Granada and The Alhambra, Part 1(Sun., Mar. 25, 2012)

Boy, am I tired, but I think I may be getting my second wind–hopefully, for long enough to get this blog post written tonight.  Also, I can’t believe I’m actually on the internet, as I’m sitting up in my hotel room & the WiFi is supposedly only available down near the lobby.  I’m probably on borrowed time, though, so I’ll try to hurry it up.

Well, we certainly had a great & interesting day today.  We had to get up early to be on the bus by 7:15.  We were bound for the city of Granada, which is about 72 miles away.  Incidentally, our Scottish “tour guide” isn’t really our tour guide, I found out.  She’s just the coordinator.  Our tour guide for (most of) the day was Paco.  Now Bill & I were just having a discussion about the mystery of the missing Paco.  Yesterday I could swear that Karen (the Scottish lady, & I’m not even sure whether that’s how you spell her name–she pronounces it like “Kahrin” or maybe “Karn”) said our bus driver’s name was “Paco.”  But today another guy was driving while Paco was talking.  And then to top it off, when we arrived at The Alhambra, we were handed off to another tour guide, whose name was (you guessed it) “Paco.”  My question is, was the guy who was driving today also the same guy who was driving yesterday?  If so, he would be the third “Paco.”  I’ll have to delve into this conundrum further & will report back to you on it later…

All the way to Granada, Paco was giving us all kinds of information about the history of Spain and of this particular area; all of the different types of crops grown around here (olive trees galore); & about the different groups of people, etc.  He was telling us so much, in fact, that it was beginning to get somewhat overwhelming by the time we made it to Granada.  Luckily, he did tend to repeat himself here & there, which helped make it soak in a little.  We learned, for one, that the highest point on the whole Iberian Peninsula is located near Granada.  It’s called Sierra Nevada & is at 11,500 ft. above sea level.  It’s also the only ski resort in the south of Spain.

The road we took to Granada was really nice.  It was a toll road for part of the way.  We drove through some nice tunnels and had some good views of hilly terrain.  It reminded us of parts of California, with lots of the same types of flora, such as prickly pear cacti, lots of poplar trees (these were of the silver variety, & people make paper out of them), almond trees, some cherry trees, and as I mentioned, LOTS of olive orchards everywhere.  This area has the biggest production of olive oil in the world.  Olive oil makes up 60% of this area’s products.  Some of the olive trees can live to be 1,000 years old, but a “good tree,” according to Paco, is about 200 years old.  They are pruned so that they have 3 branches or “arms” growing out about a foot or so from the ground splitting off the trunk.  They are planted about 15 feet apart.  All the olives are green (not black), though they do grow different varieties of green ones.

We drove past a small village called Rio Frio, which means “Cold River.”  Rio Frio is known for its fish hatchery.  In this village every house has a pool in the back in which the people raise trout.  They also raise lots of olives and almonds there.

Another village was called Loja (I think that’s how you spell it), & it’s called “The White Village,” probably because almost all of the buildings are painted white.  This is an historic village because there were some neolithic human remains, which were 5,000 – 6,000 yrs. old, found here.

As we were nearing the city, Paco said that there was a large settlement of “gypsies” located around there, and he warned us not to allow them to try to give us “a sprig of rosemary,” because then you wouldn’t be able to get rid of them, & they would be expecting to pry some money out of you.  He told us not to “upset them” but to just say “No, gracias.”  So, of course, then we were all on the lookout for gypsies.  (The other Paco at The Alhambra pronounced it “yipsies,” which we thought was funny.)

Granada is known as the place where Christopher Columbus, Queen Isabella & King Ferdinand signed the agreement for him to sail to the new world & conquer the lands for the glory of Spain.  This was really interesting for us Americans, of course.  There were statues of Columbus in the city, & we walked into the room at The Alhambra where they did the actual signing.

I guess I’m going to have to cut this post off here and will obviously have to make it a 2-parter, hopefully finishing it tomorrow.  I took 241 photos today, so I still have lots of work to do.  It’s already past 11 p.m., & we have to get up early again tomorrow for another info.-packed day of adventure.

I’ll leave you tonight with a couple of photos–one of each of the two Pacos.  (I haven’t yet taken a photo of the third “Maybe-Paco.”)

Paco at The Alhambra                                              From left: Betsy, Mike & Paco

Paco at The Alhambra

From left: Betsy, Mike & Paco (the 1st)

Both Pacos, incidentally, were excellent tour guides.