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Found 5 results

  1. Having arrived in Cordoba yesterday evening, we were keen to get out and explore the city this morning. Fortunately we didn't have far to go; the apartment we're staying in is just on the opposite side of the river from the old town. We first visited Cordoba during our 2014 trip to Spain and one of my main memories is the enormous bridge over the river Guadalquivir. The bridge was originally built by the Romans in the 1st century BC, before being rebuilt during the 8th century when Cordoba was under Islamic rule. As we walked across it this morning we had a good view of Cordoba's most famous sight: the Mezquita. The Mezquita has been a Catholic cathedral since 1236, when Cordoba was captured by Christian forces. However, the original building was a mosque, built in the 8th century when Cordoba was the capital of the Islamic region of Al-Andalus. Some parts of the building look like a normal Christian cathedral. This bell tower, for example, was built in the 17th century to replace a minaret. In other places, the Islamic influence is still very visible. The building is beautiful from the outside, but even more so from the inside. Last time we were here I went inside, but Tim decided that the €8 entry fee was too steep and stayed outdoors This time we were both planning to go inside, although since 2014 the entrance fee has increased to €11. We queued up outside to buy tickets from a ticket machine. The queue was quite slow moving, as some people seemed to be having difficulties with the machine, although we found it quite straightforward when we used it. You had to buy a ticket for a specific half-hour slot. We'd just missed 11am, so bought tickets for 11.30 and had a short stroll around the streets of the old town while we waited for our turn. Soon it was our turn to go inside. I was really excited to see the red and white striped archways which I remembered from last time Some parts of the interior look like a traditional cathedral. Admittedly, a rather elaborate one. But it's these columns and archways which make the building really unique. This area would have been the main prayer hall back when the building was a mosque. In total there are around 850 of these columns within the building. The overall effect is really spectacular. On one side of the cathedral more of the original Islamic decorations are visible. The patterns are really intricate. In some places the ceiling is patterned too. I really loved these carved patterns on the walls as well Once we'd finished admiring the cathedral, we stepped back out into the sunshine to admire the rest of Cordoba's sights. We discovered the remains of a Roman forum, which I have no recollection of seeing last time we were here We walked through pretty little squares... ...complete with orange trees. One of the other things I remembered from last time we were in Cordoba were the beautiful parks. We were here in July before, so definitely appreciated the shade when walking beneath these trees. Today we were more appreciating the sunshine We stopped for a while in a cafe in the park for coffee Then we continued back into the centre of Cordoba, admiring the walls of the Alcazar. We stopped in a tiny little restaurant for a lunch of steak and potatoes. I was relieved Tim had asked the waiter for my steak to be well-done; his looked rather rare! We finished the meal with a chocolate/custardy kind of pudding, plus coffee. After the food we had another stroll, admiring the Alcazar from the other side. Then it was back across the Roman bridge, towards our apartment. I'm glad that Cordoba has turned out to be just as beautiful as I remember it being
  2. We had another big day of travelling ahead of us today, as we left El Puerto de Santa Maria behind and travelled towards our final destination of Cordoba. We weren't allowed to check into our apartment in Cordoba until 5pm, which left us with quite a bit of time to fill as the drive itself was due to take less than three hours. When looking at the map, I realised that our route would take us right around the outskirts of Seville. We'd visited Seville during our 2014 trip to Spain and it wasn't a place which was high on our list of destinations we wanted to revisit. We'd been there in July, which probably isn't the best time to visit this part of Spain, and the temperatures were unbearably hot. My main memory is arriving in mid-afternoon, having struggled to pull a broken suitcase down a series of streets with very narrow pavements, and having to sit in the apartment eating Pringles because the restaurants didn't start serving dinner until 9pm. My other abiding memory is that Seville smelled terrible, with the centre of town being dominated by horse-drawn carriages. So I wasn't exactly desperate to go back That said, Seville was the obvious place to break our journey today and so we decided to give it a second chance. I had a premonition that driving/parking in Seville could be a bit nightmarish, so I researched whether there was anything