My mom flew in last Thursday and we spent the day in Madrid. After visiting the Museo de Bellas Artes, we had lunch at an outdoor cafe by the Opera House. Then we went to the Monasterio de Desclazes Reales, which is a Top 10 site for Madrid. Although the monastery housed several artistic treasures, I was not impressed by the quality of the tour. It was neat to see, but if short on time, don´t bother.
On Friday morning we were up early and make our way on the metro to the bus station to catch a 5 hour bus from Madrid to Cordoba. Once we arrived in Cordoba, we walked through beautiful gardens filled with roses and through the historic center to drop off our bags and check in at Pension Cibeles. Our first stop was La Mezquita, or the mosque turned cathedral. When the Islams had a strong presence in Spain, this was their main mosque. Later, when the Catholic Kings took over, they transformed the mosque into a cathedral. The identifying feature of the church is its hundreds of columns. When you are inside it appears to be a forest of columns, stretching on as far as you can see. In the old part of the church, the columns are interspersed with red brick, creating the red and tan stripes along the arches. In the newer part, the red is simply painted on. In the center, the Catholic cathedral dominates impressively. This church is certainly one of the most unusual places of worship I have ever seen.
It was a hot 90 something degrees outside so we didn´t linger in the sun for too long, instead we followed the map to the Alcazar and wandered through the colorful gardens there. Lots of shade framed the statues of rulers and flowers in full bloom in pinks, purples, reds, oranges, yellows, blues; it seemed as though ever color was present in the garden. Then we explored the old castle, admiring the ruins and the restored section. In one part of the restored section, we admired Roman mosaics from the early first century. Then we climbed to the top of the castle´s tower and look down over the city.
When we exited the castle, we received a special treat. One of the horses from the neighboring Royal Riding Academy was rehearsing for the dressage show later that night so we got to see the rider prance it all around the square. Our next destination was the Andalusi House, a very old house which is a typical Andalusian home. It had a pretty indoor patio, a machine which showed the process of making paper – since actually Cordoba was one of the first cities to do so – old furniture, and remnants of the old city wall. The house was really pretty but by this point we were starting to get pretty hungry since we had just had some snacks for lunch. On our search for food though, we ran into a beautiful tiled church with a stunningly preserved example of Mudejar style in a small space. We admired the church briefly then returned to the search. Soon we found a place that looked decent and sat down for some sangria and croquettas. The croquettas of ham and cheese were really good, but the sangria was super sugary and not too great.
We decided to look for a place I read about from a 2011 travel guide on my Nook. We walked almost 20 minutes to get there and when we arrived – it was closed! It´s amazing how much of a difference 1 year can make when guidebooks are published. It was okay though, because we ended up finding a great place called the Museo de Tapas y Vinos, where we enjoyed an assortment of tapas and cava – Spain´s sparkling wine. Since I was still hungry, I finished up with a grilled steak – sooo good! Then we started to wander around the city in search of the patios which were opened for the Patio Festival. We ended up getting a little turned around, then stopped back by our hostel to ask how to identify the patios. The man there gave us some useful information, and we went back into the Jewish Quarter looking for 2 small fir trees at the front door of the homes. This meant that the patio was open for viewing. We ended up getting to see the interior of 7 or 8 stunning Cordobean patios. Each was decorated with hanging flowerpots and an assortment of flowers. There were tons of people in the streets, and we got some entertainment from a few different musical groups. After touring the patios, we were exhausted from a long day and went right to sleep.ç
The next morning we got up and headed out in search of a decent place for breakfast. We found a great place with a traditional white washed courtyard with plants right across the street from the cathedral where I had orange juice, and my mom, of course, had coffee. I also had some toast with fresh tomato paste and then we hiked across town to get to the Palacio de Viana. The Palacio is a huge compound with no fewer than 12 courtyards in the middle of it´s connecting buildings. Many a rich person had resided there in the past, but now its just a sort of museum and tourist stop. Although the courtyards were pretty, the colorful ones we had seen the night before beat them by a landslide. Each courtyard was full of interesting history though, so it was worth a visit. On the way to the train station, we stopped and got some sandwiches for lunch and some medicine for me since I was sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose like crazy. Then, we got on the train and made the journey of a little over an hour to Sevilla, a city even further South in Spain.