Monday, June 15, 2009


June 15, 2004 Cordoba, Spain

Out of the hotel by 8 am; it was a long night. We didn’t sleep well as the hotel had marble floors everywhere. The beds scooted constantly, you could hear every shower and/or toilet each time the water ran in rooms all around and above you. About 3 am we discovered water on the floor near the bathroom. We realized it was also dripping from the ceiling. We called the night clerk and he found out the people above us had let their tub overflow. They offered to change our room but we declined and accepted extra towels to soak up the water. So back to bed by 4 am with a drip, drip, drip. The alarm at 6:30 am arrived far too early.

Our first stop of the day was at the Courtyard of the Moorish Mosque in the center of the oldest part of Cordoba. We met our city guide, Maria, and walked through the Moorish streets and then into a synagogue. By 9:30 we were back in the courtyard of the Mosque for our tour of the interior. It is now a Catholic Cathedral but the original construction began in 756 AD. Much of the original Mosque remains with decorative Christian artifacts. It is twelve thousand square foot facility that was built in four different stages over a thousand years. The interior is home to the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The choir loft has two separate pipe organs. The entire Mosque is an architectural masterpiece on a grand scale. It is considered the first and foremost monument in Western Islam and one of the sublime of its type in the world.

Back on the bus after a quick opportunity to shop we headed south again towards Granada, considered to be Spain’s most beautiful Moorish-influenced cities. It was also the last stronghold of the Arabs in Spain. Lunch was on the highway with what else a cheese and ham sandwich. We checked into the hotel in Granada and then loaded back on the bus for a tour of some of the city sights. Pasco, our city guide, took us to the old Moorish section of the city called the Albaicin for a walking tour of about a mile through an intriguing maze of narrow streets with whitewashed houses and patio gardens of bygone Moorish splendor. Then on to the La Cartuja Monastery that was built about four hundred years ago; one of the few monasteries remaining in Spain. The doors and vestment drawers were created using wood overlay studded with pieces of ivory. One of the altars was carved from a single piece of marble. The ceilings and wall were done in a baroque style. . Back on the bus we headed down into the center of the city to the Cathedral of Granada that houses the Royal Chapel. This is the burial place of King Fernando and Queen Isabel. Granada is also the place where Columbus convinced Queen Isabel to finance his trip to India by going west instead of east.

We were home for an hour and then back on the bus for a trip into the city center again for a dinner at a downtown restaurant. They greeted us at the door with a glass of sangria and we sat with a couple in our tour group from Chicago, both retired teachers who enjoy traveling. We rode the bus home but six brave souls decided to walk back to the hotel. They stopped for a beer on the way and arrived back about midnight. All seemed to enjoy their stroll home.

June 16th: Visit to the Alhambra in Granada

Wonderful night’s sleep; maybe because the hotel was quiet. The quest for the morning was to get to the Alhambra first thing. They only allow eight thousand people per day. We were one of the first groups in and consequently pretty much walked through without waiting. Our tour took two hours; later groups will spend so much time waiting to enter restricted areas that it will take them up to four hours to see all of the sites in the Alhambra.

The Alhambra Palace was the home of the Moorish Kings and is considered to be a priceless historical gem. Without our guide we would have become lost in the maze of rooms and gardens. Per Rick Steves, “Nowhere else does the splendor of Moorish civilization shine so brightly.” The outside is extremely plain and the inside is decorated with intricately laced carvings in stone and plaster that never represent anything but praise to Allah without ever portraying a human face or animal. The Muslims couldn’t make images of living things as that was God’s work. But they could carve decorative religious messages. One phrase—“only Allah is victorious”—is repeated nine thousand times in carvings. We were ready for the bus by the end of the tour.

A fast trip to Costa Del Sol area to the town of Torremolinos; just down the road from Malaga with view of the Mediterranean from our room. The hotel is wonderful and even has a DSL line…but no modem line. Rather than change rooms I’m going to take this down to the business center and send before leaving for our walk to town for the afternoon. We’re enjoying a free afternoon and plan to walk the beach later. We have two nights in this corner of pleasure.

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