Loren and I flew into Malaga in southern Spain on Saturday morning, when it seemed that half of Britain was also arriving. The weather is warmer than it had been along the Galician coast in the northwest, and the Basque region in the north, of Spain. Here we stopped only long enough to rent a car, then drove southwest, spending time first in Marbella, which translates to Beautiful Beach, where we also enjoyed a picnic lunch on a cool – literally and figuratively, tile bench in the shade of ancient trees and greenery.
Then we drove on to Gibraltar, currently a United Kingdom Territory, to see the Rock. We had to ask for our passports to be stamped as we passed out of Spain. I was startled at how narrow the Gibraltar Straight is in actuality – ok, it appears so on the map, but I could actually wave to the not too distant mountains in Morocco. We had views of the sunset illuminating Gibraltar from our stay that night in nearby La Linea, Spain.
This week we spent mostly in the region of Andalucía or Andalusía – whichever spelling you prefer. More important, I had to learn how to pronounce it – it is said Andaluthia. Similarly Thank You is said, Grathias, not Gracias, as I had learned from Miss Marin, my Spanish teacher in Eastview Junior High School back in grades 7 and 8. I appreciate all that she taught me, though sadly it was too little.
Loren and I stayed just the one night in La Linea de Conception where Gibraltar was beautifully visible, then we drove on to Seville for two nights. Our AirBnB host kindly oriented us to many of the old town highlights. We definitely did not plan to stay here long enough, but with the help of his advice, map and brochure, we did see a lot, feeling like we had stayed longer. We toured La Catedral (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), the third largest in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica of The Vatican, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The most interesting sight here for me was the tomb of Christopher Columbus – Cristobal Colon in Spanish, or Cristoforo Colombo in Italian.
We ate vegetarian tapas both before and after indulging in two delightful hours of Roman baths that included a massage. We then had an entertaining show of intense, expressive Flamenco dancing – as there were no photos allowed I am including my photo of their advertisement.
We finished our very full day at the unique Metropol Parasol for a view of the old town lights at night. A local bar offered a drink, gratis, with our tickets. We enjoyed that had with a snack, and this is where Loren befriended a friendly young man to join him at his table as all the other tables were full. We enjoyed talking with he and his friends, one an “Italian in name only,” and the other, a German with Turkish heritage who is living briefly in Seville, who teased for us to adopt her to join in our Journey. If only we could! Both young men are studying aerospace engineering, wow!
The next morning Loren and I had an audio guide through the Alcazar, including its sweeping gardens. We ended our stay in Seville with a visit to the Flamenco museum.
We then bade our AirBnB host and his precious cat farewell, and drove to Cordoba. With only one night here we settled in then walked the veinte minutos – 20 minutes, to the center of the old town. We had a picnic supper on a bench at the river, crossed the ancient Roman bridge to the Moorish tower, and back, and, walked the extensive outer perimeter of Meqzuita de Cordoba, which was cerrado – closed, for the night.
In the morning we were all set to return to old town but, fortunately, stopped at our car first and found a note on the windshield asking us to not park where we had been directed by our AirBnB host’s teenage son. But, unfortunately Loren and I had different ideas on what to do about it. I started the car to find another spot but he refused to get in. Instead he walked around the nearby narrow lanes to look for a place. Not agreeing to the spot that he was trying to create, and with him still refusing to get in the car, I drove around “the block.”
Bad idea. I am our driver, Loren is our navigator. In these very old towns, some of the streets are one way, are often too narrow for a car and a pedestrian to simultaneously traverse, and, are anything but laid out in a grid. Thank goodness I had had the idea to download my own set of offline maps for backup, so I was able to find a place to pull over on a little wider street, activate the GPS and drive back. Meanwhile, Loren had found a more reasonable place to park. Phew! We agreed we would not do that again.
With parking solved, we continued on by foot to Mezquita Mosque/Cathedral and entered an immense gateway. On seeing the majority of the vast garden area I thought it encompassed the entire enclosure that we had seen from outside the night before. But, Loren pointed out that we had not yet seen the mosque/cathedral, whose entrance and exit were nearly hidden in the far corners. The tremendous temple behind one of the garden walls is incredibly larger than the gardens, and is most impressive. Additionally, the conversion of parts of it from an ancient mosque into a cathedral is astonishing. As with most things, our photos just do not do justice to what our eyes behold.
We returned to our car to leave Cordoba for Grenada. We drove by hectares and hectares of spectacular groves of olive trees, from saplings to mature. We arrived in time to walk up to the Mirador St. Nicolas for a view of the Alhambra and the surrounding sprawling city just before dark.
The next day we spent the United Nations designated International Day of Peace on a group tour of the Alhambra. Its Generalife – said Hen-er-ah-lee-feh, was once a summer palace with substantial prized gardens. As well we toured a few other various palaces, saw the outside of the Alcazaba – military fortress, and several ruins. It is all too much to see in one visit. But, our tour guide gave us a wonderful sense of it, along with much helpful information.
One thing we had not known is that Granada in English translates to pomegranate, and, yes, we did see some pomegranate trees here. Another is that Washington Irving, as an ambassador to Spain, lived at Alhambra and wrote Tales of the Alhambra while here. I was moved to find him honored with various statues, tributes and placards around the buildings and grounds. And, we also learned that Granada was the final place from which the Moors were ousted by the Spanish with help from the Pope in 1492, the same year when the Jews were later expelled from Spain, and, the same year that Queen Isabella subsequently funded Columbus’ first voyage.
Now Loren and I have flown to Madrid where we will be staying for a few days. Ciao for now!