Although the caves are inhabited and some are still used for flamenco shows, the whole place is a waste of time. Visitors are warned by taxi drivers and concierges to stay away. That advice, at least for me, is a come-on I can't resist. I went. I saw. And everyone was right, for a change. It's a rip-off, the quintessential tourist trap, and I've seen better flamenco in Cordoba.
On the other side of the coin is La Cartuja, the Carthusian Monastery about a mile north of Sacromonte. It is a whimsical Baroque church that, from 1506, took 300 years to build.
Back in the city, you'll find that Granada offers a wide range of good hotels. If you're lucky, or have made reservations about a year in advance, you might get a room in one of Spain's most elegant paradores. These are government-run tourist accommodations in ancient castles or monasteries, usually full of treasures and antiques.
But no matter where you stay in Granada, you'll find it a great ancient city full of life that will haunt you for years after--if cities can come back to haunt you the way dead people are said to do.
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Getting there: There's connecting service only LAX-Granada, the easiest route being US Airways from L.A. to Madrid (one stop, no plane change), then Iberia from Madrid to Granada. All other connections require two changes of planes. Round-trip fares begin at about $960.
Where to stay: Parador de San Francisco (Alhambra 18009; telephone 011-34-58-221-440). The San Francisco is Spain's most famous and historic parador. Reservations are extremely difficult to get. From about $180 per night.
Alhambra Palace (Pen~a Partida 2, 18009; tel. 011-34-58-221-468). Built at the turn of the century, this hotel sits on the slopes of Alhambra Hill facing the Sierra Nevada. The lobby looks like a mosque, all Arab pillars and arches, while the rooms are decorated with Moorish tiles. From about $160 per night.
Hotel Inglaterra (Cetti Meriem 4; tel. 011-34-58-221-559). Guests in this hotel that looks like something out of 1920s Spain have included Ernest Hemingway and Humphrey Bogart. It's located in the heart of the city, and the main building is a restored mansion built centuries ago. Great lobby, comfortable rooms from about $125 per night.
Where to eat: El Molino (Camino de las Fuentes, Paraje de las Islas, 18650 Durcal; local telephone 58-780-247). About 15 miles from downtown Granada, it's housed in an old mill with museum and wine-tasting room. Entrees $18-$45.
For more information: Tourist Office of Spain, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 956, Beverly Hills, CA 90211; tel. (213) 658-7188, fax (213) 658-1061.