Coming to Cordoba!

Trip Start Feb 02, 2011
Trip End Feb 25, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Andalusia,
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Left Madrid early this morning and drove to toledo which is pronounced differently than toledo, ohio    - the city in spain is pronounced TOL - A - DO not TOL - E - DO. It is a beautiful walled city perched on  a steep hill with winding cobblestone streets. it has a long history of arab, christian, jewish and even roman elements. It was part of the turkish empire in medieval times. and is one of the few remaining walled cities left in spain. The old walled city is called the alcazar which is a turkish word meaning fortress. Interestingly, there are ony 10,000 permanent residents of the old city but over 800 churches!!! - hence the expression - HOLY TOLEDO!!!!! 

The original Moselm mosque built by the turks was converted into a beautiful christian cathedral but there are reminders of its Moslem and Jewish past with numerous stars of david and Moorish architecture. Toledo also has the oldest jewish synegogue in spain which was also converted into a christian church after 1492 when ferdinand and isabella banished all non-christians from spain. They were the spanish monarchs who sent Christopher Columbus. 

Toledo is also famous for being the home for 37 years of el greco, who was actually born in crete but lived and painted most of his life in toledo. The cathedral there has a huge collection of his paintings. 

Today was a really long day - we left Madrid at 8:30 and arrived in Cordoba about 8:30 pm with stops in toledo for many  hours and a long drive through the province of La Mancha, home of Cervantes who wrote don quixote which was based in the toledo area. we stopped by the old windmills that, in the novel, don q. tried to fight. 

I am REALLY enjoying the cured ham for breakfast every morning - like a proscuitto, salty and very yummy. I want to try some iberian cured ham which is the most expensive kind because the pigs are only fed a special kind of acorn so apparently the iberian ham has a different taste.

My last day in bilbao, some of us took a bus to a nearby seaside resort, san sebastian, which is one of the  most expensive places to live in spain, spartments with ocean views start at around 3 million dollars. Patricia, my canadian shopping and running around buddy, and I wandered around on our own and had a wonderful 3 hour lunch at a great Basque cafe - the best paella, fresh langostinos, custard pie, etc. We almost did not make it back to bilbao - our guide in bilbao had told us how to catch the local bus (over one hour trip) and said that there was no problem just showing up at the correct time and getting a ticket. After a frantic effort to find a taxi to drive us to the bus station, we got there with just 15 minutes to spare and got the LAST 2 SEATS on the bus to bilbao or else we would still have been in san sebastian - this was a little more adventure than we both wanted.

Yesterday in Madrid, we had a morning drive around the city looking at most of the landmarks and then bob and I went back to the hotel and napped for an hour before taking a taxi (we took several taxis because our legs were too tired) to spend about 4 hours in the famous Prado museum. which houses many of the most famous works of the spanish artists goya, velasquez, murillo, etc. 

bob was too tired to go out for dinner that night so I jjoined 3 others to go to what is advertised in the guiness book of records as the oldest restaurant in the world dating back to 1725. Patricia, my canadian friend, had been there a a teenager and raved about it so we went. i had the specialty of the house, the suckling pig. one of the others had another speciality, baby squid in its own ink, which we all tried but not much of a taste and the color is rather off putting. 

 Buenos noches - cordoba shirley 

Bob's turn;  I've seen many cathedrals but the one in Toledo is near the top.  Eight pipe organs, and the largest private collections of El Greco (The Greek) throughout the structure. Philipa our main guide is portugese and her commentary is exceptionally good.  There is a negative about being herded around in a big tour bus but it would be very hard to know the significance of what you are seeing by studying for hours on your own in advance much less negotiating these ancient cities on your own,. Much of the time we are walkiing and we use a clever earphone device, called the whisper - which allows the guide to not have to shout and allows us to wander around a bit while still hearing what is being said.   Almost everything,, the paintings in the Prado, etc. has english translations,  although store and cafe personnel often don't know english--so "habla estud ingles?" is a very useful thing to ask. Speaking of which, toilets are aseos not banos and a tortilla is a breakfast quiche like egg, potato, and onion dish--very tasty. This Cordoba hotel is 4-5 star quality with an excellent buffet dinner with local specialties. All for now, as shirley said it has been a loooong day.    

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Chris on

Love the blog and glad you are having a great time. Look for the black hooves on the Iberian ham - it is supposed to be the best.

Love chris

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