Map of Granada to Barcelona

Today, on my second last day in Spain, I have woken up in the south but need to be back north in Barcelona ready for an early morning flight tomorrow.  A moderately fast train will take me west from Granada to meet the line coming north from Malaga (birth place of Picasso) on the Mediterranean coast, and then whip me on a super-fast train to Barcelona over almost eight hours.  I expect to get a much needed day of rest, and a chance to have a last look at this part of the country again.  It is a very early morning start and I will be in Barcelona before 3pm – perhaps there will be time for new adventures and discovery stories when I get back there.

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3rd December 2018 – trying again to include photos of part 3 of 3

After a good night’s sleep, now refreshed, again I am trying to add in the photos to the last part of this post. If this doesn’t work, then it means that once more I will have to stop/be stopped from posting the stories of each new day.  So, fingers crossed.

In the last post I listed highlights at the Real Alcazar in Seville. The following items had no photos and now they have a selection.

  • the designed gardensIMG_5675.JPG

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IMG_5671.JPGI loved the pools of reflecting water, but have no photos that do them justice.

The Maze Garden was entered by many and most, like me, retreated fairly quickly.  The maze was large and complicated. The thought of walking miles trying to find a way out did not appeal.  However, there was lots of laughter associated with the experience.

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IMG_5708.JPGHealthy Datura plants made me think of Mary.IMG_5716.JPG

IMG_5825.JPGI took a fancy to fans.  I have never been able to look at a large range of exquisite, hand-made fans before. The skill and mastery were apparent in the clever design and fit for function. Yes, that is delicate refined Chantilly lace in the second photo. IMG_5632.JPG

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IMG_5635.JPGI was endlessly entertaining by the large scale of this complex, the various ages and styles of buildings and their decoration, the contrasts between building and gardens, and the diversity of spaces.  But more than that, I felt overwhelmed by the creativity in the various textures that were created throughout.

3rd December 2018 – part 3 of 3

I spent over 4 hours (others have told me that 2 hours should do it – but I didn’t see everything or walk everywhere in the time I was there – I was mentally fatigued) and had to leave the Real Alcazar palace complex.  I recommend taking it slow. Look and think. Then think again. And be prepared to give up and go when you have too much in your head and your eyes – go away and digest what you have experienced.

Most of the complex was built in the Mudejar style (a blend of Islamic and Christian styles) but there are some Roman elements. Other than the ceilings, highlights included:

  •  the seemingly endless variations on colourful tiles on the walls and the floors,         IMG_5601.JPG

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IMG_5712.JPGIMG_5715.JPG– vistas of arch after arch after arch (sometimes Renaissance sometimes Arabic),        IMG_5636.JPG

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– the external walls with ‘frames’ for painted art works,

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  • Arabic writings and geometric shapes,

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  • the carp in the ponds,

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the designed gardens (images cant be added),

 

and the pools of reflecting water.

The Maze Garden was entered by many and most, like me, retreated out fairly quickly.  The maze was large and complicated. The thought of walking miles trying to find a way out did not appeal.  However, there was lots of laughter associated with the experience. Because of difficulties with inserting photos into this blog, I am giving up and posting this story minus some selected images.

Healthy Datura plants made me think of Mary.

 

I took a fancy to fans.  I have never been able to look at a large range of exquisite, hand-made fans before. The skill and mastery were apparent in the clever design and fit for function.  Unfortunately, I am having difficulty with inserting the photos of some beautiful and clever examples – I do hope my connection to WordPress isn’t slipping away again.

I was endlessly entertaining by the large scale of this complex, the various ages and styles of buildings and their decoration, the contrasts between building and gardens, and the diversity of spaces.  But more than that, I felt overwhelmed by the creativity in the various textures that were created throughout.

3rd December 2018 – part 2 of 3

This is a primarily a picture post that may make you wonder why our ceilings are so plain – is it expedience and cost or are there other reasons.

