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As a birthday treat for Mark, I had booked for us to have a mini trip within Spain. I was to whisk him away from the chill to southern Spain for a slightly warmer climate, picking Granada as a city break location and taking the opportunity to do something we’d always been intrigued by, staying in a cave house.
Little did I realise that although coastal Andalusia might be a tad warmer, up high where we were going, it was even colder. Our trip started well by us realising we’d forgotten to bring our coats. Inspiring travellers hey? So we stopped off in Murcia for a bite to eat and to get something warm to way. This turned out to be a good idea as also got a couple of much-needed sweaters in the H&M sale.
A couple of hours drive and we reached our cave hotel destination, Cuevas Aljatib, just outside of Baza. The hotel was basically an entire abandoned village of cave houses that have been refurbed so that each cave has either one bedroom, or a few en-suite bedrooms with a shared kitchen, eating area, patio. Your bed is carved out of stone so you have to watch your head and shins, but it’s such a cosy, comfy place.
There’s a bar and restaurant on site, though it is not open all the time, so is good to check this ahead of time. We spent a lovely evening, having nabbed the table in front of the fire, of drink and hearty comfort food.
They even have a Hammam Spa which you can book a session for. There’s a cave with lovely hot water, next to one with freezing water and jets. It’s very, umm, hearty, to go between the two. At first, we were too wimpy but then we kept daring each other until we would fully submerge into the freezing water.
While we were there it snowed up on the mountains so the views across to the white-topped mountain were stunning.
Before we moved on to Granada city, I wanted to check out Lake Negratin which I’d heard was used as the local beach and is also an area with a lot more cave houses. As we headed up the mountain and crossed the bridge that strode the lake, I have to say, we both a bit shocked. It’s huge and stunning and not at all what we expected. It reminded me of the grand lakes you get in Arizona and Nevada. We were both a bit dumb-founded by how epic it was.
We headed into Granada for a few days in the city centre. Driving down from the mountains, we quickly saw that it was a beautiful place. We found the underground parking lot, closest to our hotel, which was pricey by Spanish standards but it was super convenient. Our hotel was in a lovely old building, with a courtyard and a suprisingly large room.
Exploring most of the city was easy by foot and it’s all very historic and ‘Spanish’ for want of a better word.
I noted there were a fair few examples of trompe l’oeil about the city, as well as instances of medieval graffiti.
The Alhambra is what most people go to Granada to see. It is a trek up there, so the tourist bus is handy for that. Once up there, despite it being January there was still a bit of queuing going on. I believe in peak season it is quite insane and you generally have to book in advance to stand a chance. We didn’t want to go into any of the main inside areas, partly because it’s very pricey, partly because it’s not of major interest to us and lastly because I had a really bad back and couldn’t walk very well so it would have been like medieval torture.
When you are in the Alhambra complex it’s difficult to get a perspective on it, so it’s definitely worth going over to ‘the other side’ get a good overview. It’s impossible to capture in photos, but we were both wowed by this view, particularly with the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. Though the street sellers blasting out reggae slightly killed the vibe.
We had seen snow on the higher mountain ranges but hadn’t expected it to snow so much as we left Granada heading for Almeira. Even the lower ground was covered, and it made for a beautiful (if freezing) drive.
I liked Granada city but not as much as I was expecting. With all the hype of it being an artsy city, it felt more for tourists than locals and the artsy bit being shops selling African trinkets and yoga pants. I think I’d bought into a romantic ideal of a city that I would fall in love with and want to move to (I’m often falling in love and wanting to move to cities), but although we had a really nice time, we both felt a bit ‘meh’ about the place.
We did both, however, fall in love with cave houses and get a bit dreamy-eyed about the idea of one day living in one. Totally impractical but totally delightful.