Cordoba, And Such.
20.09.2012 - 20.09.2012
Another early morning rising awaited me this morning. The sound of my alarm going off before the sun is up is such a rude and terrible awakening.
This morning I was fortunately not nearly as cranky about it as I was yesterday. For whatever reason I was able to get up after the first alarm and maintain some sense of deceny for the day. Probably because my stomach is feeling much better. Oh, come on--you had to know that I wouldn't go one trip without writing about gastrointestinal issues. Isn't that why you read my travel blogs?
Fortunately my stomach is mostly okay. I think it's just been a little adjustment for my digestive track to get on board with the Spanish diet. At home I eat mostly vegetables and proteins, but here I seem to be eating mostly carbohydrates. What can I say, bread is served with every meal, and I think that bread has formed a dam in my small intestine. I suppose that's far more preferable to my Peru ailments.
If you've traveled with me you'll know that I don't like going anywhere for the day without a proper trip to the loo, so maybe that's why I was cranky yesterday? It's my best guess.
What? You don't find the topic of pooping as funny or entertaining as I do? Why are we friends, again?
So, feeling stellar today (thanks for the concern) I woke up with no problems, packed up my things, and wrangled Zac out of bed. He has no issue waking up and immediately leaving, but I need a little time to myself in the mornings (and not just for the aseos). I drank my tea, read some news, and said my own little goodbye to Granada. "May I see you again," I thought as we walked down our apartment steps for the last time. And perhaps I will.
Off to Cordoba we went! I nodded off on the nearly three hour train ride, probably because I am weirdly comforted by most movement. With some good tunes playing on my headphones and the proper sway I could fall asleep standing up with enough rocking. The cat nap did me good, and I arrived in Cordoba ready to be a tourist!
Shit, nevermind, I'm not ready to be a tourist.
Cordoba is beautiful and the small streets are quaint and well kept. The houses are traditional, and Spanish tile work abundent. Water fountains are fixtures in courtyards and plazas bask in the sunlight around most corners. Shops are plentiful, and anything you need can likely be found with enough walking. It is an adorable and charming city--filled with tourists. I thought I wanted to be one, I really did. Just blend into a sea of faces, bartering for a summer dress or picking out a fan to cool myself with as I eat ice cream outside the Mezquita. Doesn't that sound nice?
Ninety-nine percent of tourists here are over the age of 50. I'm not kidding. They roam in hoards of sweaty old women in bedazzled hats and old shuffling men with hiking poles that match their mullet hats. No attempt at Spanish is made when speaking with the locals or eating at restaurants, and these groups seem to spread out along sidewalks with little regard to others trying to pass by. Do I want to be a tourist if this is how we're perceived? Nah.
Zac pointed out that many are German, so we spent the day immitating awful German accents and cracking jokes about currywurst and party boys. It should be noted that Zac is part German. Still, his impression is awful.
We figured the crowds would thin as the day progressed. Many people swarming the tourist center near the Mezquita and Alcazar were on day trips from Madrid, their bright orange or green name tags a dead giveaway. We'd wait them out, we decided.
Our first stop of the day was for coffee and lunch at a small restaurant just around the corner from our very central hotel (Hotel Lola).
We have a lovely view of Calle Romero and shops, restaurants, and souviners are never in short supply. We also have this:
I don't know if I have the courage for it.
The food we had at lunch was fine for what it was, but the coffee was not particularly satisfying. What's a person to do?! Go get more.
The second coffee stop of the day was much more pleasant. We stopped in a little cafe that had a beautiful open patio, few people, and surrounded us with plants and beautiful Spanish tilework while we sipped some cafe con leches. It really hit the spot.
After coffee and food we moved on to exploring some of Cordoba.
Cordoba was an Iberian and Roman city during ancient times, and excavation is going on in the city to reconstruct some of the ruins that have been discovered beneath neighborhood blocks. In the Middle Ages it became the capital of the Islamic caliphate. The mixing of rulers has left for some fascinating architecture, including mosques turned cathedrals turned tourist centers. At one point Cordoba was the most populous city in the world, though now it boasts a mere 330,000 people.
We walked through the Mezquita, arguably one of Cordoba's main tourist sights. We only walked the grounds, deciding to return for a tour of the mosque tomorrow morning when it's free (before 10 a.m.). Our next stop was a walk across the Rio Guadalquivir along the Roman bridge for more expansive views of the city, and on this beautiful (and really hot) day it did not disappoint. The bridge was built in the early 1st century BC, though it has been renovated and restored several times since. Now only the 14th and 15th arches are original.