No two ceilings in the hundreds of rooms in the Real Alcazar seemed the same.  The elaborate wooden ceilings seem deep with structures. Some are painted one colour and others have the patterns picked out in elaborate detail.  These are either three dimensional carved or structured creations. A selection of the many I photographed are presented below.  IMG_5604.JPG

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IMG_5809.JPGI hope all that ‘looking up’ hasn’t hurt your eyes!   The oldest ceiling in the Royal Palace complex is the following:IMG_5816.JPGYou can now lower your eyes from the ceiling.  Wooden doors and window shutters were also subjected to creative carvings.IMG_5743.JPG

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3rd December 2018 – part 1 of 3

My entire focus for today was the Real Alcazar – the Royal Palace complex. This is one of the ‘must visit’ places in Spain and I had pre-booked my ticket online.  The new ticket buying queue twisted around the century old walls, so it had been a smart move to make an advance purchase. In addition, to look at the private apartments within the complex of the current (and past) Kings and Queens there was an extra charge and tickets could only be purchased online; when I purchased my ticket, I was allocated a specific entry time for which there was no flexibility.  On arrival, I learned that access to those apartments was booked out for the day so unhappy people were turned away.  I had been warned. Thank goodness I heeded the advice of others.

I will create this first post around my experience of the royal apartments.  I entered the Real Alcazar complex and found the stairs leading to the apartments.  Before entering, I had time to investigate a few rooms containing specialist exhibitions devoted to the history of the coloured tiles used in Seville.  The development of technology around colour creation, pattern-making and the depiction of images was most interesting.  The earliest part of the Alcazar was built in the 11th century, and new techniques were developed over time.    IMG_5579.JPG

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IMG_5600.JPGTo enter the royal apartments, my bag was xrayed and stowed in a locker, I was given an audio guide in English, we were warned there could be no filming or photographing, and we were told that we must move through the rooms at the pace dictated by the audio-guide. Then a small group of about a dozen of us were led in by security guards.

My eyes flitted over the floors, the walls, the ceilings, the furnishings, the light, the paintings, the clocks, the candelabra, and sometime out of windows or over tiny balconies from different rooms.  I knew within an instant that I needed a lot more time in each room. I probably got 3 or 4 minutes maximum in each space.  When King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia come to Seville, they live here. That is, these apartments are a private space even if it looks at least two and more centuries old and unliveable (from my point of view). And cold.  Oh, it was cold.  I asked a guard later and he said the inner sanctum/bedrooms which we didn’t see, were heated.  Floors were marble or tiles.  Some great carpets. Baccarat chandeliers. Walls were either painted or layered in silk.  Massive large huge big tapestries hung on the very high walls to soften the high-ceilinged rooms. Painted realistic images of past Kings and Queens and their children hung in some rooms. The legs on furniture were often lavishly golden. Sometimes the shape of rooms or doorways or windows was influenced by Moorish architecture or you looked out onto a garden with Islamic patternmaking detail. But mostly it was the workmanship and shape of the ceilings that enthralled me. One entire post will be devoted to ceilings throughout the whole Real Alcazar complex.  The thing is, I have no photos. I can show you nothing inside the royal apartments.  We were such a small group, the guards were in front and behind us, and one of my hands held the cumbersome audio guide. I could not sneak a shot – much as I tried to work out how. I have checked on Google and there is not one photo – all the extraordinary photos on Google come from the rest of the amazing complex. I simply remember being in awe every time I stepped into a new space. It wasn’t gaudy. It wasn’t ostentatious, yet it was creatively decorative in so many ways.  Vistas from one room to the next, and the way the light played through the rooms, was always a pleasant surprise.  But I knew I would forget the detail and I remember feeling strongly that I needed to book to come back and do that 30-minute tour again, and then perhaps again – to begin to ‘get it’.

