Tag Archives: Alcazar

Cordoba, Spain – Cute Little Town with Roasted Meat Magic

Another gem in Southern Spain, Cordoba is a charming historical town–small enough to walk its entirety and feel the slower and more quiet pace of life, yet “big” enough with interesting historical sites and a plethora of (heh most important) delicious places to eat. This is precisely a year over due–but having just come back from our recent trip to London, England – San Sebastian, Spain – Syracuse/Ortygia, Ragusa and Taormina, Sicily, this has hastened my lazy butt to hurry up and update!

We stayed in Cordoba for 3 nights- and honestly most tour books would have you visit this place for just a day trip–which you technically probably could cover in 1 day (heck, I “technically” covered Rome in one day – seeing the major sites before later spending a few days there on a separate trip. Of course, I enjoyed the latter trip in Rome infinitely more)– but I always prefer to soak up a place for at least 2 nights if possible. That way, the first day you get oriented to the layout of the place, and then you have a full day to soak up any key sites and then a final decadent dinner. But with 3 nights you have the leisure to really enjoy things in a relaxed state of mind, digging in deeper beyond the surface facade of a place–and enjoy we did šŸ™‚

We arrived via train from Sevilla– And may I just insert a word about trains in Spain that was a revelation for me-Ā It was super smooth and easy to get around using the trains here (perhaps my past experience in Italy made me wary about reliability of train systems). We literally walked into the station not knowing the schedule of the next train, and after buying our tickets, there was a train leaving in 15 minutes, no blank down time waiting around. (Or we were just lucky šŸ˜‰

From there we hopped into a taxi and on our way to the hotel, was able to view the general layout of the city. I notice that upon first arriving to a city and on the way (either by bus, train or taxi) to our stay, I always hungrily look out the windows- observing the streets, the buildings, the stores, the windows, the people walking, the tree and parks- analyzing and absorbing.

STAY

We arrived atĀ Hotel Viento 10,Ā a hotel that hands-down is probably the best that we have stayed. It is a boutique hotel that has been lovingly and extensively restored by the owner from an ancient building, with preserved frescoes dating back to the early AD interwoven throughout the hotel (we had a beautiful fresco in our bathroom!). The design is what we love, which is modern minimalist but, with rustic nature incorporated throughout–with white washed carved raw rock walls, and pillars (remnants of the previous ancient building which I believe was a convent).

The rooms were spacious and spotless (clean rooms are always my top priority when staying abroad–I admittedly am a little OCD about that, bringing sanitary wipes–yes even toĀ 5 star hotels…heh you never know if they used the same cloth to wipe the toilet as the one used on the glass cups and sink area–a fact that was revealed on an undercover TV show which affirmed my paranoia…BUT I digress!). The bathroom was luxurious with the rain showerhead–like a spa escape.

Each morning the included breakfast was delicious–with homemade specialties such as this “fruit gazpacho” type of dish, basically a blend of melon, sweet and aromatic, and cucumber and a touch of mint–perfectly refreshing and light. We also had fresh squeezed orange juice, hearty coffee; Buttery flaky light croissants a true pillow of airy buttery-ness, rivaling those I had in Paris. We were served a long rectanguar dish with about 7 indentations containing homemade spreads; blueberry and marmalade jams, a garlicky savory tomato blend, and chopped jamon.

SIGHTS

Some random history–Cordoba was an important Roman city and then later in the Middle Ages, an important Islamic cultural center– A wonderful example of the history and combination of the religions in this region.

Cordoba’s old town is situated adjacent to the Guadalquivir RiverĀ with a beautiful Roman bridge spanning to the other side, built back in 1 B.C. We spent one afternoon lazily walking along the river and then across the scenic bridge,Ā observing the cute geese and duckies and pigeons nesting in the mini islands of the river. We saw the old dilapated water mill that was used to ground flour.

