“Tales of the Alhambra” by Washington Irving

View of the Alhambra across the Darro River Valley.

While I await the date of my departure to Spain, I pore over accounts of others’ experiences. The writer Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) is best known for his stories: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”. He is perhaps less known as the author of “Tales of the Alhambra” (published in 1832), a travelogue documenting his tour of Spain around the year 1828. Irving was also a diplomat, serving as US Ambassador to Spain between 1842 and 1846. His stories of travel on horseback in a completely different era are fascinating: hiring a guide for protection from bandits, going on dusty trails with provisions to eat along the way, napping on the ground when tired, staying at inns for the night, and talking and drinking with the locals. Irving had permission to lodge at the Alhambra, a beautiful but rundown place at that time with only traces of its former magnificence (now restored and a UNESCO site). Irving’s book encouraged interest in Granada and he is revered in the area for that reason.

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