like a "park and ride" system. It turns out that Seville has a metro and I read that a couple of the metro stations on the outskirts of town have free carparks. We drove towards one of these metro stations, a place called San Juan Bajo, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there was indeed a large free carpark with plenty of spaces It was also one of the most scenic places we've ever parked; there was a beautiful view up towards this church on a hill above us. Metro tickets cost a couple of Euros each and we were soon on our way towards the city centre. We hadn't done a huge amount of Seville research in advance of this trip, but had decided to get off the metro at a station called Puerta Jerez which seemed reasonably central. We emerged into an impressive square, complete with flowers and Christmas decorations. In the distance we could see a large tower and, of course, one of the ubiquitous horse and carriages. The good news is that because the weather was so much cooler than in July - and there was quite a strong breeze today at times - the smell of horses never became overwhelming Our vague plan was to walk towards a square we remembered from our previous visit to Seville - Plaza de España - so we set off in that direction. The square was well signposted and we found it without too many difficulties... ...although when we arrived, the entire square turned out to be in a state of chaos. Initially I thought they were having a car boot sale, but later it seemed more like it was a rally of classic cars It didn't matter; Plaza de España was still beautiful One of the things I do remember really loving about Seville first time around were the amazing tiles in this square. The lampposts are particularly ornate. When we first came here we'd never been to Portugal, but now that we have it does feel very reminiscent of some of the tiles we've seen there The square itself is enormous and was built in 1929 to host an Ibero-American exposition. Around the edge of the square are these very ornate benches, which seem to be dedicated to each of the major regions in Spain. We found the one for Salamanca, which was one of our favourites places during our 2014 Spain trip There's also some water in the middle of the square, which is crossed via these beautiful bridges. All in all it's a very impressive square Star Wars fans may also recognise it from the film Attack of the Clones, where it was featured in scenes of the planet Naboo. It was much easier to enjoy the scenery without the baking heat from last time we were here. It's by no means cold here in November, though; it was warm enough today for ice-cream, so we enjoyed one as we strolled around the gardens outside the square. Seville seems to be a surprisingly green city. We made our way back into the city centre via a series of parks... ...and leafy avenues. We knew we had hit the centre when we got our first glimpse of Seville's cathedral. The cathedral in Seville is absolutely enormous; one of the largest churches in the world. It's impossible to give a proper impression of its size in photos... ...because you can only ever fit a small part of it on the screen. We were impressed anyway, but we were also hungry by this point so we set off on a search for food. That ended up taking a bit longer than I expected! There were lots of restaurants in Seville, but many of them only had a few outdoor tables and were already full; it looked like Sunday was a popular day for Spanish people to go out for lunch. We eventually found a nice Italian restaurant that managed to squeeze us in. We enjoyed some lasagne/tagliatelle, followed by delicious Nutella pancakes After lunch we had a bit more time to explore Seville. Honestly, walking around some of these streets I wouldn't have known that I'd ever been to Seville before I loved these enormous trees, cut into box shapes. And also this building with the striped domed roof. We walked through various squares, on our way back to the Puerta Jerez metro station. We passed the cathedral again, but still couldn't fit it all in one photo. We were impressed by this massive door, which had some incredible detail. Leaving the cathedral behind, we got back on the metro and picked up our car. From there we had a drive or another 90 minutes or so until we reached the apartment we are renting in Cordoba. It's nothing too spectacular on the inside, with a kitchen, living room... ...plus bedroom... ...but the great thing about it is that it comes with a space in a parking garage Cordoba is another place where I think it would be really difficult to park if you didn't have an allocated space. It got dark shortly after we arrived here so we haven't seen much of Cordoba yet, but we really enjoyed it when we were here in 2014 so looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow. And Seville has definitely redeemed itself in my eyes after today's visit; I would go back again, just maybe not in summer
