|This little volume was created in 1240 to serve|
as a travel guide for Frederick II on his visit to
the area around Napoli. It extols the virtues of
the soothing thermal waters of the region.
The big decision is always which ones do you use when planning your trip? Which are the most dependable and up-to-date? Which can be used to help plan a trip filled with good wine, great food and incredible sights. And which are simply puff pieces put out by a local tourist authority or even worse an “enterprising” entrepreneur whose research on their subject has been restricted to cut and paste from Wikipedia.
|Washington Irving and his Literary Friends at Sunnyside by Thomas Oldham Barlow, 1864 |
From left to right: Henry T. Tuckerman, Oliver Wendell Holmes , William Gilmore Simms, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Nathaniel Hawthorne , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Parker Willis, William H. Prescott, Washington Irving, James Kirke Paulding , Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Cullen Bryant, John Pendleton Kennedy, James Fenimore Cooper, and George Bancroft.
Washington Irving, who was living in Madrid at the time, decided to make the arduous trek to Granada along with a friend from the Russian Embassy. After several weeks his friend was recalled to Madrid however Irving stayed on and managed to arrange a billet at the semi-derelict Alhambra until he to was required to leave in late July to fill his appointment as Secretary to the American Legation in London. His Tales of the Alhambra was published, unusually for the time, simultaneously in England and the US in 1832. That first edition was to contain his colourful – and perhaps in some cases apocryphal (after all this was the man who had us all convinced that in the Middle-Ages people believed the earth was flat) – journey to and stay in Granada. He included a few of the exotic folk stories he had heard from his fellow lodgers at the former Great Red Fortress. He was to expand on these in a later edition (1835) and, as only he could, recounted tales that are a heady – and delightful - mixture of Arabian Nights, Spanish superstition and Andalusian story telling. One of those tales was to be adapted by Pushkin and surfaced as Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Zolotoy petushok (The Golden Cockerel).
|Even the landscape has changed in the two hundred years since Irving made his journey. Modern irrigation systems have turned what was once barren and treacherous scrub into olive groves almost to the Sierra Nevadas.|
|Perhaps Irving would have recognized the names of the five intersecting Calles but I'm sure he |
would have been astounded by the buildings and the confusing traffic lights.
|On the winding road up to the Alhambra, a local artist has left their mark.|
|The entrance to the Capilla Real de Granada - the burial place of that |
"Servant of God" Isabella the Catholic and her slightly less Catholic
husband Ferdinand. It is a marvel of Spanish-Moorish ecclesiastical
design with a truly magnificent central grill.
|Above the Capilla entrance the decorations on the Cathedral show the strong Moorish influence |
of the previous rulers of Granada which are apparent throughout the core of Granada.
|The entrance to an old and semi-derelict building on a side street|
with a gloriously carved Moorish ceiling speaks of the city's past.
|As dusk falls over the Sierra Nevadas the Alhambra glows like the jewel it is. A truly glorious sight.|
Once at his old residence I have a feeling he’d be, if not lost, then certainly astounded. What was a dusty – howbeit to his eyes romantic – pile of ruins and decaying fortifications, untended gardens and rutted passageways and terraces has been restored to much of its former glory. The remarkable 12th century water system – partially restored by the departing French troops in 1812 and remarked on by Irving - now refreshes and cools all the tile and marble courtyards. Once again it irrigates roses, vines, orchards, sentinel stands of cypress and sculptured rows of myrtle and brings the music of cascading water into fantasy festooned galleries. Much of the splendour he had heard spoken of in the legends told around the table of the aged Dona Antonia and saw crumbling evidence of during his residence has been lovingly and carefully restored. And the work is on going: an eight-year plan to restore the rows of trained myrtle trees in the Generalife is at its halfway point.
One small suite of rooms has remained largely unchanged since Irving’s departure in late July of 1829. The rooms he occupied in the Nasrid Palace and where he was tended to by little dark-eyed Dolores, the stuttering Pepe and the faithful Matteo – a true son of the Alhambra - are as Spartan as he first found them. Nothing remains of the furnishings – even at the time they were only odds and ends from other rooms – but there is a simple plaque that tells us he stayed and wrote in these rooms. There is even the suggestion that his writings may have been the catalyst that began renewed interest in the once forgotten fortress.
|Two things that Irving would find unchanged in Granada: the good earthy taste of salmorejo. No doubt this simple soup of tomato, garlic and olive oil was a staple in the kitchen of Dona Antonia. And.....|
|.... the welcoming charm of a lovely Granaina! Carolina and her family at La Parrala provide |
a warm and friendly atmosphere and homemade dishes paired with great local wines.
Praying Indian John Alderman shoots and kills Metacomet, the Wampanoag war chief, ending King Philip's War.