Following beautiful views of the river and Plaza Vallinas we stopped by the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos and Jardines del Alcazar. Like at the Mezquita, we were simply checking it all out, deciding to return again tomorrow morning before 10:30 a.m. for free admission. Is it worth getting up early to save some money? Perhaps not, but in the end it's 8 euro for the Mezquita and 4.50 euro for the Alcazar per person, and that'd be better spent on lunch with a sangria if you ask me.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent leisurely strolling through the neighborhoods just outside of the Alcazar and near the University of Cordoba. On our walk we saw the Roman Temple, the theatre, Mausoleum, and the remains of the Palace of the Emperor Maximan. We walked along the famed Calleja de las Flores and Calleja del Panuelo in the old Jewish quarter, and the Posada del Potro, a square mentioned by Cervantes in Don Quioxte.
We attempted a visit to the Cordoba botanical gardens, which were closed by the time we arrived. Peeking through the gates we came to the conclusion that this was for the best, as the gardens seemed more like a pleasant walk through a small city park than anything else, and we could do that for free along the Avenida Conde de Vallellano, which we did. We also saw this:
Seriously, who thought a statue of one stag sniffing the arse of another was a good idea in the middle of a busy road?! I actually think it's pretty great. Either someone has a good sense of humor, or someone is really oblivious.
Walking along the neighborhood streets of Cordoba was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Many shops were closed for a siesta, but we did find a restaurant to stop and have some drinks at. It was called El Oliva and I only mention it because it had the best gazpacho I've had so far in Spain (and I've had gazpacho every day). Many of the restaurants serve gazpacho out of a box (yes, there is boxed gazpacho), but this restaurant made it from scratch. Instead of oil they used a little bit of cream, and it was served with peppers and onion to garnish. Que delicioso! Paired with some cold drinks and Spanish olives it was a much appreciated and enjoyed respite from the heat.
Continuing on we found ourselves at the Plaza Tendillas. Zac's sweet tooth kicked into gear and we were on the hunt for a pasteleria. Luck would have it that there are several around the Plaza Tendillas, and Zac picked one out and we sat and shared it as we stared out into the plaza and people watched. Isn't that part of the fun of it all? This plaza was about a ten minute walk from the Mezquita, and that ten minutes made all the difference. This was a plaza filled with locals, and fanny pack wearing, bedazzled sweaty old woman and flatulant old men were nowhere to be found.
The walk back to our hotel was a pleasant one, and we strolled hand in hand admiring the homes and local art projects. Hand in hand, I should say, until a car came. The streets in these Spanish cities are old, and therefore quite narrow. Many times I find myself saying that a car surely couldn't fit down a street, only to see one screetch through minutes later. Often we have to step into an apartment doorway to give room for the car to pass. Surprisingly the damage to cars appears to be minimal, or there are just a lot of autobody shops in Spain.
By the time we walked through the Mezquita to head back to the hotel it was nearing 6 p.m. and the streets were open and clear. The tour buses had gone, and those of us that remain are staying in hotels sprawled along the main corredors of the neighborhood. It was peaceful, warm, and exactly what we wanted.
Cordoba at night was a far cry from Cordoba during the day. We returned back to the Plaza Tendillas after attempting to eat at a restaurant in an adorable small plaza that simply did not seem want to serve us. Spain is much more laid back in the restaurant culture, and one must signal the server to get anything. Show up before kitchens open and you can enjoy a beverage, but come dinner time don't expect your waiter to bring you a menu or give any indication that food is being served. If the kitchen opens at 8 pm expect that you'll get to order around 8:30 pm.
Spanish time. It's wonderful until you're really, really hungry.
At the Plaza Tendillas we found a side street cafe and ordered dinner, finally. The food was mediocre, but I was too hungry to care much. The wine and warm summer night were enough to keep me content.
Anyway, food aside, our evening in Cordoba was relaxing, though poor Zac had major allergies and/or a cold coming on (though he insists he's just allergic to all the old people). He was sneezing like crazy and could seem to find no respite to the madness. He downed a couple of sangrias to distract the sneezing in the event that it was allergies and then pounded a litre of water in the event that it was a cold. One can never be too careful.
Tomorrow we wander Cordoba and take in the Mezquita and Alcazar before heading to Sevilla in the afternoon. It will be nice to have four days in Sevilla to unpack our stuff and just chill out in one spot. Sadly we only have a week and a half before we leave Spain. Time flies!