Two years ago, I went on a mini travel adventure around the south of Spain with my friend Cat. She was living in Madrid at the time teaching English as a foreign language, and for all extents and purposes – living the vida loca.
We went to Cadiz, Cordoba and Granada. We stayed in airbnb rooms, travelled by cheap coach and walked around the cities, getting lost and eating local cuisine. While we did manage to hit the key tourist spots, it was one of the least touristy holidays I’ve ever been on. It felt like we were embracing the culture of each city, and truly getting a flavour of the life. It was an epic holiday, and it was the inspiration for my list number 27) – visit Northern Spain.
Cadiz is tiny. It’s one of the oldest cities in Spain, and is surrounded by sea on the south-east of Spain, on a little fractured leg of the country. It has a beautiful cathedral, which allows it its city status. It felt close, inclusive. It felt like we were on our own little island, apart from everyone else. Lots of fish.
My Spanish is okay (it was better two years ago), but embarrassingly I kept stumbling over the name Cordoba. I kept mixing the d and b around. Having stayed there for a few days though, I’ve kicked the habit – and now pronounce Cordoba with a thoroughly Spanish accent.
It was in Cordoba that I visited the most beautiful mosque I’ve ever been in. I’m a big fan of Moorish architecture, and I fell in love with the swooping arches, the rolling ceiling and the delicately striped patterns. It was incandescently lovely.
Beautiful parks, too – and a rather excellent Moorish tea house.
We were visiting over Easter, so we got to see the highly extravagant and entertaining festivities of Semana Santa. They close down streets, and carry processions through for hours; marching bands, priests, children – all followed by massive (I mean huge) sculptures of Easter scenes each carried by about ten men. It’s a truly spectacular sight.
We also went out to a cocktail bar, and had a few drinks.
I’d been to Granda before, and so had Cat. It was the place that we were both most looking forward to visit, so it was the perfect end-of-travel destination. I love the Moorish influence; the food (I was getting so sick of seafood), the architecture, and of course – the Alhambra.
The Alhambra was originally constructed as a fortress in mid-13th century by Moorish royalty, it was converted to a palace 200 years later, remaining under Moorish rule for another 150 years before being claimed by the Reyes Catolicos – King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. It’s a palace – a stunningly beautiful palace with curved and carved walls and arches, inlaid jewels and a seamless integration with the outside; fountains, grassland and long sweeping paths. It’s beyond lovely, but it’s also formidable. Set on a high hill, it has incredible vantage points and has a history of being highly difficult to attack. With reinforced walls and flat planes from which missiles could be launched, it’s a fortress in it’s own right – set around a beautiful palace.
The rest of Granda was a blur of churches, markets and excellent food.
I also got henna.
It was an amazing experience – and I can’t wait to recreate.