Since we first arrived in Alcala la Real - almost three years ago now - I have been meaning to take a day to myself and catch the bus into Granada - not exactly a very ambition intention but it's taken a long time to fulfil. I wanted to get to know the city, in the same way as I got to know Valladolid when we lived there and as I knew places like London, Leeds and Malaga when I lived there. It's a bit like staking your claim on the city as your own, and despite Alcala being officially part of Jaen, Granada is our nearest provincial city - and of course, it is a wonderful place.
I just never got round to going when we lived in the town - I always seemed to have something to do in the mornings and then needed to be ready to go teach at around 4pm. And since we moved here, even a trip to Alcala seemed to drag me from my home unnecessarily! I have been several times - don't misunderstand - but always with either FR and the children or with friends when they've visited, but never on my own. The time had definitely come to 'pop into town' on the bus.
Two buses actually, as I went into Alcala with the Villalobos crowd on the 'school' bus - seemed like half the village was off on an outing and we filled the little bus...12 of us, laughing all the way about nothing. It left me at the bus station and after buying my ticket, I was off on the Granada bus about ten minutes later. Simple! I was on my way at 8.30 and the day was already sunny, though a chilly 7 degrees when we set off.
It takes just over an hour to get to the bus station and once there, I had the option of taking a bus directly to the Cathedral, which is fairly central to all of Granada - (with exception of the Alhambra, which wasn't on my visiting plan this time.) However, I decided to walk and, trusting to my sense of direction, set off roughly south and east assuming that somewhere I would find some directions to help me.
There was never any doubt as to where I was, though - Granada (Spanish for pomegrante) is full of symbolic portrayals of the fruit - in the pavements, traffic bollards, in carvings and statues around the city you will see the pomegranate!
As I continued, the architecture became elegant, less modern and more interesting against the blue of the sky.
I kept glancing at the time and temperature displays and within an hour of leaving the bus station, the temperature had gone up by 12 degrees and it was time to take off my scarf.
And I kept walking.
By now, I had reached the Gran Via de Colon, whose name convinced me I was on the right track. I was ready for a coffee and a sit down...I'd been walking for about an hour and a half, pausing from time to time to look in shop windows and enjoy the scenery of the parks I passed.
So far this year though, we haven't had snow and so the Sierra Nevada is not living up to its name - its still quite bereft of its snowy peaks...it will come, it will come.
I noticed too that the streets had Christmas lights up. There not much sign of Christmas yet in Alcala la Real beyond the local supermarkets having a display of chocolate and panettone. The council hasn't put up any lights and the shops don't seem to be pushing anything different to usual.
I was always rather averse to Christmas starting earlier and earlier in England. I'm fond of the holiday itself - I'm not the 'Bah humbug' type but it feels better that all the merchandise and hype is much less here.
I spoke about the cost of food and drinks in a post recently. I had expected that Granada prices would be higher than those in our town, but when I stopped at a busy, lively cafe and patisserie on the Gran Via and had a typical breakfast/brunch of toasted bread with tomato and a 'cafe con leche', I was amazed that it cost only 1.90euros! Slightly less than in Alcala - AND I could have pan integral - or wholemeal toast!
Coming out of the cafe, I passed one of the gates that leads up to the Alhambra though I couldn't actually see the palace from where I was. It's nice to think it was quite close though...
Before I left the cafe, I nipped into the loos and removed a layer of clothing - in the same style as I had done when travelling back from Manchester to Malaga. In just two short hours, the temperature had gone from 7 degrees to 21 degrees!
I stuck to the shady parts of the streets and I continued my trek.
Rounding another corner, I saw, on a street to my right one of the best views of the cathedral of Granada - though this isn't saying much! It's really difficult to get a good shot as it's surrounded on all sides by very narrow streets. You walk around it, knowing it's there but not being able to see it properly.
This is the back of the building. I've looked on the internet to share a better photo but even though this isn't good, it's obvious that no one can get much of an angle on the place...and you have to make do with the odd glimpse up a street... like this one below...
I enjoyed looking in the shops around this area and again, was pleasantly surprised at the prices. I found some great ideas for Christmas presents, even though today wasn't a buying day.
And I love the big square just to the side of the Cathedral. It's called Bib Rambla and hails from the last Muslim dynasty of Granada around the end of the 15th Century. I like it mainly because it's where the annual Chocolate Festival is held...though I missed it again this year as it was just as the children went back to school. But I think of it being held here in this lovely square and on my vague wishlist for next year will be a visit to the 2014 Chocolate Festival of Granada. Would someone please remind me of this as the time approaches?
I walked down Los Reyes Catolicos (The Catholic Kings) and then took a left down toward the ubiquitous department store in all Spanish cities - El Corte Ingles (or The English Cut) - which is sort of a necessary visiting place when window shopping. Well, it is for me.
The walk down this street was very pleasant - starting and ending with wonderful fountains.
Yes, I forgot my camera...but you can see how blue the sky was and what a lovely misty effect the water had as it rose up from the fountain.
And believe it or not, it was now 28 degrees! I was feeling the heat and had stripped off as much as was decently possible. And of course, most of the folk around me, who were from Granada, were in boots and scarves and warm jumpers. It's almost as if the date dictates what Spaniards wear, not the thermometer!
A lovely lion drinking fountain. He has a very kindly face, I think!
And this is the long pedestrian walkway between the two big fountains. Also strung with Christmas lights.
And this is the fountain at the other end of the street. I began to wonder whether to postpone catching my intended bus back at 3.30...I would have liked to see the city lit up. But as I reached this - my furthest point - I knew to stay until it went dark would have made it just a tad too long a day for me...guess I'll do it next time when it will be darker a bit earlier!
I went into El Corte Ingles at around midday, went up and down it and inspected everything of interest, bought a few bits in the posh supermarket and then came out again. I bought some drawing paper and some pens, that's all. Such restraint...? No, I just wasn't that bothered about anything. I guess my spending days have blown clear away.
I walked all the way back to the hospital, where I decided to jump on a bus for the last little trek up to the bus station. Only afterwards did I realise that the bus to Alcala actually stops outside the hospital! I could have stayed put....but at least I learned something for next time!
It was, of course, lovely to get home again - and the first thing I did - after taking off my boots(!) was to see how far I'd walked. It was 9.6 kilometers which is near as damn it to 6 miles. This isn't much considering I do almost that much on a walk with Darwin - but it's a lot of Granada and very satisfying to have done it. I can't quite claim it as 'my' city yet but I shall work on it again...soon!