I felt overwhelmed leaving the apartments.  I didn’t know how to process what I had seen and felt.  I never had any sensation that there had been an obscene use/misuse of resources. Despite the decoration evolving over centuries it seemed coherent. While I found the rooms incomprehensible in terms of living in them – they were not friendly – I did not feel they had been created as show pieces.  They were grand but not in the way of rooms in Versailles.  I came out blinking into the ‘real world’; but then there was nothing like the real world in the rest of the Alcazar either.

2nd December 2018 – day two in Seville with flair

Started leisurely and waited in the hotel foyer for the free-tour walking guide to arrive. IMG_5472.JPG

IMG_5473.JPGWe headed off and she gathered people as we walked through areas I had walked yesterday, until we reached the river which I had not yet seen.  We passed the tower pictured below which is the remains of a wall along the banks of the river to repel invaders in the 16th and 17th centuries when Seville was ‘the’ port in Spain.  When Cadiz took over as the chief port in the 18th century, and before people thought in terms of ‘heritage’ values, most of the wall was torn down.IMG_5475.JPGFinally, we had gathered all those joining the tour together and went off to a quiet courtyard to start the tour.  We stood for 20 minutes as the guide explained the importance of the river to Seville’s history and the general history of this city since.  My coughing was rather alarming to some, and that factor, the standing, and the fact that I was getting colder by the moment, made me decide to go in the opposite direction when they headed off.  I have given a lot of thought to how to provide a tour with large group numbers, and I realise that finding spaces in a busy city where many can stand at one moment and hear is a challenge. I don’t think standing for long periods is an interesting thing to do and downright uncomfortable after a while.  So, I have been disappointed with all but the first free walking tour I did in Barcelona.

I am interested in costume and had a timetable indicating when the museum would be open.  15 minutes or so later I was outside a shut museum.  IMG_5481.JPG

IMG_5484.JPGThere is a continuing story here during my Spanish travels; you cannot trust the printed word put out by information/tourism offices or on brochures.  I was most disappointed by this because I didn’t have a plan B.  I looked around and decided to walk along the river edge; passed a healthy stand of eucalypt trees. IMG_5487.JPG

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IMG_5497.JPG Crossed the river and watched lots of rowers, before reaching a pod of tennis courts.IMG_5498.JPGIMG_5499.JPG

IMG_5500.JPGI wandered through the suburb of Triana thinking that perhaps I might get breakfast.  I wandered along a variety of streets with genuine locals, some rushing to church (there are always churches – heavens what else is there to see?), and few obvious tourists.     IMG_5501.JPG

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IMG_5510.JPGFound a shop selling Flamenco dresses, so studied these closely.IMG_5503.JPG

IMG_5505.JPGAt one café I purchased a fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of tea – since leaving home I haven’t had a good tasty cup and that includes the Ponant tea options as well.  This café had lots of locals coming in and out and I found people watching interesting.

I continued wandering and later I saw the remains of a man’s breakfast – scrambled eggs and beans.   Right oh. I sat down.  By the time the waitress came she told me that Desayuno was over and that his food was no longer served.  Right I said – what can you offer me that has no pan, no queso, no pollo, no carne, and definitely no jamon.  She pointed at an eggs and potato and ham dish on the menu. Can I have tomato instead of the ham.  Yes. This is exasperating.  There are green vegetables to be bought in the supermarkets why aren’t they served in the restaurants.  Mostly it is fried food or ham that is on offer.  Muy mal!  What did I get?  A bowl of cooked potato chips without crispness, covered with three soft fried eggs edged with the slices of one uncooked tomato.IMG_5511.JPGI saw the famous Triana food Mercado and went in – ready to see top level produce. Being Sunday, many stalls weren’t open.  But I found it interesting that groups of friends were in there (and elsewhere on the streets) sharing plates of prawns. An interesting Sunday tradition for some maybe.  IMG_5512.JPG

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IMG_5523.JPGWhen I walked out, more colourful tiled pictures were up the stairs.  I had been in the Castillo de Jorge. IMG_5524.JPG

IMG_5528.JPG  During the walk I saw more colourfully tiled entrances.IMG_5529.JPG