La Mezquita's beautiful clock tower from outside of the courtyard
La Mezquita’s beautiful clock tower from outside of the courtyard
Roman Bridge
Roman Bridge
Guadalquivir River
Guadalquivir River
The clouds were incredible perfectly fluffy puff pastries in the vivid blue sky...walking across the Roman Bridge
The clouds were incredible perfectly fluffy puff pastries in the vivid blue sky…walking across the Roman Bridge

A key sight to see in Cordoba was the beautiful La MezquitaĀ or The Cathedral of Cordoba- a unique mosque that has a catholic church buildĀ within the mosque structure. It dates back to 600 A.D. and then in the 1600s was converted to a Catholic cathedral. Interestingly back in the 700s or so, the space was actually shared between the Muslims and the Catholics–a nice example of respecting different beliefs…and all getting along (but since then its remained Catholic and petitions to share again with Muslims for prayer have been rejected…:P)

La Mezquita’sĀ structure is truly unique, unlike the strictly Catholic cathedrals I had typically come across until then in Europe. Walking through the characteristic moorish architectural arches and then smack in the middle is this airy cathedral-esque nave. The courtyard outside is filled with organized fragrant rows of lemon trees (hmph, how come they grow so well –we have one that died in our yard) and a high bell tower clock in the corner.

Courtyard of La Mezquita--graceful archways line the square courtyard, and filled with fragrant rows of orange trees
Courtyard of La Mezquita–graceful archways line the square courtyard, and filled with fragrant rows of orange trees
The clock tower located in the corner of the courtyard of La Mezquita
The clock tower located in the corner of the courtyard of La Mezquita
Memorizing repeating arches throughout the interior of La Mezquita
Memorizing repeating arches throughout the interior of La Mezquita

The distinct red/white repeating pattern of stone work --seen in our other travels in southern SpainThe distinct red/white repeating pattern of stone work –seen in our other travels in southern Spain

A "window shade"--intricately carved such that the light illuminates the carved shapes
A “window shade”–intricately carved such that the light illuminates the carved shapes
The Catholic Nave within this mosque
The Catholic Nave within this mosque
Celestial ...the Catholic nave within the mosque
Celestial …the Catholic nave within the mosque

TheĀ Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs is another must-see structure in Cordoba, with this “super mario-esque” high stone walls, with the rectangular cut-outs on the top edge, again similar to that located in Sevilla. The architecture here is so beautiful – a combination of rectangular water fountains, and stone archways and trimmed hedges. Walking through such gardens of the Alcazar brings about a tranquil state of mind–a welcome respite to the blistering heat (luckily though, we were there in September and thus twas a perfect balmy high 70s, vs the 100 or so during summer months).

On the ramparts of the Alcazar--super mario like wall :)
On the ramparts of the Alcazar–super mario like wall šŸ™‚



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Wandering around the old town without a care is another pleasant activity in Cordoba, with this winding streets reminiscent of Sevilla (though we didn’t get lost as much this time). As you walk through the beautiful architecture, you see what they are famous for (mainly in the Spring) their hanging potted plants and their patios, filled with stone paved walkways, fountains and hanging potted plants along the walls.

Walking the lovely narrow streets in the old town of Cordoba
Walking the lovely narrow streets in the old town of Cordoba
Beautiful rustic stone walls
Beautiful rustic stone walls

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Cordoba's famous planted pots and patios, with (in the spring at least) blooming colorful flowers and cool fountains
Cordoba’s famous planted pots and patios, with (in the spring at least) blooming colorful flowers and cool fountains

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EATS

Now…Eats of Cordoba…Can I get a moment of silence please hehe. This was another one of those gastronomic epiphanies that I had while on this glorious trip to Spain. Two things (and other ones but these two stood out and blew our minds):

Roast Suckling Pig (LechĆ³n)

You have had creme brulee right? Well imagine that same amazing texture—the skin perfectly solid crisp, and then the meat underneath succulent, juicy and tender–the most concentrated meaty pork flavor yet delicate. Heaven…Pork creme brulee.

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Roast Suckling Lamb (Lechazo asado)

Again, the skin roasted to a airy crisp and the meat juicy to the bone…Both such reverent displays of culinary respect of the meat…and elevating as I said these little baby piggy and and lambie to animal sainthood in the mouth.

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Now, I love animals and am very grateful for their sacrifice..and in this case, the tender young ones. But man do they taste amazing–the chefs here definitely treat them with the utmost artistic skill and respect, resulting in such flavor that goes beyond honoring them into sainthood!

We had these two delectable dishes at La Regadera – a cute intimate little restaurant with light wood, white walls, silvery steel whimsical design (it means a watering can or one of those watering spouts for plants).

