Friday, March 21, 2008

Journey to Andalucía and Gibraltar, 28 years later - 13th to 17th March

There are orange trees everywhere in Andalucía and even though I have lived for many years in Spain I still find them attractive and very exotic.
Hi again

And so the long awaited trip is over and now I am back home, sorting out photos and deciding on doing an album with all the paper memorabilia I have brought back. It was one of those trips that deserve the effort.

Our first stop was Córdoba where we stayed in the old Jewish quarter in a hotel overlooking the Mezquita (Mosque), that wonderful piece of Moorish and Christian architecture that for me, at times rivals with the Alhambra and which was actually built before.

Inside the Mezquita
Our arrival was special in many ways and actually quite funny. We had made a reservation at the El Caballo Rojo restaurant one of the most famous in Córdoba and of special sentimental meaning to Eladio and I but also very famous for its oxtail dish which, of course, Eladio ordered. The restaurant is right in front of the Mezquita and because it is impossible to park the latter offers a parking service. To get out of our BMW car and find the “parking man”, I had to fight off a gypsy who was semi assaulting my poor elderly English father dressed in his panama hat. I just wish someone could have taken a photo of the moment.

Outside the Caballo Rojo; my father in his panama hat
After lunch we did what I once did 30 years ago and that was to take the nostalgic horse carriage trip to see the main sights of the old town. We were lucky with the weather throughout but especially in Córdoba where the thermometer reached the high 20s.

The horse and carriage we toured the old town on. Me with "Paco", the assistant horse carriage driver and gypsy.
Then we toured the smaller streets on foot and specially enjoyed revisiting “la calle de las flores” (flower street) or the wonderful statues of Maimonides and Averröes, those 2 famous and contemporary Jewish and Arab men who were both doctors, theologians and philosophers and lived in Córdoba in the 12th century when Córdoba was one of the Arabian capitals.

Eladio and I posing in the Calle de las Flores, that wonderful street with the view of the Mezquita.
The next day we set off quite early for Gibraltar. As we were passing Málaga and Marbella I thought it might be fun to show both my Father and Eladio Puerto Banus, that most expensive bit of territory in Spain where the rich and famous keep their yachts. And what a wonderful place it is!

Eladio in Puerto Banus
We reached Gibraltar in the early afternoon, booked into the Rock Hotel and immediately set off for Main Street which is the street where all the shops are. I left the men outside and begged for 1.5h on my own in Marks and Spencers. M+S is probably my favourite shop in the world. I love their casual wear, underwear, household goods and cosmetics best. I could have done with double the time and still wouldn’t have been finished. Luckily enough I was able to revisit it the next day to get a few more things, this time for the girls.

Me and my M+S purchases in Main Street.
After M+S we headed off for Morrisons, the British supermarket, to stock up on British goodies I cannot get in Spain, such as decaffeinated tea or sage and onion stuffing, not to mention chocolate Easter eggs, which unfortunately melted in the car later!!

Saturday morning was dedicated to visiting the Upper Rock which is all along very windy narrow roads which are not very well sign posted. Because of that we missed out on the famous St. Michael’s caves and Jew’s gate. We did, however, get our full of the famous Barbary Macaques (monkeys without tails) throughout our visit. Unfortunately 2 landed on poor Grandpa’s shoulders to his utter disgust.

The monkeys even climbed on our car!

The views from the Upper Rock are superb. Here you can see the airstrip which the main road entering Gibraltar goes through and includes traffic lights for when airplanes are landing or taking off!!
In the evening, whilst my Father enjoyed room service at the Rock, Eladio and I went for a light dinner to the famous Waterfront restaurant
in Queensway Quay Marina. That was a lovely restaurant, lively yet romantic at the same time with some great food, of course.
We enjoyed the hotel thoroughly, mostly because of the amazing views of the straits of Gibraltar, Tarifa and Morocco but also because of the beautiful gardens and the lovely Wisteria Terrace.

