many sausages and various Spanish dishes. That evening we saw another Flemenco show at Neptune Gardens, which was very enjoyable. Stuff in Spain is so—-‘Spanish!”
The following day we were on our way to Toledo, but near Consuegra we saw about seven windmills and the ruins of a castle high on a hill. We drove over to get a closer look—this wasn’t even mentioned in our guidebook, and yet, it was a very worthwhile stop. In the meantime I was getting a little nervous about the car as the brakes were growling. We made it to Toledo, got settled in our hotel, had dinner on the plaza, and drove up to the Parador for some sangria before turning in.
A walking tour after breakfast the next day took us all over old Toledo. We started at the Plaza de Zocodover, where we had eaten the night before, passed through the Arco de la Sangre (Gate of the Blood), and on to the Alcazar, which wasn’t open as it is being refitted for a museum. We saw the remnants of a mosque, the Mezquita de las Tornerias before confronting the Catedral de Toledo. This site had a very checkered past, first as a Roman place of worship, becoming a Christian site in 646 AD; later it was a mosque for three centuries, and later still in the 13th century, a new Christian church was begun and embellished over time. Its many chapels and other accoutrements were lavish and beautiful, although a mix of styles. Walking on we touched on several museums and several churches, including the Iglesia de Santo Tome containing El Greco’s masterwork, ‘The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.’ Additional El Grecos were to be seen at the Casa-Museo de El Greco.
After lunch, we drove to Madrid, with growling brakes getting worse, but we managed to turn the car in before anything bad happened! That evening we attended a Finnish Ballet at the Cultural Center, which we enjoyed a lot.
The following morning it was off to the airport, saying goodbye to Claire who flew back to Italy, and for me, home to Minneapolis.