Travels in Europe, continued

We did Toledo as a day trip from Madrid – now that’s the sort of place we came to see! An ancient fortified town perched high on a hill, packed with interesting churches, Moorish castles, sword makers, an El Greco museum and so on. We toured a shop turning out swords and jewelry – we watched the guy scratching a channel in the steel and then hammering in a gold filigree thread. Of course, we then decided we absolutely must have a dagger of hand-made Toledo steel, along with about 10 pairs of earrings.

Toledo church Toledo craftsman
Toledo street Toledo street
Toledo street Trashed in Toledo

Next, down to Cordoba. We just spent a couple of hours there on the way to Seville, but it was very remarkable. We visited la Mesquita, a huge Mosque some of whose pillars were actually reused Roman pillars. After the Catholics booted out the Moors, they built a Cathedral inside the Mosque – a large and lavish structure designed to show off how much better the Christians are than the Moslems. It is impressive, but the consensus is that putting it there was a travesty – one of the Spanish monarchs remarked that they had defaced something unique in the world just to create something relatively commonplace.

La Mesquita
Outside the Juderia

Seville was perhaps our favorite city in Spain. We stayed at the Hotel Becquer, which was luxurious and friendly and not too expensive. The main attractions are the Cathedral with its Moorish tower, la Giralda, and the Alcazar, the old Moorish palace. The Alcazar was stunning, with rooms of amazing tapestries and, above all, the graceful courtyards and gardens.

La Giralda La Giralda bells Girls by cathedral

Columbus's tomb

Tapestry in the Alcazar Alcazar courtyard
Alcazar arch Alcazar gardens
Outside the Alcazar Seville Universite

We had planned to spend a night in Algeciras and then take the ferry for a day trip to Tangiers in Morocco. This would have allowed us to bag Morocco, but only in a trivial sense, since by all reports, Tangiers has nothing to compare with the splendors of Fez and Rabat. The guidebook also warned us about being deluged by hustlers and beggars, so we decided that another night in Seville would be a lot more pleasant.

Next, we went to Marbella on the Costa del Sol for three days of rest and relaxation after the rigors of so much sightseeing. We were staying at an expensive beach resort which turned out to be some miles outside Marbella, so we felt rather isolated and a bit trapped within the confines of the resort. On top of this, on the first day we overdid the sunbathing, so the prospect of staying on two more days was quite unappealing, so we packed up and headed for Grenada.

Duck a l'orange Killing the bear

Grenada is the only Spanish city where we encountered obvious weirdos and winos – and close to our hotel, too. One wall right by our hotel had some splendid graffiti, including one of a man shooting a teddy bear in the head – I had to get a photo of that one! The modern city looked fairly drab but the old city was a charming warren of narrow cobbled streets. On one occasion, when we took a taxi back from a restaurant, the driver had to fold back the side mirrors in order not to scrape them against the walls on either side.

The big attraction of Grenada is the Alhambre, a walled city high up on a hill that contains several magnificent palaces built to house the rulers of Grenada, both Moorish and Catholic. Washington Irving actually lived in the great Moorish palace when he wrote the Tales of the Alhambre. We rented audioguides which provided descriptions of the rooms in Irving’s own words.

On July 9th, we got up early, packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. It was too early to have breakfast in the hotel and so the management recommended the Café Futboll nearby, which was open 24 hours a day. As we approached it, the noise level increased alarmingly and the girls began to fear for their safety. I poo-pooed these concerns and insisted that we take a table, commenting that these were merely honest working folk preparing for the day ahead. However, Louise pointed out that it was Sunday and in any case many of the patrons did not seem to be dressed for work. We looked more closely and noticed that one lady was wearing a floor-length white gown, the bottom third of which was filthy. Several guys were wearing tuxes and one was clutching a life-size inflatable doll. We concluded that this was the residue of a wedding that had taken place one or more days before. We breakfasted on churros, a sort of continuous feed doughnut that was quite good but very oily and gave Louise severe indigestion.

Lion courtyard in the Alhambra
Maddi at the Alhambra Alhambra wall
Toni at the Alhambra Alhambra wall

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