  3. The advantage for us on our no-travel days is that we free up more time for exploring. We'd already been around much of Córdoba today for about six hours, and yet were home comparitively early. That gave us time for Clare to blog about the day (about two hours' work for those that think it's just writing a few words!) and get something to eat, still leaving us with a spare few hours at the end of the day. And so we decided to stroll in the evening. Since our adventure today by pure fluke ended in the square outside our apartment, we decided to carry on in that direction this evening on what was largely an aimless walk. Whilst Clare and I were discussing the feasibility (or not) of our visiting every European capital, we were greeted with the sight of some Roman remains, pillars emerging from the earth. What particularly caught our eyes was the poor family of kittens that lived there. I fell for a little tabby whilst Clare was enamoured with what appeared to be a Siamese. The poor blighters were about 12 weeks old. At least some gentle souls had put down some water for them. I tried to find a supermarket to get something for them to eat but couldn't find anything. I suppose they stand a reasonable chance of survival, given the amount of pigeons around here and the lack of other cats. We took a few other turnings and saw the odd church, although we've been so spoilt for choice today that we didn't think of them as anything particularly special. Eventually we looped around to the main square, just as night fell. And as we approached our apartment we got to see what its square looked like after nightfall. And now we should think about bed because we have what was an unplanned day ahead of us tomorrow which might just turn out to be the best of the holiday.
  4. Today we had a full day to explore Córdoba. Before we got stuck into seeing the sights, however, we needed to plan tomorrow's excursion to Granada, which necessitated a visit to the train and bus stations. I had been investigating train timetables from Córdoba to Granada online the previous evening and had found details on the Bahn website of an early morning train which would get us there for 11am. Unfortunately, the Renfe website had no knowledge of this train and the ticket machine at the train station didn't either, so ultimately we had to resign ourselves to Plan B of travelling by bus instead. We seem to be destined to catch a lot of buses on this holiday! Bus tickets purchased, we returned to the apartment to book tickets for visiting the Alhambra. The Alhambra is one of the main sights in Granada but in order to protect the monument the number of tourists is strictly limited to around 6,000 per day. This means that you have to book tickets in advance and at busy times of the year they can sell out very fast. We were lucky that there were still some tickets left for an afternoon slot tomorrow. The slightly shaky wi-fi in the apartment held out long enough for us to purchase some, and then we headed out into the town centre in search of a branch of the Caixa bank, whose ATM's are specially set up to print prebooked Alhambra tickets upon insertion of a credit card. It was all a bit complicated but we got it sorted in the end and were able to relax and explore Córdoba. Our first stop was the main square where we had sat and eaten lunch/dinner in the first establishment we found yesterday evening after our long and foodless bus journey! It had some interesting buildings and pretty fountains. From there we walked back in the direction of the train station towards a leafy park we had caught glimpses of and wanted to investigate further. It turned out to be a beautiful combination of statues, fountains and palm trees. There was even a duck house in the middle of a pond Walking through the park took us along the western edge of the town, towards the city walls in the south. There was an enormous crenellated gate into the old town. You can't walk along the walls themselves but we walked along the outside of them. It was nice and shady with the walls on one side and pools of water on the other. Towards the end of the walls we came across a statue of Ibn Rushd, an Islamic philosopher born in Córdoba in the twelfth century. Córdoba was captured by a Muslim army in 711 and eventually became the capital of the medieval Islamic state of Al-Andalus. It remained an Islamic city until it was recaptured by King Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236. Looming on the horizon we saw the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a medieval fortress which was one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. The fortress was built close to the river Guadalquivir, which is spanned by a Roman bridge, originally constructed in the first century BC and repaired extensively when Córdoba was under Islamic rule. To the side of the bridge you can still see one of the original Arab waterwheels, designed to raise water to the caliph's palace. At the near end of the bridge is the Puerta del Puente, a Renaissance gate into the city... ...while from the far end we had a fantastic view back towards the city and in particular of the Mezquita. We stopped