EATS: Food Honorable Mentions

BesidesĀ the mind-blowing suckling pig and lamb, we have the following delicious southern Spain delicacies that were again amazing…We went toĀ Bodega Mezquita Cesperdes located near the (you guessed it!) Mezquita.

Interior of the lovely Bodegas Mezquitas
Interior of the lovely Bodegas Mezquitas

Rado de Toro – Slow braised ox tail with an unknown subtle spice reminiscent of Arabic, or even Mexican spices. Tender, melting off the bone–rich and meaty served with perfectly roasted/fried potatoes (crispy on the outside and soft in the middle–the potatoes surprisingly sweet and buttery). Rich dark brown broth perfect to soak up with bread.

Bull's tail- tender stewed flavorful hunks of ot meat with perfectly roasted potatoes
Bull’s tail- tender stewed flavorful hunks of ot meat with perfectly roasted potatoes

Alcachofas de la Montillana – Artichokes braised in Montillana wine, and chopped bits of savory jamon. Delicious broth–soakable with bread (everything is it seems šŸ™‚

Tender artichoke hearts with earthy smokey minced jamon to highlight the sweet artichoke flavor
Tender artichoke hearts with earthy smokey minced jamon to highlight the sweet artichoke flavor

Meatballs in an almond sauce– Hearty, and I never knew how ground almonds could provide such lovely body and richness to a sauce.

Meatballs with almond sauce
Meatballs with almond sauce

Salmorejo (thicker gazpacho, more creamier with chopped bits of hard boiled egg and jamon)–zesty garlicky flavors and refreshing! I think of this as the “winter version” of gazpacho šŸ™‚

Creamy zesty salmorejo- tomato garlic goodness, with chopped egg and jamon
Creamy zesty salmorejo- tomato garlic goodness, with chopped egg and jamon

Mercado Victoria – This was not a dish, but rather a sort of Spanish equivalent to Eataly in New York, except of course with all the delights of Spanish gastronomy. Later I would experienceĀ the one in Madrid, which had much better food quality and selection. But this place was still great for drinks and tapas, and mainly a lovely place to hang out and people watch.

Mercado Victoria- lovely rustic, hipster decor- indoor outdoor feel
Mercado Victoria- lovely rustic, hipster decor- indoor outdoor feel

MercardoMercardo

We had a fun night here (this is what happens if you have a lot of time on your hands hehe you EAT and DRINK): One afternoon, we started with a bottle of cava and ordered some veal hamburgers (interesting, their style is with no lettuce nor tomato but instead with a variety of sauces). Then feeling jolly, we had another bottle of vino blanco sitting outside in the modern rustic patio with bright primary colored chairs, red, lime green, steel and upcycled lampshades of clay pots hanging upside down.

Two bottles down, we then moved to the bar end of the mercado and ordered a mojito, and my hubbieĀ a capuirhina (Brazilian drink). They were playing good music-basically top 40s American and then 80s, then 90s. And…After that, it got real hazy. We had more to drink of course and then met a lovely trio who were happened to be doctor residents. And spent the rest of the evening that I recall blabbing with one of the girls, her name being Pilar Jimenez and she gave us recommendations for Madrid, which she wrote on a napkin. Then I started to not feel good and so we left…and I didn’t wake up until the late afternoon heh. Ahhhh good times šŸ™‚

Sevilla, Espana: Sights

Sevilla to me is an ideal city to explore and visit for a travelphile. It is rich in history, and the set-up, the architecture makes it a treasure trove to explore easily on foot. I will not spend much detail on the classic must-see places as thoseĀ can be found in any travel guide book or good ole tripadvisor.com. Instead I’ll share the highlights that made the most lasting impressions on me.

Definitely spend hours wandering visiting the key sites of the Alcazar, the Cathedral, and the Plaza de Espana. For us, it was a novel thing to observe the beautiful and intricate Moorish influence on the architecture, and the incorporation of outdoor gardens (specifically the Alcazar). Having previously been more familiar with architecture from Rome (classical)? -Makes me see the depth and appreciate the potential depth of the realm of historical architecture (vs. when I was younger, I could not understand why one would care so specifically of each architectural detail and the style/era it belonged to…).

