Tag: Cordoba

23.05.2019: Review – Pensión El Portillo

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Pensión El Portillo is located conveniently near the Mezquita-Catedral, one of the major tourist hotspots in Córdoba, in the old town. The alleys around the area are small and winding, thus making the place peaceful and quiet, even though there is a road just nearby (with bus routes).

When we made the booking via Hotels.com for the place, we didn’t have a car rented at the moment, so we thought nothing of it, but for future reference – one should inform them before arrival if you are coming with a car; they will try to arrange you a parking spot nearby. Otherwise, there is none. We ended up parking across the river before managing to secure ourselves a spot by the Pensión.

Check in was quick and easy, the lobby was furnished in a typical Córdoba style, very charming indeed. The hotel does not have any lifts as the building itself is believed to be over 100 years old. The lobby is your typical indoor patio and it is clear that the roof has been put in much later than the house itself was built.

The Room

The room was actually really small, however it was very cozy, clean, and comfortable. There was no noise coming from inside the hotel although our room was right next to the staircase, which was a definite added bonus as this was something we were slightly apprehensive at first.

The room has a wardrobe, air conditioner, a dresser, night stands on each side of the comfortable bed, and two chairs to sit on. We used the chairs to sit on the small Juliet balcony overlooking the small plaza just outside the front door, a nice, quiet time with a glass of vino.

As it is with many rooms we have stayed in, there is a lack of power outlets near the bed, so if you are used to charging your phone whilst sleeping, prepare to leave it further away, or have a longer charging cord so you can keep it nicely on either of the night stands.

But as the room was small, it posed logistical problems for our luggage as we had everything with us (including a big suitcase we just bought from Fuengirola), and for me this was a definite downside. Having wheeled the bag around before arriving to the hotel room and then having to place it on your bed is not exacly my idea of keeping the bed clean, but on the other hand, there was a bedspread, so you don’t have to place it on the bed linens.

The Bathroom

The bathroom was clean and quite spacious, but no bidet. The shower cabinet was cleverly designed to take about 1/4 of the whole bathroom space, giving you good space to have a proper shower. The Pensión also provided shampoo and shower gel in sachets, and bars of soap to wash your hands with. This is a small gesture that we both really like over the wall-attached dispensers that you can see in many places around Europe nowadays.

The Verdict

The next time we venture out to Córdoba, the Pensión El Portillo is the first place we are going to check for availabilities. The location makes it perfect base for the exploration of the old town, and the surroundings. Knowing that they have two reserved car parking spots nearby makes it even more enticing (even though I suspect that other hotels around the area offer same kind of service).

Even though the room was small, it didn’t feel claustrophobic. Instead, the size of the room allowed the air conditioner to cool down the room quite fast, and it was kept of a steady temperature even during the night.

Check-out time was convenient, as it is not too early in the morning, but instead allows time to wake up before having to rush out of the door. We, on the other hand, had to depart earlier than the check-out time was as we needed to drive back to Málaga airport to return our car before the flight but that posed no problems either.

 

22.05.2019: The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Even if you are not into history, the great Mezquita-Catedral is a must-see place in Córdoba. The 14 400 sq meter building has seen it’s fair share of the Spanish history, as it was first built as a small church by the Visigoths during the Roman reign. When the Muslims conquered the Iberian peninsula, the Caliph Abd ar-Rahman I purchased half of the church for the Muslim community’s Friday prayers, and later, in AD 784 purchased the rest of the church to set up a mosque. Over the centuries it was extended twice, bringing it to the form you can see it today.

Patio de los Naranjos

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

Even when you enter the Patio de los Naranjos, the outdoor garden area surrounding the Mezquita-Catedral, it is quite obvious that this place wasn’t built to be a church, or a cathedral, but for something else. Even when the hustle and bustle of the daily tourist masses started, the gardens still felt tranquil, and you can easily lose yourself in thought when walking around.

The patio is also the place where, during the time when the Mezquita was still a mosque, the Muslims would perform the ablution (wudu) before going inside the mosque to perform the prayers.