for lunch in a cafe which served something very similar to a Zagreb schnitzel(!) and then wandered through the colourful streets of the old town. We worked our way through the old town to the most famous building in Córdoba, the Mezquita. This is a medieval Islamic mosque that has been converted into a Catholic cathedral. At first glance from the outside it looks pretty much like a normal cathedral, with a large bell tower. This was built in the sixteenth century to help Christianise the cathedral by replacing an existing minaret. Entering a gate in the wall you find yourself in a beautiful courtyard called the Patio de los Naranjos. This was originally an ablutions court, with the fountains used for ritual purification before prayers. The courtyard is really pretty, filled with a mixture of orange trees and palm trees. It's free to walk around the courtyard but to enter the Mezquita itself you have to pay €8. Tim thought this was a bit expensive but bought me a ticket so that I could go in on my own. I was curious to see what a mosque-cathedral would be like inside. First impressions were that it was extremely dark inside! My eyes adjusted to the twilight but my camera struggled a little. It was extremely striking, with a forest of stripy pillars... There are a total of 856 columns inside the building, many of which were made from pieces of a Roman temple which had occupied the site previously. This would have been the main prayer hall when it was still a mosque. Around the sides of the building are a series of ornate chapels, dedicated to different saints. One side retains its original Islamic decorations though. I can't imagine what it's like to have Mass in these surroundings, but seeing the cathedral was a really unique experience and definitely worth €8. We had a very pleasant walk home through more parts of the old town and ended up purely by coincidence at the square right in front of out door. That seemed like a sensible place to stop
  5. We kissed goodbye to Madrid today after a lovely few days in the Spanish capital. It was time to travel closer to the traditional tourist areas in the south. If we could find a way of getting there, we were heading to Córdoba. That's not to say we hadn't made plans; indeed we had. We knew what train we were going to catch, when we were going to catch it and where from. We also thought we knew what we were going to pay for it, until we popped to the station the night before to confirm the details and purchase the tickets. I say "confirm the details" because we'd earlier learned on this holiday that what the (very primitive) transport websites indicate the timetables to be doesn't always match up with reality. In this case there were indeed trains to Córdoba leaving at the times we expected, but the prices were over three times what we originally expected to pay. Ouch. Yesterday evening was spent trawling some more primitive websites to see whether we could locate a bus to Córdoba instead. We found reason to suspect so but can you really trust a website that is so primitive that it can't even handle Spanish's accented characters? We got up much earlier than planned this morning so that we could head to the bus station to see whether there was scope for getting a bus but leaving time to catch the original 12:00 train if not. Fifteen stops on the Metro later, we were trying to find that bus station, which was off our map. The only things to note about this adventure were that the curse of Clare's suitcases struck again as one of her wheels broke, and queues of taxi drivers were occupying the roads and blasting their horns non-stop to protest against an app that people use to call a cab. Irritate people immensely; that'll put them on your side. Our luck was in, we got tickets on the bus for a quarter of what we would have had to pay for the train, and five and a half hours later (or two paperbacks read if you use the Clare scale) we were pulling a broken suitcase through Córdoba en route to our apartment, which merits more of a mention. For a start, it has been built around ruins. I'm not sure what was originally here because the signs use the sort of impenetrable arty language that even natives don't understand, but there was a mention of the "traditional cemetery style". From above it looks relatively small. But from the bottom you get a sense of scale. This was a solid building at some point. There happens to be a mosaic next to it ... ... and a wall-mounted one in the foyer. And to cap it off there are some remains of columns on display too. And as for the apartment itself ... well, it's easily the nicest one we've ever been in and is even better equipped than our house is. We had no idea what we were getting, with spare bedrooms, several bathrooms, separate dining and living rooms and a large kitchen. Tomorrow we'll be spending the day exploring Córdoba. But before we get around to doing that, I think I'll pull some of my beers out of the fridge and go join Clare on our exlusive upstairs terrace
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