San Miguel Alto – It doesn’t get better than thisPosted: December 29, 2011
The church of San Miguel Alto commands the most panoramic, breath-taking view of Granada. From San Miguel Alto, Granada looks like a blanket that you could roll up and carry away under your arm. The white carmenes of the Albaicin, tiled church roofs, car lights moving up and down Calle Reyes Catolicos like little beads of light, the immense cathedral squatting over the center of the city-scape… and then the blanket ends at the freeway. Beyond are fields dotted with plumes of smoke, city lights scattered among the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, and then the mountains themselves.
In front of the church is a small plaza lined by a low wall – front row seats for the sunset. As the sun goes down, it splashes orange marmalade light on the walls of the Alhambra, but leaves the windows and lattice work in stark shadow. Steep, green hills run straight up from the river below to the thirty-foot tall walls – an imposing sight to a 21st century study-abroad student, and what must have been a will-withering nightmare to a 15th century foot soldier of the army of the Reyes Catolicos.
Below San Miguel Alto flashes from cameras mark the more popular San Nicolas Mirador, nestled in the middle of the Albaicin. This is another lookout spot directly opposite the Alhambra. Its view of the city is more limited – all the guidebooks say intimate – and the plaza is far easier to reach than that of San Miguel Alto. Around it are many cafes and restaurants that make it a pleasant place to get dinner.
The sun slides down the sky, seeming to accelerate as it drops below the distant mountains. Yellow sky blushes maroon; the clouds warm to a surprising shade of fuchsia. From below the horizon, the sun sends up one last color – it’s like holding a glass of ruby red pomegranate juice mixed with a squirt of fresh-squeezed orange juice up to light. The sky holds the color for just a few minutes, then cools to purple, gray, then finally the dark, star-studded blue of night.
Spotlights keep the Alhambra and Cathedral visible over the rest of the city lights. Towns high in the mountains around Granada seem to float in the darkness. City noises like bus brakes, Vespa motors, and delivery trucks don’t make it all the way up the hill. Here, the only sounds are barking dogs, occasional nostalgic singing, and the wind.