The Parador de Granada in Andalusia offers one of the most romantic opportunities of any hotel in the world: to sleep inside the Alhambra. So popular has this 36 bedroom Granada Parador become that rooms need to be booked up to six months in advance.
The Parador de Granada dignified and tranquil and a gem among Europe´s most celebrated hotels, was originally part of a palace and mosque built between 1332 and 1354 which was later converted into a Franciscan monastery in the 15th century by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The Parador de Granada´s unique features include a chapel with a mix of Moorish and Christian detailing - where the kings of Spain were buried until their remains were later moved to the Royal Chapel in the Cathedral - as well a flower-scented Renaissance courtyard. The sensuality of the Alhambra's gardens enshrouds the Parador, making for a welcome retreat.
The Parador de Granada´s public areas are tended as carefully as a national museum. The interior combines the Arabic and Christian styles with classical furniture, numerous portraits, engravings and embroideries. These priceless treasures spill over into well appointed guest rooms that look out on ancient Granada and the snow capped Sierras. The Parador´s bedrooms are all unique and have views of the various historical buildings that make up the Alhambra complex. Each room features private bathroom, telephone, satellite TV and a mini bar.
Guests at the Parador Granada dine in regal splendor in a dining room which has a coffered ceiling and serves delicious provincial and international cuisine. Meals can also be taken on the terrace too, weather permitting.
Specialties of the chef include:
`Gazpacho Andaluz´ - the chilled soup of the region. `Tortilla de Sacromonte´ - the local omelette which is served very lightly cooked. `Pollo a la alpujarrena´ which is a garlic chicken dish and `Piononos de Santa Fe´ a typical cake eaten as a dessert.
The Parador de Granada is fully air conditioned and also has a bar and gift shop.
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Granada is a wonderful city with 260.000 inhabitants, which lies 700 metres above sea level. For its strategic situation it has been coveted by many different civilisations. Iberians, Romans, and Visigoths preceded the civilisation which was to make Granada the cultural centre of the western world for centuries: the Muslims. They bequeathed the city most f its exceptional heritage and designed its urban layout, a charming tangle of narrow lanes, beautiful gardens and refreshing fountains. The famous Alhambra dominates the cityscape. This part fortress, part palace gets its name from the hill on which it stands, the "Al-Hambra" or the "Red One".
Alongside Moorish Granada stand the Renaissance and Christian Granada which was chosen as the Catholic Monarchs as their last abode. The city with the magic of the Sacromonte quarter, the grand palaces of the Alhambra, and the quiet carmenes (traditional Granada houses with gardens), has inspired many illustrious poets and artists. Perhaps the memory of its evocative charms was what made King Boabdil - the last Moorish king - shed a few tears when he had to abandon his beloved city.
The old city walls guarded the rich heritage from the time of the moors and it is this which gives the city its unique character.
While in Granada be sure to visit the cathedral and the Royal Chapel, where the magnificent marble tombs of King Ferdinand and his Queen, Isabella, their daughter Juana the Mad, and son in law, Philip the Fair are kept. The sacristy has on display Ferdinand's sword and Isabel's crown and sceptre. King Ferdinand was the Monarch who ended the occupation of Spain by the Moors.
The Albaicin neighbourhood is also very interesting and is a Spanish National Monument in itself. This was once the Arab silk market and now features small, winding streets with shops selling local handicrafts.
In the evening why not attend a Flamenco show in one of the gypsy caves in the Sacromonte district.
THE ALHAMBRA PALACE
The hill of La Sabika, overlooking the Darro valley, was the site chosen for the construction of this colossal palatial city which was used by the Nasrid Sultans as their residence. Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the monumental complex, which is enclosed by solid walls, is an expression of all the artistic styles which flourished in the late Muslims period in Spain.
The monument includes four different parts: the Arab Palaces- such as that of Comares, which contains he courtyard of Los Arrayanes and the Hall of Ambassadors - Los Leones, which includes the famous courtyard of the same name and halls such as Las Dos Hermanas and Los Reyes, beautifully decorated with intricate plasterwork and mocarabes (geometrical patterns with which the Arabs decorated domes and ceilings); the military zone or Alcazaba; the city or Medina; and the Generalife Gardens.
Loyal to their traditions with the use of water, the Muslims provided the Alhambra with paradise-like gardens in which fountains ad water are the central feature, whilst remains of the Arab Baths still survive.
The Alhambra captivated Christian Emperor Carlos V, who ordered the construction of his renaissance palace inside the complex. The palace today houses the Alhambra and Fine Arts Museums. For its extraordinary artistic and historic importance, both the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Interesting day trips include a drive to the region of La Alpujarra and visit its villages. These include Lanjaron; which has a famous spa, Carataunas and Trevelez which is the highest village in Spain. In winter there is good skiing in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park which can be seen clearly across the valley from the Alhambra.
Popular religious and cultural festivals that take place in Granada include:
Easter and Corpus Christi when there are processions through the streets.
The International Music and Dance Festival in late June and early July.
The Festival of the Cross held on May 3.
The International Jazz Festival in November.
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