Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Córdoba, Spain: Fiesta de Los Patios

Synopsis: Fresh off La Féria in Sevilla, still questing along and hitting all the major fiestas and events. Next on the list: los patios de Córdoba, a contest where inhabitants decorate their patios (courtyards) with flowers, plants, and other garden-related fashionable items. I found a host on couchsurfing for three nights, and then the last night I'll stay in a hostel. Found a good deal on the train, too!

In such a hot place, it makes sense they would celebrate things that are cool
In such a hot place, it makes sense they would celebrate such a cool thing



Day 1: The ever-generous Mariasun, takes me to the train station in the morning. About six hours and two trains later, I'm in Cordoba. Hector, my host from couchsurfing, picks me up at the train station and takes me to his house. There, I meet his sister, Marina, and his parents, Nuria and Antonio. We have lunch together at the house and get to know one another. They are a wonderful family, very nice and friendly, and everything is in Spanish, just the way I like it.

At 6pm I head out on my first round of patio sight-seeing with two excellent guides, Marina and her boyfriend, Alvaro. We hit the Santa Marina/San Augustin route since it is closest to the house. We see many beautiful patios, plus the iconic statue of the lady watering flowers. Marina buys some homemade corteza de cerdo, which is more delicious type of pork rind. Then, we find our way to Plaza de Tendillas, the central square, and walk around a bit before heading back by Plaza de Colon. The entire time we are having great conversation and Marina is single-handedly ensuring my ear adjusts to the Cordovan accent. 

Finally, we go to the house to shower and change before going to the movies to see Los Vengadores (The Avengers). After the movies, Hector and I go to a few bars and hang out with some of his friends.

Thoughts: This is my first trip traveling alone since Riga, Latvia. At the train station, some people stepped off to smoke, but the security guard told them it was prohibited, and they were literally smoking the cigarette as hard and fast as they could, as they were throwing it in the trash, with their faces practically in the garbage, before letting go of the cigarette. I hope never get addicted to anything that bad. 

It's so hot in Córdoba. The high is 41°C. Nuria is so sweet, and she gave me a pastelon cordobes (like a big cookie) to take home and share with the Linzoain's. I totally understand why there are patios, because it is hot outside and the patios are so much cooler. Everywhere you look there are tourists with their noses buried in maps, looking for more patios to see. Super Cor Express is first Spanish store I've seen open past 12am. 


Family lunch with homemade delicacies and good Spanish conversation
Family lunch with homemade delicacies and good Spanish conversation 

The family's patio
The family's patio

Marina, Alvaro y yo - Patio Hunters 2015
Marina, Alvaro y yo - Patio Hunters 2015

The (handstand) patios were very impressive
The (handstand) patios were very impressive

Day 2: Sleep in so I don't get to go to the mosque for free in the morning (you have to be there before 930am). Hector and I head out for a typical Andalusian breakfast: tostada con jamón pizcos, aceite y tomate (toast with diced cured ham, olive oil and tomato sauce).

Walk to the historic center with intention to see some patios, but almost all have long lines so we only see two. Then, we head to the  alcazar. From there, we cross the roman bridge, over the rio Guadalquivir. We are hungry so we grab some drinks (in Córdoba, tinto de verano is called "valgas") and authentic Cordovan lunch at Bar Moriles near park Juan Carlos I. We eat rabo de toro (bull's tail), berenjenas a la miel (fried eggplant with honey), boquerones fritos (little fried fish), and japuta en adobo (normal-sized fried fish).

We head to the mesquita (mosque), the largest in Europe, and the third largest in the world (I've been to the 2nd largest as well). As we are approaching, a guy greets me in Arabic and asks me if I'm muslim. I say no. We continue in, and Hector gets free entrance because he is from Córdoba, but I have to pay 8€. Inside is quite large and at the very center is the converted area that is a cathedral now. Hector shows me things in the mosque that I would not have seen otherwise. When we leave the mosque, I'm asked again, by a different guy, if I'm muslim. The guy explains that he is a guide who gives private tours, specifically to muslims. 

We continue on to see some more patios, and at the next entrance, Hector gets us VIP tickets to see all the patios (later we find out that everyone gets these passes). We follow along the Juderia route, and stop at the Casa Arabe and check it out. Then, we walk through the Jewish quarter. We go to the patio that won first place around 830pm and the guy at the door says his scanner battery is dead so he can't scan our papers, but to go in anyway. Then he says he "feels like a Spanish worker, because he isn't doing anything." I guess they can say it and its okay. 

