Friday, March 31, 2017

Flamenco Guitars and much, much more - It's Friday

FRIDAY: From Algodonales to Ronda 

I tossed and turned all night with the feeling of disconnect without internet.  Imagining any number of reasons why...I thought I'd uploaded too much data, so I set my alarm for midnight to check.  Nope.  Back to tossing and turning again.  By morning, I knew what the problem was:  the landlady's router needed to be reset.  And I was right.  A sense of relief washed over me when I caught her at breakfast, she reset it and poof.  I'm back in business.  She is adorable and so eager to please.  My character, Callie, will definitely stay at Casa Baraka when she gets to Spain (smile).  Marina (my landlady) was delighted to hear it and said she would treat her well (another smile).

Since Jose Luis was ill and and the flamenco shop may or may not be open, I weighed my choices after connecting with loved ones.  The bus left at 11:00, 1:30 and in the afternoon at 4:30 and 7:00.  What to do?  I needed coffee, so first off, I headed for the beautiful kitchen and gazed into space, seeing the white houses and blue sky through the grilled door from the living area.  What a place!

When I checked emails afterward, I was stunned to find three emails from Jose Luis.  He felt better.  Could I come eat dinner with him and his wife (last night)?  Then the next one was, please tell me where you are and I'll pick you up and we can eat breakfast (too late).  He'd called the owner of the flamenco guitar shop (his good friend, Valeriano Bernal) and the shop expected us today!  Wow...I gulped my coffee down, shot into the bedroom for clothes and sent him an email -- "Yes, I'll meet you   on the patio cafe by the church...going now."

If I hadn't figured out the internet, I would have taken that 11:00 bus.  Serendipity again.  I'm blessed.  I packed up, rolled my bag down the little Calle Piedra and found my favorite spot under the tree.  After ordering my cafe con leche, (no espresso this time), I people watched for about twenty minutes.  When Jose Luis came up behind me, I was surprised.  No car.  It was so nice to finally meet the man who I'd only met over the internet, photos and the video I sent to him explaining my Spanish history.

Off we went toward the Guitarras Flamenco shop.  He rolled my bag and half way down the winding street, he pointed to a hotel.  What?  Oh, his friend owned it and we'd stash my bag there.  Good thought.  The owner and his very cute son grabbed the bag and we were on our way again.

This time, the shop was open and we walked right in.  This is a family shop.  Señor Bernal's daughter, Cheri, was behind the counter and she called her brother, Rafael, who came downstairs immediately.  They were both happy to let me take photos and answer questions (Jose Luis helped me with the conversation, obviously).  The entrance into the shop was intricate and when I pointed to the arched area, Cheri pointed out that it was the shape of a guitar.  On second glance, it made so much more sense.

Rafael guided us up a long stairwell into the manufacturing part of the shop.  I was awestruck as I saw flamenco guitars in various stages of creation.  He explained each step to me (and I  If they rush it, they can complete one in about one month.  He said the cypress wood needs to be seasoned slowly.  Then, I saw the beautiful decoration around the soundboard and he showed me the intricately created piece sliced thin and inlaid into a groove.

When I thought I couldn't be more in awe, he led us back downstairs and he picked up a guitar to let me hear the sound.  There is a special sound made from the strings, bridge and fingerboard of a flamenco guitar that can't be heard on another instrument.  Once he began to strum, my feet began to move (good thing I was sitting down.)

When he offered me the chance to play (what?)  I took it.  They were as eager to share their passion with me as I was to receive it.  What an amazing turnaround from yesterday!

Back to the hotel to get my bag and take a photo of me in the patio entrance while Jose Luis ordered us coffees.
My head was reeling with the Spanish words fighting to get out, stay awake and respond. We did pretty well, I must say, and I'm still pleasantly surprised.  Afterward, we started walking again.  When he headed us up the street toward the bus stop where I'd walked twice yesterday, I noticed the beautiful house with the bright flowers and patio behind a black grilled fencing and smiled.  It was my favorite on the street.  When he stopped to fit his key in the lock, I lost it.  I could not believe my luck.  I was going inside!!

