The hotel receptionist has booked morning tickets for us at the Palacio Nazaries and warns us not to be late, ‘as the tickets are only valid for 30 minutes’ although I suspect something is lost in translation there, as they are actually valid for four hours, but we obediently head across the almost deserted site just before opening time. The signage is not wonderful, and without the long queues, that will form later in the day, to show us the way, we wander round in circles several times before finding what we think is the disabled entrance. A friendly guide takes pity on us and lets us in anyway.
Neither of us is an historian. We have no guidebook with us and don’t think to hire the recorded commentaries. Two rooms in, my camera battery gives up and my phone is in the safe, back in the hotel room. We decide to just ‘go with the flow’ and concentrate on absorbing the atmosphere. We stroll from empty room to empty room, marvelling at the mosaics, tiling and mouldings. Every so often, there are tables with replicas to stroke, allowing us to engage our sense of touch without risking further damage to the time-worn originals. Everywhere there are fountains and the sound of running water fills the air. The central pool is stunning; so still there is a perfect reflection of the surrounding buildings.
We follow the instructions in all the gardens to ‘not touch the plants’, but revel in the beauty of the formal beds, multi-coloured chillies and fragrant roses (even in November!). In the grounds of the Generalife Palace, we stand for ages watching brilliant blue dragonflies chase their prey above still ponds, before clutching bannisters chilled by running water to climb to the upper ramparts for stunning views across Granada to the Sierra Nevada.
Strolling back across the site at the end of the morning, we find a tiny restaurant hidden among grapevines, where in the open courtyard, we sip our first Sangria of the trip and feast on stuffed peppers, while avoiding the dive-bombing sparrows.
Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.
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