As I write this over a week has gone by since Cordoba. In hindsight, I absolutely messed up the Cordoba visit. If I could do it again, I’d find a weekend to spend here in May (I mean, I even missed seeing the La Mezquita!).
Here’s my excuse: I came to Cordoba, the most inland of the major Andalusian cities, at an inopportune time. The July heat wave brought daily temperatures upward of 106ºF/40ºC with very little wind and a long trek to the coast. Something about July being the hottest month in Andalusia? What? I used to walk around all the time in the valley of Los Angeles when it was >100ºF; I’ve bike raced in the Central Valley at 110ºF and with a near heat stoke; I’ve done loads of heat training for long distance races. Southern Spain, bring it!
Recap of Andalusia Travel Itinerary
Our 2018, “clockwise” itinerary for Andalusia was Seville → Cadiz → Cordoba→ Granada and then finally Malaga before leaving Spain for Switzerland and Germany. Seville and Malaga are the largest cities, both with international airports and thus the ones that are easiest to transit by train or bus to the smaller cities like Cordoba, Granada and Cadiz. I booked train tickets in advance directly via Renfe and the bus via the tourism travel agency GoEuro. I highly recommend booking ground transport in advance as prices increase if you do day of.
- Seville → Cadiz: 1 hr 30 by train
- Seville → Cordoba: 1 hr 30 by train
- Cadiz → Cordoba (stops through Seville for a transfer): ~3 hr by train
- Malaga → Cordoba: 1 hr by train
- Malaga → Granada: 1 hr 45 by bus
Walking from the Cordoba train station in the peak of afternoon after the hot, air condition-less weekend in Cadiz, though, was exhausting. Defeated, delirious and without the usual, crazed food and adventure FOMO I have when I go to a new city, I decided to take it easy in Cordoba. Very easy. It was, after all, a charming, almost quiet town – compared to Sevilla and the summer beach town Cadiz – filled with Roman architecture, baths, and quaint restaurants along the River Guadalquivir mixed in with Andalusia’s signature Moorish influences. Who wants to go touring when the sites are open from 9am to 6pm at 100 degree weather? Hopefully, you can learn from my errors and have a better trip there. Oh, and go in the springtime.
Cordoba’s neighborhoods, with windy cobblestoned streets like its other Andalusian neighbors, are famous for the potted plants that are displayed on building walls and inside the atrium of homes, apartments and hotels. I spent some time wandering around the old Jewish quarters, at sundown or early in the mornings, enjoying the windy neighborhoods that were so classically Spanish and seeing the well laid out potted gardens that hung across the walls that were so classically “Cordoban”. Once in a while, I would cross a distinctly Roman archeological site, large columns standing tall at the corner of a small town square, which reminded me fondly of Athens.
While I failed miserably to go to the La Mezquita, the famous Islamic mosque often considered one of the most beautifully architected mosques in Spain, I did manage to explore the River Guadalquivir and the famous Puente Romano (Roman Bridge pictured below). The walk across the bridge and along the river is, like many of my other walks in the hot Spanish evenings, romantic and relaxing.
Along with walking around the town and running along the river a few times at night and in the early mornings, I did my share of food experimentation. I visited churro bars and specialty jamon butchers, of which there were plenty, were absolutely delicious, and most importantly, were all air conditioned.
My favorite churro bar was Churros Bar Marta, where you can sit at the counter and order some fresh, hot churros for breakfast with either a hot chocolate or cafe con leche and mingle with the locals hurrying in before work or during lunch. I came here with some reading and spent hours drinking coffee and snacking. The churros also looked and tasted mysteriously like Chinese yoú tíao (Chinese donuts).
A few dishes unique to Cordoba (pictured below) are fried eggplant with a sweet, bamboo syrup; potatoes fried in a spicy aioli; braised fall-of-the-bone bull/oxtail; and of course, churros. The traditional drinks are either a very dry sherry or a sweet dessert wine. It was difficult to find something traditional in between. Our hotelier recommended mixing the two, half-and-half. While I was starting to miss Chinese food and went to Restaurante Gran Muralla, a pretty good Chinese food restaurant with an unbeatable lunch menu, La Siesta cured my Spanish food hangover with some authentic and delicious Cordoban dishes. Pro-tip: that entire neighborhood near La Siesta is highly recommended.
All in all despite my defeat by the heat, I appreciated the rest days which allowed me to do some reading and deeper thinking, the results of which I’ll hopefully post in the near future here. Similar to rainy days in California, sometimes the only way to get rest from too many activities is a forced rest. Cordoba was also a beautiful town, slower but just as charming, and perfect for a few days of needed contemplation or relaxation.
If I could do two things over again, however, I’d visit the La Mezquita and purchase a pass to the Arabic Baths, historic and relaxing. Though I’d probably get my sauna experience by just stepping outside…