26 January 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Jaen City Detail

A corner of Jaen city - Wooden door and fabulous stone door surround.

13 January 2015

Segway Riding - Guided Tour of Cordoba

Having promised my youngest son we'd go on a Segway, at some point in the past, the moment arose on the first weekend of December - a Spanish Bank Holiday. My thought was to visit Cordoba city as an almost complete family, hubby and 2 out 3 sons, do a Segway Tour and get our Christmas shopping done in one trip. Which turned out to be a little ambitious as the shopping part was everyone else's plan too.

Roman Bridge on the River Guadalquivir

The day, a typical Spanish blue sky one, was clear, bright and chilly. We parked out of the city and walked across the Roman Bridge and around the Mezquita, up a narrow street in the Jewish quater to meet Nicholas our Segway guide. I let hubby and sons get on them first hoping to gain insight and confidence before my instructed turn on two wheels.

Segway Instruction and Practice

Lean forward to move forward, back and stay still to stop, easy no? No. Not the first minute or so. It made no sense to me. Two wheels don't balance alone and I didn't balance well on them - staying still was the hardest part to conquer! After a few wobbles and a want for flat ground, I found my wheels (a little slower than the guys) got told off for stepping off backwards when I couldn't stop, then officially allowed to go - first! But not for long.

Cordoba by Segway 

Weaving in and out of pedestrians, over cobbles, avoiding taxis, what fun. Zipping around parts of Cordoba I'd not seen before. Heading over the river to put our foot down on a smooth pedestrian area, then back to the narrow cobbled lanes, a tiny market square and the fun was over, back on two feet and firmer ground. We all would have been happy to carry on for longer. I still couldn't keep handle stationary very well, but moving weaving and obstacle avoidance was no problem. I'll be better next time!

Photo Call with River and Mezquita Behind

Our segway tour was a 15€pp 30 minute guided tour with Cordoba by Segway.

09 January 2015

Where to Eat in Cordoba near the Mezquita

After several visits trying out bars and restaurants in Cordoba I'd like to share one or two of my favouites with you from a tiny humble bar with huge tortillas to a classier restaurant all within two minutes walk of the Mezquita.

The first and smallest, Bar Taberna Santos, right opposite The Mezquita serves 30-egg, 5 kilos-of-potatoes-sized Tortillas or Spanish Omelettes which can weigh up to 4 kilos.

Taberna Santos opened its doors in 1966 and has won national tortilla competitions. The bar is tiny and you may have to stand up or like many customers take your tortilla and beer or wineover to The Mezquita's low surrounding wall to eat it, a charming summer evening tapas stop - Bar Santos is on Magistral Gonzalez Frances, 3.

My second choice, a two minute walk into the Jewish Quarter, is the homely Casa Pepe de la Juderia this town house is now a popular bar with many different sized and style of rooms all individually decorated. Some are for tapas, others for full restaurant service and it has a roof terrace too. Refried suckling pig is one among many of its very good offerings - Casa Pepe de la Juderia is on Calle Romero.

For a more modern gastronomic style and feel try El Regadero, only a short walk away. There's no pretension here but with its plain, modern decor it could be almost anywhere in the world after the very Spanish-ness of the previous two. This is more restaurant style than tapas, but you can still have a dish or two in the middle to share. A reservation is a good idea here, it is popular and fairly small - El Regardero is on Plaza Cruz del Rastro.

22 December 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Fuente de Piedra Lagoon, Malaga

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra in Malaga Province.

Enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see the flamingos a little better.

15 December 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Watering the Flower Pots in Cordoba

Wandering towards the Palacio de Viana to see its 13 patios I came across this little lady watering her pots.

10 December 2014

Hotel Balcon de Cordoba - Quaint and Beautiful

From the moment I looked through the wrought iron gates and saw the beautiful old tiles, the orange tree and mosaic-floored patio I was smitten. It got better. As a lover of quaint patios, small hotels and excellent service The Balcon de Cordoba had it all along with lashings of charm.

Hotel Entrance

Orange Tree Patio

Mosaic details, tiles and fountain

Style, subtlety, attention to detail and more. Architectural artefacts abound, each room with its own piece or pieces of history along with fabulous fabrics, old and new perfectly interwoven creating a haven of peace and comfort.

Pretty Recess
Architectural detail outside my bedroom

Having been shown around this small, interesting old town house conversion from the tiny patio leading onto the famous Calle de Flores with a view of the Mezquita's tower, to the cosy roof top with summer restaurant and city views, to our suite everything was just delightful. And its location couldn't be better, just around the corner from the Mezquita in the heart of the old city, a perfect spot for a beautiful hotel.

Reception and Patio
Roof Terrace views of Mezquita

Each room or suite is individually decorated and all with the same high standard and attention to detail, some also have private terraces. My suite with a window over the main patio and one on the quiet pedestrian street was just lovely, with fresh fruit and flowers amongst the details. Comfortable and welcoming it was hard leave it and explore the city.

