And we’re back!
The second city we visited during our Southern Spain Trip was Córdoba. We took the train from Sevilla and, in only an hour, we were there! The trains really are a wonderful thing. They have all different types of trains, so sometimes we got high-speed trains, other times medium-distance trains, and other times the slow trains, but they were all very convenient and at relatively good prices. We would gladly travel by train any day, and we would highly recommend it to anyone traveling through Europe. I would imagine that the train systems in other countries function just as well as in Spain, although I can’t say definitively.
Anywho, we rode our bikes from the Córdoba train station to our hotel, which wasn’t far away. We settled in and relaxed for a while and then decided to explore. We pretty much didn’t do any research about any city before we arrived there. I think I would have liked to know a little bit about a city and its hot spots before arriving if I did it over again, but this way worked out decently for us. We always got a colorful map of the city from the hotel, and they pointed out the touristy spots. The maps actually looked like Disneyland maps with colorful drawings of the city and numbers indicating the name of each building.
We rode toward downtown and stopped along the way whenever we wanted to take a pretty picture. Amidst new buildings and modern architecture, we came across this random section of ancient Roman ruins just sitting in the middle of the city like it’s no big deal. I don’t even think there was a plaque describing what it was, but the fact that it was walled off made us think it was ancient and important. I loved the columns; I just wish I knew more about it. After a quick photo, we rode on.
We made our way through the narrow and curvy streets to this amazing sight! The gorgeous clouds stopped us in our tracks, and we just had to take a picture of this bell tower against the beautiful sky. Little did we know that this was the outer wall of the Mezquita-Catedral, which means Mosque-Cathedral, but I’ll get to that later. I snapped Casey standing in front of an altar of sorts, and he took a picture of the bell tower with the moon in the background. It was a lovely sight.
This is the other side of the complex, as you can see the bell tower on the left. I loved the curved arches on the right side of the building with the yellow light shining through. The dark blue sky really sets it off beautifully. In fact, look at how much the sky had changed in a matter of minutes! We were on the other side of the wall with bright pink clouds, then the sky was light blue, and then dark blue. Gorgeous.
The picture above shows a huge gateway to a pedestrian bridge. It was beautiful against the midnight blue sky with just a hint of the glistening silver moon shining through the clouds. (I’m saying everything is beautiful here, but it really was.) A wide but low river moved along slowly beneath us. I think there were two additional bridges for cars, but this one was specifically designated for pedestrians. What a great idea! There are so many pedestrians in this area, so it just makes sense to have a bridge for them. It was clean and had tall, rectangular lights at regular intervals. Quite lovely.
On the other side of the bridge was this watch-tower of some kind. I love the triangular tops of the columns. Casey was a good sport to pose for all these photos.
He got in the spirit by taking some long exposure shots to capture the whole bridge and the cathedral in its essence. I zoomed in for the second shot. Majestic lighting, isn’t it?
We continued riding our bikes well past the touristy area and into the regular city. We love to explore without a map like that and just see where it takes us. This particular route took us straight to a mall with a Toys R Us! We saw some lights in the distance and could only make out the colors. Casey turned to me and said, “That looks just like Toys R Us.” It’s funny how we know the logo so well that we could tell what it was from afar. We went inside to warm up and shared a cup of ice cream. That sounds a bit contradictory! But, as a self-proclaimed ice cream aficionado, ice cream is still wonderful in cold weather. Often even better than in the summer. Mmm.
We moseyed around the mall for a bit but didn’t find anything interesting to look at. The most intriguing thing was that the mall was called El Arcangel, which means The Archangel. What an odd name for a mall. It was getting late anyway and nearly dinnertime, so we made our way back to the hotel. It might surprise you that with all the Spanish food around, we were craving Chinese! We’re both big fans of Asian cuisine. I often get a craving for Korean food, but it’s easier to find Chinese. Luckily, there is always some Chinese delivery service in nearly every city, so we didn’t have to look far. This place was right around the corner. We ordered our usual pair of lemon chicken for Casey and kung pao or any spicy chicken for me. I like a little crunch with my meal, so I try to order wontons if they have them. All Chinese restaurants in Spain seem to serve “Wan-Tun Frito” which is basically just a fried wonton skin with a microscopic amount of mystery meat. I swear they have to place this single bite of meat with a tweezer. It’s almost negligible to even add it. But it did suffice for the crunch I desired. We enjoyed the food and enjoyed staying in for the night.
