Our day started at midnight, well actually a few minutes before. As mentioned earlier, what happens is that on the stroke of midnight each night any cancelled tickets to Alhambra Palace get released online and there’s then a mad scramble for people to grab them. Knowing that he’d missed out the previous night, the reception staff recommended to Brian that he front up at the front desk at about 2345hrs with our passports and the hotel staff would do what they could to help us. Brian set the alarm for 2340hrs and woke from a beautiful deep sleep to head down to reception. The night manager told Brian that he was second in line and that a French gentleman had arrived there a few minutes previously. Anyway, from midnight on the manager kept refreshing the web page when suddenly a couple of minutes later some seats suddenly became available for 19 September. The manager ordered four tickets and then proceeded to fill in all the information - passport details and much more that the authorities require - for the four of us.
That’s when we hit a snag. Spain has dual verification for all internet credit card transactions. So, when someone tries to make a payment they receive a one-time code on their mobile phone. That code then has to be keyed into the merchant’s website before the transaction can be completed. The problem was that neither the Frenchman’s credit card nor Brian’s was set up for such a system. The night manager then very kindly offered to make the payment from his personal card and we would then give him the cash. All that was fine, he completed the payment details and received the code. He then tried to enter the code, whereupon the transaction bombed out. We think that he may have been a bit slow in typing all the details and that our tickets got snaffled by someone else. Brian was willing to try the same routine again the following night but wasn’t at all hopeful. There it may well have ended.
In the morning, headed back from breakfast, we were walking past the reception desk when Mary said,”Why don’t we talk to the staff and see if they can help.” Brian didn’t think much of the idea but agreed to give it a go. Amazingly, the website showed tickets available for every time slot on 19 September Again, it was necessary for the clerk to use his own personal credit card and Brian immediately repaid him the 40 euros in cash. We felt like we’d won the Lotto. Brian’s theory is that the various airline strikes in Europe have caused some groups to cancel, thus making places available to the likes of us. If so, thank you strikers and keep up the good work.
Feeling quite thrilled we decided to head off for the day in our rental car and explore the Spanish countryside. We decided to head for Almeria, a town 170km away on the Mediterranean coast which is described as well worth a visit. Heading south from Granada, the scenery is outstanding with spectacular outlines of rugged mountains for most of the trip. It is a really good four-lane highway, with some really steep climbs and descents. It skirts the Sierra Nevada national park, and if we’d had enough time we’d like to have explored the region a bit more. Despite all this, we didn’t manage to get any photos en route, though we certainly enjoyed the scenic drive very much. Firstly, the air was somewhat hazy, smoggy even, and secondly those wonderful roads don’t offer any lay-bys where one can safely pull over and take in the scenery.
Reaching Almeira, we managed to cause a minor traffic jam while Brian tried to parallel park our left-hand drive car in a steep narrow side street. Aside from that, Brian had managed to get beeped at only twice when trying to navigate complicated roundabouts, so he reckoned that he was well on the way to being able to drive like a local rather than like a tourist.
Almeira is a beautiful port town, with very attractive parks alongside the port and beach front. It was quite warm and there were a few people in swimming. If we’d thought to bring our togs we’d have happily joined them. Even so, it was great to relax there and just take in the atmosphere of the place. The waterfront park contains a large number of mature trees from all round the world, and we were admiring some especially spectacular specimens when we discovered that they were in fact fig trees from good old Australia!
After a few hours, we decided to head home, this time taking the longer Mediterranean coastal highway to complete a grand circuit back to Granada. We have to say, that route was a bit disappointing. Even though the sea was visible for much of the trip, the air was really smoggy, which greatly detracted from the views. We got back to the hotel in the late afternoon, more than ready for a couple of drinks, the hotel buffet, and all this followed by an early night. In the two days that we have used the rental car, we’ve covered 750km, which has given us a great chance to see the landscape of southern Spain.Read more