Compelling Cordoba

It’s the first rainy day since I arrived in Spain. My cab driver speaks a little English, enough to assure me that she will navigate the winding, narrow road carefully back to Malaga. The one hour journey is a reminder of all I’ve seen over the last week, pristine white villages and locals strolling the streets, even Pepi on his new donkey. (Our guide knows him well. Pepi is 75 years old and lost his beloved donkey 2 weeks ago. The fear was that we would not replace him and go into his own decline. So, hope lives!).

Malaga is a fairly large city, I discover as we wind the residential, city and then old village streets to the train station. This will be my first of several train journeys as I make my way to Seville and then Madrid. The purchasing of a ticket is a bit challenging – given that nothing is in English and no one speaks English. Remember to ask for a ticket “for today” and get in the line for “Immediate departure”!

I board the train, which is very nice and roomy. The train “attendants” give you earphones for the on ride movie. I’m ecstatic to find that the movie (Fracture with Anthony Hopkins) is in English with Spanish subtitles! Wonderful for a person a bit starved for the English language. Too bad I get off in only 1 hour.

Cordoba is fantastic! Even though it sputters and rains (not enough really even for an umbrella) the streets are great for exploring – cobbled, winding, narrow and filled with shops, cafes and historical sights. My hotel, El Conquistador, is positioned right ON the Moorish temple wall – the Mezquita. Couldn’t be any better for access to everything and sets the tone for a mysteriously, exotic evening!

My self-guided walking tour starts at a café and pastry shop I spied on the way in by taxi. As it is now 3 pm, I need time to check out the city map and plan the next 3 hours. The main attractions are definitely the Roman bridge over the Quadalquivir River and aqueduct. It looks like an ancient artifact, and almost glows with some aura.

The problem with being on two feet is, if you miss a turn, you might end up walking an extra mile or two – not insignificant. My strategy to look more like a resident than a tourist fails (this means I don’t consult a guide book and map) when I get lost. No worries though, I finally decide to pull out the map and find I’m WAY, WAY, WAY going the wrong way. With some effort I make it back to the Jewish Quarter – the Juderia (lots of cobbled streets lined with interesting shops and restaurants). Passing a nougat store (a delicious candy made with almonds) I consider buying some to eat on the spot – as a tactic to avoid weight gain – I decide to come back later (bad decision, as I never have the energy left to do this). Lesson: don’t pass up these types of things. If my husband had been with me, we would have been right in there stocking up with a years supply.

Finally back at the room. It is sooo modern and fabulous. Even a sitting area with two little velvet settees face to face over a glass topped coffee table. I wander out for dinner and end up in the “3 columns” restaurant around the corner (some guy handed me a flyer earlier in the day, so I wrongly think they are sincere about serving up nice food). I’m the only one there and this is not a good thing as the meal is mediocre at best. The columns sort of overwhelm me (the lighting is dim too) – should have gone to the Middle Eastern looking casaba type restaurant next door – but as I leave I notice no one is there either. Probably just too early (8 pm) or the economic meltdown has hit Cordoba too.