Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winding down in Andalusia - from Cadiz to Cordoba

This time I will begin with thoughts from Ricardo.

Our last day in Andalusia.

Here are my final notes as we wrap up our time in this land that is deep in history, magic and adventure.  We have been traveling now for a month investigating all that there is here in Andalusia - viewing the past, present and a glimpse into the future in this ancient land which has been inhabited by Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslims, Jewish and Catholic Kings and now to us in this present day. We have learned of some their battles for control and power over a two thousand year history, which has come down to the present day where once again people of all types are living in harmony as brothers. I would recommend to all that it is worth the time to travel through this part of Spain, but one must give it time so more can sink in. I could have given it much more time since throughout the year there are many different festivals and celebrations and as our time was short they were out of reach for us. Our goal was to spend 4 - 5 days in each place which wasn't enough to build community as we like to do. However it was enough to meet many wonderful people here and from other places in the world traveling as we were. This part of the world is clean, orderly and safe with ease for getting around from place to place (we did it mostly with trains and a few buses).  We will leave tomorrow for a week in Buxton, England to be with good friends Dan and Fi and their sons - Aidan and Will and then to Portugal until the end of February. Thanks for traveling with us. As we all know the world is a big track of land and one has to chose wisely. I feel that Andalusia was, for us, a very wise choice. I know that we will return to Spain 
again in the  future.

Cadiz- Mosque, church and Roman ruins
As our month is winding down I can only say that we have loved all of Andalusia - each town or city is so different with its history, architecture, food, accents yet many common denominators as well - all friendly, walkable, photogenic, dropping of the ends of words making it hard to understand and very different (for us) with eating times - restaurants closed from 4-8....just when we like to eat!

Stay with me if you want, as this might be a long post and there will be many photos and lots for us to remember for ourselves. This is one of the ways that I remember the many things we do - writing them and then able to go back and review as I wish.

A typical street scene of tapas bars
A view from the tower to the ocean
I left you in early January when we had just arrived in Cadiz. It is shaped somewhat like a lollipop and the main old town is the top of the pop and the new area is the stick which then leads to the rest of Spain. It is the oldest city in Europe and you can imagine that there is a great deal of history. The streets are tiny and winding and confusing at first. We always spend lots of time walking and first thing we do wherever we can is take one of the free walking tours. All of Spain has this program where they offer the tours for free with the hope that people will pay what they feel it is worth. They are very popular and offered in many languages. We have done them in both English and Spanish (and sometimes both). In Cadiz you can walk all around the whole city with the water on your side. We enjoyed a 360 degree view from the top of the tower as well as a Camera Oscura which showed live what was going on in the vicinity of the tower.

Botanical gardens
In Cadiz we stayed in the Hostal Cadiz Inn - a great little hostal right in the center of the historic district and made good friends with the owner Simo (who is from Morocco). We spent many hours hanging out with him in the kitchen area over tea with brainstorming of several of my ideas for tourist businesses in Andalusia. Here I cooked our main meal almost every day with delicious veggies from the local market.
Amazing old trees in Cadiz

View of Cordoba from Roman Bridge
Roman ruins in Cordoba
Then we were off to Cordoba where we have been for the last 5 days. Here we had our first series of rainy days but it did not keep us from seeing the many sites with the most famous being the Mezquita. Words cannot describe the experience. We saw it the first night from the other side of the Roman bridge - all lit up and although amazing, it did not prepare us for the next morning. This city has been a mixture of cultures for hundreds of years - Phoenician, Visigoth, Roman, Muslim, Jewish and Catholic.

On Tuesday 1/11 we had one of the most incredible days and I want to share it with you in detail - I hope that I never forget it. I am calling it:

"The Most aMazing M day" ....Mezquita, Mushrooms, Muslim women and haMMaM.

