Arcos De La Frontera - Spain
Arcos de la Frontera is one of those places where you can really chill, relax and just enjoy the Andolusian atmosphere.
La Alhambra Palace has a fascinating history and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Spain so make sure you book your tickets in advance.
If you prefer to see for yourself then go ahead and watch my La Alhambra video now.
My first task on arriving at La Alhambra in June 2018 was finding a parking space. There are four or five car parks, and here's a travel tip for you, the closest parking to the palace entrance is parking one then two and three and four and parking five is a bit of a walk away. Ideally you want to park as close as possible to La Alhambra Palace to save on walking because you're gonna do plenty walking around the palaces and grounds of La Alhambra once you enter!
A word of warning about the parking - it's not cheap! I paid nearly ten Euros for four hours parking in 2018. So even if you have a car you might want to consider taking the bus if you are on a tight budget.
If you don't have a car it is actually still fairly easy to get to La Alhambra from Granada city center as there is a shuttle bus that runs about every then minutes throughout the day at a cost of 1 euro 50 each way (at the time I was there in June 2018) and it only takes about five minutes.
You can also walk up if you're feeling enthusiastic, but it is all uphill.
I recommend you either drive or get the bus up, spend your day wandering around La Alhambra, and then wander your way through the beautiful gardens on the way down.
"book your La Alhambra ticket online in advance for the busy period"
But now, into La Alhambra which is Spain's biggest tourist attraction attracting sixty million visitors every year, that is a lot of people, and a lot of them come in the busy summer season so another travel tip is to book your La Alhambra ticket online in advance for the busy period. Sometimes you have to book weeks and advance to get a ticket. You're very lucky to just turn up and get a ticket to go in during the same day so what you should do is go online on their website and then you can then pick a time slot as to when you want to go into palaces which means you skip all the queues you just go in at your allocated time slot.
So in summary buying your ticket to La Alhambra online in advance is well worth doing, and it doesn't cost any extra just a little bit of planning.
So a little bit about the history of La Alhambra and this area of Spain.
In the year 711 the Muslim Moors of North Africa came across the Straits of Gibraltar and invaded the Iberian Peninsula and for the next seven hundred years while the rest of Europe slumbered through the Middle Ages this part of Spain prospered and studied the Greek philosophers, art, maths, medicine, science in ways that still influence Europe today.
The center of that Moorish Empire at that time was that La Alhambra. La Alhambra was the last and greatest Moorish palace, it's a huge architectural masterpiece and you can easily spend a whole day just wandering around the palaces, courtyards and gardens. I'll try and take you through the highlights but there is much much more. There's the beautiful gardens or reflecting pools, intricately carved ceilings, amazing designs in calligraphy, pillared courtyards throne, rooms and there is the fort as well which is actually the oldest part of la Alhambra.
We are going to head straight into the palaces of La Alhambra. Now all
the palaces the Nasrid Palaces were constructed in the 14th century by Yusuf
I and his son, and it's their residence, the place of business for ceremonies
and entertainment from the centre of the
M oorish empire. All the rooms are designed to maximize use of light and space and are covered with amazing and intricate decorations.
The first area you come to as you enter the Nasrid palaces is the Mexuar Hall. This was used by the high officials to conduct business and judicial meetings with the public. The decorations in this room are quite amazing. All around you will see the most amazing calligraphy written on the walls. One phrase stands out as it is written 9,000 times in total throughout the palace and that is "God is the only victor".
Also on the wall around the Mexuar Hall you will see tessellation patterns on the tiles. These are amazing designs. They're very simple designs to begin with which are overlaid, interlocked and replicated until they produce the most stunning mosaic design. This intricate design is meant to represent the complexity and the infinity of the universe that we live in, mimicking patterns found in nature they are an amazing representation of a balance of art, maths and religion.
These designs inspired MC Escher, the famous artist, when he visited the Alhambra in the 1920s, he drew a lot of these designs and you can see the effect in his work.
The next area of La Alhambra is the court of the golden room which is a sort of dividing area between the public areas of the palace and the more private areas. Again you've got more of these amazing elaborate designs and you've also got twin doors that exit the room that are meant to confuse potential assailants because one used to lead to a dead end and only one went to the palace.
Entering through the correct door you then enter the Comares Palace. This was the official residence of the king and the palace that was used for important ceremonies.
The Sultan wanted to astonish and intimidate his visitors so he had the palace lavishly decorated with the most elaborate designs possible.
The first main room you come to in the Comares Palace is the "hall of the ambassador's" or the "throne room". This is the largest room in the whole palace and where the Sultan would greet his important ambassadors and visitors. His seat was placed in an alcove with beautiful decorations and a wooden lattice behind where the light would flood in behind him and produce this dramatic powerful silhouette which would intimidate the visitors, while the ceiling above is one of the most amazing jigsaw puzzles you will ever see. The ceiling of the Comares Palace is constructed out of 8,000 pieces of cedar wood and it is perfectly and symmetrically put together. The ceiling design represents the seven heavens of paradise with Allah's throne in the centre.
As you pass through the Hall of Ambassadors and deep into the palace the next place you come to is myrtles court now this is a beautiful, smallish garden with a stunning reflecting pool. The area gives a nice peaceful calm feeling.
If you walk on through the court and past the reflecting pool you will come to another well known area of La Alhambra.
From Myrtles Courth you will enter into the Court of the Lions, which is a much more intimate area of la Alhambra and reflects a later era. A more Christian esque design can be seen in Lions Court. The design of the Court of the Lions is much simpler and naturalistic, dominated by columns and pillars. In the central courtyard you will find twelve lions supporting a fountain known as the Court of the Lions Fountain. The twelve ions are spouting water into four channels that represent the four rivers of paradise.
As you enter this area of La Alhambra you will see some some more geometric designs carved into the walls known as moçárabe. Moçárabe are similar to a honeycomb design, very complex. As you leave on the other side you will see more moçárabes which are hanging down, they resemble stalactites.
On the south side of the Court of Lions you have the Hall of the Abencerrajes. This hall is named after a group of knights that were murdered in this room. The most startling feature of the room is the ceiling. We have already seen some amazing ceilings at La Alhambra, but if you look up in the Hall of the Abencerrajes you will see intricate designs creating an amazing star shaped dome. The way it's put together and hangs down it seems the dome seems to float above you.
If you exit the palaces of La Alhambra at this point you will then come to another beautiful reflecting pool with five arches overlooking it. A beautifully kept garden invites you to spend hours wandering around.
As you're ambling around all these areas you'll also find a huge Renaissance building slap bang in the middle of La Alhambra. It looks completely out of place in design and that is because when King Charles V of Spain finally drove the Moors out of Spain, and remember La Alhambra was their last stronghold, so King Charles V then built this huge palace, the most lavish palace that Spain has ever seen right in the middle to dominate his authority over it.
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