Nervous American, Abroad

I figured I might as well

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Andalucía, parte dos

The sequel! Córdoba and Sevilla. 

Oh, I’ve toured Spain. I’ve toured the crap out of this place. And yet I still have places to go! I STILL HAVEN’T BEEN TO BARCELONA. Not to mention the northern part of the country, which I hear is awesome! Spain, why do you have so many things to do? Why can’t you knock it off, already, and let a girl just hang out in her apartment, wearing fat pants and watching Parks and Rec? But no. Instead I have to go to more places. FINE.

I’ve been to Cadiz and Granada, but ya also gotta hit up Córdoba and Sevilla if you want to qualify for your basic Andalucia (southern Spain) tourist certificate.* So I rolled on down to the bus station and headed south once again.

*This is not a real thing

Granada is a lovely old-world maze of narrow streets, with the giant Alhambra dominating the hillside; Sevilla is the more cosmopolitan, worldly version of Andalusian beauty; and Córdoba … well Córdoba is cute, too.

That is where we started — Córdoba, as I mentioned before, was the capital of Muslim Spain during the days of the Caliphate, before the Muslim kingdom fractured into smaller pieces. The major remnant of this time is the grand Mezquita, a giant mosque. After Christians took over, they basically plonked a Gothic cathedral in the middle of it. But it’s a testament to the Mezquita’s size and grandeur that the cathedral seems sort of tiny in comparison to the rest of the building that surrounds it.

Christian cathedral, with glimpses of the Muslim architecture behind it.

The Mezquita’s repeating red-and-white striped arches are iconic, and the vast chamber is impressive and otherworldly. It would also make a sweet, sweet place for a game of hide-and-seek or tag. Or “ghost in the graveyard,” even, I’m not picky. Not sardines, though, because that’s boring.

Córdoba also has some lovely plazas and restaurants, and we happened to arrive for the celebration of Las Cruces, one of the many Spanish holidays where the theme is some variation on “outdoor drinking.” This time, it was “outdoor drinking next to decorated crosses and sorrowful pictures of Jesus.”

This is a picture of one of the main crosses, but this photo was taken before people took up their drinking positions around it.

But Córdoba is a smallish city, and 24 hours is more than enough time to enjoy it. Then it was on to Sevilla, a city with a much different flavor. 

Pretty much every major Spanish town has a massive cathedral, some sort of royal residence/fort, and probably an art museum. Sevilla has these. They are very nice.**

**After awhile, you just run out of things to say about churches and castles.  

Sevilla was once the major port city. This was where the plunder of the Americas flowed in, brought inland through the Guadalquivir river where it was less likely to be stolen by pirates. So Sevilla was big-time during Spain’s golden age, and the city’s size reflects that — a few wealthy Golden Age homes have been turned into museums, there are tons of great cafe areas, like a billion ancient little churches, and a pretty solid shopping district.

But my favorite part is newer: It’s the park district and palace built for the 1929 World’s Fair. Lonely Planet was sorta dismissive of the place in its description, but I thought it was fantastic. Most importantly, it was different then the typical old-world Spain stuff. I wanted to have a picnic there.

Aha! See how nice?

Also, because I love flamenco, we checked out one of the city’s better (free) performance venues. Flamenco is a gypsy art form, and if you’ve seen it, you know it’s supposed to be intensely emotional. Purists say that flamenco is only “real” when it is spontaneous — flamenco performed for an audience, therefore, is only a shadow of the real thing.

And I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the staged shows, where they charge you 50 euros for a sub-par meal and a performance, are pretty stilted and bad. But I don’t think it’d be possible, or wise, for me to just try to hang out in the gypsy barrios and wait for somebody to break out a guitar. So we went where basically everybody recommended — La Carbonería, which looks like a converted garage but puts on a hell of a show. Passion and talent, and alcohol, and they don’t even charge you admission. Just, get there early if you want to go.

OH YEAH, and also? I know I come from an age where everybody thinks they have to record every experience and put it online immediately, but there is something to be said for shutting up, putting away your camera, and living in the moment. In other words, when the fiery Flemenco dancer is electrifying everybody with her jaw-dropping moves up there, how about you don’t spring up and take her picture, or try to record it all? Camera flashes — not to mention horribly rude people standing up to record her on video — are a huge buzzkill for everyone. So let the lady work in peace, all right? You are bugging everybody. I feel like I see this kind of thing a lot on my travels: Something awesome will be happening, some great performance or whatever, and instead of just enjoying it, everybody is jockeying for prime camera position. Good lord.

Travel notes:

Cordoba

Hostel was Hostel Fonda La Corredera. Fantastic location, clean and quaintly old-time Cordoba. But the bathrooms on our floor were hilariously tiny (and we are not very large people, my friend and I), and it wasn’t a terribly sociable place, if you want to make friends. Also, the place is closed from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day, so you can’t check in or leave/pick up your luggage at that time. My friend and I had to just wheel our luggage from the bus station to a restaurant and take a leisurely lunch until the place opened. I know, right? Friggin’ Spain.

Good food to be had at Calle de la Plata (Calle Victoriano Rivera). Eat the salmorejo! It’s basically tomato spread that you put on bread. Sounds boring… but it’s tasty, very typical of the city and comes with extra fixings. The huevos rotos are also awesome there.

Sevilla

Hostel was Hostel One Sevilla, which was pretty well located in the large city (far from some stuff, but in a city of Sevilla’s size, that is hard to avoid). It’s very sociable, a cool building, free internet. Some of the bedding wasn’t as clean as we’d have liked? But overall I’d stay there again.

The courtyard at the Casa de Pilatos, a museum that is a dead rich guy’s house


The Cathedral, which is actually more impressive from the outside than the inside, I’d say

A view of the bridge between the neighborhood of Triana and the old city of Sevilla, overlooked by a matador.