Views of the Alhambra
Who ever made thy moon-lit balconies, thy gardens of myrtles and roses, of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, respond to more tender serenades? –Washington Irving, Tales of the Alhambra
The hostel in Granada was full, full, full — as Liam and I found out when we arrived with heavy backpacks and no reservations.
“Well . . .” one of the hostel workers hesitantly suggested, after we expressed our disappointment, “there is a mattress on the rooftop.”
So, for just a few euros a night, we slept on a roof overlooking one of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen. If we laid on our backs at night and looked straight up, we could see the full, deep sky salted with stars. And when we woke in the morning, this was the first thing we’d see:
Reaching our bed required navigating a sort of vertical obstacle course: from the ground, we climbed up a wall to an upper-level garden, and from there, we had to heave ourselves over a high balustrade. The last bit was rather a stretch, and Liam would usually need to give me a push before I could make it all the way over the balustrade. Given my dislike for precarious heights, it’s testimony to the enchantment of the place that I willingly did this scramble all the nights we stayed in Granada.
On my birthday (three years ago), we we walked from our hostel down into the valley of the modern city and up onto the opposite hill, where the ancient Moorish palace stands. Filled with a series of buildings built from a stone that might appear ivory or pink, according to the hour of the sun, intricate arabesques carved into the walls, gardens filled with nightingales, wild flowers, and softly melodic fountains, the Alhambra holds astonishing beauty.
The days were a bright blaze of sunlight, but the nights were cool and sweet as we fell asleep on our rooftop mattress. One night, just after midnight, a man strumming the passionate notes of flamenco guitar walked into the hostel’s courtyard, below us. The music rose like smoke, became the clouds of our dreams. We drifted to sleep in its mist. If magic had a time and a place, this would be it.