The next day was a bit more adventurous. Since there are no continental breakfasts in Spain, Casey went out to buy something. We found a place in Valencia called “Panaria” and then realized it’s a chain all over Spain. It’s a little pricy, but the food is good. They have fresh bread, sandwiches, quiche, muffins, etc. Casey got a jamón bocadillo for a change, and I had my usual toast with jam. I took a picture of him walking back to the hotel with the goods.
We ventured out into the world and simply walked around for quite some time. We enjoyed exploring on our bikes the day before, but now we wanted to slow down a bit and see things more closely. We had a better idea of the layout of the city, so we grabbed our things and headed downtown. I enjoyed taking some pictures of the tops of buildings with a great deal of sky. I’m not sure why.
We ran into a cute candy shop in the middle of a courtyard. It was filled to the brim with candy, peanut brittles, roasted nuts, candied apples, popcorn, and cotton candy. A bright red candy apple struck us as being fun to try. I don’t remember ever having a candied apple; I always had caramel apples, so we bought one to give it a go.
Casey held onto it and we kept walking through the maze of streets. We found the Calleja de Las Flores, or “Street of The Flowers,” which I mentioned in a previous post.
I’ll admit that this street sounded much more glamorous online. It was literally just one, tiny alleyway and an incredibly small courtyard. It was pretty, don’t get me wrong, especially with the view of the cathedral in the background, but it was not at all what people have described. My guess is that this is THE street of the flowers, but there are other streets of flowers that people have found. If you go online, you’ll find pictures boasting of all the flowers and flower pots that can be found in Córdoba, and they will call it Calleja de Las Flores, but they aren’t at the official one. Alas. Outside a gift shop, I admired these pretty, mosaic mirrors (see Casey in one of them!).
By now it was time to eat our candied apple and see what all the hype was about. The glossy exterior proved to have a desirable crunch, and a sweet, juicy apple (albiet slightly pithy) lurked underneath. The sticky candy was like glue on our teeth, but it quickly dissolved. Frankly, I enjoy caramel apples better. This crunch and soft apple wasn’t the best combo. I think chewy caramel pairs better with apples, but this was fun to try.
At this point, we were back on the same street as the Mezquita-Catedral, so we decided to go inside the walls and take a look. The gardens were so lovely and fresh! The smell of orange blossoms was in the air, obviously from all the orange trees. (It smelled like the Atrium at the Mansion, actually.)
Now I’ll tell you a little bit about the Mezquita-Catedral, or Mosque-Cathedral. It is exactly what it sounds like: half Muslim Mosque, half Christian Cathedral. Muslims occupied Spain for many, many years until Christians drove them out, so many buildings have references to both cultures. This is one of the definitive structures which showcases both architectural styles beautifully. This is also THE HOT SPOT of Córdoba. We figured that out the night before and decided that we better go take a look at it. Even though we’re not big museum people, we knew this was one touristy spot we couldn’t miss. You’ll soon see why.
I don’t need to tell you that the interior was breathtaking! Arch after arch and column after column filled the hall. The two tiers of red and white striped arches were just something we had never seen before. No wonder this place is a must see!
Percentagewise, most of the architecture is Muslim or Islamic in design with its rich browns, reds, and greys (it might be called Moorish architecture; the Muslims were called “Moors” for some reason). But then… then you have the striking white and gold juxtaposition of the Christian constructions. There is a huge altar with beautiful paintings and stained glass, as well as two enormous organs and a full Baroque choir.
