A romantic journey through southern Spain, following the footsteps of Washington IrvingIn 1832 Washington Irving, the man who scared his American compatriots half to death with his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, delighted his readers with another work, The Tales of the Alhambra. This famous collection of short stories about hidden treasure and lovesick Moorish princesses was the result of the authors stay in Granadas Moorish palace in 1829. An instant best-seller, it turned the Alhambra into one of Europes most popular tourist attractions and sparked the restoration of the monument, which in Irvings time had become neglected and forlorn, its courtyards and towers converted into makeshift dwellings for a colourful mix of local characters.
As a tribute to the authors contribution to the region, the Legacy of Al Andalus, an organization which promotes the knowledge of Andalusias Moorish past through cultural programs and historical travel routes, has named one of the routes after him. Retracing his journey from Seville to Granada, the conveniently sign-posted route takes in monumental towns, picturesque villages, archeological sites and gastronomic landmarks as is crosses the Seville Campiña and the plain of Antequera to reach the rich Vega of Granada.
Irving was travelling as a diplomat attached to the American legation in Spain. His journey was long and perilous, through territory infested with bandits. At night, Irving stayed at lowly village inns although the author, a romantic to the end, remarked that in Andalusia "the most miserable inn is as full of adventure as an enchanted castle".
For todays traveler the choice is somewhat broader. Along the route there are comfortable accommodations in every price range, including three Spanish paradors and one of Spains most luxurious and original hotels, the sumptuous five-star La Bobadilla which rises like a shimmering white vision in the middle of an 860-acre estate cloaked in olive groves and holm oak trees near the town of Loja.
When you reach Granada you cannot stay, as Irving did, in the Alhambra itself, but almost as romantic is Granadas parador, one of Spain choicest, installed within the Alhambra grounds in a converted 15th-century Franciscan monastery.
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Copyright © 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little. Photography by J. D. Dallet - A Freelance Spain production
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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet