After a day of torture for Matisse the backseat of the car, we felt bad putting her in a pram. Good thing she fit in my bag. Not. We actually put her back in the car and returned it to the rental place. I could have let Karl do this on his own, but the mystery of the 2hr, 3km round trip in Madrid still plagues me so I wasn't missing out again. It turns out it took us just 15 minutes, including getting fuel. Such a let down.
We walked home via La Alhambra. Unbeknownst to us, tickets to this place sell out. You can book online up to three months in advance, or get a limited number of tickets from the door on the day, apparently queuing by 7am is necessary to be guaranteed one. That's actually crazy time for Spain. We had looked online the night before and all the days we were in Granada were sold out. I was confident we could wing something and we did.
The climb up the mountain was gruelling. It involved hundreds of long cobble stones steps, Karl and I carrying the pram with Matisse in it and a steep incline. We were exhausted when we got to the top. But. The view was worth it. And. We got tickets. Our admission time was 4:30pm. It had just gone noon. We almost cried at the thought of climbing that mountain again so we opted to kill four and a half hours up there instead. Find a garden, have a menu del Dia and a coffee, easy. Plus, Lonely Planet had a list of the free spaces that are accessible without a ticket.
Turns out, we can put away a Menu del Dia in under 50 minutes. The array of beautiful gardens were trapped behind entries granted at your admission time. The free spaces are essentially big open walkways, that verge on the concept of a courtyard. They are made from cement and stone, and receive the full brunt of the 40 degree sun. Coincidentally, we were wasting the four hottest hours of the day. I swear I could see steam coming off my skin. The token trees didn't really provide enough shade to relax in. We kept getting excited to find little pathways that would open into a magical garden, but they just led to locked gates. In other words, it was torture.
Conveniently, there are lots of souvenir shops and cafés in the free areas. We visited three restaurants; had four coffees, lunch and afternoon tea. Matisse crawled around stone courtyard after restaurant floor, progressively getting so dirty she looked homeless. It was that or the pram.
Karl decided it was also a good time to take off his thongs and let his bush pig dirty feet air out. The waitstaff in the Parador were mortified to see him running around their establishment. It was all pretty amusing in a deliriously exhausted and bored way.
Finally our entry time arrived. The queue for the main section was pretty extreme, so we opted to bypass if and return when it subsided. We went to section two, but our ticket was refused by the guard who gave us a perfectly reasonable explanation in Spanish. A passing tour guide explained that we needed to go to the first section before it would allow us through. He also casually mentioned prams were forbidden from the ticketed areas, and told us where to store it. Thanks for the heads up, assholes.
We swapped the pram for a baby bjorn and went to join the queue. It was a total of one hour before we were through the gate and into the palace. Once we were in, backpacks were then confiscated or had to be carried. What a system. A defining moment for the word 'convoluted.' Even just writing it brings tears of pain to my eyes. I'm not a pom and I have to whinge, that's how crazy it is.
Carlos Palace was truly magnificent in every way. The walls were intricately carved stone masterpieces. Well they were in the day, thesedays the restoration is done with plaster. This doesn't detract from the extravagence and splendour. The building was so elaborate, without signage you would have surely gotten lost, Karl wanted to move in.
Karl was really angry at these people who jumped about 20 people in the queue. I paparazzied them. They ended up tailgating us around the whole self guided tour, so their constant presence fuelled his fire. It became quite a passion.
This is one of the famous photo angles of the place. I was annoyed at sun, that decided to vanish behind clouds and take the nice blue sky with it the second we entered the courtyard. After we had spent four hours trying to avoid it too. Such a baddie.
The lion statues were high on my to photograph list. So I was stoked to have this ignorant man standing in the way, playing with his children for a good five minutes. When he finally moved, this massive tourist group moved in behind the statues for a group photo. I gave up and took the photo with them in it. They got their picture and kept standing there. Even after I had trawled through, I mean been herded like cows through another section of the courtyard, they were still standing there. As I passed them, I heard a lady laughing saying how many photos they had ruined. I seriously nearly decked her. If only I wasn't so exhausted from our four hour marathon in the sun.
There were signs everywhere threatening us not to touch the plants, so it blew my mind to see Karl walk over, tear off a flower, smell it, then unsatisfied, throw it into the garden. What on earth possessed him? He doesn't. He denies it happened.
After a full explore of the palace, castle and grounds, I can confidently say this is one of the most spectacular places in Spain. But it has culminated in a resolution to take a long hiatus from tourist attractions.