Over the past week husband and I have visited Seville and Granada in Andalusia, Spain. It was husband’s birthday, and he adores the tapas in Seville. Every time we visit Albufeira we take a trip over to Seville to sample the atmosphere, the architecture, the food and the wine. This time we decided to extend the visit to include Granada, which has also been on my list of places to see.
Due to an A Level History unit I taught on the creation of Spain under the rule of Isabella and Ferdinand ‘The Catholic Kings’, I have an unusual level of historical knowledge about the area and the events that took place there. This provided me with the chance to spend the week as my alter-ego ‘History Geek Girl’. I had a ball.
Our week away, started in Seville, where the tapas is just amazing. The streets are very closely packed together in the main centre and there is an opportunity to eat and drink around every corner. We were thoroughly spoilt by the options and choices available to us. We spent much of our time there strolling through the different areas, El Arenal, Santa Cruz, Triana and along the river front, just taking in the atmosphere. We’ve visited both the Cathedral with its Giralda Tower and the Real Alcazar several times, so this time we gave them a miss. However, we did have another visit to the top of the Metropol Parasol or ‘mushrooms’ which provides stunning views across the rooftops of Seville.
One thing we did discover this time was the simple breakfast, toasted bread, with olive oil, pulped tomato and Serrano ham. Just beautiful and a great start to our tapas filled days. Another highlight for us is La Brunhilda Tapas, one of Seville’s top ranked tapas restaurants. Well worth the visit. A new restaurant for us this time was Petit Comite – like fine dining on a small-scale, just superb.
We travelled on to Granada – the ‘final frontier’ for The Catholic Kings and the place they chose to stake their claim to the area now known as Andalusia. Until 1498, this area was inhabited by Moors and as part of their quest to create ‘Spain’ from it’s disparate parts, needed to be conquered. When you walk around Seville, you can see evidence of Moorish influences particularly in the Real Alcazar and the Giralda tower, however, it is on a much smaller scale than in Granada. Whilst I knew the history of the area and that both Muslims and Jews were both inhabitants of Granada I had not anticipated seeing such a Moorish influence in the town. Walking through the small streets of El Albacin, the Moorish area, is quite breathtaking. The streets are both narrow and hilly. The area is filled with tea shops, and here the restaurants are very Moorish in their influence. It was wonderful to see how the different religious groups have worked to create the city that is Granada today.
Obviously no visit to Granada is complete without a visit to the Alhambra. Quite remarkably, given it’s size and location, prior to visiting we had not caught sight of it. Due to the close-knit nature of the streets, it is actually quite difficult to see that high. We walked from our apartment up to the Alhambra. It wasn’t until we arrived that we realised that shuttle buses do exist to transport people up the hill and that only idiots walk it. We are quite clearly idiots! Whilst it was difficult, I would not say it was overly challenging and the views on the way up were well worth the effort. We walked back down the hill through the serene pathways, enjoying the views of the city as we walked.
I was awed and disappointed in equal measure at the Alhambra. The ‘must see’ part of
the Alhambra, the Nasrid Palace, was disappointing. This may just have been due to the immense number of visitors which made really enjoying the palace quite difficult. The carvings there are just beautiful, and it’s quite amazing to think that some date back to the 14th century. I prefer the Real Alcazar in Seville as evidence of the Moorish palaces. For me the part of the visit that stood out was the Alcazaba. I was really awestruck by the sheer magnitude of this part of the castle – and the views from the top were just breathtaking. It provided a real sense of how a castle functioned and how the living areas around it supported the life of the monarch within. For Isabella and Ferdinand to have succeeded in their defeat of this city would have required a huge level of determination and commitment to their cause.
I really loved teaching the history of The Catholic Kings to my students and have loved being able to see the parts of Spain that were so important to their reign. On our last day in Granada we visited the Cathedral and next to it the Royal Chapel, where the remains of Isabella, Ferdinand still lie, along with their daughter Joanna (a bit bonkers), her husband Philip I, and their son Charles I of Spain. (Also Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor). Being History Geek Girl I was thrilled to bits to be able to see the final resting place of these 5 people, as they so influenced my teaching career and introduced me to a whole aspect of history I would otherwise never have got to learn myself.
As we walked out of the Royal Chapel my husband asked me if I was pleased to have seen the remains of people I admired. I’m not sure I did admire them. Who could admire the people who introduced the Spanish Inquisition for the sole purpose of forcing religious groups to convert to Christianity? What I did admire was their commitment to global domination. They provided the money for Christopher Columbus to travel to the New World and thus begin the Spanish influence of South America. They also made sure their children married into influential households across Europe, so that future generations would not just reign over Spain. Kathryn of Aragon married both Arthur and then Henry VII, with their daughter Mary I reinstating Catholicism to England. Joanna married Philip I, heir to the Holy Roman Empire, and their son Charles V becoming the first king of both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. These marriages sowed the seeds of domination and influence beyond the Spain.
But what about the tapas? Sadly, in Granada it was a little disappointing. Every time you order a drink you get a free tapas dish. In a way this was brilliant, as it forced us to eat things we would never have ordered – a sea food paella, a dish made with squid. But beyond this, whilst the food was beautiful, it was delivered in full size portions, so the opportunity to sample a number of varied small dishes wasn’t available to us. We ate some beautiful food, but probably didn’t get to sample as much as we would have liked, had the tapas sized portions been available to us.
Granada was a beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and the opportunity to immerse myself in its history, if you are ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend you stop for a visit, hills and all.