Day: December 16, 2013

Our Week at the Beach ~ in 10 Minutes

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After an active 10 days and 5 cities, we were ready for a long stay to relax for a while. We had hit many spots throughout Southern Spain in  Andalucía and La Costa del Sur. We thought a week at the beach on the Mediterranean Coast would be just the thing. We found an apartment in Benidorm just a block from the beach and headed northwest from Granada. We had a beautiful drive through the mountains with many amazing views of the cave homes in southern Spain. When we arrived in Benidorm, however, our week of relaxation did not start off well. We met our host and took the lift to the 9th floor. She apologised that she had not changed the sheets and handed us a bag of sheets still in the packaging (not washed!) and walked us through the flat. We weren’t paying close enough attention, and said good-bye. Only then did we realise that there were only two clean towels, but 3 dirty ones hanging in the bathrooms, with dirty sinks and toilets along with that! We turned the heater on to warm the place up, and immediately tripped the fuse. We turned off as many lights as possible, flipped the fuse switch, and tried the heater again, this time at a lower setting. Tripped again! After two more tries of this, the heater stayed on for a good 5 minutes, finally warming the place while we put sheets on the bed and searched for cleaning supplies to clean the bathrooms. We began to put groceries away when we noticed that the dishes drying in the rack were dirty too! Then boom, darkness again. This time the fuses were all still on, but there was no power in the entire flat. We were fed up and in the dark; dirty bathroom, dirty dishes, dirty sheets, dirty towels, no power, no heat!! We picked up our still packed bags and left. We can laugh about it now, but at 10:00 at night, we weren’t laughing. We went to a hotel nearby vowed to pay more attention at check-in!

Tacky and overbuilt Benidorm, Spain
Tacky and overbuilt Benidorm, Spain

Fortunately, our night in the hotel helped us realise that the city of Benidorm is just a bad case of tacky Vegas on the Spanish coast. The place is so overbuilt and filled with tacky bars and souvenir shops. There was no soul, and certainly not many Spaniards there. We felt lucky that we got out after just one night. We had to pick a new destination, and fast. We needed a place that afternoon! We looked on the map, and thought the city of Valencia looked interesting…


The Alhambra and Generalife of Granada

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My Family was somewhat relieved that our reservation to visit one of the most beautiful attractions in Europe was put back one day because it gave us more time to study up on the palace. The 13th century Moorish castle was ingeniously built with heated water (also used for pressurized showers) and invasion protecting zig-zag doorways which put all invaders at an extreme disadvantage. We studied up all night about the magnificent fortress and then slept in ‘till ten thirty, when it was time to head out. The SLOLerners roamed the streets of Granada until 14:00, when we hiked up the hill where the Alhambra was perched. We were greeted by a friendly security man who guarded a very old gate to the palace gardens, and then walked up a beautiful ascending trail full of autumn trees and mini waterfalls. As we arrived at the main gate, a view of three very differently aged buildings filled our eyes. There was a fairly large 16th century rectangular palace of Catholic style in the center of the grounds. It had really beautiful stained glass windows and an amazing interior courtyard. To our left was a huge 12th century fortress with a clearing in the middle. Inside was a footprint of the labyrinth of military barracks that used to be occupied by the Moors. To our right was the original castle; the main attraction of the Alhambra. A 13th century intricate palace designed with peaceful water fountains and white marble covering almost every surface. Most inside walls were decorated with beautifully intricate marble carving patterns. The main throne-room in the castle hosts a throne, but it doesn’t look much like a throne. The Sultan’s chair is a very simple wood and leather throne, and is about the size of a modern day folding chair. Edie and I had quite the laugh when we compared the really fancy thrones used in catholic rule to the Moorish ones. We noticed in one of the books we had read the night before that the Moorish had incorporated a few mathematical equations into the building. The mathematics that I liked most were the ones in the doorways. Each doorway represented an irrational number, such as the square root of two. This signified the infinite connection to Allah

After we had visited the magnificent palace, we headed for the old moorish community within the old fortress walls. It turned out that the maze like structures were actually the old houses, all worn down to only the walls. The surrounding structures consisted of huge walls with towers on every corner. The westernmost and tallest tower we were able to go up onto, and the views were fantastic. You are able to see all of the surrounding city and all of the mountains behind Granada. This view was not only beautiful to the Moors but was also very advantageous. Any intruders attempting to enter the Alhambra without permission could easily be spotted from this point. To protect themselves from invaders, the Moors also developed a zig-zag type shaped doorway to put any intruders at an extreme disadvantage. Apparently, these precautions were not enough, for eventually, the Catholics invaded the beautiful Muslim settlement and conquered it. Their mark; the palace in the center, can easily be identified as something that was not originally planned to be built there. Though the Catholics did tear down a portion of the Moorish buildings, at least they left the main palace and the fortress to stand.

Our final stop was The Generalife, (pronounced chen-eral-leaf-eh not general-life) a huge garden known as the “paradise on earth”. These beautiful gardens are full of un-native and indigenous plants and have a unique aggregation system that at the time of its construction was way ahead of its time.