A Travellerspoint blog

Mezquita &Medina Azahara

Cordoba

We arrived in Cordoba late in the afternoon and spent the evening walking around the old Jewish Quarter where we found a nice little restaurant with a courtyard and had a dinner of hummus and falafels. This was followed by a pot of freshly brewed Andalusian tea that tasted delicious. It was nice to walk around the city at night at is stays light until quite late and it was still very warm. There was a nice atmosphere with tourists and locals strolling around.

Cordoba skyline

Cordoba skyline


San Francisco church, Cordoba

San Francisco church, Cordoba


Alleys in the jewish quarter Cordoba

Alleys in the jewish quarter Cordoba


Old Cordobese man

Old Cordobese man

We started the next morning with some sightseeing; the Moorish Mezquita (The Great Mosque) of Cordoba is over 1200 years old – “that’s much older than those temples we saw in Cambodia”, said Sully to put things into context – and it is the main reason why Cordoba is so well known today. These days the mosque is used as a cathedral and a tourist attraction but it still retains the original architecture and details from the time when it was at the centre of a vast Islamic empire.

We spent a couple of hours inside the complex as it has a nice courtyard with fountains and orange trees for shade. Inside the cathedral there are hundreds of pillars made from marble and jasper joined by arches of alternating red and white bricks which give the building its distinct character and aesthetic appeal. We read that the arches were designed to look like the shape of the date palm, which was much revered by the Arab rulers at the time.

La Mezquita, Cordoba

La Mezquita, Cordoba


La Mezquita, Cordoba

La Mezquita, Cordoba


La Mezquita, Cordoba

La Mezquita, Cordoba


La Mezquita, Cordoba

La Mezquita, Cordoba


La Mezquita, Cordoba

La Mezquita, Cordoba

We were in Cordoba during the time of its annual ‘Festival of the Patios’. Each year private home owners open their courtyard gardens up for public viewing as part of a competition. They each take much effort to decorate their garden walls with wonderful flowers and it makes for a very colourful event. Another Moorish legacy, the patios are filled with pot plants, decorative tiles and water fountains. The Spanish version of Britain in Bloom?! We were lucky enough to visit a number of homes whilst in Cordoba and get a rare glimpse past the large wooden doors of the old-quarter!

Festival of patios, Cordoba

Festival of patios, Cordoba


Festival of the patios, Cordoba

Festival of the patios, Cordoba


Festival of the patios, Cordoba

Festival of the patios, Cordoba


Festival of the Patios, Cordoba

Festival of the Patios, Cordoba

We spent our final afternoon walking around the city of Cordoba in both the old and new quarters. Whilst the modern city has much to offer (including good shopping), it was the narrow cobbled streets and old churches of the old town that we found most captivating. It was easy to see why Cordoba was once known as an important centre of culture in Europe. We walked for miles, past the old city walls, the fortress, the Caliphs’ Baths, along the river and then rested in the public parks.

Nuns in the park, Cordoba

Nuns in the park, Cordoba


Church in the square, Cordoba

Church in the square, Cordoba


Horse and carts on Cordoba old town

Horse and carts on Cordoba old town


White washing Cordoba

White washing Cordoba


Alcazar fortress, Cordoba

Alcazar fortress, Cordoba

One of our favourite discoveries was a convent of nuns that sells cakes and pastries to raise money for their order. We had read that many Spanish convents have a little shop to do this and that the nuns are hidden so you don’t get to see who serves you. The one we found was nice as we met the nun and tried to speak some Spanish with her. We found out that all of the nuns in this convent in Cordoba have taken a vow of silence during daylight hours, except for her as she has to sell the goodies. They were delicious biscuits with nuts and plenty of icing sugar on top.

Buying dulces at a convent in Cordoba

Buying dulces at a convent in Cordoba

On our last morning in Cordoba we packed up and headed towards the province of Seville. On the way we first stopped at the ruins of Medina Azahara, once the site of a palace and administrative complex (basically a whole city), built by a Caliph in 961 to demonstrate his dominance and greatness. It was once an amazing place but is now in ruins and constant excavation works are taking place to piece together the fragments. What we found particularly interesting was the museum that explained lots about the history of the Moors in Spain and showed some of the artefacts found from the archaeological investigations.

