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Puerta de Almodóvar

Actually it was very hot the day we visited Córdoba, but it is a really cool city and we loved it there.  I don’t think I have ever taken so many photos of one place on one day.  We weren’t the only tourists, but even that didn’t detract from Córdoba’s charm.

Our mission was to enjoy ourselves in Córdoba without spending a fortune, and I believe we succeeded.  Getting there by train from Sevilla wasn’t expensive, particularly as we are over 60 so have a Tarjeta Dorada from Renfe, which costs us 5.05 € for one year and gives us discounts between 25% and 40% on  Spanish trains. 

Again it is important to research in advance as train fares between Sevilla and Córdoba can vary between 10.80 € and 32.60 € (before discounts) depending on which train you catch.  We bought our tickets the day before from a machine and were puzzled to see a message saying there had been an error and to go to the counter.  Our tickets looked perfectly OK but we did as we had been told.  Apparently we were owed 5 cents each for our tickets!

Tower and Patio de los Naranjos outside the Mezquita

If we had been real cheapskates we would have caught an earlier train:  top tip for keeping costs down in Córdoba is to visit the Mezquita between 8 and 10.30 and get in for free!   I have to admit though that the 8 € entrance fee was worth every cent:  the Mezquita is truly awesome.  According to my guidebook, Córdoba’s Mezquita is the most outstanding example of Islamic art in the Western World, and I’m not going to argue with that.  A photo cannot do justice to the dazzling sight of more than 850 columns of granite, jasper and marble supporting the roof.

Inside the Mezquita

 The original mosque was built between the eighth and eleventh centuries.  After the Christian Reconquest in 1236 a number of alterations were made and then in 1523, when Don Alonso Manrique was Bishop of Córdoba, the construction of a cathedral within the mosque began in the centre of the original Islamic temple.  It’s an incredible sight.

A chapel inside the mosque

An hour later and we emerged from the darkness of the Mezquita to continue our exploration of Córdoba.  We headed to the river to see the Roman Bridge, with a statue of St Raphael the Archangel, the guardian of the city, in its centre.  Our next destination was the Alcázar de los Reyes Católicos, the fortress built in 1328 on the instructions of Alfonso XI.  If my birthday had been on 1st September, which was on Wednesday this year, entry would have been free.  Never mind, it was worth 4 € to look around the Alcázar, climb up the tower for great views and then stroll around the peaceful gardens.

Gardens of the Alcázar

We had spent nearly four hours wandering around the streets of Córdoba and visiting some of its stunning monuments, so not surprisingly our thoughts turned to food when we left the Alcázar.  We had seen several restaurants near the Mezquita, and I had looked up a few on the internet before we started our trip, however this was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate in style!  Luckily for John’s wallet, my choice was to have ménu del día at Bodegas Mezquita. 

An "English" lady strolling along the passageway

We had noticed that there were cheaper places around, however the wide choice of dishes tempted us to go there, and it only cost us 12.60 € for three courses and a drink.  John splashed out on a bottle of wine – after all it was my birthday.  Inevitably, because of its proximity to the Mezquita, there were many other tourists there, including four obviously British tourists that we spotted when we arrived just after 2pm.  They left shortly after that – clearly still following British timetables!  We were brought a complimentary glass of vino dulce with our desserts, which we thought was a nice touch. 

Bodegas Mezquita Restaurante

After our delicious meal, we were ready for more sightseeing.  We knew we couldn’t see everything in one day, but we had made a list of “must-sees” that included the Synagogue, Casa Andalusí and the Archaeological Museum, which is housed in the Renaissance Páez de Castillejo Palace and apparently is one of Spain’s best.  Entry for the Synagogue was free as was entry to the Museum, although you have to be a citizen of the EU. 

Archaeological Museum

We paid 2.50 € to look round the Casa Andalusí, but it is such a quaint house, with lots of nooks and crannies, a Mudéjar courtyard and a paper museum: I certainly felt it was value for money. 

 

A corner of the Casa Andalusí
We loved our day out in Córdoba: every corner that we turned revealed another interesting place to see and another photo opportunity.  I have posted more photos of both Córdoba and Sevilla on my facebook page.  One day we will return and I will have even more photos to share with everybody!

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Seville Cathedral

We had been to Seville before and enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to make my birthday trip this year a two-centre break: Córdoba and Sevilla.  In the interests of research for “Spain on a budget”, and having had an expensive year with visits to England for two weddings and my daughter’s 40th birthday, we determined to keep the costs down as much as possible.  Seville is not a cheap city, however it is still possible to have an enjoyable visit there without spending a fortune.

