Granada, Spain

After docking at Motril, we boarded our buses for a full-day excursion to Granada. The drive was spectacular: a new road has been cut high through the Sierra Nevada, giving wonderful views of olive groves, citrus orchards, and avocado trees. Approaching Granada, we were close to the highest road in Europe.

We arrived early at the Alhambra, made famous by Washington Irving, whose apartment we were later to see. This Moorish palace flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries and is one of the best examples in the world of Islamic architecture. A complex arrangement of courtyards, gardens and fountains reflects the Islamic view of paradise. Elaborate calligraphy, plasterwork and topiary were seen at their best in the early morning sunlight. Our guides explained the detailed symbolism of each quarter and we paused to see spectacular views over old Granada with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the distance, the source of the snowmelt water for the palace fountains. The Moors were finally expelled from Spain in 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella achieved the 'reconquista.'

After a leisurely lunch at the Alhambra Palace Parador, we proceeded into the old town of Granada itself. Here the highlights were the tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella in the Royal Chapel and the priceless collection of Flemish paintings in the Cathedral museum.

After shopping in the narrow streets of the old Arab quarter, we drove back to Motril, passing the cave-dwellings of the Flemenco gypsies, one of the many groups of people who have enriched the culture of Andalucia. We had returned to the Caledonian Star in time to watch our departure from the harbor during cocktail hour.