The small award-winning Hotel Balcon de Cordoba is, as you can see, is beautiful. I loved the hotel and thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

09 December 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Beautiful Window in Cordoba

Just around every corner there's a perfect pic opportunity. I just loved this beautiful stone facade with its winter flowering jasmine.

07 December 2014

Spanish Recognitions - The Roads to the Present

"To be alone by choice is one of the great luxuries of the world. I went to Spain alone."

Mary Lee Settle,  Spanish Recognitions - The Roads to the Present

I was instantly smitten by this book.

At 82 years old, Mary Lee Settle flew into Madrid, hired a car and started exploring Spain.  She followed the path of the Moorish conquest across Spain then the Christian reconquest southwards.

She talks about times and wars I knew little about  but to her were memories, and as someone who knew  young Americans who came to Spain to fight battles that were not their own.

As a traveller and historian Settle's experience was charming and thought provoking and at the same time her story telling is compelling as she unwinds Spanish history through her journey and invites more research into the events she only touches on.

When I finished the book, although sad that it had ended, my knowledge of Spain was a little deeper and my want to learn more of its history even greater. She's had many reviews debating her historical accuracy but I loved the book. Not just the roaming and history, valor and challenge but the way she writes grabbed me from the first line and continued throughout the journey.

Mary Lee Settle:

".... I had all day to roam ....... How can you know ahead what you are going to see, find, lose, discover any more than who you are going to fall in love with the day after tomorrow?"

Settle didn't speak Spanish, which I thought perhaps hindered her trip and understanding but another of her quotes set me straight:

"To be a stranger in a strange land, as travellers have been for centuries, is to keep astonishment alive, see as a child sees, retain one's awe, astonishment, and wonder."

And as I'm thinking that awe and wonder has paled in my travels this quote brings me up sharp and reminds me where I need to revisit and soon.

"If you cannot relearn wonder again at the Alhambra, you may as well stay at home and die."

Amazon Link

02 December 2014

The Patios and Courtyards of Cordoba

The patios and courtyards were both the garden and outside sitting space for private houses, and are now a symbol of life as it was. Each courtyard was open to the usually bright blue sky for light and a gave a vision of space and peace within urban city life.

They range in styles and size depending on their origin. Greek and Roman traditions gave us the cloisters and porticoes as a centre of the home. Then the Moors added water features to make an oasis of peace within the sanctuary. In these times three civilisations, Jews, Christians and Moors, lived and worked together in these areas of tranquility.

Some of the most impressive in architecture belong to the Convent of Mercy and the former Augustian Convent. But those that open for the Patio Competition every May are only a small number of the patios throughout the city. Look through each doorway as you pass by and the majority have an internal patio that beckons but isn't available to visit.

One of the greatest courtyards is that of the Mosque, the Patio of the Orange Trees. An enormous open space with trickling water, orange trees and palm trees stretching towards the heavens. It's easy to imagine the relief and peace this patio brought to those escaping the city streets in the heat of the day for meditation and prayer.

The smaller popular patios known as 'neighbours houses' or 'the houses of many' developed over time by the proximity of people and dwellings, with no particular scheme except the outside living space with a cooker or cooking area, a washing sink and often a communal well. Which is why when you visit the patios you soon discover every one is unique.

Roman, Arabic, Baroque and 19th century Cordoba formed the fabulous monuments we can visit today in this bustling flat city with its fabulous Roman bridge crossing the mighty Guadalquivir River.

Cordoba which has so much more on offer than the courtyards and patios, although they alone are the worth the visit. I'm sure you won't be satisfied with just one experience of this beautiful city, it has so much to explore.

Other posts about Cordoba

Cordoba and Salmorejo

Monday Morning Photo -Palacio de Viana

Monday Morning Photo - Perfect Pose in Cordoba

01 December 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Palacio de Viana

The outside of the fabulous Palacio de Viana in Cordoba. It has 13 lovely and different patios which I enjoyed in November so will definitely go again in Spring and make time to visit the gorgeous looking palace too.

11 November 2014

10 Prettiest Pueblos in Andalucia

I've just read a fabulous selection of gorgeous little Andalucian towns by Spanish journalist Paco Nadal and wanted to share them with you. From the huge amount of pretty places to visit, exactly how many towns there are in Andalucia I don't know, he's come up with some great ones including some of my favourites.

Pop over to see his blog post and photos of Los Pueblos mas Bonitos de Andalucia:

Frigiliana - Malaga

Priego de Cordoba - Cordoba

Mojacar - Almeria
Spanish horse and Bull outside Ronda Bullring

Comares - Malaga

Zuheros - Cordoba

Grazalema - Cadiz

Alajar - Huelva

Ronda - Malaga

Carmona - Sevilla

Pampaneira - Granada

Monday Morning Photo - Ronda Balcony

One of the typical views of Ronda. Definitely not a spot for those with vertigo!