We had a good start to our budget trip: love them or hate them, you have to admit that Ryanair have some good flight deals and we flew from Alicante to Seville for the grand total of 66.42 € for the two of us. 

Our next tip is not to book a hotel in the city centre if you are on a budget.  We looked at Destinia and found a 3-star hotel (Hotel Plaza Santa Lucia) that was handy for Santa Justa railway station where the airport bus stops, and which cost 110 € for two night’s bed and breakfast.   There are plenty of buses around, but it didn’t take us long to walk into the historic centre of Sevilla.

Waiting for breakfast in the patio of our hotel

Seville is a great city for tapas, however they aren’t necessarily the cheapest way to eat, especially if you are hungry!  We checked out a couple of places online so we knew where we were heading to once we arrived.  Just around the corner from out hotel was Café Bar Trinidad on the corner of Calle Trinidad and Calle María Auxiliador: as promised by our research the tapas were good and also cheap, which explained why so many locals were eating there.  Prices are usually more reasonable in the local barrios rather than the city centre.  We had a lovely evening meal for 24€ on our first night at Taberna Manzanilla on Plaza de los Terceros, sitting outside and watching the world go by.  We also had a good evening meal at La Abuela on Calle San Julían although I could only manage a couple of tapas, having had a superb menú del día earlier on a day trip to Córdoba (see my next post for more details!).  The bill was just over 21€ including an excellent bottle of wine.

Remember that Shanks' pony won't cost you anything!

Advance planning is also essential when sight-seeing, as some monuments are free one day a week, which is particularly annoying if you visit one on the following day and have to pay!  Luckily we visited the Torre del Oro on Tuesday so entry was free, saving us the grand total of 1€ each!

 Anybody between the ages of 27 and 64 doesn’t have to feel left out as the Museo de Bellas Artes is free for EU citizens, so have your passport handy, and finally nobody has to pay to go in the Archivo de Indias, which is well worth a visit.  Be warned that the English pirates were the bad guys, especially Sir Francis Drake!

My best tip though is just to enjoy strolling along the narrow streets in the barrio of Santa Cruz, near the Cathedral and Real Alcázar.  There are so many picturesque plazas, patios adorned with bright flowers and hidden corners to explore – and unless you are tempted into a souvenir shop or bar it won’t cost you anything.

Seville courtyard

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Fiesta de la Vendimia, Jumilla.

During August Jumilla has not just one but four fiestas to look forward to.  There is the renowned Fiesta de la Vendimia, the 29th National Folklore Festival, the XXIV Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos and the Fiesta of the Virgen de la Asunción, the patroness of Jumilla. Yes, it’s party time in Jumilla – and the wine is flowing!

On Saturday night, the opening event of the Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos was held at the newly opened “Roque Baños” Cultural Centre.  We sat outside, enjoying a couple of bottles of good Jumilla wine and some tasty tapas with our friends, while watching the proceedings.  Afterwards we listened to a concert by AJAM (Asociación Jumillana Amigos de la Música), playing several Moors and Christians marches as well as a couple of pasodobles.

The next event in the Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos will be on Saturday 7th August: La Noche de las Antorchas.  This is the first time we have been in Jumilla to watch the torchlight procession up to the Castle, so we are looking forward to it.  We are also hoping to get invitations to the concert in the castle after the procession: Musici Mundi by Jésus Parra.

On Sunday 8th August, Jumilla celebrates the Offering of Flowers to the Virgen de la Asunción.  At 20.00 the procession will leave the Jardín del Rollo, going along Calle Canovas del Castillo to the Church of Santiago.

The Fiesta de la Vendimia will kick off on Thursday 12th August, with the Gran Fiesta de Exaltación del Vino at Salones Pio XII.  Last year we queued up outside the Ayuntamiento, hoping to get tickets, but were disappointed.  If we are luckier this year, I will definitely post some photos on here!  The Gran Fiesta includes lots of good wine, local gastronomic delicacies, music and fireworks: all the ingredients of a great party (or gran fiesta!)  Our fingers are definitely crossed.

In my next post I will tell you more about upcoming events in the Fiesta de la Vendimia as well as the National Folklore Festival.  If you want a copy of our “What’s on in Jumilla” newsletter, fill out the form on the Contact page.

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