Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A quick pit-stop in Cordoba

The most important piece of advice for anyone who wants to drive to Cordoba is to PLAN AHEAD: ring your hotel in advance to find out exactly how to get there and where to park, and make sure that the car is not too big – good luck trying to get a 4 x 4 around these tiny alleys! Luckily our budget dictated that we have a smaller car anyway, but we were not so lucky in the navigation stakes. After about an hour of winding this way and that in the maze of tiny one-way streets equipped only with a rather poor set of directions from Google, we finally gave in and bought a street map (6 euros). Even then the one-way system kept us trapped in the labrynth… but we eventually managed to park in a free space and haul our large suitcase a fair distance to our host in 47°C heat. So we arrived, sweaty and exasperated, at Hostal El Antiguo Convento, whereupon we learned that a space in a private garage came free with the room! So off we went back into the relentless sunshine, this time armed with detailed instructions from the hostel staff, and (with the help of a friendly passer-by who showed us how to unlock the garage door) we were soon parked up and back in our air-conditioned room.

Hostal El Antiguo Convento

This hostel (which should really be distinguished as a Spanish 'hostal', which is more akin to a budget hotel) was very good value for money – we paid about 50 euros for a double room and breakfast. The room was clean, light, air-conditioned and tastefully decorated, and the rest of the building was equally as nice, with a little roof terrace, decorative tiles lining the halls, and a traditional Cordoban interior courtyard patio where breakfast was served. A fully laid table with fruit, yoghurt, enormous slices of toast, jams, ham,  little cakes, fruit juice and freshly made coffee - a far cry from the baguette-and-jam combo I had come to expect from European hostels.

We were informed that an alerta marrón had been issued due to winds blowing across from North Africa, which meant that people were advised to stay indoors until after 6pm in order to avoid the extreme daytime heat. After enduring this heat at its peak during our misadventure in the car we were glad of a shower and lie down while we waited to venture back into the city.

The snaking streets of the Cordoba lend themselves to wandering – from bar to bar, church to monument, Roman bridge to Jewish Quarter, old town to new. We did just this, refreshing ourselves here and there, usually spending no more than three euros in each bar. My favourite was probably the Taberna Regina, tucked away down a cobbled street next to Plaza Regina, where all sorts of photos and memorabilia crowded the walls and locals sipped cerveza and tinto on the patio. It was quiet when we arrived, but the facebook group ‘Yo tambien me emborraché en la Taberna Regina (Córdoba)’ (I also got drunk at the Taberna Regina) proves that this is not always the case!

Taberna Regina

We had befriended a German waiter early on in the evening and decided to return to his restaurant, El Dandi (Calle Enrique Romero de Torres), for our evening meal. We ate an excellent starter of melon and jamón, followed by a hearty ensalada ‘El Dandi’, washed down with plenty of drinks and even two chuppitos (shots) each to round it all off. A local man played guitar and sang in typical Andalusian flamenco style to the eight or so tables of diners, and I was in such a good mood and had enjoyed his serenade so much that I gladly parted with 2.50 euros when he bobbed between the chairs with his upturned guitar.

Our buddy, aka Söhngen the Waiter, told us that Playa Mayor was always buzzing with people late into the night, so we sauntered in that direction after our meal. However, we fancied something a little different to drinking in a plaza again, so we carried on round the corner to the Jazz Café. The ambience was great, there were plenty of people there (all Spaniards), the barmen were friendly and the music had us toe-tapping in no time. One downside was that the music was apparently running from an automatic playlist so you could not make requests, but I think their live music nights would certainly be well worth a visit.

In less than 24 hours we managed to cover most of the city, sample plenty of food and drink, take in the history and architectural beauty that can be seen all over Cordoba (although the famous Mezquita was closed while we were there, much to my disappointment), and talk to lots of friendly locals. I would thoroughly recommend Cordoba for a weekend destination – relaxing, welcoming, pleasing to the eye, and no need for a strict sight-seeing itinerary!

 TG xx

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