IMG_5530.JPGI ambled along to the Bull Ring ‘hearing’ there was not a bull fight scheduled.  Thankfully (I saw one in Mexico in the mid-70s and don’t need to see another). I wasn’t interested to tour the interior or to browse through the museum, but I did enjoy walking around the exterior and admiring the Spanish Baroque appearance of the building.  IMG_5531.JPG

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IMG_5549.JPGThen I found a shop which was open and selling Flamenco dancing shoes, clothes and other paraphernalia.  IMG_5560.JPG

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IMG_5551.JPGElsewhere, sweet smelling spices lured my nose.IMG_5561.JPGI came across an antique shop specialising in centuries-old Spanish ceramic ware.IMG_5562.JPGI returned to the old city side of the river, and fairly close to my hotel saw three different cafes offering vegetarian and/or vegan food.  So, one of those will be my destination tonight.

Solving the problem of no access to WordPress is a real worry.  I have worked on this for the past couple of hours and while I now have full internet access to every other site again, WordPress for my blogs eludes me.

So today was a day when I saw more of Seville’s newer and older quarters, and enjoyed the river and its occupants – rowers, boats.

Dinner was a vegan event!!!!  I couldn’t help myself and ordered a darling little glass of orange wine to wash the meal away.IMG_5564.JPGI am grateful to get vegetables even if overcooked – but the overdose of soy sauce – wow.IMG_5566.JPGThis is not the sort of food the cooks have learnt to cope with here – obviously.  In some moments I feel like yelling, please let me into the kitchen and I will do it. Of course, I restrain myself because yelling in English at a Spanish speaker would be puzzling. Thankfully tonight there was no battered fried food and there were some colours on my plate although most merging towards brown. I am hopeful that soon, yes soon, I may eat differently.

The streets were thronged with people this evening. Trams ran up and down their short track slowly to avoid people who were casually walking – maybe 2km in length only (according to a local this was a piece of insanity added by a government when the decision to build a proper underground metro was too difficult).  Many elderly couples were walking arm in arm, and families came with little children to look at large nativity scenes or just to walk.   IMG_5567.JPG

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IMG_5577.JPGChestnuts were being roasted.IMG_5571.JPGCame across a large outdoor – in booths – book fair with sellers from cities all over Spain. Antiquarian books some of which looked centuries old. And more contemporary books. On every topic imaginable, but with a preference for Seville history. Different type of person wandering there, and it was very very pleasant.  Had a close look at some leather-bound old tomes, but since some would have taken up half my suitcase, I left them behind.IMG_5575.JPGMy hotel receptionist tells me there is bar a few crooked streets away where flamenco dancing will start in 15 minutes.  So off I will go.

The Flamenco performance tonight was one of the thrilling spectacles of my life.  Two most beautiful rich sounding guitars and brilliant players; sensationally competent and musical.  Three male singers; one with an amazing voice, another with energetic expressions and not a bad sound, and the third who looked the part and could rip it up, but I didn’t feel he had the voices of the other two. Three female dancers and one male dancer. Thoughts; athleticism beyond bounds, committed, superb foot work and leg movements, great body posture, expressive bodies.  This was a show in a small cramped bar, on a stage, but from accounts while I was at the performance (and from the recommendation of the hotel receptionist) this is one of only two places in Seville where the Flamenco is heard and danced authentically.  I liked the fact that the women were not wearing sequins and imitation diamonds and flashy satin, or any of the ’icons’ of tourism Flamenco. I found their pairing of different patterned skirts with tops and shawls etc very strange – nothing that I would have put together, but it was for the dance and it worked.  Almost two hours. Remarkable! If you are ever in Seville, the bar is located in Plaza Santa Cruz and I strongly recommend you go.  I turned up at the last minute without a booking and was squeezed in.  What good fortune!

A fantastic way to finish the day. Topped off by another Skype chat with June.

