Monday, 5 March 2007

SPAIN - an Andalucian loop - Cadiz, Seville & Cordoba

As part of a ten day stay in Spain at Jayne’s parent’s flat in Fuengirola, we hired a car to undertake a loop of classical Andalucia – Cadiz, Seville and Cordoba. Along with these main destinations where we would stay overnight, we were also to visit the towns of Carmona and Antequera.
Taking the wind swept Atlantic coast road from Tarifa to Cadiz was a sight to behold. Climbing past the wind farm at Tarifa, we were greeted with a panoramic view of the Straits of Gibraltar, before dropping down to the coast and sandy beaches. Hugging the coast, we arrived at Cadiz around midday. Cadiz is small, a peninsular almost surrounded by water, except for the long arm of land that carries the road and railway to the town. Our 3 star hotel, was outside of the ancient city walls, but only a short hop away. We strolled along the front and through the city gates. With the sea to our left, we were greeted with views of the domes of the cathedral and the remains of a roman theatre. We wandered the churches and narrow cobbled streets, lined with white washed buildings, so very quiet with out the noise of cars or industry. We stopped in front of the cathedral for coffee, before climbing the steps to the top of the Torre de Poniente. The sun was glimmering off of the golden domes and the maze of white buildings before us was a remarkable sight, with the sea in the back ground. Cadiz would be one of the places that we must return to. We continued to roam the streets, the port and coast line until we retired to the hotel to change. We came back into the old town to dine that night.

After a stretch of autovia, we arrived in Seville quite early today. We found our hotel with surprising ease, but then struggled to stop nearby to find the parking. This hotel was a 2 star, but still very nice albeit a good ten minute walk from the centre of the old town centre. Seville was to offer many attractions and was a long day of walking. We visited the Alcazar, with similar buildings and gardens to the Alhambra palaces at Granada, only a smaller scale. The cathedral as with others in the area, was formerly a mosque, later converted to a cathedral. The minaret was adapted and is now known as the Giralda. The climb to the top was easy, a sloping path around the four sides of the tower instead of stairs. A king had even ridden his horse to the top. The view is inspiring, encompassing a bull ring, the river and towers amongst many sights. After a coffee, we walked further across town to the Plaza de Espana, an enormous semi-circular red brick built palatial construction, with a moat and central fountain, built for the 1929 exhibition. We followed the River Guadalquivir past the Torre del Oro (in scaffolding) and bull ring, back into town stopping at tiny back street bars.

Leaving Seville, it was not long before we came to Carmona, a small quaint town. With ancient city walls and gates, we strolled the streets to see several churches including one with a tower modelled on the Giralda at Seville, clearly very similar only much smaller. The roman ruins remained unseen by us as a man in uniform stood in the road seemingly not wanting us to park….
We had only stopped for a short break so continued to our intended destination. The road to Cordoba was surrounded by green rolling fields of olive trees, as far as the eye could see in all directions. It was quite a shock compared to the dryness of the coastal Andalucian hills. Having been fore warned about parking problems, we were prepared with a booking at Hostel Lineros, near to all the central historic areas. At barely a 1 star, it was a magical quaint room, with a Moorish central court yard in a building several hundred years old. It was also conveniently close to the Mezquita, another converted mosque. Typically Spanish, the many chapels dedicated to various saints were shoe-horned in amongst the existing and expansive mosque, still complete with hundreds of red and white striped arches. This itself though had been built on a Christian church, showing the history of the Moorish invasion and re-conquering of this area. Nearby, we visited another alcazar fortress also on the bank of the Guadalquivir, with roman baths, towers and attractive water gardens, previously driven by an enormous arabic water wheel on the bank of the river. We strolled the streets of the Jewish quarter and the town walls.

Leaving Cordoba was hard. It was a fantastic town and we had only scratched the surface.
Our route back to Fuengirola would take us to Antequera. Situated on the slopes of a hill, with a large church and castle remains open to the public, it provided a pleasant break to the journey, with coffee at a café overlooking the town and hills surrounding. Antequera was another town of white washed buildings and church spires. Before we got to the coast, we were caught in a deluge of rain that cleared just as we got back to the flat. The bug of seeing all of Spain had got us.

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