Visiting the Alhambra de Granada in mid-July isn’t quite as stupid as visiting it in August, but it’s getting there – temperatures often tip over the 40 degrees Celsius mark. What is stupid is when you decide to spurn the cheap local taxis from the centre of the old Albaicín neighbourhood, and walk up the hills to the Alhambra. In 35 degrees of heat. With the dodgy address of a ticket office for your possibly-black-market Alhambra tickets punched into Apple Maps that takes you up and up, further and further away from the Alhambra palace and grounds. And still you climb… and then you find a cab driver, waiting for a pick-up, who helpfully tells you the Alhambra’s 20 minutes back that way – he purposefully jabs back at the way you came with his nicotine stained thumb. No offer of a lift, though. Down, down, down, and then up and up and up again.
But this isn’t a tale of our sat nav woes – we made it, dishevelled, dusty and overheated to the Alhambra on time, despite the four kilometre detour in the midday heat. Nor is it a floral illustration of one of the most beautiful places on earth – a singular visit nor a singular photograph can ever do this wonder of the world justice.
No, instead, this is the short tale of the finest plate of jamón that I have ever put between my fingers and allowed to melt on my tongue, blessed with the finest view that a plate of jamón has ever had. Served with a crisp, cold, locally-brewed beer in a frosted glass. It’s rare in life that perfection is followed by perfection.
After taking in as much beauty as one’s brain allows, on a hot day there’s only one thing to do after visiting the Alhambra and Generalife: head to the Parador, which is wonderfully located inside of the Alhambra’s grounds. Paradors are, in case you didn’t know, government-owned and operated hotels usually set in an historically-important building. They are dotted all over Spain.
On the terrace outside Granada’s small 25-room Parador (if you want to stay here – and we really insist that you do, you need to book well in advance), overlooking the pristine gardens of the Generalife, covered in dappled sunlight, we order an ice-cold caña and take in the view. There are few places on earth with a view better than this. Then we order the jamón. Don’t scrimp: order the best you can afford. I promise you won’t regret it. Hand-carved (as it bloody well should be) and served at room temperature so that the fat glistens, this is the second time I’ve eaten this Parador’s jamón. The expectation was high, based on a memory that I often recall. It didn’t disappoint. We recommend ordering at least one more beer, and then quietly explore this former convent, palace and mosque, built and added to from the 1300s onwards. If you’re not impressed and wowed, there’s nothing we can do to help you.