Monday, December 11, 2006
Route of the Caliphs
Wednesday, December 6
A long weekend again - to live in Spain is truly miraculous! This time we made a trip to the south, particularly we followed what is called the Route of the Caliphs that runs between the two most important towns of Hispano-Muslim history, Córdoba and Granada. Two great cities and two great centuries. Between them, a land of legends, watchtowers and castles, of amazingly beautiful towns, people, food and angels, as you will find out later.
We left Madrid very, very early, around 7am in the morning, taking A-4 and later N-323 to get to Granada, where we arrived around 1pm. We booked tickets to Alhambra approximately three weeks ago, because it's impossible to get there without a reservation. The Alhambra Palace and the Generalife have been awarded a status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Winter is definitely not the best time to visit Alhambra. Even though we really enjoyed the architecture, the gardens and the fountains were already shut down, unfortunately. In Alhambra, I met my first Spanish celebrity! Recently, I became obsessed by the Spanish version of the Pop Idol contest, here it's called Operación Triunfo and my favourite singer was José Antonio. To my surprise, I recognized him with his boyfriend there and I asked Marco to take a picture of us. After visiting the palace, we had some tapas and beer and later, when the night fell, we crossed the city to Albayzín, where it's possible to see Alhambra from a mirador by the Plaza de San Nicolás. Later we had a dinner in the city on c/ Navas. When we arrived to the camp site, there was no electricity, no heating and no hot water. I slept in all clothes I took with me as the trip was becoming truly adventurous.
Thursday, December 7
Still in Granada, we spent 2 hours trying to find a place to park. We visited the cathedral, gigantic building with two organs, something unbeliavable, and later the Real Capilla de Granada with the Cripta de los Reyes Católicos, where they buried Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. We had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant and later a tea in a tetería. Later in the afternoon we got to Alcalá la Real, where we booked a hotel. In the night, we played card games: burro and mentiroso and got completely drunk, as it became a habit for the rest of the trip.
Friday, December 8
In the morning, we made a visit to the La Mota fortress in Alcalá la Real. This was the place from where Isabella and Ferdinand rode out in order to receive the keys of Granada. It has two distinct spaces, the alcazaba and the abbey church. The citadela has three towers and one can see the ruins of the old Moorish military quarters there. From Alcalá we followed a road 336 to Priego de Córdoba with a splendid walkway on the cliff surrounding the Barrio de la Villa with the olive trees bellow. We had not so splendid lunch there, unfortunately. Later in the afternoon we arrived to Zuheros, in my opinion, the most beautiful castle we visited. The fortress is from 9th century and it's perched on the top of an enormous rock. Next stop was Luque, the city I refer to as "La ciudad de los Ángeles" now. The tank of Marco's car was getting dangerously low when we arrived to the main square of Luque with no gas station in sight. Then, an angel arrived on a motorcycle and join us in the car to show us a hidden gasolinera in a polígono industrial approx. 5km away, which we would never found without him. I am sure he helped us again in the latter so-called "San Pedro accident". In the night, we had a wonderful (truly!) dinner back in Alcalá, in an unexpectedly good cervecería serving delicious jamón asado. In the night another round of card games with even more drinks.
Saturday, December 9
We had to wake up very early to be on the road by 8am, as we had to drop Carlos at the AVE railway station in Córdoba. We took the northern branch of N-432 through Alcaudete, Castro del Río and Espejo, arriving to Córdoba at 9:45am with the train departing at 10:00am. On the way from the station we stopped in a cafeteria to replenish the caffein blood levels and I asked Govi what was the name of the hotel we were staying in Córdoba, as the name of the hotel next door sounded familiar to me. Amazingly, we accidentally parked in front of our hotel! Was it an act of the angel from Luque? Shortly after moving our luggage to the rooms, we mistakenly left our parking spots to find ones closer to the city and at the end, after 1 hour in the car, circling around, we parked on the other side of the old town. It might have been actually much better, if we had left the cars by the hotel. In Córdoba, we visited Alcázar and the Mosque, both stunning works of art of all times, awarded as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Later in the afternoon, we walked through the old city, visited the synagogue and later a romanesque church of San Pedro. We refreshed ourselves in a small cervecería across the church plaza and continued through the Plaza de la Corredera and around the ruins of the Templo Romano towards our hotel. In a hotel room, Marco realized he couldn't find his insulin applicator and we walked back to the San Pedro pub together, where the waitress knew what we wanted even before we told her. The angel from Luque struck again. Then we watched a football game while having a dinner and later ordinary cards and tequila.
Sunday, December 10
Taking the A-4, we arrived to Madrid at 5pm. My short nap at 7pm actually stretched to 12 hours. I guess one can fight the sleep deprivation only for a short time.