1st December 2018 – arrival in Seville

(This is being posted today 4/12/18; I arrived in my Granada hotel around midday and found WordPress works from here, so I am guessing that my access problem must have been the Seville hotel’s problem. Now, over the next few days, I plan to gradually try and catch you up on all the gorgeous things I have seen. This blog post is a long one and so you may need to check at the bottom whether you need to extend to read it all. Back to the 1st when I arrived in Seville …)

A glorious day today in so many ways. Fog had softened Cordoba on my first morning before burning off and presenting a gorgeous day, but this morning the sky was clear, and the cold autumn sun blasted the city.  Sparkling.

My day started when I left colourful Cordoba gently without a rush. As I walked to the train station, with the possum on my head, I passed dozens of thickly dressed against the cold- Lycra cladded cyclists going off for their Saturday morning rides. Wandered through small shops and was surprised to see eucalypt honey as a local speciality. Found a salad at the railway station for breakfast and fresh squeezed real orange juice. Typical of the 45-minute train trip were the hills of orange trees complete with thousands of orange dots. Undulations across the landscape covered with the trees and the dots.  Rural, green, luscious.  Passed by lots of villages and towns; the flat block white walls of the houses gleaming in the hard light of the morning sun, and a single church block spire could usually be seen poking up from in the centre of the clusters.  Are the palm trees date palms I wondered?

Into the massive Seville train station.  Into my biggest challenge of all this trip and one which had kept me awake for some time last night.  Before I left Tasmania, I booked this small Elvira Hotel located on the edge of Dona Elvira Plaza in the old town of Seville because I wanted to savour a ‘real’ place, and because I wanted to be close to my ‘target’ for this city – the ancient Real Alcazar (Royal Palace). I had accepted it would be too far to walk from the train station with luggage, and certainly over cobbled walkways, but I thought that after being much travelled I would take it all in my stride.

In the last couple of days, I learnt that the lanes and streets near the hotel are so narrow and angled and winding that buses or taxis are unable to enter. At a point you must walk to reach the hotel. How would I find it?  My recent experience of getting lost and walking in wrong directions made me sure that I could lose myself in the mazes of old city lanes.

Last night I studied and restudied and then looked again at Google maps to see where a taxi could drop me off, and then to memorise the streets between that point and the hotel.  However, because the streets and lanes are so narrow you cannot pick them from Google maps/Google earth. But it worked out.  The taxi dropped me at the Plaza Santa Cruz, the driver pointed me in the direction and I plunged on.IMG_5471.JPGSurprisingly, the distances are so small, and about 5 minutes or so later I was in the Dona Elvira Plaza and in the hotel foyer.  The walk had been pretty, and uneventful. I read that I had then to walk to another hotel to book in but a minute or so down another lane and I was there. Greeted with big smiles and welcomed.  Would I like to try a local specialty; orange wine. Its only 11.45am but well – yes, I would. So, with glass in hand, and with the receptionist dragging my suitcase we returned to my hotel, and my room was ready. Open and spacious, at ground floor level, with windows out onto the Plaza with its orange trees, and café tables with their white table cloths.  A large, fresh-cut red carnation in the desk vase. Flowers everywhere. Stunningly beautiful.  The grated window at the bottom left of door is the window of my room.  IMG_5355.JPG

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IMG_5354.JPGWith map in hand I headed off through a maze of lanes and mini plazas to familiarise myself with the entrance for the Alcazar, ready for my visit on Monday, and then I wandered.  Despite encountering lane clogging guided tours, I loved the look and feel of everything I encountered.       IMG_5359.JPG

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IMG_5367.JPG I entered through a gate to find another orangerie.  IMG_5368.JPG

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IMG_5370.JPG As usual I looked through every open door.IMG_5371.JPG

