The Patios of Córdoba

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Happy Spring, everyone! The grass is finally green, the sky is blue and there are flowers out. It’s such a lovely time of the year and if there is one place I’ve been to in Spain that celebrates this season beautifully, it’s the small town of Córdoba.

Córdoba is known for its rich Islamic history and exceptionally hot summers which is how we ended up with the tradition of almost every home having an internal courtyard or patio. La Feista de Los Patios began in the early 1900’s and gave a new meaning to these spaces by creating an annual competition during May. Residents decorate their patios with plants and once the contest starts, open their doors to the public. Some families have been participating—and often winning—for decades!

All you have to do is grab a map and it shows you the hours of visitation and the places in the various neighbourhoods that are taking part. Plus, each site is marked by two small trees making it easy to find.

Since the event is free, you can see as many patios as you like. It is nice though to say a few kind words or leave some coins to show appreciation.

Most patios are in homes but there are also low-rise buildings and religious institutions that enter. Despite there being over 50 patios last spring, I loved seeing many of them because there is so much variety and each stands out for a different reason.

For example, the burst of blue.

The fountains.

Especially the small quirky ones.

The thoughtful arrangements.

Sometimes, just the sheer number of flower pots.

Or, the size of the patio itself.

Maybe even the island vibes.

Amazing, right? There are also additional spring festivals in Córdoba both before and after Los Patios so if you are in town for long enough, you could enjoy more than one!

A shout-out to Young Adventuress as her blog was where I first heard about Los Patios.

An Evening in Málaga

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My trip to Málaga was unplanned. It actually ended up being on my itinerary because it was cheaper to fly in and out of in comparison to Madrid. Plus, it would have taken me about the same amount of time via train to reach Sevilla from Málaga as it would from Madrid.

When I returned to Málaga after having completed my Spain trip—I’m skipping ahead for now to finish off our series on AndalucíaI had no expectations or plans for the town. This is not to say that it wasn’t interesting enough but rather, I had enjoyed all the other places so much that it would have been fine even if I did nothing at all.

But that’s not really me, is it? In the few hours that I had before turning in, I decided to get some exploring done and I was pleasantly surprised by what a lovely place Málaga was.

I began by joining a free walking tour from my hostel which fortunately I was able to make. On route, I learnt about the town’s rich history and saw many landmarks.

In Plaza de la Merced. The faint purple flowers are from the Jacaranda trees common in Andalucía.

El Biznaguero (Jasmine Seller) with the Alcazaba to the right. I didn’t have enough time to visit it but the view is supposed to be beautiful from up there.

The Cathedral of Málaga.

After the tour, I relaxed back at the hostel for a bit before going out for dinner. I cannot remember where I ate but I did drop by the famous El Pimpi later on. Following some tapas and a look around, I think I can safely say that although it was quite lively and had nice decor, it may be too touristy to visit regularly.

Fun fact: Antonio Banderas is from Málaga and he’s famous in the city.

I then headed out for a paseo or evening stroll. Being right by the coast, the weather was lovely.

Peeking down Calle Molina Lario.

Calle Larios is the main shopping street in Málaga and I loved the ambience. 

I ended the night by the port where people were walking around and enjoying the cool breeze. It was a great way to end my trip to Spain, thinking of all the adventures I could not believe I had just had.

The Mosque of Córdoba

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Standing in the Patio de los Naranjos of the Mosque of Córdoba, I was reminded of the Cathedral of Sevilla. Apart from the historical similarities—both were once great mosques in the capital city of their Muslim rulers—they also share physical elements like a courtyard of orange trees.

But once I stepped inside, it became immediately clear that this was something else.

Built under the Umayyad leader Abd al-Rahman I in the 8th century, the Mosque of Córdoba is infamous for its design. Indeed, the arrangement of columns and arches is such that the space seems to extend beautifully into infinity in all directions.

Like Sevilla’s, the Mosque of Córdoba was converted into a Cathedral after the Reconquista so a significant part of it today is made up of Chapels.

