We arrived in Cordoba after an easy drive from Sevilla (it was easy for me because Tom was driving). Our parador sits above the city in a pleasant neighborhood, and overlooks the entire city. Even more important, it has an elevator, which I greeted with cries of joy. Our quarters consist of four rooms–bedroom, sitting room, dressing room, bathroom and a large, sit-able balcony. It may not be as romantico as the parador at the Alhambra, but it is lovely, and there is a pool, which I took immediate advantage of. I enjoyed floating in the cool water, watching the birds drink. There were swallows, which drink on the wing, doves, and little yellow birds that look like goldfinches. There was no one else in the large pool, and the surrounding gardens are full of palms trees, hibiscus and orange trees. Paradise. The lifeguard speaks French, but not English, and I speak French but not Spanish. Between the two of us, we managed to miscommunicate in three languages.
Today (our first full day here), we visited La Mezquita, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which has been turned into a Catholic church. La Mezquita is one of the buildings I studied in art history, so it looked weirdly familiar, as though I had been there before. It has an odd history. It started as a Visigoth church. When the Moors came in the 700’s, the sultan bought the Visigoth church from the Christians, knocked it down and built a mosque. The mosque was added onto until the expulsion of the Moors. The Christians had the good sense not to tear down this incredibly graceful and beautiful building, but they did plonk down a gaudy sanctuary, altarpiece, and choir in the middle of it and appropriated the side niches as chapels.
The result is a mishmash of styles that mingle awkwardly together, like neighbors who get together to socialize only on Fourth of July weekend.
There was far too much detail to capture on camera, especially my iPhone camera, and some of the interesting things were behind glass or wrought-iron screens. but I will let La Mezquita speak for itself.
I should mention something about Spain, apropos of nothing. All the historical places we have visited have had benches or chairs here and there so people can sit and rest their feet and appreciate their surroundings. I deeply appreciate this–more and more every year. I remember after touring the Louvre many years ago, we were beneath the big I.M. Pei pyramid. I was dying on my feet, and sat down on the floor, as there was nothing–not even a low wall–in sight. A security guard immediately came over and told me in French that it was not permitted to sit there. I asked why and got the most Gallic shrug ever seen. Later, walking around Paris, I sat somewhere random and got told to move along again. I began to feel like a vagrant, and my feet were miserable. Spain has the right idea.
After viewing the mosque, we went in search of the Museum of Al-Andalus Life, that is, the culture of the Moors. This is housed in an ancient Moorish defensive tower that is reached via a bridge across the Quadalquivir River.
At the end of the bridge, some enterprising people had set up a large stall selling hats and cold water. Did I mention it’s in the mid-eighties today? Not horrible, but we both bought hats to keep the sun off our faces. We went to the museum, but they were closing for siesta in a half hour, so we stopped at a cafe, which, judging by the clientele, is a local fave. I had a beer, which to my nearest and dearest will indicate just how warm I was. Also tapas–of course!–as it was mid-afternoon.
We decided to backtrack across the bridge and go to the archeological museum. This was open, and we managed to get through prehistory, the Romans, and the Moors before this museum also closed. By this time, it was pretty hot, so we took a taxi back to the Parador, and I, for one, am going swimming!