His wife, Maria Luisa, opened the door with a smile, kisses on both my cheeks and swung her arm to invite me in.  When Jose Luis told her I could speak some Spanish, she promptly sat me down and started chattering.  Ok, I won't say I understand her completely but she was so animated, I smiled like I did.  And then, I admitted to her...  She was delightful.

Within a few minutes, Jose Luis was back and we left again.  This time in a car (narrow streets!!).  He drove me to the top of the town to show me where many inhabitants filled their water containers from the spring water that runs out of the hills.
Amazing.  There were a lot of people there and the water tasted fresh and wonderful.  Afterward, back in the car and we drove to the other end of town where he showed me the fountain (fuente) at the bottom of the town.  It was next to the public laundry area (now antigua and not used for anything sadly) where the women of the village used to wash all their clothes just like the area I saw in Almogia last week.

Up, up and farther up he drove afterward to the small antigua church on the hill, Ave Maria.  The view of the village was lovely and of course, he wanted to photograph with the white houses in the background.  Looking inside the windows, we saw fresh flowers.  He seemed surprised but we think it's because Easter is on its way.
Back into town to pick up his grandson from school, a walk half way home and we saw little Nicholas' mother, so Jose Luis handed him over and he led me across the street again to Bar Conijo where I had my tinto verano with límon yesterday.  He treated me to a wonderful lunch of salad and chicken (that's what I recognized on the menu, remember?)  Oh, and another tinto verano with límon, of course... and olives that were so good that I kept each one in my mouth before eating it just to get the full enjoyment.

Ah, the day couldn't get better, could it?  We chatted (yes, we did) all the way home again.  I learned he preserves his own olives and Maria Luisa had two jars waiting for me and stuffed them inside my bag.  Then, all four of us sat (Jose Luis, Maria Luisa, their daughter and me...) outside the arched, black grilled doorway..and we spoke Spanish (mixed with English).   The beautiful patio was filled with flowers bursting from colorful pots,.  I smelled the citrus trees that hovered below us and watched a shade flap above the colored ceramic tiles.

When it was time to go, I was so happy that Jose Luis didn't just drop me off at the bus stop.  He waited with me and every time a bus drove in (3 of them) he asked if it was going to Ronda?  No.  When the fourth bus arrived (late) it was a yes.  He put my bag onto the bus, kissed me on both cheeks and off he went.  I was in Ronda within forty-five minutes, the taxi driver dropped me off at the Hotel Colón and here I am.  The room is tiny, but clean, quiet and beautifully decorated.

Tomorrow, a train ride to Malaga and the frightening aspect of renting a manual-shift rental car.
PUEDO HACER ESTO.  (I can do this).

No Rush, Big Quiet and No Flamenco Guitars

THIS IS JOURNAL FROM THURSDAY -- I lost internet for 14 hours -- so two posts today (Friday)

I woke up slowly this morning in Algodonales and felt deliciously lazy.  The sun rises later here in the mountain province of Cadiz since I left Andalusia, so sunshine didn’t snap me awake.  It was quiet.  No roosters crowing outside my window.  Only one dog barking far away.  No bell gonging from a bell tower.  After I pulled myself out of this gorgeous bed, I made coffee and warmed my hands around the ceramic cup and sat on a chair to actually make time to enjoy the silence.  I watched birds flying around the patio near the orange trees that lean over the white wall near my window.  An asparagus fern fronds blew ever so slowly in the breeze.  And me?  I am sitting right in the middle of peace and simplicity in this place, this time.  I am finding all the little corners of my mind that have been up and down the last few months.  No rush today.  The feeling is so beautiful that I know I’m experiencing a gentle make-over.  I want to slow down so I can enjoy the simple joys of living when I return home again.  An epiphany?  Possibly.

