“There's a lot of people here for it being closed today”

We woke up to our alarm at 6:45.  Crystal was in decent shape considering the partying we’d been doing the night before.  After we got up, Justin made sure to turn off the alarm since we had a sea day tomorrow.  The sun was actually not yet up in Malaga.  We got ready, got hydrated, and at 7:50, went out and waited for our tour even though no announcement had been made that the ship had docked.  It was odd, because we theoretically didn’t dock until 8, yet our tour tickets said a 7:50 departure.  It’s a good thing Justin is antsy, because Claudio was wondering where people were, and was giving the business to some people who showed up after 7:50.  We couldn’t really blame them, as literally no other day did a tour leave before the announcement the gangway was open.  One couple, stupidly, argued with Claudio about this, which was pointless in any event since they hadn’t missed anything.  After he walked away the woman said “I shouldn’t argue with him.”  We concur.

We got off the ship around 8:05.  We decided to take Bus 1 so we would leave first if there were any stragglers – i.e., not be a repeat of the Marrakech bus.  There weren’t any stragglers, however, and our bus ended up leaving second.  It took 15 minutes or so to get out of town.  There was a river that looked a bit like the LA river – a lot of concrete and not much water.  Malaga, like Cadiz, got its current name from the name during the Moorish period – Malaqah.  Our guide, Juan, told us that Malaga gets 340 days a year of sun, and also that it is one of the main hubs for bullfighting.  He told us a story about some famous bullfighter who kept fighting bulls until 85, when he finally retired.  This was interesting, but we were a bit hung over and just wanted to listen to podcasts and sleep.

Not far out of town the scenery changed to basically nothing but olive trees.  In the distance we could see snow atop the local Sierra Nevada mountains.  The people of this area – Andalucía – were the folks that left Spain for Morocco after the rise of Ferdinand and Isabella.  Queen Isabella was from Castile and King Ferdinand II was from Aragon, and they were second cousins.  They got married when Isabella was 18 and Ferdinand was 17, and together they teamed up to restore royal authority throughout all of Spain.  The fighting in Andalucía was particularly fierce, and the Moors were eventually expelled after the Spanish victory. 

We stopped at a break area about halfway through, and Crystal didn’t need to go so she stayed on the bus, only to get kicked off since the bus needed to get closed up.  We were there for a couple minutes, then headed on to Grenada.  We arrived in Granada around 10.  We drove uphill towards the Alhambra for a bit, and finally got out of the bus around 10:15 or so.  We met our guide Graciela and her sister, who guided the other bus full of people.  They had tickets with our names on them, but they didn’t know who was in what group, so half the names Graciela said to our group were of people in the other group.  Thankfully when it was all said and done everyone had their tickets.  The parking lot and entry area was a zoo, with lots of kids on school field trips making a ton of noise.  We all had headphones and Graciela had a mic that had a wireless connection to our receiver units, and we could hear her muttering about the loud kids under her breath.  Crystal said “There’s a lot of people here for it being closed today.”

At the entry they had a random ID check, which we had no idea about, but thankfully we each had our IDs on us.  Plenty of days this trip we wouldn’t have.  We went to gardens first, uphill from all the buildings.  There were lots of topiaries from cypress trees, and Graciela told us that they swap out the cypress trees every so often when the trees start to get old and less leafy.  There were also lots of fountains in the area and intricate designs in the walkways made out of river rocks.  Most of the flowers were temperate-type flowers, so we weren’t familiar with many of them, but there were lots of roses, irises, and some sort of red/white flowers.  There was also some sort of horse chestnut tree that had some nice blooms.  Graciela was talking much of the time, but the vast majority of folks were stopping to take photos and just trying to stay close enough to stay in range of her transponder.

We walked from there to another garden area, the Garden at the Court of the Water Channel.  This had a big collection of many bright blooms, and a water channel down the middle of the courtyard.  From there we started walking back towards the medina, a little uphill from the topiary gardens we’d been at earlier.  From this walkway we could see the topiaries, all of the buildings of the Alhambra, and Granada in the background.  At the medina we walked over the old moat and into the old city. 

The medina, compared to what we’d seen in Marrakech and Chefchaouen, was very basic.  We passed by a nice hotel inside the medina, the Covenant of San Francisco, which looked like it was actually part of the complex.  It’s always nice when hotels try to blend in rather than stand out.  It had a bunch of blooming rose bushes out front, near the walkway we were on.  We also passed by one of the original gates into the medina, and it was massive – very imposing.  Graciela kept referring to the Arabs as “invaders,” which rubbed Justin the wrong way given that everyone besides the Phoenicians was technically an “invader” in this area.  But whatever.

The first building we went in was the Carlo V Palace, which was a new building built after the Spanish “invaded” and vanquished the Moors.  This building had a very Roman looking style, with a big circular courtyard with pillars all around.  Thankfully nothing was destroyed, this building was simply added.  From there we went next door into the Nazrid Palaces, the main draw of the Alhambra.  These were the palaces of the Moors during their time ruling the area.  There was a big reflecting pool (Patio de Comares), and everyone wanted the same photo, and we have to say people were generally pretty good about getting out of each other’s way for photos.

The architecture was similar to things we’d seen in Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, but the roof/ceiling designs seemed even more ornate than we’d seen elsewhere.  Most all of the color was gone, except for some blue here and there on the portions of the ceiling that didn’t get any direct sunlight.  The Moors were driven out in 1492, and Ferdinand and Isabella almost immediately used the Nazrid Palace as their Royal Court.  Interestingly, it was here that Christopher Columbus received the royal endorsement for his expedition to the New World.  The throne room (Torres de Comares) had a very tall ceiling, lots of high windows with intricate designs, and designs all over the walls and floor, including a big mosaic on the floor.  The ceiling was made of wood, and was rebuilt after Napoleon destroyed much of it in 1812.