After a couple of hours in an air conditioned museum, we were quite keen to get back out into the sunshine and so we hit the road. Before we reached our next destination we stopped at a town called Almodovar del Rio, grabbed some food from their minimarket and had a nice picnic in the shade of the castle walls high up on the hillside where we could see for miles.

Almordovar Castle

Almordovar Castle

Posted by Up.Up.and.Away 02:52 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Weather for walking

Antequera, El Torcal, Via Verde

After a day of rain in Granada, we woke to find that the sun was back and we left Niguelas on our way to Antequera. En route we passed a town named Archidona and decided to drive through the centre to see if there was anything interesting. After crawling in traffic and struggling for parking we discovered that the town was so busy due to a regional dog fair taking place! It was like the Spanish version of Crufts and there were dogs everywhere – so many different breeds and it was quite fun and definitely a surprise. We didn’t stick around long though in case Sully started sneezing.

Arriving in Antequera (or anywhere in Spain) on a Sunday meant that it was awfully quiet in the town and felt rather deserted (maybe they were all at the dog show?), there were also no shops open. We found a nice little restaurant where we ordered some vegetarian food. After being served a plate of kidneys we had to explain that ‘no meat’ also means no poultry, no offal and no ham either. Eventually we got some tasty tapas and sat in the sun in the square outside the church and a large water fountain. Very relaxing. We had a look around the town and found the expected old churches and a fortress on the hillside, it was very picturesque, just like everything we’ve seen here so far.

Antequera

Antequera


Antequera fortress

Antequera fortress


Antequera

Antequera


Fortress of Antequera

Fortress of Antequera

Next we drove around ten miles up into the hills to a National Park called El Torcal, a plateau of eroded grey limestone dating from the Jurassic period with lots of walking routes for hikers. No dinosaurs in sight. The drive up there was amazing due to the views for miles around. We took the easiest option and selected the shortest walking route which took us around an hour to complete. It was a fun walk as there was quite a bit of climbing and jumping involved!

Road up to El Torcal National Park

Road up to El Torcal National Park


Walking at El Torcal National Park

Walking at El Torcal National Park


Walking at El Torcal National Park

Walking at El Torcal National Park


El Torcal National Park

El Torcal National Park

We had a restful evening in our self-catering bungalow where Sophia cooked up a feast and then the next morning we drove for ten minutes to a nearby lake where we did some more walking and were eagerly looking out for the flock of flamingos that live on the lake. We did see them in the distance but unfortunately we couldn’t get close enough to them to get a good look. Still, it was a good bit of exercise!
Back in the car, we drove into the province of Cordoba and its ‘Campina’ region in the South – a rolling landscape of grain fields, olive groves and vineyards. Along the way we visited some small towns and villages and then stopped at Cabra where we saw the oldest bull ring in the region and ate our packed lunch :-)

We then made our way to a point on the Via Verde. An old olive oil train line that once passed through the region has now been transformed into a rambling and biking route and links many towns and villages. We left the car and walked for a couple of hours along the route passing through gorges in the hills that had been cut for the train to pass through, over ancient viaducts and through numerous olive groves. It was a lovely afternoon and not a difficult walk since train lines are so flat! We’re thinking of coming back in future for a holiday and cycling more of the route.

Old steam train once used on the Via Verde

Old steam train once used on the Via Verde


Goatherd on the Via Verde

Goatherd on the Via Verde


Olive groves along the Via Verde

Olive groves along the Via Verde


Train passage way along the Via Verde

Train passage way along the Via Verde


Walking the Via Verde

Walking the Via Verde

As we drove through some country lanes we were pulled over at one point by the Guardia Civil who requested to see our papers. Fortunately it was just a spot check and we were sent on our way with a smile. Phew! They didn’t seem to mind Sully driving in his flip flops either!

