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 🙂
We arrived via train from Sevilla– And may I just insert a word about trains in Spain that was a revelation for me- 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 😉
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.
We arrived at Hotel Viento 10, 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 to 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.
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 River 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, 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.
A key sight to see in Cordoba was the beautiful La Mezquita or The Cathedral of Cordoba- a unique mosque that has a catholic church build 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’s 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.
The 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).
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.
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 (Lechón)
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.
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.
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
Besides the mind-blowing suckling pig and lamb, we have the following delicious southern Spain delicacies that were again amazing…We went to Bodega Mezquita Cesperdes located near the (you guessed it!) Mezquita.
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.
Alcachofas de la Montillana – Artichokes braised in Montillana wine, and chopped bits of savory jamon. Delicious broth–soakable with bread (everything is it seems 🙂
Meatballs in an almond sauce– Hearty, and I never knew how ground almonds could provide such lovely body and richness to a 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 🙂
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 experience 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.
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 hubbie 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 🙂