September 01, 2014

Alhambra, Grenada

A whole month since I last blogged! Really? This is what the summer holidays and four kids does to my atttempts to have any kind of organised schedule! In august we live in a happy schedule void in fact, with me cobbling little bits of work around lots of time running after the teens and 11 year old, and their various needs as well as spending some family time together  - and that lovely hanging out together feels so precious with one now away at uni and the others increasingly independent.

This year, the six of us headed out to a hillside village in the mountains of Andalusia - hot but high enough for no mosquitos and no wasps and a gentle mountain breeze. It was gorgeous to step out of normal life and unplug for a week (no wifi, it was a revelation and a joy!).

Visiting the Alhambra in Grenada was a brilliant experience. I had been there a couple of times before but it was great seeing the kids' eyes widening at the beauty of the ancient Arabic palaces, gardens and the hazy, sundrenched grandeur of the sweeping views from the battlement towers and garden walls. The exquisite architecture and peaceful atmosphere of the gentle gardens with their courtyards and cool pools of water were as stunning as I remembered - we went early enough to beat the worst of the heat and crowds, and we were so glad of that.

Even by ten o'clock the sky over the red fort was that sort of fierce blue that feels so Mediterranean and different to the soft blues over England on a sunny day. There was already a heat haze over the surrounding hills and valleys.




 The gardens are kept wonderfully cool by the green corridors of hedging and rills of cold water that link them all together.




The three big boys of the family!
 I think my most favourite spaces were the domestic ones, the smaller gardens and more intimate courtyards that were the living spaces, the personal domestic homes within the larger palace architecture. Places of love, family and private life. Just beautiful.



A seriously top tip for a cool break from the sightseeing and delicious light lunch, is to put a brush through the hair, straighten the creases out of the t-shirts and head confidently into the grand Parador hotel right on site and enjoy a rejuvenating lunch on the cool, breezy terrace taking in the wonderful atmosphere and gorgeous views away from all the crowds and busy-ness.




It is the most exquisite place, the courtyards with their Moorish arches and latticed windows are unforgettable.








It was interesting to suddenly find myself talking about Islamic art and war and culture and all sorts of interesting things with our older kids on holiday- the maturity of one's kids creeps up stealthily until one day, instead of talking about the next icecream stop or the need to jump on the statues and so on,  (or simply the constant need to make everything understandable to little ones), we are having proper grown up conversations and I am the one having to concentrate to keep up with very intelligent and articulate adults - so lovely. To be honest, I think it was me who was whining for an icecream break that day! There is this constant flow forwards with parenting -a shifting landscape that is ever changing, evolving, adjusting with new realities and requirements for happiness and understanding. Our annual summer week away together brings those changes into clear relief and it sometimes suprises me how much our family has moved on in just one year. Holidays are like that aren't they, make one stand back a little and see things with fresh eyes and a more open, (less busy and distracted) heart? Such important days.