First things first. We didn’t go to DebConf in India, and we didn’t go to the Festa do Software Livre in Aveiro either. We did go to Italy because there was a narrow window to visit Graham’s friends. I felt a bit bad to go on adventures and not support my FOSS people, but honestly this was soul food.
It was the first holiday that was a holiday for its own sake, not tacked on after a work trip, so it felt luxurious. It was also something I could not afford, surviving on the last of my savings, and Graham offered to pay for everything (I arranged all the logistics, so that’s something, at least) so it felt doubly luxurious. We uhm’ed and aah’ed a long time about how to get to Italy. We had very specific dates to meet the friends – narrow window, as I said, and it was quite short so we decided not to fly there and back directly (annoyingly flying is the cheapest option!) but make a bit more of a trip out of it, and so I lost a few weeks building the trip itinerary. My wish was to see the Alhambra again, but we were to and fro about it because Graham wants to go to Gibraltar and we could combine it with that at some later point. Eventually however, we decided, for reasons I can’t remember anymore but probably having to do with seeing the south of Spain and then being done with it, to fly to Madrid, bus down to Granada (trains were having scheduled maintenance and my experience in mainland Portugal is that the trains are just unreliable), then bus to Barcelona (via one night in Valencia to break the long trip in two), then take a ferry to Civitavecchia outside of Rome (the dates didn’t work to go to Livorno, which is very close to where the friends live), then take a train up to them. The trip after the Alhambra is a second post.
I’m posting this in a blog rather than on Facebook to try the federated thing more. I haven’t figured out how galleries and stuff are in wordpress, so this may be messy.
Going back to the Alhambra felt like a pilgrimage. I first went in 2014, I think, after attending a conference in Spain. I don’t know how I found out about it, but I think it was in a book about architectures or gardens in one of the many libraries I loved at university. I loved it, and coming back it was even more beautiful than I remember. This probably has to do with visiting in the time of year where things were in bloom, and I think the place has been renovated more, maybe?
Reading up about it a bit more on the morning of our visit, I read on the wiki that Alhambra may mean something about “the feminine red”. I’m surprised I didn’t know this before. My first company, that big dream about a biotech complex in the Namib desert, with its red sands, was called Merah Mas – a butchered Indonesian translation for red gold. That name was coined when I was 12 years old. In my mind it had these big walls, later I learned about rammed earth, so really, it could have been the Alhambra. Looking back it is eerie to see these connections built up through my past.
Walking through the complex I could feel my brain pop with connections and inspiration, this muddled mess of things finding their place, somehow.
It’s impossible to capture the scale of things, the intricate details, the sense of the place.
And water, everywhere. The burble of water everywhere you go, an unobtrusive calming background to the majestic architecture.
Entering the court of the Lions was one highlight, only surpassed, for me, by the Generalife gardens. I don’t remember this court being so blindingly white, so intricate. So impressive, and yet so tranquil at the same time.
To me the buildings are really just backdrops for the gardens. I’m trying to work this inspiration into my garden, but the context is different of course. I also don’t want it to be so formal, so I’m trying to figure out what elements I like so much, and design around that.
I bought a book “Jardines de la colina de la Alhambra” (Gardens on the hill of the Alhambra) as a keepsake, and I was thrilled that they still had the paper model that I bought in 2014, and bought another one. There were other models but they don’t have those anymore and I haven’t found where else to get them. That paper model started an enduring obsession with papercraft, mainly nurtured by this Canon Creative Park website. (Cue more rabbitholes as I go looking for the other Alhambra models).
At this point Graham was getting tired. You should know that our modes of doing stuff is quite different. I feel bad but he should also know by now – He got blisters on his feet walking with me on our first date and several times after that. Anyway, so we sat down for a beer, and after that we found him a shady spot while I carry on with my pilgrimage. We repeated this beer-shade-rest thing while I scampered off two more times.
Lastly it was time for the Generalife, my favourite. Graham was left behind under a tree and I did this on my own. It was getting late (seriously the only reason we left eventually was because the place closed. To Graham’s relief) so there were less people, and I think I got some good pics if I say so myself.
Dragging my feet before leaving, I tallied a bit longer at these representations showing the Alhambra in context of Granada.