This was the balcony of our lovely airbnb where we stayed in Sevilla–perfect location, with easy walking distance to the main sites. (We didn’t get much use unfortunately of the lovely balcony because we were busy exploring the city)
IMG_0731Lovely view of the tower from the balcony…

IMG_0733Walking around town, through the narrow alleyways, they would randomly open up into charming triangular plazasĀ IMG_0738 Ā I think they call this the mushroom?..It does kind of look fungular hehe –and at night it had cool blue up-lighting, a surprisingly modern structure in this historically rich place.IMG_0749 IMG_0750 IMG_0758 Ā Only one side of the magnificent Cathedral of Sevilla—huge massive square structure with intricate carvings decorating the borders of the stone walls, and framing the great entryways.IMG_0765

ALCAZAR

The wall of the Alcazar (formerly the palace for past Moorish kings)– Heh the pointy ramparts reminded us of Super Mario Brothers…IMG_0768 Ā Ancient wall as you enter the AlcazarIMG_0773 Ā High archways and warm colorful and hyper-detailed tilesIMG_0782 IMG_0784 Ā The Alcazar has a lush garden interior with mazes and fountains and random peakcocksIMG_0789 IMG_0793 IMG_0797 IMG_0799 IMG_0813 Ā Underground water reserve of the Alcazar–where it was said during the super hot summers (and man it gets HOT here) the royals would hang out here where it was dark and cool, the water providing humidity relief from the arid outside heat.

On a side note, this was also in a recent episode of Game of Thrones…heh it seems we are following to all the Game of Thrones locations (2 years ago we were in Croatia–Dubrovnik (King’s landing) and here it is the Dorn palace šŸ™‚IMG_0817 Ā The amazingly detailed stone carvings, giving a sense of delicacy, like overlaid lace, despite it being stone.The round doorways and arches further soften the stone walls.IMG_0833 Ā Golden geometry…domed ceilingIMG_0835 IMG_0836 Ā More beautiful stone workIMG_0838 Ā A peaceful beautiful courtyard…ahhh wouldn’t that be nice to add to your home–just in the middle, opening up to a calm rectangular pool of water and orange treesIMG_0839 IMG_0849 IMG_0854

PLAZA DE ESPANA

Beautiful wide spanse, perfect for strolling off the daily heavenly overdose of tapas and wine šŸ™‚

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FLAMENCO

For our flamenco experience (our first time watching a performance) we went toe the Museo del Baile Flamenco – highly recommended. Apparently, this was also where the Japanese prince visited as well as Prince Charlesā€™ girlfriend the duchessā€¦

Ahh the performance! Ā Amazing passion–moments when I couldnā€™t breathe and I felt my heart pounding..a sweat breaking…all of this sounds dramatic–overly so, exaggerated even, but it truly happened while watching the amazing performances of the flamenco. First a dance with the female and male flamenco dancers, with the wonderful acoustic guitarist and the singer. Then a solo of the guitarist—amazing blending of melodies seemingly effortlessly flying from his fingers–rich full bodied woody sounds…then the solo of the female in her bright yellow dress–up to 40 pounds! Which she elegantly and flamboyantly kicked around with flareā€¦.then the solo singer who had very poignant words, he said it all in Spanish but I understood (I have found that I actually in the remote accesses of my mind, understand quite a bit of Spanish, more than I can seemingly speakā€¦) He said that Flamenco does not have a single language–does not need it. Flamencoā€™s understood through el corazon, the heart.

And indeed there need be no translation when seeing and listening and thus FEELING the raw emotions brought to fiery life by the dancers and the music…the amazingly rapid percussive beats of the dancerā€™s feet and emotions washing over their faces, expressions and through the movements of their bodies.

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TRIANA NEIGHBORHOOD

Ā 

Last but not least, we so enjoyed taking a trip across the bridge to the TrianaĀ neighborhood, framed on one side by the Canal de Alfonso. We went in the evening after yet another delicious Sevilla meal and grabbed a drink at one of the numerous restaurants lining the street parallel to the Canal.

We watched the lights from the bridge sparkle off of the canal; the reflections became a live Monet painting, with the water playing strokes of vivid orange brushes of light, bobbing up and down. And in the distance, the regal Giralda tower and the architectural features of Sevilla on display.

We even happened upon a religious festival–though I was not able to find out which it was–but a la Anthony Bourdain (episode in Granada) they carried a large and heavy gilded religious statue with the parade of people and live band. It was like 11PM at night, and so we counted ourselves lucky to have randomly stepped into this cultural occurrence šŸ™‚

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