We left Madrid early the next morning and flew to Seville where we would pick up our car and start our driving tour of Andalusia. When we had planned this trip, there were too many places that we wanted to see in too little time. In retrospect, what we did in our short time was way too much and we learned a valuable lesson about traveling. Never do too much in too little of time. You will end up not truly enjoying your trip and you will find it very difficult to relax.
We landed at the airport in Seville, rented our European stick-shift car and were on our way to Cordoba, a short hour and a half drive (minus the time that was spent lost trying to navigate the mis-marked streets). I instantly realized shortly into our driving trip that being 13 weeks pregnant and doing a driving trip in Spain was not ideal. Unlike the States, there are not McDonalds or gas stations every ten miles which made it very difficult on my poor bladder. Never being pregnant before, I had no idea how much I would desperately need to use the loo and there were hardly any ever to be found. In fact, we would spend a lot of our time wandering the romantic streets of Spain in search of a public loo. Ah, the trial and tribulations of an expectant, traveling mama.
Despite it all, we were filled with joyful anticipation about seeing Cordoba. It sounded like a magical place full of history and surreal architecture. Our handy guidebook on Spain offered the following enticing description that was enough to get my curiosity flowing:
Ten centuries ago, Cordoba was one of the greatest cities in the world, with a population of 900,000. The capital of Muslim Spain, it was Europe’s largest city and a cultural and intellectual center. It flourished with public baths, mosques, a great library, and palaces. - Frommers Spain 2004
Our first matter of business was finding our hotel. We thought it would be easy given the hotel’s proximity the Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba, by far the city’s most visited site. As we pulled into the town of Cordoba we could spot the massive Mezquita instantly. Parking is not recommended inside the city thus we chose a nearby spot alongside the river and wandered the serpentine streets until we found our two-star hotel just blocks away from the Mezquita. Perfect we thought, naively. Little did we know the bells of the cathedral would ring from 7 am until 11 pm every fifteen minutes! So much for sleep.
Photo above of the incredible Mezquita, the crown jewel of Cordoba. From the 8th century on, this cathedral was the best representation of Muslim architecture throughout Europe.
The Mezquita-Catedral is absolutely stunning inside with a labyrinth of red and white arches that look like oversized, rainbow-shaped candy canes. However, what is most surprising about this structure is the 16th century addition of a cathedral which was built right inside the heart of the Mezquita. Although the cathedral is spectacular in its own right, it disrupts the dramatic view of the arches and the beauty. It is rather a confusing piece of architecture that is definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately the lighting was poor inside and every square foot seemed to be packed with fanny-pack wearing tourists. I had no opportunities for a good shot of the inside thus I am including two which I found on Wikipedia.
This photo was taken inside the courtyard of the Mezquita.
One of the things I really adored about Cordoba was her white-washed buildings and narrow, mysterious streets. Many of the buildings and homes were awash in flowers spilling out of window baskets and containers. It was a lovely town despite the high levels of tourists and the invasion of tee shirt shops.
Photo above of the Arab and Jewish quarters of Cordoba.
After exploring the Mezquita, we headed to the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos which was commissioned in 1328 by the Alfonso XI, the Alcazar of the Christian Kings. The main attraction of this site is the gorgeous Moorish gardens and baths surrounding the building. Here are some pictures below of the splendid gardens.
After a long day of walking we were worn out and highly in need of a nap. We headed back to our cheap yet clean hotel and came to the first realization that we would not be getting much sleep in this town. As soon as our heads hit the pillow and our eyes finally shut, the loud, glorious bells of the Mezquita reminded us of her power and proximity.
Stay tuned…next stop Granada, my favorite city in Spain.