13 days and 960 miles on the road

On Wednesday we drove into Cordoba

1 to Cordoba

Tim was a bit confused by the sign thinking this was a place of religious significance (centre of penitence!)

2 sign to cordoba

But I sadly had to put him straight

3 prison

and, after driving back and forth for a bit (because I misunderstood what the lovely young receptionist at our campsite said about driving into Cordoba) (me and maps, eh, how on earth did we ever get back from Norway?) we found a great place to park for free and we cycled into the historical centre on the Bromptons. 

4 Off to Cordoba

5 view into Cordoba

6 Roman bridge

I was a bit concerned about leaving them in the city centre, but this place looked safe. 

7 safe bikes

We went into the Mesquite, which was as outstandingly wonderful as the guide said.  To start with, in the gardens just outside the main buildings has the most fantastic orangery. (geek alert!)  where there is a very cunning irrigation system.

8 irrigation of the orrange trees

We bought the 8 euro tickets and paid attention to the signs that said no shorts, no hats and no photos.  It was very hard to be good, with all the photo flashes going on around.  I took one photo, feeling very guilty, but I could have taken so many more.  The cathedral is amazing and like nowhere I have ever been before.  It was astounding to witness the way that the final Christian conquerors had kept the original Moorish features of the structure.

9 La Mesquita

10 outside la Mezquita

There was a huge (over 8 ft tall) ornament in silver and gold they still use in processionals, but I would hate to be the one to carry it.  The detail on it is astounding, showing ladies dancing, men fighting and a whole lot of other stuff.  Tim worked out how they got it out, but just imagine how you would feel if you dropped it…

We then went for a wander around the rest of the old town and it just felt….lacking.  Cordoba was the first place where we felt as if they just wanted our money.  It felt like there should have been a huge sign that said ‘Tourist Trap’(I am not just complaining about the lack of free tapas, honest!). 

11 Lunch in Cordob

The whole town was HEAVING and I was missing the feeling of being a rare tourist, having ventured here so late in the season.  OK I am the usual hypocritical traveller, who wants to feel special…. We saw a couple of cool things, like the university drama department staging ‘The Fruit has Died”

12 Death of fruit

I was also interested in the use of mixed media in many or the statues

12a mixed media

It was also interesting watching a HUGE party of school students (over 100) going around the town.  When we first saw them they looked full of fun but, by the early afternoon, they looked really fed up.  I can honestly say that I have not seen so many bored and annoyed teenagers since I left teaching in the UK state education system.

13 bored students

When we got back to the campsite we met up with the lovely Dutch couple who had their passports nicked and I was happy to hear that they now have everything they need to go to Morocco.  Yeh! The place reminded me of ‘The Prisoner’ in some ways

14 the prisoner

but here is proof that Tim is doing a lot of the cooking without any undue pressure!

15 tim cooking

On Thursday we drove on to El Rocio southwest of Sevilla.  Tim and I were thrilled to go past a solar power station we had read about in the New Scientist where there are hundreds of mirrors concentrating the heat from the sun onto one point to boil water and so generate electricity.  The reflected light was so powerful that we could see the rays against a nearly clear blue sky.  A truly mind blowing experience for us geeks!

16 solar power station

On the way I was intrigued by the variety of signs by the side of the road, some of which seemed to lead to information overload

16a Tio Pepe man

16b Big Bull

16c Too many signs

It has continued to impress me that the country does not always look line this

17 Brown Spain

as there is so much more to see and we have ben intrigued with the olive groves, new vines and range of towns we have passed.

18 moving on from Cordoba

the roads have been pretty good around here as well, no tolls and nice and empty

19 Empty road

I have to confess that we turned Friday into a ‘lost Sunday’, a concept that was introduced to us by our lovely friends Pat and Dave.  It generally involves drinking wine and beer for most of the day and doing very little else.  We went to the restaurant next to the campsite and had the set menu with beer and wine and (gasp) brandy, followed by an extremely lazy afternoon.  I should have slept like a log but, being the 31st October there were numerous VERY noisy parties going on in the town nearby.  Add to that barking dogs, neighing horses, braying donkeys, crowing cockerels and random fireworks, all I can say is that I was very glad to have my Kindle to stop me dying of boredom from 3 am onwards.

On Saturday we decided we ought to buy a few things to keep us going until we head off to Sevilla so we got the good old Bromptons out for a gentle cycle.  It was a bit of a shock to meet sand so deep that the wheels squirmed and we decided to park up the bikes and walk.  El Rocio has to be one of the most unusual towns we have ever visited.  It looks like you are visiting the wild west.

20 wild west

21 wild west 2 

All the streets are made of sand, nearly all the houses have horse hitching rails outside of them and it looks as if nearly every tenth house is a church. 

It turns out that this is a destination of pilgrimage and many families (societies?) have built a hall to centre on it.  In spring it is meant to be bonkers there, but we got a small taste of what it can be like.  We witnessed a large group of people processing around the town, following their banners and singing most beautifully. 

We spent ages trying to find the supermarket, having to stop at a bar to ask for help (honest).  We were studying a map of the town when a delightful young teenager stopped his pony and trap to offer his help in not bad English.  We walked up another street and a group of very handsome young men bounced across the street to offer us some wine to try.  Sigh, it is very hard talking to the locals sometimes, but one has to do one’s duty!  We finally stopped at a bar for some lunch and it was so much fun watching the world go by.  (The local habit is to ride your very beautiful horse from bar to bar having a drink or a bite to eat.  The women do it as well as the men, yeh!). 

24 horses parking

25 Boys pub crawl

26 girly pub crawl

It was also fun watching one naughty horse trying to eat the pot plants.  Walking around you have to dodge cars and horses and other pedestrians, you see great groups of people that have been bussed in for fantastic looking picnics, happy families in the bars and the holiday homes.  It was fantastic!  Apparently it is like a ghost town during the week, so we were very lucky to have seen such a spectacle.