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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 10 Apr 2016

Location: Malaga/Granada, Spain

MapOur only venture outside Malaga was for a day tour to Granada. The two hour bus drive took us through the Montes de Malaga (the Mountains of Malaga). This is a serious mountain range that goes right across the south of Spain and towers over several cities, including Malaga. It also creates the valley that guided us to Granada. Steep, rocky, tree-less slopes were in sharp relief in the early morning sun, with the occasional village sitting in the lower foothills. The summits have snow on them, which has dismayed the locals, as it only snowed in recent days and they were hoping they'd seen the last of winter. The main crop in these parts is olives and some asparagus, with the entire valley floor taken over by parallel rows of olive trees.

A visit to Granada must include the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex dating from the 13th Century. What makes this place interesting, over and above the excellent carvings and mosaics, is that it spans both Islamic and Christian periods of Spanish history, and it was where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement from Spainís Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to sail west and discover the Americas (in fact we stood in the very room where he was received his orders). Itís amazing to think that this place was ignored for hundreds of years, and even lived in by squatters, until the defeat of Napoleon in the early 1800s. Itís now a UNESCO site and one of Spainís most visited tourist attractions. We certainly found that out Ė it was as though every Spanish tourist was at Alhambra with us. It was well worth seeing, and having a tour guide to explain the history of each room added to the experience, but it was hard to not feel like we were cattle being herded.

Another interesting fact, as related to us by our Granada tour guide, Paco. Malaga was the birthplace for three very famous people: Pablo Picasso, Antonio Banderas, and Paco the tour guide.

We had a much more pleasant experience yesterday exploring Malagaís Gibralfaro, another hilltop fortress but not as big a tourist attraction. It gave fantastic views of this wonderful city, and we wandered its parapets without hassling crowds. Just up the road from our apartment is a genuine Spanish bullring, and we were given an excellent view of it from the Gibralfaro. Itís actually only used twice a year, and I hope thatís due to a decline in its popularity. Talking to some local teenagers, bullfighting may well be a short-lived tradition in Spain.