For a much-needed Spring Break holiday, we faced the Naples FL vs “somewhere exotic yet family friendly” trip dilemma. I was firmly in the Naples FL camp but was outvoted so we ended up in Andalucia. Here are my tips for a trip with young kids.
First, do not fly Iberia across the Atlantic. They are on strike a lot of the time. Our flight out got cancelled because of a strike and we have (so far!) narrowly escaped a cancellation of our return trip. For local trips, you are stuck with Iberia or Spanish trains which can also go on strike (or you can drive).
Since we actually got here, things have gone pretty smoothly.
If you are driving in, you can avoid the city by using the ring road and access the Alhambra parking lots and deposit yourself there. You can walk down via the pedestrian walkway just outside the Alhambra walls. This walk is wonderful in itself.
Book ahead for the Alhambra and get your tickets from the machines near the entrance hall. Tickets sell out quickly each morning and people start lining up at 6 am if they forget to book ahead. I can’t do justice to the Alhambra in this brief post but can confirm that there is enough interest to satisfy young boys – the castle watchtowers are fun, all the water canals that feed the gardens are fascinating and this is enough to sustain them on the walk through the Nasrid Palace. BTW, you have to arrive at the Palace at the specific time on your ticket.
The main other activity I enjoyed was the walk up the Albayzin hill, the old Moorish quarter. You are transported to an earlier time and you traipse up winding, narrow streets up the hill to the Mirador de San Nicholas for a spectacular view of the Alhambra
We did not have a good meal. The recommended place in the guidebooks is Bodegas Castenada. We had a passable meal and had to send the bill back when we noticed that it had many items added on. We loved the gelato at Los Italianos near the cathedral.
Our trip was shortened by the cancellation of our flight so we actually ended up not staying in Granada but in the countryside at El Amparo, a kind of B&B run by a British couple, Jeff and Sally Webb. It was extremely good value and we got a two bedroom. There were many other families staying. We all loved it even thought he swimming pool was not open as the weather was pretty cold. It is a bit isolated so you can’t just pop out to pick up provisions. But Jeff was great. He is a great cook and is happy to lay on toasted sandwiches for those with tapas ennui. El Amparo is a ten minute drive to Alhama de Granada which has many nice restaurants and is spectacularly located on a gorge. We had several short hikes including ones to a Roman bridge and Moorish dungeons.
The main attraction is the Mezquita, the former church, then Moorish mosque, now Christian Cathedral. The majority of the interior is made up of symmetrical arches designed to resemble date trees. These are simple and starkly beautiful. In one corner, the mihrab has ornate designs but non-traditionally does not point directly towards Mecca. And yet the decorations are appropriate and do not go over the top into kitsch. It is easy to imagine the devotion the architecture might have inspired. The cathedral is plonked right in the middle and could not be more different in style. No communication between religions.
The Jewish quarter is right outside the Mezquita. We mainly encountered the tourist shops before kid tiredness drove us home.
A real city. And we arrived here in Easter Week, Semana Santa. Each church has its own procession, many in the middle of the night. We woke many times. Navigating the town was hard with processions and crowds preventing any easy route from A to B from ever being fully completed. On Easter Sunday we latched onto a procession. The drummers announced the arrival of the main float. Cloaked and hatted devotees tossed candies to kids. A band followed the float. At many points we stopped so the men carrying the float could be swapped out. Their fervor and effort signaled the strength of their belief.
The Moorish Alcazar took us back to the pre-Christian era. I must admit to the notion that I actually prefer it to the Alhambra. Less hectic, the palace being equally beautiful and the gardens magnificent. Or it could be that we had good weather in Seville finally and it rained while were in the Alhambra. Try out the simple maze and play hide and seek in the peacock-filled gardens.
We finally had a meal without fried calamari, patatas bravas or tortilla. Pacador near the Alameda de Hercules displayed a level of sophistication we had not encountered so far on our trip, at least at the tapas level. As usual, they padded the bill but we noticed despite the vino tinto we had imbibed.
Now we have a kid with the flu so we are just resting in our overpriced and under-maintained apartment. We will skip the cathedral.
I have loved the trip and we could easily spend another week in Andalucia and enjoy it more. But in Naples FL I know where the CVS is when I need ibuprofen for kids.