10.07.2010 - 12.07.2010 40 °C
The road from Portugal to Granada was baking hot and exceedingly dry. Surprisingly, the service stations along the route provided no shade for heat-drained travellers, so we had to wind out the awning for some respite, while we ate our watermelon, which had chilled slightly in our little fridge [it really takes strain trying to operate in the heat, which is perverse, as that is when we need it the most!]. We realised that most of the locals have the luxury of getting out of their air-conditioned cars, straight into the air-conditioned restaurants for their refreshments!
The arid landscape was covered in rows of olive trees, as far as one could see, and beyond.
The sunflowers in the fields, like us, could not take the intense heat and drooped their heads en masse.
We saw several “farms” of countless rows of solar panels, which seem to be a big industry in this part of Spain.
The city of Grenada nestles in a valley overlooked by the snow-topped Sierra Nevada range.
Our campsite at Suspiro del Moro, Otura, was 10km south of the city. It was pleasant enough with a large swimming pool and restaurant, where we had a delicious salad for supper.
The next day heralded our long-awaited visit to the Alhambra, which we had pre-booked on-line. On advice, we planned to take the local bus, only to discover from the bus-driver that the bus route went nowhere near the Alhambra! So we rushed back to the campsite and jumped in the van, as we had a timed entry to the Nasrid Palace complex. At the Alhambra, we were chased out of the shady parking area by an aggressive Spanish security guard on a scooter, and directed to park much further away, in another park, without shade, which he decided was for vehicles such as ours. The fact that we had to pay exactly the same parking fees, without equal amenities, was of no interest to him in the least.
We spent the next few hours exploring the majestic, and yet intricate, beauty of the Alhambra palace city. The name is from the Arabic for the local reddish clay from which it was built. It dates back to the 9th century when it was used as a fortress. In the 13th century the first Nasrid king built his palace on the site, which commands a spectacular view over Granada city.
Once again it was hot, hot, hot, and we rested in the gardens for a while, stopping to photograph the roses and waterlilies.
We popped into an artisan studio and shop to admire the intricate inlay and marquetry on display. We were so enthralled with the beauty of the finished products, and the skill displayed in creating them, that we bought an exquisite little table to be shipped back home. We were both excited to have invested in such a beautiful heirloom and can't wait to see it again.
Our timed and controlled visit [along with only 300 others] allowed us into the Nasrid Palace at 12.00, with its intricate carvings adorning the walls and ceilings.
The many rooms and courtyards were relatively cool in the heat of the midday sun.
Apart from the Muslim history and architecture, there is also a big Christian influence: Emperor Charles V built his Renaissance Palace within the complex, the courtyard of which is used for concerts.
It houses the Alhambra museum, containing many interesting artifacts from the palaces, including this exquisite urn, of which David sneaked a photo while the guard’s back was turned.
David explored the Alcazaba Fortress on his own as Sandi was too exhausted by the heat to climb another step.
After the long walk uphill back to the van, we were aghast to discover the sliding door standing ajar! Oh No! We peered fearfully inside to see everything topsy-turvy. Sandi immediately looked for the 2 laptops, but they were gone from their hiding place. We were paralysed! How could this happen to us? What do we do now? The violation was compounded by the indignity of finding Sandi’s underwear and toiletries scattered everywhere, assuming the thieves were looking for jewellery or other valuables. We realised too, that our 3 precious bottles of Rioja Gran Reserva had also been stolen! We had bought them to celebrate each of our birthdays and our 30th wedding anniversary in August, knowing that partying in Ireland would not be an option later. The low-lifes had ignored the 6 bottles of cheap Rioja wine, and made off with the special ones.
Feeling numb, we drove down to find security, but all we could find was the nasty little man who had caused this problem by chasing us away. He did not, or refused to, understand a word of English, but took us to the office, where another man tried to take a statement from David, which was difficult, given the language barrier. He claimed that there was nothing to see on the security cameras. He directed us to take his Spanish statement to the Police Commissioner in Grenada city to file a report. He really wasn’t bothered by our situation, and never expressed any concern or apology. Frustrated, and feeling angry with ourselves for all the things we “could have” done differently, and thoroughly depressed, we limped back to the campsite.
The main laptop contained Sandi’s travel labours with 18 months of research, book, and business work contained therein, besides all the rest of her computer data spanning years and years, plus all our photos, music etc. etc. She was about to back up onto the external hard-drive before we left Portugal, but ran out of time. We would therefore have to rely on the previous backup, which we had paid an IT expert to save for us, several weeks earlier in Cape Town, and which the thieves had not found. So although there would be a 6-week loss of data, we tried to be grateful for small mercies, as we could at least recover our photos and all the old data files barring the previous 6 weeks work [of which there was plenty!]. It was not until much later that we discovered even more devastation, relating to the back-up! Somehow the IT guy had duffed the back-up, and less than 10% of Sandi's total data had been saved. We contacted him later to ask what had happened, but he couldn't explain it, so we just had to accept it and move on. Depressing, frustrating, confusing ....... the words to describe how we felt have not yet been invented!
That evening we persuaded the receptionist to let us use her computer to do some damage control. Firstly, it was not easy to get any help as it was a Sunday night, the World Cup Final, and Spain was winning [the fireworks and celebrations went on for days afterwards!] Our bank security codes were in a document on the computer, so we were worried that our accounts would be cleaned out by the morning. We needed to change passwords etc., but were both running out of airtime, and it was impossible to get any top-ups locally. Our friend Bernie, in Scotland, thankfully came to the rescue by buying a top-up in Scotland and phoning the code through to us, so that we could make the necessary calls - an exercise also fraught with obstacles.
Since we had to report the theft to the police in Granada we booked an extra day at the campsite and caught the bus into the city. We found the Police Commissioner, but he could not speak any English and wasn’t bothered! We gleaned that he wanted us to phone our statement to a central police operator who would speak English. So out we traipsed again to do his bidding. When we tried phoning the number, it would not accept an international call [our mobile phones were on “roaming”]. David then put the call through from a public callbox, but the instructions were all in Spanish, so again we hit a wall! Luckily we found a helpful lady at the Tourist office, who called the number, followed the instructions and connected David with an “English-speaking” person. He then proceeded to take down a statement, including the birth dates and maiden names of David’s parents! He directed us back to the Police Commissioner, who would download the statement for David to sign. After another grilling as to the veracity of the details, the policeman printed out about 12 copies, each of which had to be signed. Finally, we had a copy for our insurance, but…..it was all in Spanish!
Seeing as we had wasted the better part of the day, and seen nothing of the city, we decided to have a look at the Cathedral, which is apparently quite special. After getting lost a few times, we eventually found it, only to discover it was closed for the next few hours for la siesta! By now we were so weary, hot and thirsty we could barely think and decided to head back to the campsite to collect the van and set off on plan B without wasting any more time. This entailed heading off to the biggest computer warehouse, to replace at least one laptop so that we could try to make contact with the greater world again. Not so easy, as we soon discovered that all the laptops have Spanish keyboards and Spanish software! Again Bernie came to the rescue, and offered to courier her spare laptop to our next stop-over in France. It was a wonderful gesture, which gave us a glimmer of light to look forward to, but in the end it didn’t work out, and we had to wait until we got back to the UK before being able to buy another one.
That evening, though still very heavy of heart, we sought comfort in food, and ate the most scrumptious paella at the camp-site restaurant.