Me outside The Rock Hotel

Eladio on the Wisteria terrace. Note the monkey key ring!

The view from our bedroom of the straits of Gibraltar
We also enjoyed sitting outside a pub on Main Street on Saturday afternoon and watching the people going past. Gibraltar, although British, has Spanish and Moorish legacies as well as Jewish which give it a multi cultural combination that is irresistible. Add the sea and the climate and you have a place that is quite unique. Gibraltar, although a little down run these days, did fulfil my expectations. It is well worth a visit.

From Gibraltar we made our way to Granada. I looked up a place to have lunch on the way in my wonderful “Guía de Campsa” – road map and restaurant guide - and came up trumps. It turned out a hotel I have always wanted to visit, called La Bobadilla was on the way. It is near Loja, about 60 km from Granada. And wow, was it worth stopping there. It is a luxury Andalusian oasis and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen. Needless to say lunch was out of this world in all respects. It was interesting to note that the ex Minister of the Interior with Aznar’s Government, Angel Acebes, was also having lunch in the same restaurant!

Just one view of the fantastic Bobadilla hotel near Loja, Granada.

Daddy and I posing outside the restaurant we had lunch at in the Bobadilla hotel.
From La Bobadilla we made our way to Granada and to our hotel in the centre of the old town, completely forgetting that it was Palm Sunday and that of course the Easter processions would be on and traffic diverted from the main streets. Once that obstacle was overcome, we went out into the streets ourselves to witness this timeless Easter tradition which is actually quite awesome.

One of the processions we saw in Granada on Palm Sunday.
Then to work off our lunch at La Bobadilla we walked up to the Alhambra which is a very steep and long walk and a bit much for my Father. Later on in the evening Eladio and I walked up to that old neighbourhood called Albayzin from where there are amazing views of the Alhambra. The walk probably took us over an hour and it was getting very cold, all of which finally made us just hungry enough to order a small dinner at the lovely San Nicolás restaurant which has amazing views of the Alhambra. It’s a very beautiful and romantic place.

And Monday morning brought with it the highlight of the trip, a guided tour of the Alhambra palace or palaces. How can I describe the Alhambra here in my blog? Wow, well it is one of the most visited places in the world and narrowly escaped being included in the new wonders of the world. I really think it should be. For example the Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world, yet the architect of the Taj Mahal copied the mirror effect caused by water in the Patio de Arrayanes for example!

View of the Nazaries palaces in the Alhambra

Eladio in the gardens of the Genaralife, the Summer palace
The guide told us that it is the best conserved medieval Moorish architecture in the world. The Alhambra (Al-Hamra; literally "the red" in Arabic) is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of Granada in southern Spain (known as Al-Andalus when the fortress was constructed), occupying a hilly terrace on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. It’s beauty is unrivalled in Spain, although the Mezquita probably comes a close second. Of course I had visited the Alhambra but one’s memory fades so it was wonderful to see it again. The Alhambra is one of the most magical places in the world, really.

Eladio in the Alhambra
Here in Granada was where our journey to Andalucía ended. From here we were going on for a few days to Santa Pola. But that is another story which I will write about in my next post.
The trip was lovely and in many ways a trip down memory lane. Córdoba means so much to me as I once had a great trip there as a student. It was also where Eladio was first “stationed” as a teacher. And visiting Gibraltar also had a special meaning for all of us. My Father had been there in the war in 1942 so this visit must have meant quite a lot for him. When Eladio and I first met, in the Summer of 1980, we traveled in Andalucía and Morocco. I have a picture of myself outside the border of Gibraltar when the frontier was closed and you could not enter into Spain or Gibraltar by foot or by car. It was quite frustrating for me at the time and I vowed to come back one day. And this was just what I did, 28 years later, in this visit!!!

Me by the Rock of Gibraltar. I finally made it 28 years later!
Cheers till next time,

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