There were about seven people ahead of me when I gave up. Technically, it was still possible to make the 3:30 bus as I had about 8 minutes on the clock, but judging by the fact that the minute hand was moving way quicker than the hand behind the ticket counter, the odds were forever not in my favor.
I took a deep breath and tried very hard not to mind the buzzing flies around me. I threw my head back and caught sight of a gaping hole in the ceiling. Around it were the remnants of a water leak in an amoeba-like configuration.
Just breathe, I said to myself. You’re not in a rush. You’ll just make the next bus, an hour from now. After all, it was the bus I was originally aiming for until I realized it was $10 extra because it was a “Supra Economy.” I didn’t quite understand what that meant, seeing as it took the same amount of time as the “Normal” bus, but the woman at my hotel tried to explain that amenities would be included. Like water and snacks and newspapers. Lovely, except who can read a newspaper on a bus—in Spanish no less?—and I was dubious about said snacks. So after spending all morning shuffling my wary feet around the Alhambra (more on that later), followed by a sobbing session in a plaza while I finished reading The Fault in Our Stars over churros con chocolate, I decided I’d just take the “Normal” bus that left an hour earlier. It was 1:45p.m., so I had plenty of time to make it to the station by local transport, saving me even more money. Stupendous!
Then sweet Savannah, a broadcasting student at Mississippi State who I met my first night in town, offered to buy me “the best gelato in Granada.” (This after eating churros for lunch! But who can say no to “the best gelato in town”?) She’s a wee little thing, this Savannah. And by wee I mean 21. Cause physically, she towers over me at like 6-foot-something. We met at a bohemian chic trendy tapas bar while watching the Argentina/Netherlands game. She and her boyfriend are living and working here this summer. Since then, we announced ourselves kindred spirits despite the 15-year age difference and the fact that she’s a tall, blond Christian from the South and I’m a short, brunette Jew from New York City.
So there I was at 2:50, balancing my chocolate chip gelato in one hand and my suitcase in the other, trying to divert the glaring eyes watching me on the first of two crowded public buses en route to the 3:30 “Normal” bus to Seville. As soon as the second one pulled into the station, I ran to the DIY ticket machines. At this point, I had a good 15 minutes.
Except the machine didn’t want to accept my card.
I looked at the line, then up at the clock and then back at the machine. I was determined to get it to work.
On line I went, behind 7 people, to swat flies and stare at the crumbling ceiling.
Finally, at 3:34, I sighed in Spanglish: “Uno persona a Sevilla at 4:30 por favor.”
I handed over the extra $10, which if you think about it (and I did) is the same $10 I saved on not taking a cab to station. And also the same $10 that I lost when I forfeited the bike tour ticket I bought at this very station two days earlier. (That happened. Don’t judge. I’ve been doing so much walking my Nike Fuel band has been blinking “Go Sara!” starting at noon each day, so I’m getting exercise, MmmK?)
I guess it all evens out in the end. The money, I mean. It’s just that I was having one of those days. A backwards, stupid, annoying, fly-swatting, bus-missing, waste of time and money day. One is not immune to such drama when she’s living her dream by gallivanting around the world, ya know.
So let’s rewind a bit, shall we? Things started to go downhill when I was all the way up hill at 8:40a.m. that day. I was waiting on another line for what I thought was a 9a.m. entry time to some portion of the Alhambra, which to be totally honest I didn’t really know anything about other than I “had to see it” and I “had to buy tickets in advance.” I did, and in doing so, it was the first and only thing I’ve pre-planned so far on this trip in my attempt to be a more spontaneous and carefree traveler.
Apparently, I purchased my ticket from a travel agency (despite having done so via the official Alhambra web site, by the way) and not only paid $8 more than the actual ticket price, but had to pick it up at some special box office. When I arrived at some special box office for what I thought was a 9a.m. ticket to this palace (which you couldn’t, under any circumstances, miss your specified entry time into), I noticed the ticket actually said 10a.m.
Well ain’t that lucky, I thought. Especially since it’s 8:45 now…
…and I was still standing at the front of some travel agency line at 9:15 watching what seemed to be a travel agent SHOW PICTURES OF HER WEDDING TO THE WOMAN PRINTING THE TOUR TICKETS. I kid you not. I saw a white dress. I saw the tuxes, (in brown, not black). I saw what looked like bridesmaids and flowers in gold vases.