We were too busy looking around at all the sites to catch everything Graciela told us, but one notable item was a comment about the phrase “seventh heaven” referring to the highest level of heaven in Islam – we had no idea this is where the phrase came from.  As we exited the throne room we could see the Carlo V building next door, and it was an interesting combination of Islamic and Christian buildings next to one another. The next stop was the Palace of the Lions and the Lion’s Fountain, which resided in the center of the courtyard.  This area had some immaculately carved arches, ceilings, pretty much everything.  The courtyard with its white marble fountain had a nice background of a bright blue sky with some wispy white clouds.  The ceilings everywhere were nice, but especially in the Harem room.  Interestingly, there were actually some portrait paintings made on leather in one area, which Graciela indicated was fine since it was part of a private residence and not a Mosque.

We left the Nazrid Palace area through some special door that someone unlocked for us, and we came out into a garden area that we’re guessing was the garden of the palace itself (the “backyard” so to speak).  After leaving the Nazrid Palace area we went to a small shop that had carved woodworks, a lot of which resembled things we’d seen in Iran and Uzbekistan.  We started walking back to the bus and as we walked through the medina towards the parking lot we had pretty good views of the Sierra Nevada, which was covered in snow.  We finished the tour a little after 1, and then took the bus to lunch. 

This was so much better than Marrakech, since lunch was after our tour rather than before.  We were at a table with Richard from Florida, Craig and Broadwin (sp?) from Brisbane, and two folks from Houston whom we sadly cannot remember their names.  It was all a very nice, good conversation.  Everyone was closer in age to us, just a tiny bit older.  It’s too bad we didn’t meet them earlier, as we had only one day left on the cruise.  We discussed how the “elegant casual” evening dress code was becoming progressively more casual as the cruise went along.  We seemingly had all had read the rules about the dress code before packing, and had all tried to parse what it meant so that we didn’t bring anything nicer than what we needed for the least fancy dinner spots.  The Brisbane folks also showed us a noise warning note they’d received the night before down at The Club on 5 – they were very proud of it.  Now we all wanted to earn one. 

There was not much of anything on the bus back to Malaga.  Most everyone slept; Juan made a joke about everyone having a siesta.  We got back to the port just before 5:30, which meant no time for Starbucks since the boarding time was 5:30.  The port area reminded us a bit of San Diego, as did the seemingly perfect weather.  There was a nearby Ace Hotel with a rooftop bar that looked pretty packed – it presumably had a great view of the nearby cathedral and fortress.  We got pictures of the cathedral and fortress from up high on the ship.  Justin did a tiny bit of laundry so that it had time to dry tomorrow; Crystal had already done hers a couple days earlier.

Tonight was one of the fancy dress code nights (the other was the second or third day on the cruise), so up at the Observation Bar Helder and Matheus and the rest of the crew were in matching coats and ties – Helder seemed less than enthused about the extra garb.  We got a Mai Tai (Justin) and a French 75 (Crystal).  We also decided to get some caviar, which these Seabourn Cruises are famous for.  It came with some crackers, diced red onions, crumbled hard boiled egg yolks, and sour cream.  After trying the caviar (even Justin), we both had the same reaction – eh.  We stayed up there as we exited port, watching the scenery.  We chatted for a bit with Joe and his wife (whose name we sadly can’t remember). 

People started to head out to dinner bit by bit, and we left a little after 7pm and headed down to 8 to grab a table in Jose’s section.  Matias brought over some of the steeped tequila with grapefruit and jalapeno.  It was good, but we both agreed it needed more tequila, so he said he’d add in more and it should be ready for the sea day the next day.  The menu at Earth & Ocean tonight was the third time of our favorite menu – a good pasta (Justin), the prosciutto wrapped asparagus (Crystal), and the cowboy steak (both of us).  We also got the Carmenere blend that Helder had recommended the night before, which paired well with the steak.  Crystal got the mango sorbet for dessert, and Justin went down to the room to get our contact cards to give to Matias, Jose, Carlos, Helder, etc. 

Down at the room he ran into Melanie, and somehow one of our favorite lunches in Somerset West (near Cape Town) came up – she said it was always nice to hear familiar names and places like that.  She also appreciated Justin’s (likely poor) attempt to say “HHHHemsbok” instead of Gemsbok when pronouncing the name of what we just called Oryx in Namibia.  Jose told us that there wouldn’t be any dinner at Earth & Ocean tomorrow because of some event in the late afternoon around the pool area.  So we gave him one of our cards tonight just in case.  We also asked Matias when he was opening tomorrow, such that we could get an early start on enjoying the last day of all-inclusiveness. 

We went up to the Observation Bar around 9:30 and Justin brought his laptop to write down what we’d done today; some people thought we were working.  We chatted for a while with Marjorie and heard the ordeal of her 15-month-old Pomeranian being watched by the worst dogsitter ever.  The dog seems fine, despite the best efforts of the dogsitter to shirk responsibilities.  We hope Marjorie stays friends with her when she gets home.  After hearing at lunch about how loud and rowdy (comparatively) The Club was, we went down there a little before midnight, and there weren’t too many people there, but those that were there seemed to be enjoying themselves.  We stayed for about 20-30 minutes, didn’t see a reason to stay for a second drink, and then headed up to our room.  No noise complaint notice coming for us…

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