By Veronica

One of a kind

Still backblipping -- three days behind now! We'd planned a day trip to Cordoba today, but while in the bar last night we realised we probably should have booked Mezquita tickets online. Cue a very late-night booking session. It was actually remarkably efficient -- by 1 a.m. I'd not only booked a guided tour for 1 p.m. but also tickets on the AVE, which whisked us the 150 km to Cordoba in 45 minutes.

At 22 euros, the guided tour was just over double the price of a standard ticket, but it was well worth it. You can walk straight in without queuing and our guide was knowledgeable. Plus we got some Spanish listening practice.

Photos of the Mezquita abound, but even the best photo can't convey the sheer scale of it. It is enormous. The late addition of a Catholic cathedral occupies just one corner of it. Our guide organised the tour well, so that we progressed around the mezquita from oldest to newest and at the end suddenly stepped from austere Moorish architecture to the ridiculous baroque extravagance of the cathedral, where as a plus someone happened to be playing the gigantic organ. It's truly one of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen. Flickr album right from here.

The tour took about an hour and a quarter, and after it was over we spent a little more time wandering about in jaw-dropped wonder; as it was lunchtime most people had left and it was much emptier than it had been when we arrived. Finally we dragged ourselves away and decided to try TripAdvisor for lunch options. The #1 most popular was only a few minutes' walk away, so we headed there, but accidentally stepped into the bar next door thinking it was all one establishment. It was an excellent mistake though; we took seats at the bar and shared a lovely plate of slices of courgette topped with grilled goat's cheese and drizzled with honey and pink peppercorns. A perfect flavour and texture combination. We then shared a ridiculously large slice of white chocolate and raspberry cake. While eating we had a ringside view of the guy at the bar, who for the whole time we were there was fully occupied in making smoothies and cocktails from the massive pile of fresh fruit in front of him; he must have got through six pineapples alone, plus countless pomegranates, oranges, and mangoes. We were quite fascinated, particularly by his method of getting the seeds out of a pomegranate (halve it, upend half over a glass, repeatedly whack it with the wooden pestle used for muddling cocktails).

After lunch we walked around the old Jewish quarter. In the process we visited the archaeological museum, discovered that the dogs in Cordoba are literate, and that the cats don't give a damn

Eventually we were weary enough to head back to the station. This time we decided to take the slow train, which is less than half the price of the AVE and takes twice as long. A brief visit to the flat, and then we set out to Eslava, the bar that Aldara's mum Natalia said was her favourite. We spotted it from afar because of the heaving crowd of people outside. No tables of course, and when the waitress showed us her waiting list it had about fifty names on it. At Natalia's second choice the wait was an hour and a half. So we decided to go to the Alameda, which would surely have a spare table at one of the dozens of bars. We picked El Disparate (an Aldara recommendation) because there were two or three empty tables and no milling crowd. Nevertheless the waitress told us there was a waiting list. "Take the lift up to the third floor and wait there," instructed her colleague. So we did and found ourselves on a lovely and unexpected roof terrace with fine views over the Alameda. It was no hardship to sit here for half an hour sipping a rather expensive G&T. When we did get a table the food was really good too, including a lovely salmorejo and perfectly cooked tuna. The total bill was rather eyewatering though ... 45 euros, where we have got used to paying 20-25. Still pinching ourselves that we sat outside to eat at 10 pm at the end of October.

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