After a couple hours of patios, we call it a day and head to a grocery store so I can buy ingredients for breakfast for the next two days. From there we head to Gran Bar restaurant at Plaza de las Tendillas where we have front row seats to watch the basketball euro league finals on a big screen tv, while enjoying dinner. After dinner, we head to Plaza de Cordedero for drinks and to hang out with one of Hector's friends. Then we meet up with some other friends and get ice cream before heading home.

Thoughts: Some restaurants, like the one we went to, will fill up your water bottle for free (courtesy water). In the morning the patios had super long lines, lots of old people, and red cross volunteers everywhere. On the weekends you have to reserve ticket to see patios, however they had passes at the entrances for people who didn't have them. Kinda defeats the point of reserving passes.

It's funny to hear how the Spanish from different parts of Spain think about each other. I heard so much about the people in Andalusia from the northerners, and now I'm hearing the other side. Hector is quite knowledgeable about the city and has some interesting stories and insights to the city. Thanks to our timing, we didn't wait in any lines today. The weather is amazing, even at night.


That is a big piece of bread
That is a big piece of bread

Flaggin' in the gardens of the alcazar
Flaggin' in the gardens of the alcazar

Hector takes good photos. But, then again, I do make all photos look good.
Hector takes good photos. But, then again, I do make all photos look good.

From the top of the alcazar
From the top of the alcazar

With the patio princesses promoting pleasing plants and propagating pretty patios
With the patio princesses promoting pleasing plants and propagating pretty patios (it doesn't have to make sense, I just like alliterations) 


The archangel Rafael at every entrance protecting the city and scaring people who are afraid of the dark
The archangel Rafael at every entrance protecting the city and scaring people who are afraid of the dark

Hangin' out with the accordion player on the roman bridge
Hangin' out with the accordion player on the roman bridge


That fried eggplant, though!
That fried eggplant, though!

The two happiest people in the mosque
The two happiest people in the mosque

In addition to the patios contest, there was also a balcony contest, and this was 1st place
In addition to the patios contest, there was also a balcony contest, and this was 1st place


Front row seats for the game
Front row seats for the game

Day 3: Wake up and I make my (in my own) world famous omelettes. We hang out around the house for a bit before heading into the center to go to the Julio Romero de Torres museum. Along the way we swing by el brillante, the Beverly Hills of Córdoba. We drive up to the top of the hill outside the city and see Córdoba in its entirety. It is quite a flat city.

Head down into the city and stop to have a drink overlooking the river and the alcazar and mesquita. Hector's mom calls to invite us to a lunch party, a 25-year wedding anniversary of a family friend, so instead of the museum, we go there. The party in a historic house/covenant, Casa de la Plaza de la Concha, directly across the street from the mesquita. Antonio makes perol de arroz, rice with meat (effectively paella) for the entire party. He is such a joker and teases me saying that the different foods we are eating are from different states in the US.

La calle "de panuelo" Pedro Ramirez, is the smallest street in Cordoba. I do a handstand and an older guy named Paco, sees me and then tries to imitate me and it's hilarious. From there, we head to the 1st national league of Andalusia championship basketball game in a small town, Utrera, about 90 minutes away. The hometown team wins.

Head back to Cordoba and stop at a hole-in-the-wall hot dog joint where you have to ask who is the last person is, instead of queuing. We take the food to go and head back to the house, where Marina is having friends over to celebrate her birthday. We hang out with them for awhile before showering and heading back into the city.

At Plaza de Codedero, there is a free live flamenco show and it is pretty good. We watch the finale before hooking up with some of Hector's friends and hanging out.

Thoughts: People in Spain don't seem to move much. If they are from Córdoba, then they live in Cordoba. Hector has a great knowledge of restaurants and bars. At parties, I love being the new guy or foreigner, because people treat you like a new discovery, some can't stop talking to you and others just smile at a distance because they're too shy.  Nuria is hilarious and so fun-loving. She reminds me of the classic, great mom. The family is super nice and constantly talk to me and share their culture and city with me. It's like I live with tour guides, but in a good way. Cordoba has so many little side streets to walk down and discover new areas. Even Hector is still discovering new streets.

Breakfast of champions. We're living proof
Breakfast of champions. We're living proof


Hangin' on the Winds of Change
Hangin' on the Winds of Change


View from the top
View from the top


video
Virginia is going to be disappointed that I forgot the steps to sevillanas


I decided to be creative in the smallest street...
I decided to be creative in the smallest street...

