By the 8th day of our Grand Circle tour, we had visited Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Cordoba, and Torremolinos, with a side trip to the very British Gibraltar. Next on our itinerary was Malaga, but Mike and I decided to engage in an Australian tradition and “Chuck A Sickie”. For those of you that didn’t have the pleasure of spending two weeks with an Australian Global Volunteer, that term roughly translates to “Playing Hooky”.
Although the Costa del Sol averages over 300 days of sunshine per year, today was the first time I needed to wear my sun hat.
I’m sure our fellow travelers had a perfectly marvelous day enjoying the sights of Malaga, and the home hosted lunch in a nearby village as much as Mike and I enjoyed spending the morning strolling along the beach, taking in sights like this.
I would have loved to see what this tribute to Elvis looked like before the rain decapitated him.
But what about those other glorious cities? Don’t worry, I’ll do a little flashback, with visuals.
We got just enough of a taste to determine that one of these days, we will be back to those lovely cities, and next time, we will linger.
Our time in Toledo was limited to a few hours enroute to Granada. The old city sits 6 escalator rides above the new city, and let me tell you, we were all very grateful we didn’t have to climb all the way up the hill in the rain.
Our stroll through Toledo’s Jewish quarter ended at the oldest synagogue in Europe. This unique building was constructed by Moors, because at that time they were reputed to be the best builders. Of course, they were not familiar with synagogue construction, so the Jews ended up with a building that had a distinctive Muslim flavor.
For anyone planning a trip to Toledo, please be aware it is much more than amazing history, great food and panoramic vistas. Thrill seekers, take a look.
One of the many things that I love about traveling with Grand Circle and OAT is the unexpected stops along the way. We had a bathroom and refreshment break in Puerto Lápice, a little village in Castille La Mancha, where we discovered a three room Don Quixote museum.
Because I spent so much time in the museum, I had to order my glass of wine “to go”, which I proudly did in Spanish. An important phrase: “para llevar”. But the effect was spoiled, just a bit, when the bartender started speaking to me in perfect English.
Not surprisingly, most of our time in Granada was spent at the Alhambra. Okay, so we all know that Washington Irving wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, but how many know that he also was instrumental in saving the Alhambra from being destroyed? His “Tales of the Alhambra” caused the Spaniards to take a second look at what is now the most visited attraction in Spain.
Alhambra ( Al = “the” in Arabic ) is a palace, a fortress, a small city, overlooking Granada. Unfortunately, when Napoleon conquered Spain, his soldiers removed all of the furniture, rugs and tapestries, ( I believe the correct term is “looted”) but the walls, ceilings and courtyards give you a hint of the grandeur that once existed. Check out the ceiling in the women’s quarters.
The exteriors of Moorish buildings were very plain. All of the ornamentation was inside, in the private spaces, like these beautiful courtyards.
The Moors ruled Spain for almost 800 years, and their impact on the Spanish language continues today. Many places begin with “Gua”, like Guadalcanal, Guatemala, Guanajuato — all derived from the Arabic word for water.
Another city with beautiful Moslem architecture is Cordoba. The Roman temple/Church/Mosque/Cathedral is an architectural wonder. Walking through its spacious interior, you literally travel through time, starting with the preserved Roman tiles, below the existing floor—
to the former mosque, built with recycled columns, which was wisely preserved by the Catholics —
and now is in the center of the mosque.
Cordoba is magnificent!
I guess some place has to be the least favorite, and for me, Gibraltar gets that honor. Maybe it was because the limestone WW2 tunnels were dripping water, and were dark and gloomy,
as was the weather.
Whatever the reason, I was not as wowed as I was by the other places we’d visited. Even the Barbary apes were a disappointment. We only saw four.
Two more days in Spain, three in Portugal, and then we are back to the USA.