High time for a weekend away in another Andalucian city (we even have plans to go further afield, leaving our southern safe zone). My son had expressed an interest in going to Granada while we were in the Alpujarras recently, so with his younger sister frolicking with family in Fuerteventura, we seized the opportunity.
As luck would have it, a fellow blogger Molly has just started a travel agency in Granada, Visitfy. Her business partner David secured us a super-central apartment with his accommodation agency, tuAnfitrion, and thanks to Visitfy we also had tickets to the Parque de las Ciencias plus a photography tour. Visitfy offers a variety of tours in and around Granada, which I will explain more about in another post on our weekend, coming soon.
As we arrived at the apartment late after getting lost – don’t even attempt to drive in Granada city centre, as most streets are closed to traffic till 10pm – we didn’t venture far, but retired to the bar literally next door. A lively spot with dull white wine but good, free (yes, one with each drink) tapas, El Mentidero had a friendly owner, Guillermo, who made sure I had a non-meat tapa – an avocado pastry puff (much better than it sounds).
Our two-bedroom apartment was perfectly positioned, and stylishly decorated too. In tasteful creams and taupes, with splashes of Seville orange (sorry, couldn’t resist) in cushions and kitchen cupboards, it had plenty of character. Compact yet well-equipped, with a double electric ring and a capsule coffee-machine, its vintage-style lights added a trendy touch, while the shower with turquoise mosaic-tiled floor was as practical as it was pretty, with handy little shelves for your shampoo – I hate putting soap on the floor! The sitting room and kitchen had floor-to-ceiling wooden doors or windows, so it was very light, and looked onto a beautiful old mansion opposite.
On Saturday morning we set off to see the Parque de las Ciencias, which comes highly recommended by other families. Right from the statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench outside (try explaining the Theory of Relativity to a 10-year-old), Zac was enthralled.
We headed straight to the Biodome, the animal part, which has timed entry tickets to avoid it getting too crowded, and started at the aquarium.
Everyone loves vividly-coloured stripey fish – bright yellow, electric blue – and gets a thrill when they see a shark, although Zac was especially fascinated by the jellyfish, while I loved the elegantly curled seahorses, with their furiously whirling back fins.
In a clever room surrounded by tanks (why not put a bench in the middle? I do love a sit-down), there was a play table of sand with coloured contour lines projected onto it, which you moved around at will to create hills, plains and lakes – brown for tops of mountains, yellow for flatter areas. Brilliant for all ages, and a good taster of geography – the adults were just as absorbed in geographical constructions as the little ones.
Coming above ground from the oceanic section, we walked through the tropics and looked up to spot sleep lemurs (ads for the science park around the city have striped hanging tails). Then we met Curro, the toucan.
Curro is very tame and will come up to you and peck his impressive beak at anything brightly coloured (he was partial to my blue shoulder bag). He jumped onto my arm and hung out for a while – the last time I saw a toucan was perched in a tree at a distance, in the Ecuadorian rainforest, so this up-close experience was exciting.
After the animals, it was time for machines – the Robot exhibition. Zac is concerned that robots will take over the world some day soon, so he was apprehensive about this part of our visit.
An animatronic dinosaur’s instructions on a computer screen show you its cycle of movements (roar, stop, move etc), while robots called Ada and Charles conduct you to your chosen exhibit out of a list of six, explaining about its uses. We asked to meet Nao, a French-designed autonomous humanoid designed to be a laboratory assistant and used in hundreds universities around the world, as well as to introduce British schoolchildren to robotics, and to teach autistic children.
But our favourite robot was one in the entrance to the building – you could tell him what to say (in a wide choice of languages), choose his facial colour, and also decide which gestures to use, as well as seeing from his perspective.
Outside the grounds, the fun continued, with a replica dolmen, replicas acequias (waterways built by the Moors, who ruled these lands for 700 years), a butterfly house, samples of different trees, and puzzles including a pendulum and a Mobius strip climbing frame, a form with only one edge, all gloriously hands-on.
Sadly we didn’t get time to go up the Observation Tower to the viewing platform, but visiting Granada (and the Alhambra) is all about views, so there were plenty still to come.
Watch out for another post about Granada coming soon, with Zac’s first-ever visit to the Alhambra, and my photo tour of the Albaicin.