...and Paco made it look even better
...and Paco made it look even better

Go team! Go Tim? That's what I hear
Go team! Go Tim? That's what I hear

Happy birthday Marina
Happy birthday Marina


Free flamenco concert in the plaza
Free flamenco concert in the plaza

Day 4: Wake up and I make my (in my own) world famous omelettes. Wait, is it groundhog day? We head out early since Hector is going to Granada, and he drops me off near the center on his way. I head to Osio backpackers hostel and get a room for 11,50€. They have a pretty nice solarium on the roof. Check-in is at 1pm so I leave my bag and head out.

Go to see the Julio Romero de Torres museum and museo de bellas artes, that we missed yesterday. The sign at the art museum says 1,50€, but the lady gives me a ticket and says it is free. I don't ask questions. But I did have to pay for the Julio Romero de Torres museum. I see the famous chiquita piconera, among others. He has an interesting painting style and some of his work is actually pretty good.

I decide to try my luck in old town again with the patios, and the lines are twice as long as they were Friday. There are so many people here, trying to see the patios on the last day. There's no way on earth I'm waiting 30 minutes, so I want to stop somewhere to have a drink, but after hanging out with Hector who took me to all the cheap and authentic places, I don't want anything in the tourist area, so I head to the hostel to check-in. On the way back I stumble upon Rey Heredia Veintidos, more patios, where hardly anyone is.

After I check-in, I head out and grab something quick to eat. I walk over to jardines de la victoria and it's quite peaceful, so I decide to read. Reading in the park quickly turns to sleeping in the park. Then, I meet up with Ana, a volunteer that I met at one of the patios. We grab a drink and talk for awhile. She has to catch a train so I head back toward the center after saying goodbye.

Stumble upon Palacio de Orive, another patio. Inspired, I decide to give it one more try and walk back to old town to see the patios. At 8pm, there are hardly any people and I walk straight in or only have to wait in line for a minute or two. I see all of the patios in old town.

After the patios, I stop at La Tranquera for some delicious Argentina food for dinner. At the hostel I go up to the roof where they have the solarium and there is a beautiful view of the mesquita at night.

Thoughts: In the museum they used Google translate for the English because a lot of the verb tenses were wrong. I have a book in my bag so when I'm relaxing I can read, but I never read and just end up people-watching and daydreaming. While at the park there was an older guy and he ran for longer than I was there. He easily ran 1,300 laps around the park. Ana (I want to put her in my blog by name because I want to and not because she threatened me... help me!) is a really cool person and she has already offered to be my guide in Cadiz, when I go. Definitely glad I went back to old town to see the patios.


Even the museums had patios
Even the museums had patios

Loooong lines to see the patios in old town
Loooong lines to see the patios in old town

I love the honesty "la cerveza mas barata de España. Posiblemente sea la tipica exageracion andaluza."
I love the honesty "la cerveza mas barata de España. Posiblemente sea la tipica exageracion andaluza."

This patio won 5th place, but it was the best I saw, and should have been 1st
This patio won 5th place, but it was the best I saw, and should have been 1st

Day 5: Check out of the hostel and head to Plaza de Tendillas for breakfast. I had a free coffee at the hostel, but I'll have another here at Fenix cafe. Whoever sits next to me on the train will surely appreciate the extra energy. I would stay longer, but beggars and red cross keep coming around asking for money. So, I walk towards the train station, but stop in a different part of the lovely jardines de la victoria, to read and people-watch. 

Later, I continue on to the train station, but decide to walk down and back on Avenida de America and enjoy it's parks, before catching the train home.

Thoughts: Osio backpackers had mostly older folks, but since the patios event was over, the hostel was less than 50% occupied. The bed was the most comfortable I've slept on in a hostel.


My final handstand in Córdoba, with Julio
My final handstand in Córdoba, with Julio

Final thoughts: 5 days is plenty to see and do all of Córdoba, plus relax. The patios in old town do seem nicer, or maybe because I had to wait so long to see them? It is warmer in Córdoba at night than it is in the day time in Pamplona. There was free WiFi in parts of the city, but the network wasn't that strong. Córdoba is small enough to walk to most places I wanted to go to, and I didn't use a cab once. 

Like in Sevilla I noticed the Andalusia accent, and even in foreigners who learned their Spanish here. No terminations, no s', no j's, yet spoken just as fast as the rest of Spain. However, Hector articulated very well when explaining things about the city. Overall, great trip, and I recommend the city to anyone looking for small town with big excitement.


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Location: Córdoba, Córdoba, España

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