Sunday, August 05, 2012

Annie Nick Barcelona Granada

For months, we had been planning a trip to Spain to spend some time with Annie and Nick, who were going to the wedding of some friends, in a small French town near Barcelona.  It was only a few days before we left Goodhope that we knew by then we were not returning to Africa.  A very sad and difficult decision --- then to see Annie and Nick was a sight for our sore eyes.

We arrived in Barcelona on May 27.  Nick and Annie met us at the airport with a rental car.  And plenty of much needed hugs! We stayed in a wonderful apartment in the city center that Carol found through a website (that we recommend) called Airbnb.  This is the view from our window.

We all fell in love with Barcelona (the first of many such love affairs in Spain).  The winding streets were confusing and exciting. Not far from the door of our apartment we passed an art shop, with this
picture somewhat ironically displayed in the window.  It reminded us of where we have been, and

                                         that the end of one walk is the beginning of another....

We kept being surprised by things we didn't expect to see....opera singers giving concerts in a courtyard of the Cathedral, these bubble artists on a side street!

Wonderful markets 

                       and  Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. We did not take many pictures, as it would have
                                been too distracting, and pictures are easily available on the internet. 

But, just to say that construction on this amazing church is still going on - and, according to various guides, won't be completed for another ten or twenty years, here is one more....

We liked everything about Spain - not to say that everything is perfect there.  The economy has been taking its toll.  The Spanish banks were "saved" by the European Union recently and everywhere, ordinary people knew who is going to pay the price for the banks' mistakes, and it won't be the bankers.  Teachers, maybe, who, like teachers at home, are very unhappy about the way economic crisis always seems to mean the bankers get their money and the teachers get laid off.

From Barcelona, we drove to Granada, where we stayed in another beautiful home (also through Airbnb) owned by Ulrike, a wonderful woman from Austria who settled in old Granada years ago when it was mostly run down and abandoned by workers looking for more modern digs.  Here, then, is the view from our room.
Getting to the house was a challenge!  The roads wind around the hill, and many are too narrow for a car, especially driven by an out-of-towner.  We managed to get close, and Ulrike's brother walked up to find us, help us get our luggage to our rooms, and then help us find a car park.  It was close to 11 pm by the time we got settled, but then that's not late in Spain. Not at all. Actually, it's time for dinner!

We spent a day looking around Granada, getting wonderfully lost in the maze of streets, soaking in the smells, colors and ambiance of this ancient Moorish Andalusian place.  When we visited the Alhambra, we took this picture of our Airbnb.  The church at the top is where we contacted Ulrike when lost on arrival, and the apartment is three or four levels below it.  It's easy to see why we fell in love with this place.

                                         Nick wasn't the only one of us to be incredulous!

What we hadn't realized is that it was far more than a palace, it was a fortress, a city, and, of course, a symbol.  And ordinary people lived here until fairly recently. 150 years ago it was pretty run down; Washington Irving visited, fell in love with it, and wrote about it.  Since then restoration has been an ongoing process.  In fact, wherever we went in Europe, restoration was a theme.  From the great Cathedral of Chartes to small towns and villages, people, communities, nations take immense pride in the preservation and restoration of their heritage.  Sometimes it is a disappointment to see something we were looking forward to seeing, only to find it under layers of scaffolding.  Knowing that future generations will benefit from this great work is uplifting.  Take a look at these:
Foundation of houses in the old city
This is the first thing we saw as we
walked up the hill to the Alhambra

View from the battlements
Looking down at the living quarters

Carol, Annie and Nick
One of the many people
working to restore and main-
tain the site
Everywhere the artisanship was


Gardens of the Alhambra
Enough for now!  It should be obvious that we were overwhelmed at everything we saw. all of us for for the first time.  We still had a few more days in Spain with Annie and Nick.  Stay tuned....

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