Although my blog partner Pinky already wrote about her visit to Cordoba on Girl Goes to Cordoba, I though of sharing mine as well. It was raining when she went, it was hot as hell when I went, but we both had Rabo de Toro and Salmorejo. Rain or shine, good food is good food!

POSTED BY JENNIE

It was late May and Seville was sizzling!  The last time I was here I had 4 layers on and so my system was shocked because of what my mind remembered. When I was looking for apartments to book, I didn’t know why so many had swimming pools, now I do! If I ever travel to Seville in summer again, I’ll be sure to book one with a pool! We booked with Genteel Homes, I would recommend them should you need a vacation apartment in Seville.

We had 5 days in Seville and decided to take a day trip to Cordoba. A quick 50 minute train ride takes you to the train station in Cordoba. From here it’s a cab ride to the Jewish Quarter to meet our guide. Horror of horrors, Cordoba was even hotter that Seville! It was about 38C! But nonetheless, we were here to see the Jewish Quarter and the Mezquita and the scorching heat wasn’t going to spoil our day.

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Colorful ceramics, probably water jars.

We booked with Oway Tours who were kind enough not charge us for cancelling the day before (this was the day I was sick, see previous post ) and accommodating us a day after.

A very young and upbeat Isabel took us around the Jewish Quarter with its winding streets, blue flower pots, colourful souvenirs and tumbling bougainvillea. I liked her energy & enthusiasm. She had just graduated from the University of Cordoba with a degree in History and this was her summer job. She told us that she can do as many as 10 tours a day, in Spanish and in English so she tends to lose her voice.

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Flower pots line the narrow streets.

She’s not accredited yet to give the Mezquita tour, so she turns us over to someone who is more senior. I thank her, give her my email and invite her to visit us in Manila. My children are horrified that I always have to invite everyone to Manila. Well, that’s just who I am.

There are just 6 of us in the Jewish Quarter tour, but once we get to the courtyard of the Mezquita, the group increases to about 30. Our guide is seasoned and knows how to manage the group. The advantage of booking a group tour is that tickets are already provided so you don’t need to fall in line, and falling in line  for tickets during peak season is a pain.

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The belfry that was once a minaret.

The tour begins in the beautiful courtyard filled with orange trees. The Moors really had a knack for symmetry and elegance in simplicity. It’s too hot to stay in the courtyard and we quickly make our way into the Mezquita. Immediately is it 10 degrees cooler inside. That’s what your brain will register first, and then you begin to see the details. Arched column after arched column after arched column. I’ve seen it before in photos, but up close is something else. It’s stunning. Thank you to Pinky who already talked about the history  of the Mezquita which means I don’t have to.

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The Mezquita gets about 1.5M tourists a year.

There were plenty of other tourists, that I expected, but what I didn’t expect was the feeling of serenity, despite the crowds. If you didn’t read up on the Mezquita before your visit, then a guided tour is worth it. After the tour, you’re free to stay and it’s easy to find your own spot in this vast space.

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Red and white double arches supported by columns. There are 856 columns. The total area of this mammoth UNESCO World Heritage Site is 24,000 square meters.
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A functioning cathedral is right in the centre of the Mezquita.

Right in the dead centre of the Mezquita is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, a functioning church with daily service. A couple hundred columns were knocked down to build the cathedral in 1236. The contrast is striking. The mosque is minimalist, with just repetitive red and white columns, while the cathedral is ornate with silver and gold.

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The crucifix surrounded by Moorish details.
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Ornate carvings in pews, a stark contrast from the minimalist arches.

We stayed for maybe an hour or more to marvel at the columns and the sheer size and imagine pilgrims praying here centuries ago. At one point it could hold 20,000 worshippers.

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The Mezquita is a perfect square, upon entering though it will feel like a maze.

It’s almost 2pm, we are famished and willing to eat in the nearest tourist trap. A restaurant a few meters from the Mezquita catches my attention because of the cool looking courtyard inside. Luckily, not only is it not a tourist trap, it also happens to be an award winning restaurant, taking the top prize in 2016 for Best Rabo de Toro. The restaurant is called Casa Cayetano.

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We make it a point to order dishes from Cordoba. We have Rabo de Toro, a slow cooked ox tail stew. We also have Salmorejo Cordobes, like gazpacho it is served cold, combining tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, but salmorejo is heavier on the bread side and garnished liberally with chopped hard-boiled eggs and strips of Andalusian ham. Then there’s eggplant fritters sprinkled with honey that you can only find in Cordoba. As if Rabo de Toro weren’t enough, we also ordered Croquetas de Rabo.

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Casa Cayetano’s Award Winning Rabo de Toro

 

The meal is excellent, the service is friendly and we leave feeling satisfied. There’s still time before our train leaves so we walk around the perimeter wall of the Mezquita. We chance upon street performers playing the cello and violin to the tune of Every Breath You Take, dressed in flowy summer dresses, they put everyone in a festive mood. It’s the perfect ending to our day trip to Cordoba.

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The old perimeter doors of the Mezquita.