The next picture is one of my favorites because it shows both extremely contrasting styles right next to each other. They are notably exact opposites, yet they somehow work together in a strange and beautiful way.
We reluctantly left the cool chambers of the Mosque-Cathedral and went back out into daylight. Casey is standing outside one of the doors to the building. Even the architecture on the outside is intricate in detail and color. We spotted these absolutely adorable mirrors at a gift shop too! I wanted one so badly! We packed so lightly though with only two bags that we didn’t have much space for souvenirs. On the bright side, the really pretty mirrors were the bigger ones (size 11×14 and up). Since I logically could not haul one of those around, I didn’t feel too badly about not buying it.
We again found ourselves next to the pedestrian bridge, so we took some more pictures of it. It was still lovely in the light blue twilight.
You probably didn’t know that there are stray cats everywhere in Spain! We saw them in every city that we visited. If you know me, then you know that I love cats! The Spanish cats we saw were always short-hair and very friendly. They would come up to us and rub against our legs. These two were particularly cute together. They let me get super close to them. And then, as I was crouched down to the ground, another cat came up to me and started rubbing against my arm. I managed to take a close up of him or her! Adorable!
We pressed on with our evening tour of the city and had a little fun in the meantime.
We found some delicious fruit candies in a window and proceeded to buy a few. They were the best, soft, jelly candies we ever had, and that’s saying something! The store clerk said they were sweetened with natural fruit juices and they tasted sooo good. The flavor was unlike any other candy. It was like drinking fruit juice in solid form. Yummy! We’d go back to Córdoba just for those.
Oh, and for this. Without a heartbeat. Remember this glorious pastry? We do. I think we still have dreams about it. See Casey’s expression below? That was when he said, “Whaaatttt? How can something be SO GOOD?” He was amazed. Now I have to replicate it. I won’t mind trying.
Casey bought me a sweet little wallet to hold my euros! Coins are used a lot more in Europe than in the US, since they have larger coins (1 and 2 euros) compared to quarters. It’s a hassle to dig through one pocket full of cash and coins, so we opted for this tiny wallet with two zippers. Casey saw a local using a wallet like this and immediately wanted one. It works really well! You fold the bills and put them in one pocket, and then the second pocket is strictly for coins. And the easiest way to sort through coins is to dump them in your hand. It works! (Remember this wallet because I have a story about it when we get to Ronda, Spain.)
My grandma requested that I write more about food, so I plan to do just that! Unfortunately, our food choices in Córdoba were nothing spectacular. The Chinese food was better than these Spanish dishes you see below. Our plan was to go to a highly rated restaurant in the center of town. We got there, looked at the menu displayed outside, and realized that it was a little pricier than we wanted. There also weren’t too many dishes that sounded good. The reviews said they had great food, but we realized that it was all local fair. Both of us aren’t adventurous eaters unless we know it’s good. We’ll definitely try something if one of our friends recommends it to us, but we’re just not going to waltz in and order something foreign. The main delicacy in Córdoba was bull’s tail and, well, that just didn’t sound too good at the moment. So we wandered on and ended up at a cheaper place with tapas (small Spanish dishes or appetizers) that we could relate to. We had little meatballs, a tiny hamburger, and cheese cannelloni. Like I said, it was cheap and tasted so, but it filled the void.
On the way back to the hotel, we found a place that served 100 different kinds of tiny pizzas. We ordered two dessert pizzas: one Oreo with white chocolate, and one with cream cheese and strawberry preserves. Casey enjoyed them enough, but I wasn’t impressed. They looked nothing like the pictures in the menu and they didn’t taste all that good. Alas. We tried.
We made it back to the hotel and turned in for the night. Even though we didn’t have the best meals in this city, we thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and the architecture. It was a fun two days. The next day we would take the train out of town and head into the hills to a gorgeous place called Ronda.
Stay tuned. Yours truly,
P.S. The full gallery of photos is having a hard time uploading due to the poor internet here in Lagos (and the fact that there are a lot of pictures). I’ll try and post them later on, and I’ll let you know when they’re up!