Sunday, May 20, 2012

La Mola

La Mola is a rocky mountain near the town of Matadepera.  On the top, there is a monastery that has been converted to a restaurant serving traditional Catalan fare.  They start serving dinner at 9pm, so a group of us set out to begin hiking up at 7:30 or so. There are no roads to the top; the restaurant receives its supplies via donkeys, and the waitstaff sleeps at the restaurant.

We tried to do this trip in the Fall, but got rained out, so we only had to laugh when we left sunny Barcelona last Saturday and caught sight of a dark storm cloud sitting over La Mola.  But we set out anyway, and it stopped raining soon enough.  Our Catalan friend, Cachi, kept promising us that this was "the ultimate Catalan experience," so of course a little rain wouldn't stop us!

We raced the sunset. It took us about an hour to hike up. I was the slowest of course, my camera and my trigger finger...

The Catalans:

The Canadians:

Our first glimpse of the monastery-turned restaurant:

Montserrat in the distance. I think I can see my friends climbing!
Breaking out the cava at the top. As Cachi said, this was "the ultimate Catalan experience!"

This was the largest botifarra (typical Catalan sausage) I've ever had! It doesn't even fit on the plate!  Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable hike down the mountain!
We headed down around midnight, with headlamps and full bellies!

Granada and The Alhambra

I made it to Granada a few weekends ago, completing the "trinity" of famous Moorish cities in Andalusia: Cordoba, Seville & Granada.  My mecca is complete :)

My friend, Sharon, and I stayed in an airbnb accommodation like we did in Seville, owned by a very pleasant woman named Luisa who rented out each room in her flat, all decorated with Andalusian memorabilia.

On Saturday, our ticket to visit the Alhambra (the famous Moor palace) wasn't until 7pm (you have to book museums ahead of time in Spain- something I am still getting used to), so we spent the day walking around the small city of Granada.  We had the streets mostly to ourselves because it poured rain and no other tourists were crazy enough to wander around in it.

We passed our time meandering off the beaten track through windy steep streets at the base of the hill on which the Alhambra resides.

This was our first glimpse of the Alhambra. The Alhambra was the Moor's palace during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its name comes from Arabic, al-qala'at al'hambra, which means red castle.

These shots are from the neighborhood called Albayzin, Granada's old Muslim quarter.  I love all the umbrella'd-people.  

Inside the courtyard of a mosque:
The snow-capped Sierra Nevadas are hiding behind the clouds.

An Arab tea shop for a warm cup o' and a moment to dry ourselves.

Finally, we made it to 7pm. Cold and wet, but we made it! To the Alhambra! This is the walk to the Palacio Nazaries. The hedges are pruned in the shape of the Arabic doorways.

The Palacio Nazaries was the palace for the Nasrid emirs. And we enter...

Intricately molded stucco walls:

Tiles galore! Mesmerizing!
Stalactite-like vaulting:

This is the patio leading to the Palace of the Lions, where the royal harem supposedly resided.

From these windows, the favored lady could sit on a cushion and stare out at town life across the river:
The lush gardens and the sound of trickling water everywhere coming from canals, pools, and fountains served to emulate the description of paradise in the Koran.


Finally, the sun came out as we concluded our visit!

We left the Alhambra behind us, and headed back down the hill to town.

The next day, we had sunshine which was a lovely contrast to Saturday, but unfortunately it brought all the tourists out as well. We were glad to have enjoyed a day to ourselves the day before even if it was raining.
Walking along the river towards the Sierra Nevadas:


The site of a collapsed bridge to the Alhambra:
Another Arabic tea shop:

Persephone's pomegranate:
And finally, a glimpse of the spectacular Sierra Nevadas from the airport on our way home. These had been hiding in the clouds above us all weekend! 

 I left Granada thinking one weekend is too short. It's the type of place in which you want to spend long slow time.

One thing that caused the fame of the Alhambra and Granada to surge (besides its gorgeous architecture and historical importance for Islam) was when, in the 1820s, American diplomat and writer, Washington Irving, stayed at the Alhambra to write his Tales of the Alhambra. I finished reading it while on the plane ride home from Granada.  The last paragraph sums up the intrigue and enchanting quality of the place:

“With these thoughts I pursued my way among the mountains. A little further and Granada, the Vega and the Alhambra, were shut from my view and thus ended one of the pleasantest dreams of a life which the reader perhaps may think has been too much made up of dreams."