A personal account from Andalucia
It is well known amongst my peers that I enjoy a cruise; I only need unpack once, meals are included and I can sail to my destinations while the landscape drifts past – preferably with a cocktail in hand! So, when I was given the opportunity to join a cruise in Andalucia, I was thrilled, especially as I had never ventured to Southern Spain.
The vessel and crew did not disappoint. Everyone was so attentive and guests were thoroughly entertained in the evenings with live performances and activities. The food was excellent; like dining in a 5-star hotel every day and the included spirits were as good as any premium brands.
The included excursions allowed me to learn about Southern Spanish culture and the regions eclectic history including its Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences.
The full day excursion to Granada to visit the famous Alhambra Palace was one of the many highlights. It was well worth the 6.30am departure! The Alhambra, meaning ‘the Red One’, was constructed between 1333 and 1353, during the Moorish stronghold of Granada. The palace and fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was originally built for military purposes which is evident from its elevated position offering spectacular views over Granada.
One of our first stops was the royal complex with the courtyard of the Palace of Charles V which is a large circular space with marble pillars and staircases stretching up to the upper level. An ideal space for acoustics, the courtyard is still used for live musical performances on occasion.
The Alhambra is beautifully restored in parts and decorated with colourful tiles forming geometric patterns and carvings of Arabic calligraphy. A common theme throughout are water fountains, particularly the Fountain of Lions, and reflecting pools, illustrating that cleansing and irrigation was imperative to the Moors – an impressive feat in the 14th century.
There is a lot of walking but it is an amazing place to visit and learn about a significant part of Andalusian history, the trip was made even more memorable by our knowledgeable guide.
Another memorable excursion was to Le Mezquita in Cordoba which is a Great Mosque and Cathedral and is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. As I walked into the prayer hall there was a quiet reverence as everyone spoke in hushed tones. The lighting was soft and there were row upon row of arched marbled pillars with distinctive red-brick and white-stone arches which seemed to stretch into infinity.
During Christian rule a large part of the structure was adapted from a mosque to a cathedral; a Renaissance nave was built in the centre. The mosque’s minaret was also converted into the cathedral’s bell tower, and chapels installed throughout the main building. The choir stalls are impressively carved, and the main alter extravagant but the adaptions can look crude in parts.
Our guide pointed out some shortcuts which were taken during the conversion. Apparently the Spanish monarch at the time, King Charles V, was unhappy with the results, although he originally blessed the project. However, the building itself is truly unique and magnificent, with such a dramatic use of light and space.
There is so much to experience and enjoy on a tour of Andalucia and its history is fascinating. This was a truly memorable experience.