Cordoba – September 30

One of the things that worried me the most about driving to Cordoba was how we would find our way into the ancient Jewish quarter where our hotel was located. The directions provided by the hotel looked insane and I’d read reviews from other travelers that described a rabbit warren of streets the width of a small car. I really couldn’t see how I’d manage to direct us. So, it was with great relief that we hopped into a taxi at the Cordoba train station and sat back and relaxed as the driver plunged his car into the narrow streets and wound around tourists and workmen, sharp corners and whitewashed walls that slid past inches from the side of the car. It was the best fun I’ve ever had for 6 euros!

The hotel was one of our splurges—an ancient house with numerous patios and stairways with just nine rooms. It was the top recommended hotel on Trip Advisor and I could see why. It was just lovely, but not exactly spacious! Our room had everything we could need including its own computer with Internet access and a Jacuzzi, but it was little more than the size of the double bed.

Gregg in our Room in Cordoba
Me on the terrace at the hotel sipping sherry
 We got settled and then ventured into the narrow streets lined with tacky tourist shops (but then I liked tacky tourist shops) leading to the famous Mezquita.
Back around 900 AD, Cordoba under Moorish rule had 400,000 inhabitants and was one of the most sophisticated cities in Europe. The Mezquita was the giant mosque—a glorious forest of arches and columns. In around the 15th century, the King built a church right in the center of the mosque which was a terrible shame from an architectural standpoint. However, we can be grateful that they didn’t pull down the mosque itself so at least we can see something of what it would have looked in its heyday. What’s left of the mosaics and the lovely symmetry of the columns and arches provide an interesting contrast to the over ornate Church bits. 
Gregg in a forest of arches in the Mezquita
Clumps of tour groups listening to tour guides dotted the vast interior. I tried to find one with an English commentator but no luck. German, Italian, Spanish, French, and Japanese – but no English!
After browsing the shops and having a rest back at the hotel, we set out at 8 pm for dinner and a flamenco show.  The dinner was served in a lovely leafy courtyard by a lovely young Romanian lad who spoke perfect English. We’d learned our lesson in Madrid and so ordered just two tapas to share—fried aubergines in honey (tasked like French toast) and some kind of huge rolled and fried ham thing that finally defeated me.  I could not get down more than a quarter of it. We were glad we had’t ordered anything else.
The flamenco show was held in the courtyard of the old bishop’s palace across from the Mezquita. I was worried that the show would be too touristy but no – it was just wonderful! Certainly most of the people sitting at little tables sipping the “free” drink that came with the 20 euro cost (a bargain as it turned out) were tourists, but there was enough of a sprinkling of Spanish people who really got into the “oles” and clapping to make the evening feel authentic.
Two guitar players, two male singers, five women dancers and one male dancer made up the company. Unbelievable! The male singers did things with their throats that I didn’t think were humanly possible, and the flamenco guitarists were absolutely breathtaking. And then there were the dancers! Both soloists and ensembles performed – sometimes with what looked like a choreographed number and at other times doing what was obviously improvisation inspired by whatever the singers and guitarists were doing.

The most stunning were the solo dancers who would often start slow and then build intensity with the speed and sound of their footwork. By the time they reached the climax, my heart rate was through the roof and I was yelling ole along with the rest of them! The male dancer did several solos with no music—just the sound of his feet. It was basically a drum solo that started slow and then got faster and faster until he was pounding the floor with machine gun precision. Add to that his incredible hand movements and haughty look and wow – we ain’t in Kansas now.

Gregg and I are hooked on flamenco and hope to catch some more shows in Granada and Sevilla. It’s amazing to actually see and hear flamenco in the places where it came from. What was really interesting was how much the performers seemed to be enjoying themselves, particularly when they were improvising.

Towards the end, four of the five women dancers sat on chairs at the back of the stage. One of them would rise up and dance solo while the other three clapped and called out encouragement. The dancing was definitely improvised along with the singing and the guitar playing.

The show went on for almost two hours—major sensory overload! We both dreamed all night of pounding feet and swaying bodies and eerie wailing voices and thrumming guitars.
The next morning we had a brisk walk around Cordoba and then hopped the train for Granada. We are SO glad we are not driving! The train journey to Granada took just over two hours and cost $150, which isn’t much more than what the car was going to cost every day whether we drove it or not.
We hopped into a taxi at the Granada train station and came to the Suites Gran Via. I must say that my hotel arrangements have worked out well. This place consists of a living room with table and couch, a little kitchen, a beautiful bathroom complete with controls on the toilet (shower jet, bidet, dry – ooh la la), and bedroom.  The price was pretty reasonable – about $100/night so can’t complain!

Off to explore Granada!

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