The Cathedral is interesting in itself but remains very out-of-place in the centre of the Mosque.

Some sections of the Mosque are very intricate and well-preserved while others, especially those left from the original building, have faded overtime.

The mihrab.

Nevertheless, there is plenty to take in.

After visiting the Mosque, I headed back out onto the sunny streets.

Through the narrow alleys, I made my way across town.

The delight of finding bougainvillea is like nothing else.

I then stopped at Museo de la Tapa y El Vino for lunch; it seems to have low reviews online but I had a lovely experience.

This honey eggplant dish was yummy!

With salmorejo, of course.

I also liked this area because it’s by the river and you can get a peek of the view if you sit outside.

Paseo de la Ribera is great for a stroll or in my case, a sketching session from a bench.

Happily filled with lunch, I continued wandering through the rest of the neighbourhood.

Exploring Córdoba

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I started my first day in Córdoba from one of the oldest sites around: the Roman bridge.

Although the bridge has been renovated and reconstructed several times over the course of history, it was initially built by the Romans in the 1st century. Passing through the Puerta del Puente, I slowly made my way over.

Found myself at the Guadalquivir River again. It was definitely nicer in Sevilla though.

Down the bridge, I came across a man offering to write your name in Arabic calligraphy for €2. I could hardly pass that up!

There wasn’t much to see immediately on the other side so I wandered around for a little bit before returning to the historic center.

I did come across a cute church.

Ready to get a move on, I went to the Alcázar which was once the residence of the Muslim rulers. Today, its best feature is the gardens.

The low hills in the background. Towards the left, you can just make out the Roman bridge.

Córdoba is one of the hottest places in Spain, if not mainland Europe, and although it was nowhere near as warm as it gets in the summer, it was refreshing to be in the cool gardens on a sunny day.

Knowing that I would need a few hours to experience the Mosque of Córdoba, I passed by it for the time being and continued on.

Strolling around the narrow alleys, I soon came across Plaza Maimonides in the Jewish Quarter. Given Córdoba’s illustrious past as a flourishing city of Muslims, Christians and Jews, let alone the center of education, it’s not surprising that it gave rise to influential people.

If only my philosophy classes had been taught on location.

Outside the Puerta de Almodóvar.

By this point, it was time for a late lunch. I stopped by at a little restaurant in one of the town’s squares.

I’ve had better salmorejo but I promise, the artichoke dish was so much better than it looks!

This building is a part of the University of Córdoba.

Passing by a colourful tourist shop.

I then explored some of the patios; because of this festival, I will forever remember Córdoba in shades of pink and blue.

The sign saying “Córdoba 2016″ reflects the efforts to become a European Capital of Culture.

Filled with the scent of flowers, I called it a day and headed back to my hostel Al-Katre. The owner, an incredibly friendly lady from Valencia, made my stay in Córdoba a whole lot more memorable and I would recommend it.

Seeing the Alhambra: Part II

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Leaving the Nasrid palaces, I wandered shortly around El Partal before heading to the Generalife.

Walking over to the Palacio de Generalife, I realized it was a significant enough distance from the Alhambra to be completely removed from anything that went on there. This was, of course, the point anyway since it was built in the 13th century as a sort of getaway for the royals.

Although the Generalife is not nearly as well-preserved or grand as the Alhambra, I loved it; especially for its gardens. It is hard to know to what extent the gardens today reflect those of the emirs but the sound of water running through the fountains and the smell of flowers at every corner must be the same.

I sat here with one leg thrown over the side for quite some time just taking in the beauty of everything around me. I then left the Generalife and began heading back the way I came.

Exiting through this door, I roamed around the castle walls which used to make up the fortress, or the Alcazaba, of the Alhambra. They also provided some more magnificent views of historic Granada.

With one last look at the Sierra Nevada, I returned to my hostel and happily relaxed for the rest of the day because after seeing the Alhambra, there is not much space left in your mind to think about anyplace else.