"blending" of cultures
Early in the morning we visited the Mezquita -  there is hardly anyone there at 8:30 (BTW, it is still dark till just 8:30 in Spain in the winter). Walking in was a mystical experience of quiet with no tours or groups of people - just a few solo folks like us walking around. It was otherworldly. The Mezquita is a great Mosque and later a Cathedral was built in the middle when the Catholics arrived to Spain, It is now called the Mezquita Catedral. Somehow they managed to blend the architecture though King Charles V of Castile and Aragon who allowed it to be built said afterwards: "They have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to make something you can find in any city." It was not really destroyed but certainly the original feeling has been taken away. Muslims have been requesting for years to be able to return to prayer in the Mosque but turned away by the church. There are hundreds of arches as you see in these pictures. We sat down for a bit to draw and "feel" the experience and then organ music began to plan. Drawing is a way to stay in the moment and remember a feeling which I will, though I wish I could put the sound of the music into my drawing as a feeling.

We followed this experience with the the meal Ricardo had been waiting for - mushrooms with garlic and oil - so, we had them for breakfast!! These tapas bars are open all the time and there does not seem to be a rhyme or reason as to what one eats when. Restaurants are also closed from 4-8 pm (just when we usually want to eat) so it is a timing thing. We have taken to eating a big meal before 4 and then a snack later in the evening.

After the mushroom breakfast, later in the day we went for a meal at the "Salon de Te" which is a Teteria (Moroccan style tea cafe). We sat down in a small room where there was a group of 5 young 22 year old Muslim women who were from Malaysia but had just finished 2.5 years of medical school study in Ireland and were traveling a bit before heading back to Malaysia. None of them spoke Spanish and were using their phones to try translate all the items on the menu so I sat with them and read them the whole menu translating from Spanish. We had many laughs and chatted about our lives and theirs for a while. Then we quietly left them while we ate and they ate. In between a woman also with a hijab who was from Saudi Arabia spoke to the women a bit. She spoke in Arabic but the women did not speak Arabic and they found that they all could speak English. She wished them well while inviting them to visit in Saudi Arabia and hugged them all goodbye.

The girls were ready to leave and I then hugged each of them goodbye as the other woman had. They left to pay their bill and seemed to be struggling so I went to ask if they needed some help but they said no and shooed me away. Then they continued by writing things on their computer to the owner and once again I asked if they needed help and they said no. So, off they went.

We then were ready to leave and asked for our check. The owner told us that the girls had paid for us and that was what they were writing in their phones - looking up the translation for how to ask for our check.

We were baffled and grateful - we just don't know why this beautiful good deed was given to us - they were young and very sweet and oh so nice. We kept hoping for the rest of the day that we would find them walking around so we could thank them or do something kind. We will pay it forward to someone else - as it was such a kind and generous act of love.

So, if that is not enough wonderfulness for a day....we went again to a spa bath (Hamamm) with massage - same Arabic baths as we had in Granada and Ronda and now once again in Cordoba - a wonderful way to end this magical day.

Maimonides, born 1136 in Cordoba. Statue
in former Jewish section of the city
"Flower" street - there is a big contest
in the spring each year of courtyards and
balconies decorated with flowers.

Medinat al Zahar - home of the Calif

Olive press to make olive oil - in town of Baena

60% of the world's olive oil comes
from Spain - we have eaten it everywhere
Fernando, his family owned the olive factory for
7 generations - in Baena - 160,000 olive trees

This day was special, but we seem to have many wonderful experiences like this - we feel very grateful and lucky to experience travel in this way.

A few other notes from this month experience. We met a lovely family from Melbourne, Australia while in Granada and then here in Cordoba another couple, also from Melbourne. We found, in conversation that they know each other. We are mounting a list of new friends to visit in the future. Maybe Australia for next winter (their summer)!

One of the odd behaviors that we have is watching TV series either on disks, Netflix or Itunes and recently finished a series of Downton Abbey, Newroom and many series of Parenthood. This is an odd form of entertainment while we are in this other world but it is our way of being!

We are trying to add a bit of drawing to our day - not every day, but more and more. Richard has been faithful to his Chi Gong - everyday. Me....sometimes. I have taken to sleeping late everyday - partly because it is dark and partly because I can!

Now...of to England and then to Portugal for a month. You will surely be hearing more as it happens. Thanks for joining us.

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