IMG_5426.JPGWhen I found a tourism office, I was given a 2 x A4 page list of churches and their opening times and entrance costs.  Inwardly I slumped. I didn’t want to see another church.  Please not another church. I asked if there were special events or festivals occurring over the next few days.  Hesitantly the information officer told me about a Gastronomic Fair.  Now that sounds like my sort of thing, I thought immediately.  I thanked her and wandered off, eventually arriving at that Fair but not before passing an assortment of grand buildings that I declined to enter, including a massive central church with its flying buttresses, and a market in Christmas nativity paraphernalia.      IMG_5378.JPG

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IMG_5403.JPGAt the Fair I sampled olives in different marinating juices, honey mixed with other ingredients (eg pumpkin in honey), and many different fresh pressed olive oils and they were all wonderful.  I could have sampled ‘jamons’ and other meats and cheeses and wines but left that to others who were partaking generously.    IMG_5428.JPG

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IMG_5441.JPG Loved the look of this corner.IMG_5444.JPGTime for lunch and I stopped nearby at a white clothed outdoor table and ordered small plates of a variety of items in tapas style; but each were huge and, as usual, I couldn’t eat them all.  Potato was one of two vegetables involved. Alas. Enjoyed the gratis tuna and potato dish with some vinaigrette and chives.IMG_5451.JPGLoved the aubergine chips (had to come fried) with the salmarejo (a type of cold tomato soup).IMG_5461.JPGAnd the octopus with potato and paprika were tasty.IMG_5468.JPGSat there for ages, chatting with a Dutch couple who had flown down for a weekend away from wintery Amsterdam weather (they tell me that winter officially starts on Dec 21st.  Perhaps it is time we changed our seasonal dates as well) and enjoyed watching the passing crowd.  These included the well dressed, heeled and hatted guests off to a wedding. My second wedding party for the day.  The first earlier had looked very high society but the guests for this second one also looked classy.  Years have passed since I attended a wedding. I wonder how Australians dress for these occasions?  Invasively, I took photos.IMG_5415.JPG

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IMG_5456.JPG At some point it was all too much, and I easily found my way back to the hotel and slept and slept and slept. Tapping out this post now and then will sleep some more.

(Lodging this story onto the blog and seeing the photos again makes me realise how much I walked and rewalked these areas over the days I spent in Seville, and how familiar it all seems now.)

Map of Seville to Grenada

There is no train service directly linking Seville and Granada so this morning I will travel the comparatively short distance by bus.  I expect to pass through many towns along the way; I am eagerly looking forward to this trip because I imagine that I will get to see different architectural styles.  In addition, some of the bus travellers might provide positively distracting asides.

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30 November 2018 – part 3 of 3

The Christian chapel somewhat in the centre of the building was, predictably, excessive and over the top at every turn.  Although, one of the altars was comparatively simple. IMG_5280.JPG

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IMG_5302.JPG As I walked closer to the exit, once again I focused on the arches, which seemed to disappear into the distance as if mirrored.  A design miracle. IMG_5307.JPG

IMG_5308.JPG  I stepped out into the street back into a world of commercialism and tourism.  A last look at the outside of the bell tower and part of the exterior wall.  IMG_5320.JPG

IMG_5321.JPGInside I had been letting my camera do the seeing while I had been ‘feeling’ the place.  Coming outside was a jolt and I found it difficult to see. I blinked a lot trying to make my eyes work. Chalk and cheese. The contrast could not be greater.  From within that massive edifice dedicated to grand aspirations of an unworldly nature, back into narrow cobbled angled streets for the everyday.  IMG_5317.JPG

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IMG_5344IMG_5331.JPGI found a rustic lunch bowl of overcooked vegetables.  So salty. Nevertheless, I was desperate for greens and I ate it.IMG_5335.JPGThe Mesquita was a sensational place to experience.  After yesterday’s visit to the bridge and the tower, I feel so very happy to have added Cordoba on my visit list. I had time to look at more today, but I returned to the hotel and slept (trying to take the advice of many). Unfortunately, nothing seems to dull the cough.  As I type this post, the sun has almost set leaving an intense deep rich red glow above the horizon. A wonderful last moment. Tomorrow morning, I will leave for Seville.