At one corner of the patio is the 54 meter tall bell tower, where you have fantastic views over the city of Córdoba. Of course this requires you to utilise your leg muscles as you have to climb up to the tower. The cost for this is only 2€ per person, and this allows you to have possibly some of the best holiday snaps of the city. But you have to be “an early bird”, as the tickets usually sell out quite early in the day. And remember to time your visit right, as the church bells toll quite often…
Anyway, it might not come as a surprise to anyone when you find out that the bell tower actually used to be a minaret for the great mosque, and in its heyday this minaret was copied all over the Muslim Al-Andalus.

Inside the Mezquita-Catedral

First things first. When you come to any holy place, such as a church, temple, or a mosque, please be respectful enough to follow the rules of the place. 

The first thing that we noticed when entering the Mezquita was the serenity of the vast place. As we were there shortly after 8.30 on the Wednesday morning, the entrance was free of charge (normally 10€ per person). Despite the early time, there were still many people around, but the size of the place just seems to make everyone disappear (unless you try to take a photo – then everyone seems to congregate in the same spot).

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

During the restoration work of the Mezquita, they uncovered the original Visigoth / Roman era floors and mosaics, which are now visible through a floor window as pictured above. It is wonderful that something as beautiful and intricate has survived for over 1500 years and now that it has been uncovered, it can be viewed in such detail.

But it is not the only place in the Mezquita where there are beautiful mosaics. In the area of the Mihrab, a prayer niche, at the southern end of the Mezquita is more of the beautiful mosaics.

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The Mihrab (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

These are actually a gift from the emperor of Byzantium, from whom the then Caliph asked for a mosaicist, who could imitate the works in the great mosque of Damascus. The Christian emperor of Byzantium didn’t just send the person, but also 1600 kgs of gold mosaic cubes that subsequently were used to create this wall.

And of course the visit to the Mezquita wouldn’t be anything if you didn’t pay attention to the most well-known feature of the place. The beautiful red-and-white arches that you can see in all the souvenier materials of Córdoba.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The Mezquita-Catedral is definitely a must-see place. It may not be as grand as the Alhambra in Granada, but at the same time one has to remember that the Mezquita is not a palace or a fortress, it used to be a church turned and rebuilt to be a mosque conquered to be a cathedral, a house of God. But it will still take your breath away and make you feel that one step closer to the Creator.

21.05.2019: To Córdoba

It is time to say adios to the Costa del Sol and head inland, to the historic city of Córdoba, a city which has stood there on the banks of river Guadalquivir at least since 8th Century BC. Slightly longer than, let’s say, Helsinki for instance.

At first we planned to take a bus from Málaga, as ALSA had some really affordable tickets for the routes (Málaga – Córdoba – Málaga Airport) for the dates we wanted. But when we decided to book the car, it changed our plans. This, of course, allows us to take our time to drive to places and gives us a bit more flexibility.

 

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

The difference of the landscape between the coastal area of Málaga and when you head inland is very stark, as the mountainous areas seem to start immediately after turning the car towards Córdoba.

(C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

If you are heading to Córdoba from Málaga area, there are a few options for the roads. And as Spain has road tolls, we of course opted to take the free roads, which add a few minutes to the trip, as A-45 is a free road after all.

Arriving Cordoba

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The Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (C) Two Queens Travel Blog 2019

After crossing the river Guadalquivir and following the directions from the GSP Lady we get our first glimpse of the building we wanted the most to see here in Córdoba; the Mezquita-Catedral.

And of course the GPS Lady wants to lead us directly to our destination, which unfortunately is located in a pedestrian zone, as our hotel is in the Old Town (conveniently located in the vicinity of the Mezquita). So we end up driving on small streets and trying to find another way to our pad.

So a bit of warning, if you have decided to book a hotel from the old town area; do not try to drive there! You should definitely contact the hotel beforehand and ask how and where to park before you arrive.

We ended up parking the car on the other side of the river and walking the 800 meters to the hotel. But in retrospect, it was worth it. Also, when we checked in, the receptionist lady (who might also be the owner?) advised us that there actually were two parking spots, out of which one was available, allocated for the hotel, so we ended up moving the car there! Which was even more convenient!