Saturday November 24, 2012
Only a couple days left on our trip and today was a big one. We took a three hour train from Seville to Granada to see one of Spain’s most famous attractions: the palace and fortress Alhambra.
It’s one of the most prominent Arab influenced structures in Spain and provides a lot of bearing to the Moorish rule in Spanish history. It was constructed during the 10th century and was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. The Alhambra consists of several sections including Alcazaba, Palacios Nazaries, El Partal and the Generalife. The Palacios Nazaries and Generalife areas are the most picturesque and where the crowds tend to gather. Due to this, access to Palacios Nazaries is restricted during your visit. When you purchase your tickets, it indicates a 30 minute period when you need to enter the Palacios Nazaries. Our time was 11AM, which is busy and we got in line around 10:40 AM. The quietest time is first thing in the morning. If you are staying overnight in Granada or driving, I would advise getting there at 8 AM when they first open. It’s less crowded, which means less people in your pictures. The first train of the day got us in Granada around 10 AM and you need to take a 15 minute taxi to the sight. Since this is one of the most popular attractions in Spain, and the number of visitors per day is limited, I strongly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance. This is particularly important during the peak travel season.
The Alhambra is one of the most striking historical sites in the world. The detail inside the walls of the Palacios Nazaries is worth a few hours of your time alone. It’s really one of the most impressive displays I have seen to date. Once inside the Palacios Nazaries, you have to wear your backpack on your front side to avoid rubbing up against the walls.
It sits on 35 acres of land. We spent about three hours at the Alhambra, but I would recommend about six or splitting your time into two days to give your legs some rest.
For lunch, the plan was to go to Bar FM, one the best seafood restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed for the week and we weren’t informed until we saw the sign on the door. Our back-up plan was to get Arabic food at Restaurante Arrayanes. I’ve had Arabic food my whole life: in the US, at home and in Egypt. Jen’s brother also raves about the food he had in Afghanistan so our expectations were high. The food was good, but no better than other Arabic food you could get in the US and definitely not as good as the food I had in Egypt. When you go to Italy and have rustic pastas, you sort of say to yourself, “Oh that’s how good simple food can taste.” We were hoping for the same reaction from Arrayanes, but it just didn’t measure up. I was expecting a culinary revelation. We started with mint lemonade that was refreshing. I figure we could steal the idea and add mint to lemonade at home for summer parties. Our tasting of salads and chicken pastela were good, but we’ve had comparable versions in Los Angeles. I even enjoyed the contrast between the lamb and the prunes. Not a bad place to eat at in Granada if you’ve never had good Arabic food before.
Cuesta Maranas, 4
18010 Granada, Spain
After lunch, we headed to the Roman Catholic Monasterio de San Jerónimo and then to the Mirador San Nicolás where there they have the best views of the Alhambra.
Our last stop in Granada was at Catedral and Capilla Real. This church houses the remains of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II.
Once we were back in Seville, we changed and headed out for dinner. We had three stops that night. A formal dinner at Jaylu and then two light snacks at Casa Paco Nervion and Albarama. Jaylu is known for great seafood and even more for its Jamon. This would be the last version we tried in Spain and thus far we had been underwhelmed. Lucky for us, this time we had a winner. It was so succulent and rich with flavor. We asked if we could order some to-go, but they declined. Maybe our request was lost in translation. The remaining seafood was decent. We got an order of shrimp, prawns, clams and fish to finish out the meal. The fish was mediocre. I would have just preferred some wine and four more orders of jamon….it was that good.
Calle Lopez de Gomara, 19
41010 Seville, Spain
We laughed a little when we saw that the olive oil was branded with NBA basketball player and apparent Spanish God, Pau Gasol. I tried to explained the humor to our server that it would be similar to Kobe Bryant having his own wine label and Spago suggesting a pairing with my main course. But our server was so ecstatic that Kobe Bryant had a wine, the moment passed and I just dropped it.
Spaniards love their salt. I’ve never been one to complain about over or under salted food. I find those that do, watch too much Top Chef, don’t enjoy food enough to appreciate the other aspects of a dish, or just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. But, Spain has changed all that. Nowhere was that more evident than at Casa Paco Nervion. Every dish, with the exception of the stewed bull tail, had an abundance of salt. And the grilled salt in boletus sauce took the cake. Nonetheless we were able to enjoy our first taste of garlic shrimp and the bull tail was what a great tapas dish should be.
Casa Paco Nervion
Luís Huidobro 23
41007 Seville, Spain
Our final stop of the night was at Albarama. At this point it was late and they were out of a couple dishes. Shawn warned us that popular dishes can sell out so arrive early if you have a “must try” in mind. We were able to sample the potato salad and a sea urchin dish we were looking forward to trying. I’ve been fortunate enough to try potato salad at Carolina barbeque institutions, Texas greasy spoon establishments, Southern diners and Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’ve tried what I would consider the best of them and Albarama’s version tops the list. It is creamier than anything we’ve had before. The sea urchin with quail egg and caviar on the other hand was a complete disappointment. We like sea urchin, we like eggs and we like caviar. But, the sea urchin was of poor quality and the ingredients didn’t come together.
Plaza de San Francisco, 5
41004 Seville, Spain