It's been a few days since I posted here. We've been driving from place to place staying at a different spot each night. It's much more tiring and stressful, especially when we arrive in larger cities like Cordoba and Granada so I haven't been up to blogging. Each time we get into one of these cities we make a wrong turn and become hopelessly lost in one-way streets.
Both Cordoba and Granada are tourist meccas where busloads of pilgrims (tourists really) from foreign lands come in during the day to take guided tours of the hot spots.
During the day these places are so crowded that it's not pleasant to be there.We elect not to take guided tours because although you can jump the lineup you then have to stay with the group and listen to endless details that keep you from absorbing the feeling of the place. Of maybe we're just cheap. When we were in Cordoba we found out that you can get into the most famous mosque / cathedral known at La Mezquita for free every morning from 8:30 to 9:30. Getting up early to visit places also avoids the tour bus crowds, which usually arrive about 10:00.
La Mezquita is exquisite and also weird as it's a blend of Moorish and Christian styles. The Arabs built it beginning in 784 over an earlier Christian church that was shared by both faiths. Over several centuries the mosque was expanded until 1286 when Cordoba returned to Christian. The Christians proceeded to build a Renaissance style nave inside the mosque. The building is a mix of both styles but central part of the Mezquita is an enormous hall of columns and arches that is very Moorish indeed. It was a humbling experience walking around this enormous building in the dimness and quiet with only a few other people. Getting up early also allows us to see the first rays of the sun on some of these special places.
Our second night out we spent in Granada. Our plan was to go to see the world famous Alhambra, but fate intervened. A couple of days before going there I went online to get tickets, only to find that there were none available. All were sold out until the end of October. I felt kind of stupid about that since we've known for months that we would be there on that date. However we did discover that it's free to enter part of the monument so that's what we did.
We got a taxi early in the morning (before it was even light) to go visit what we could. We were able to go inside the walls of this huge fortress and see a few arches and gates. It's built high on a bluff and clearly dominated the city. Here's the view from the top and a peaceful garden in what was at one time a monastery and is now one of Spain's Parador hotels.
All the buildings are of a reddish stone and you can see the red in the soil as well. Here's a view through a wall that was built of the same red coloured stone.
It was interesting to see this fort and palace that takes up a huge chunk of land but it wasn't the same as going inside. However, as Harry said--and I know he's right--we wouldn't have seen anything more wonderful than what we saw in Cordoba and Sevilla.
Of course we saw many other parts of these two famous cities but these buildings are what the tourists make their pilgrimages for. We've decided now to visit smaller towns to avoid the busloads full of tour groups.
We spent Sunday night just outside of Estepona, a smaller town on the Costa del Sol after driving through miles of high rise and sprawling developments in Malaga, and Fuengirola. This part of Spain has been taken over by Brits who come here for their winter holidays. We stopped at one place for a drink and a snack only to find the menu entirely in English and everyone there looking like they'd just stepped out of a village in East Grinstead. It's kind of like what has happened in parts of Mexico with visitors from Canada and the USA. Not that it's all bad--I'm sure that Spain benefits greatly from this influx, but that's not what we came to Spain to see.
Yesterday we headed inland to see the famous white villages. I'll catch you up on that tomorrow.