SPAIN – GRANADA
The former capital of the Nasrid kingdom unfurls its charms, with the Alhambra as its jewel. A paradise between heaven and earth.
Its name comes from the Arabic al-Ḥamrā’, meaning the red one. Before losing yourself in the meanders of its architecture and gardens, there’s no better way to appreciate the majesty of this fortress and its palaces overlooking the city. From the terrace of the San Nicolás church, the panorama is spectacular, especially at sunset: soaring from the verdant hillside, the ochre towers of the ramparts blaze in concert with the buildings standing out against the snow-white Sierra Nevada until June. To soften the bite of the sun, a visit to the Alhambra is best made in the morning or evening, refreshed by the water of the Nasrid palaces at its heart. In their courtyards, it gushes out in crystal-clear streams, flows from the mouths of the twelve felines of the Lion Fountain, trickles through small canals and slumbers in basins where the architecture of extreme refinement, carved with domes, chiselled with stucco, sculpted with friezes and honeycombs, shimmers.
Fragrant myrtle borders the water features, and a procession of brightly coloured roses, summer lilacs and laurel trees accompany visitors’ steps to the Generalife pleasure residence, where jasmine, orange and pomegranate mingle with other plants to create a bouquet of scents. Exhilarated, we leave the terraced gardens to descend to the Albayzín District, the city’s most typical, with its picturesque squares and narrow streets so narrow a car couldn’t pass through them.
It spreads out over a hill where you can see the Cármenes, villas with gardens dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and taking their name from the word “vine”, karm in Arabic. In the centre of the former Muslim medina, other architectural treasures have been built, such as the Royal Chapel, a masterpiece of Isabelline Gothic, and the cathedral, which became a model for Renaissance churches in Spain and as far afield as Latin America. A pupil of Michelangelo, Pedro Machuca built the classicist Palais de Charles-Quint. Its circular courtyard with its elegant colonnade is the setting for the Festival of Music and Dance. In Granada, all the senses are catered for.