The Alhambra is the most popular tourist attraction in Spain and certainly one of my most anticipated. When I bought the tickets online in May, I had to select not only the day I wanted to go, but also the fifteen-minute time slot we wanted to begin our tour of the Palace of the Nasrids (the last Muslim dynasty to rule in Spain). The interior of the palace is where all those gorgeous photos of the Alhambra are taken. I posted the above photo of the Patio of the Lions on my website eighteen months ago, when this trip was but a twinkle in my eye.
Selecting a fifteen-minute time slot five months ago was a big deal for me. Despite travel insurance, I was a bit thoughtful about committing so far in advance. But the early purchase of the tickets also heightened my anticipation. We were really going to do this thing; I was really going to see the Alhambra.
I need to be keep my expectations in check. I had my day and time slot reserved so I imagined taking my time on the self-guided tour, strolling through the palace and enjoying the experience at my own pace. But this concept of regulating crowds by controlling admissions can backfire. People started lining up for the 3:30 time slot before 3:00, two time slots in advance. Really? By the time they were admitted to the palace, they practically stormed the place. This sense of urgency and competition pervaded the entire tour – people rushed from view to view trying to take their photos before everyone else. At every turn we had to wait for the crowd to clear long enough to see what we came to see, before the next wave of overachievers rushed through.
Here’s a thought about this digital age we live in: Everyone with a phone is a photographer, which means that everyone feels compelled to take a photo of everything remotely touristic. In an orderly situation, a line begins to form of people waiting their turn to take the same shot that their mother, father, sister, uncle, and dog just took. However, these situations are rarely orderly, or respectful. At one point, there was a group of ten or more people posing for a group selfie in front of one of the most beautiful windows in the palace. We stood waiting while each one of them captured the selfie on his or her own phone. That’s ten different shots on ten different phones of the same group in front of the same windows. Then, when all ten shots were taken, the group continued to hover in front of the windows while they admired and compared their photos and posted them on Instagram for the rest of their friends to see.
By the time we walked through the Alhambra, our nerves were shot. Marcus did get some beautiful photos, however, after patiently waiting his turn, and he was kind enough to share them with me so I could leave my phone in my purse.
And I was just kidding about the dogs taking photos. Most of them keep their phones in their pockets and are very respectful.