Our last stop in this area was Zuheros, a stunningly beautiful village nestling in a gorge and backed by steep rock cliffs. The best part was the view as we approached it on the road below – a cluster of white houses tumbling down the hill below a Moorish castle that has been built on and into the edge of the rocks, giving the appearance that it could all fall down at any moment.

Zuheros as we approached from the road

Zuheros as we approached from the road


Zuheros

Zuheros


Fortress of Zuheros

Fortress of Zuheros

In the late afternoon we decided that we had walked enough and drove towards the city of Cordoba, the home of the Mezquita…

Posted by Up.Up.and.Away 14:30 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

The Alpujarras and the Alhambra

Granada

After leaving Nerja and the coast we drove North towards Granada but took a detour en route into the Alpujarra valleys known as “The Switzerland of Spain”. Backed by the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and beautifully picturesque, this area of Andalusia certainly rivalled some of the landscapes we marvelled at in Asia. The curvy roads up into the hills meant that Sully did not get bored driving.

View from the road, Alpujarras

View from the road, Alpujarras


View from the road, Alpujarras

View from the road, Alpujarras

We stopped at a town called Orgiva where we called into the local bakery and visited the church that was surrounded by orange trees. Next we drove to Soportujar, a maze of white-walled alleys stacked neatly on the mountainside, and with amazing views to the valley below. We then drove further up into the high Alpujarras to a town called Pampaneira which sits over the Poqueira Gorge. It had a main square with an old church and a small place where they make chocolate! As we made our way back down, enjoying the amazing views from the road, our last stop was a market town called Lanjaron where they have natural hot springs.

The old men of Orgiva in the Alpujarras

The old men of Orgiva in the Alpujarras


Pampaneira, Alpujarras

Pampaneira, Alpujarras


Pampaneira, Alpujarras

Pampaneira, Alpujarras


View from the road, Alpujarras

View from the road, Alpujarras

Back on the road towards Granada, we pulled into a village called Niguelas where we were to be spending our next two nights in a hostel. The village is set at the foot of a snow-capped mountain and looked amazing as we approached. It was extremely quiet and definitely not a regular tourist destination so it was a perfect opportunity to practice our Spanish - in the bakery, asking for directions and trying to order dinner (although ‘Pizza’ is part of the global language!). Our hostel was in an old white-washed stone building, complete with ceramic tiled floors, a little kitchen and a mini rooftop terrace. Although we were in dorms, we were lucky that no one else was staying. It was warm during the day but freezing at night and we slept under a stack of blankets and woke in the morning to the sun shining through onto the wooden beams of the ceiling and to the sound of birds singing outside our window.

We spent our first afternoon in Granada in the Albaicin area. From here we had wonderful views of the whole city, of the Alhambra complex and of course, the surrounding mountains. We spent some time at the Mirador de San Nicolas, where musicians performed in front of the church and tourists gathered to admire the views. Nearby, we stumbled across a small mosque with a beautifully landscaped garden where a lady was selling homemade lemon cake – yum! We wandered the streets of the Albaicin, willing to get lost in the winding streets of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Soph in Granada

Soph in Granada


View of Granada from the hill

View of Granada from the hill


Musicians in the Plaza de San Nicolas, Granada

Musicians in the Plaza de San Nicolas, Granada


The Mosque in Albaicin, Granada

The Mosque in Albaicin, Granada


Albaicin, Granada

Albaicin, Granada

Our final day in Granada was spent at the Alhambra – and oh, did we save the best until last! The Alhambra is over 700 years old and is the greatest treasure of Moorish Spain. It is also the most impressive piece of architecture we have seen on our travels. This was more of a surprise for Sophia since Sully has been here twice already. The series of Palace rooms were the most beautiful and the zillion photos we took could never do it justice. The design, engravings and intricate details of these rooms were stunning and were matched outside by beautiful courtyards, pretty fountains and landscaped gardens. If you haven’t been, we really recommend you visit the Alhambra and see what we just can’t describe in words.

Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada


Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada

Posted by Up.Up.and.Away 16:10 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Tapas and toffee

Malaga, Nerja, Frigiliana

sunny

After 5 months of travelling in South East Asia, we arrived home to the UK and spent the whole of April catching up with friends and family and had a wonderful time. It was also a good chance to have a hot bath and do some proper laundry (rather than just hitting the clothes with a stick in cold water!). We, of course, took the opportunity to eat all the foods we had been missing and so piled back on a few of the pounds we had lost in the Asian heat. As for the weather, it was the worst April on record for the UK and, whilst sitting on trains and buses, we certainly started to wonder why we sold the car before we went.

Us off our longhaul flight at Heathrow

Us off our longhaul flight at Heathrow


Welcome home party April 2012

Welcome home party April 2012

So here we are now in the 22 degree heat of the Andalusian coast. We flew in on dirt-cheap Ryan Air flights to Malaga where we hired a small car at the airport. Sully insists it will work out cheaper than the two of us taking public transport everywhere…

Malaga, Andalucia

Malaga, Andalucia

Our first stop was the historic centre of Malaga, which was a very pleasant surprise. For some reason, which we have now forgotten, we weren’t expecting it to be such a nice place – but it is! We enjoyed roaming through the winding streets watching local life take place. This is the birthplace of Picasso. We had some great tapas and were pleased they were so cheap! We also saw the botanical gardens with wonderful jasmine and roses and saw the Moorish fortress, Alcazaba, high up on the hillside. We then saw the bull ring and the posters for upcoming events. Bull fighting is a huge part of Andalusian culture and the matadors are local heros. The most memorable sight was the amazing cathedral, it is huge and looks particularly grand when lit up at night. We were in Malaga for less than a day and could have easily spent longer exploring the city and the narrow alleys with endless tapas bars. Worth a visit.

Malaga, Andalucia

Malaga, Andalucia


Malaga, Andalucia

Malaga, Andalucia


Malaga, Andalucia

Malaga, Andalucia


Malaga, Andalucia

Malaga, Andalucia

The next morning we drove along the Costa del Sol and arrived at Nerja on the Costa Tropical and nestled at the foothills of the Almijara range. It’s a quiet beach town that reminded us a little of Sicily. We arrived during the 3 hour siesta break and spent the afternoon sleeping peacefully on the pretty beach. In the evening we explored the town and had yet more tapas. There aren’t any sights as such, but it’s a lovely little place with white-washed buildings, narrow alleys to explore and colourful flowers everywhere. There are some great views of the coast from the town as it is up on a hillside. The ice-cream here is pretty good too.

Nerja church

Nerja church


Nerja, Costa Tropical

Nerja, Costa Tropical


Soph with helado, Nerja

Soph with helado, Nerja


Nerja, Costa Tropical

Nerja, Costa Tropical

The following morning we drove to a nearby town called Frigiliana, which is a spectacular 6km drive from Nerja. It is a very pretty Moorish hill village clinging to the lower slopes of Monte El Fuerte. All the buildings are white and have wonderful wooden doors of all shapes and sizes. This is the kind of place Soph was expecting to see in the medinas of Morocco. We spent a pleasant few hours strolling through the steep and narrow alleys and enjoying the amazing views over the hills and down to the sea. Beautiful place.

Frigiliana - white washed streets

Frigiliana - white washed streets


Frigiliana - white washed streets

Frigiliana - white washed streets


Frigiliana - white washed streets

Frigiliana - white washed streets


Frigiliana - white washed streets

Frigiliana - white washed streets


Us in Frigiliana

Us in Frigiliana

Our final afternoon back in Nerja was rather eventful. We discovered that we were in town for an annual festival called El Dia de la Cruz and so spent the afternoon and evening in the central town square watching performances of song and dance. There was a mix of the traditional local music and there was definitely some flamenco involved and the locals were there to celebrate. It was a great festive atmosphere, and there was free chocolate covered popcorn, toffee and toffee plums (think toffee apples). The Spanish definitely know how to party! Although we probably will need to see a dentist soon after what we ate! After another round of tapas this evening, our short time on the coast is complete and tomorrow we will held inland to the province of Granada.

Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival

Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival


Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival

Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival


Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival

Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival


Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival

Nerja, El dia de la cruz festival

Posted by Up.Up.and.Away 13:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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