To say I was antsy would be polite—and I wasn’t the only one wondering WTF. By this point, a whole host of other languages were being whispered under breaths as this line-of-one had now become a line-of-many.
Finally, she left and I was up. It took all but 45 seconds to get my ticket.
Lest you think the saga ends there, it does not.
Next, I see a guy selling audio guides.
Oh! I thought. I downloaded the audio guide already. It came with the $8 extra ticket I purchased. Sweet! I even downloaded it to my DropBox…
WHICH YOU NEED WIFI TO USE.
There was no free WiFi in the Alhambra.
OK, so now I had the following choices:
- Risk using some of the data I did pay extra for on my phone or,
- Pay ANOTHER $10 FOR THE OFFICIAL HOLD-AT-YOUR-EAR-LOOK-LIKE-A-TOURIST AUDIO GUIDE.
I did the latter, practicing my deep ujjayi yoga breathing while handing over the extra moola and hate-listening to the guy explain how to use the thing.
Finally, I was in. I had about 1/2 hour to get to this palace area. Of course, I went the “wrong way” first. The numbers on the “exhibit” locations were completely out of order. For example, number 22 was next to number 26 making you look left, look right, look back and all around, wondering whether you missed 23-25 until, Oh, here they are! Right after number 30. Cause that makes sense.
Eventually, one of the codes explained that the Alhambra is a huge fortress complex built in Moorish times circa the 11th Century before it was turned into a palace by a sultan. (That’s the very very abridged version.) The Generalife section, which I found myself in first, is separate from the main site, but pretty spectacular in itself. It seemed like a lot of people skip it entirely, which is a shame because it’s so beautiful and peaceful. Essentially, it’s a palace of gardens full of manicured green hedges, pink roses and fountains that my father would flip for.
I wish I had saved it for the end because a) I was stressing myself out while walking through it, worried I’d miss my timed entry into the timed palaces and b) by the time I got to the palace, I was exhausted. (The Alhambra itself covers about 24 acres.)
Once inside the palaces—by this point, I learned they were called the Nasrid Palaces—I saw the following:
Pictures don’t really do it justice. And neither did the out-of-order audio guide. But still, them architects back in Moorish times were some bad-ass mofo’s. This place was both ancient and epic.
I spent about three hours there before calling it quits to eat churros, read my book and grab the gelato.
The time I had to wait at the bus station for the “Supra” ride went fast, mostly because I began writing this post. In fact, it went so fast I didn’t even get to finish it, which is good because then I wouldn’t have been able to show you what the “Supra” bus looked like and what the amenities were.
Of course, I was already carrying a ginormous bottle of water and had enough sugar to last me a few hours, but the seats were comfortable, there was free WiFi and the windows were definitely tinted, which allowed me to leave the curtains open and look out during the non-stop ride. (The bus from Cordoba to Granada must’ve been “Normal” because the heat radiating from the sun came through the windows and I had to shut those bad boys immediately!)
Once I arrived in Seville, three hours later, I used the remaining 8% battery on my phone to navigate myself to the AirBnB apartment I had rented in Triana. Thankfully, it was air conditioned, super clean and in a non-touristy part of the city. I was excited to be a local for a few days. I started by doing a load of laundry and even hung my clothes out to dry, Euro-style.
My host, who unfortunately wasn’t in town to greet me (a friend of his did) texted me a few spots to go for food. I chose one nearby so I could acclimate myself with the area. Of course, this one was totally hopping (at 10p.m., by the way) and there was a 20-minute wait. Since I had already helped myself to some tomato, mozzarella and jamon that was left in the fridge, I said that wasn’t a problem. Plus, to me, a packed house means a very delicious house. About 45-minutes later, after being “forgotten about” a few times for larger tables (aka, not just uno person who likely wouldn’t spend more than $15) I ate a delicious meal of more bread, cheese and jamon, along with an actual bowl of spaghetti with fresh veggies.
Afterwards, I walked along the Guadalquivir river en route to a flamenco bar where I caught an authentic performance of locals clapping, stomping and and singing. On the way back to the apartment, while pondering the wacky day, I looked up to see the sky illuminated by a full moon. A SUPRA full moon.
And that explained everything.