This morning we took the train from Madrid to Córdoba – only 1 hour 42 min. Pretty impressive for a 400 km trip. It was quite luxurious in first class – a cooked morning tea/early lunch was brought to our seats, vegetables and Spanish omelette (we ditched the accompanying white sausage).
We are staying in Palacio del Bailio (owned by the Hospes group), and it is a gorgeous and intimate 5 star hotel. It was once a 16th century palacio, built on Roman ruins (which can be seen under the floor of the summer dining room/restaurant). We had a site tour with Sales Director, Marta Aguilar, when we arrived. We really had no idea how impressive the hotel was when we made the booking – their website photos don’t do it justice. My favourite of the rooms was the Don Quijote suite – a large oval room with original 19th century wall murals of the story of Don Quijote. Unfortunately, this one was a little out of our league, but our ‘dreamer room’ (a standard room) is still lovely.
[Detailed article on Hotel Palacio del Bailio]
As we only had one night in this little city (too few, I know), we went out for a wander as soon as possible. We took off towards La Mezquita, then realised that we needed lunch (it was nearly 2pm), and so went to Amaltea by the river for sustenance. This is an organic restaurant with plenty of veggie options. We had tabouleh with roasted vegetables, mint and cashews plus quinoa with pak choi, zucchini and mushrooms (and the obligatory vino blanco). The waitress loved us, because we were much lower maintenance (hard to believe, I know!) than the old hippy American couple at the next table who had issues with EVERYTHING!
La Mezquita really is a one off experience, and alone worth the visit to Córdoba. It is an unusual juxtaposition of East and West – it’s still both a mosque and cathedral (the only mosque where you can take mass), with the cathedral built inside of the actual mosque. Beautiful and fascinating, almost inspirational – two religions, not only side by side, but intertwined. Wish the 21st century was this progressive!
After our Mezquita experience we headed back to the Palacio del Bailio for a nap – it really has been quite easy to slip into this Spanish tradition (we have been fans of the arvo kip from way back). I then had a massage in the Bodyna Spa in the hotel – wishing that we were staying more than one day so that we could enjoy the baths in the basement, once original Roman baths, now refurbished in a modern style with a hint of the history still intact.
All pummelled and mellow, we headed to the pool garden to sip daiquiris and do some writing (the pool looked very inviting, but was also filled with lithe young things frolicking…and we both had work to do!). So, we were sitting by the water fountain, under the shade of ancient fruit trees, had the massage, feeling relaxed and blissed out, only to discover that drinks served here don’t come with ‘snacks’. Not sure if the ‘accompanying snacks with drinks’ is a Spanish thing or just a Madrid thing. Interesting, the differing customs of various regions (when pressed, they did procure me some sugar coated hazelnuts).
With the aim of testing my ‘snacks with drinks” theory, we decided to pop out for a visit to a local taberna. Found one in the guide book that looked promising, and it opened at 7pm. We rocked up to the alley way just before 8pm and saw a barrel with El Gallo on it – cool, we’d found the place. Settled in, ordered a couple of white wines, no snacks! Decided to order some papas bravas (the same as patatas bravas, just a shorter name – potatoes with red spicy sauce), thinking that the tiny bowl at a neighbouring table was said dish. First, the waiter brought us a couple of hotdogs – free. When we said ‘soy vegetariano’ he swept it away and brought us instead 2 types of potato salad. Not sure if these were the free snacks to accompany the drinks order or the tapas order. Anyway, our ordered potato dish arrived and it was huge. After the potato salads, we really didn’t need more sodding potatoes. But they were lovely, and being the ‘labradors’ that we are, we ate it all – not stopping when we were actually full!!
Just on a side note, it was nice to see a local guy buying a meal for a beggar who was nearby. Wanted to give him the rest of our potatoes, but wasn’t sure how to go about it, and thought it might come across the wrong way, so ate every last one of them out of a combination of guilt and not wanting anything go to waste.
On leaving this bar to go back to the hotel in time for the performance from a National award winning flamenco guitarist, we realised that where we had been eating and drinking was not actually El Gallo – the dudes from El Gallo were bloody late in opening up, so we missed out on one of the oldest tapas bars in the city (over 100 years old) – dammit! Oh, well, that’s how things fall.
The hotel was hosting a special evening of entertainment – a degustation meal and intimate performance by Alberto Lucena (winner of the National Flamenco Award). We really could not handle more food, so we arranged for a table in the ‘drinks only’ section’ (which still had great views) and settled in for some excellent guitar playing. It was a little disappointing that Lucena played ‘Spanish inspired’ music rather than true flamenco – a reflection, I think, on what was expected from his audience (well, not us two, but the others – they wanted dinner music while chatting, we wanted a performance).
Afterwards, we decided to go for a walk and look for some photo opportunities (am impressed that I managed to drag my gut out the door!). Had a lovely wander around Córdoba. The only disappointment of this stay was the fact that the synagogue was closed for refurbishment.
We managed to do a bit more strolling through the city the next morning before going to the station for our train to Seville. Córdoba really is a lovely place to visit, and I truly wish we could’ve spent more time here.