Inspired to explore the charms of Granada, Córdoba and Spain's Costa del Sol after seeing Rick Steves' Viva España? Or are you an armchair traveler wanting to learn more? Whether your bags are packed or you're a virtual traveler, you'll enjoy this collection of articles and tour information.
The Alhambra in Granada
Granada's magnificent Alhambra fortress was the last stronghold of the Moorish kingdom in Spain, and the reason most tourists come to Granada. Nowhere else does the splendor of Moorish civilization shine so beautifully. The Alhambra consists of four sights clustered together atop a hill: the Palacios Nazaries (exquisite Moorish palace, the one must-see sight), Charles V's Palace (Christian Renaissance palace plopped on top of the Alhambra after the Reconquista), Generalife Gardens (fancy, manicured gardens with small summer palace), and Alcazaba (empty old fort with tower and views). Advance reservations are essential to see the Palacios Nazaries during the day. For reservations, order online at www.alhambra-tickets.es or by phone (from the US, dial 011-34-934-923-750), ask your hotelier to reserve for you when you book your hotel room, or make your Alhambra appointment when you buy a Bono Turístico city pass (www.bonoturisticogranada.com).
Granada's Royal Chapel (Capilla Real)
The lavish Royal Chapel holds the dreams — and bodies — of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand. Their marriage united the Aragon and Castile kingdoms, allowing an acceleration of the Christian and Spanish push south. The chapel is Plateresque Gothic — light and lacy silver-filigree style, named for and inspired by the fine silverwork of the Moors (entrance on Calle Oficios, just off Gran Vía — go through iron gate, tel. 958-227-848).
Great Mosque of Granada
The striking and inviting Great Mosque of Granada is just next to the San Nicolás viewpoint (to your left as you face the Alhambra). Visitors are welcome in the courtyard, which offers Alhambra views without the hedonistic ambience of the more famous San Nicolás viewpoint (free).
Ayo's in Nerja
For 30 years, Ayo — a lovable ponytailed bohemian who promises to be here until he dies — has been feeding locals at his Ayo's beachside restaurant. Ayo is a very big personality — one of the five kids who discovered the Caves of Nerja, formerly a well-known athlete, and now someone who makes it a point to hire hard-to-employ people as a community service. It's a 20-minute walk from the Balcony of Europe to the east end of Burriana Beach — look for Ayo's orange rooftop pyramid (Playa de Burriana, tel. 952-522-289).
The Mezquita in Cordoba
This massive former mosque — now with a 16th-century church rising up from the middle — was once the center of Western Islam and the heart of a cultural capital that rivaled Baghdad and Istanbul. A wonder of the medieval world, it's remarkably well-preserved, giving today's visitors a chance to soak up the ambience of Islamic Córdoba in its 10th-century prime (ticket kiosk inside the Patio de los Naranjos, avoid midday crowds b coming early or late, tel. 957-470-512, www.mezquitadecordoba.org).
Bodegas Campos in Cordoba
Bodegas Campos attracts so many locals it comes with its own garage. House specialties are bull-tail stew (rabo de toro — rich, tasty, and a good splurge) and cod with tomato and pisto, the local ratatouille-like vegetable stew. Behind the WC you'll discover a virtual museum of classic, original feria posters and great photos (from river end of Mezquita walk east along Cardenal González, continue 10 minutes straight to Calle de Lineros 32; tel. 957-497-500).