Since the main event today is talking with the flamenco guitar people on Calle Ubrique, I was ready with a map, my questions and camera.  No worries about getting lost today.   Slow but sure, I showered and realized I would really be very relaxed today:  no hair dryer, so going natural without mousse in my hair was kind of a nice idea.  By now the sun was out and my hair would dry during my walk, no fluffs, no problem.  

Ready to roll again...down the stairs.
Algodonales is such a charming, white town nestled in the shade of the Sierra de Líjar mountains.  Its streets are lined with orange and lemon trees and tinkle to the murmur of its twelve fountains (tourist site words). Going forth into the village was now more natural for me, I walked with confidence and was delighted that every single person I passed responded or initiated, “hola” or “buenas días.”  I passed houses with tiled porches, ornate wooden doors, metal doors with key holes and a large round knob, grilled windows and ornately-framed windows.  I passed a farmer’s market where women wheeled their baskets, clearly on a mission.  Oranges, lemons, bananas, green vegetables, peppers, corn.  An abundance of vegetables and fruits covered several tables.  And shoes.  I certainly didn’t need any of them even though the silver sparkly slip on tennis shoes caught my eye.  Nope.  Didn’t buy any.

When I got closer to the flamenco shop, I stopped and stared.  There was a man meticulously fitting rocks into a wall in front of his house.  His wife was busily stirring up the cement in a wheel barrow.  They were both laughing with the joys of camaraderie.  I loved it. 

When I saw the flamenco guitar shop, I was very relieved.  I snapped a photo from across the street and then slipped into the doorway.  To my dismay, there was a CERRIDO sign on the door (closed).  What?  The hours were 10:30-1:30 and it was 11:45. I know time is “stretchy” in Spain, but this was not good at all.  Today was the day!  Big sigh.  I took photos and rearranged my leaving inside my mind so that just maybe I could go back tomorrow (Friday).  I would just catch a later bus…if there was a later bus back to Ronda.

Since lunch (almuerzo) is served at 2:00 here in Spain, I decided to explore the village that has become like a little haven to me.  I have never felt so safe in Spain except in Los Nuñez with Lyn and family.  Here, though, I am alone and it is comfortable, easy, quiet, quaint and safe.  It sort of feels like home.  Up and down (literally) the streets I went. 

I saw white houses, brass key locks, door knockers shaped like a hand and stone walls and walkways in front of or surrounding these tidy houses.  One thing I especially noticed was many houses have two doors.  One at the street and a little foyer/patio and the house door.  On the street, the outer door is left ajar as if to say, “welcome.”  It reminded me of the same token as the UK and in Colonial Williamsburg and their pineapples on posts or doorways (like Bobbie and Mike’s in Almogia). Everything is built together like townhouses and the mountains are its backbone.  When I looked toward the mountains, I saw a group of paragliders in the distance.  I’d read that paragliding conditions were internationally famous here in the Sierra de Líjar.  What a sight to behold!

My morning apple (breakfast) was long gone and hunger pangs were getting noisier by the minute.  The streets began to curve upward and the cobblestones were bumpier beneath my feet.  And when I saw the bench, it reached out and grabbed me.  It was here that I stayed for about an hour to watch the lives of Algodonales go by.  Barely a wisp of a breeze, very few clouds and the faraway sounds of a barking dog were my only companions.  Far away from the busy clutter and noise was giving me exactly what I’d hoped for during my Spanish hiatus.  The only piece of me that was missing were the very special people I’d left behind in America.

Finally 2:00 (14:00) found me back at the Mesón Tendido Cero restaurant.  Lyn told me restaurants often offer a Menu del día, so I asked and yes, they did.  The waiter nodded and I said, “Sí” but then he wanted to know which one on each category?  I understood “ensalada” and “pollo” so that’s what I ordered:  salad with tuna and chicken.  It was all delicious.  When I placed that chicken onto my tongue, I felt a thousand points of pleasure.  There was lemon and garlic oil, black pepper and…I have no idea what else.  And patatas fritas (french fries).  I drank “agua con gas” (fizzy water) and then when I could eat no more, I ordered “cafe con leche” instead of dessert.  You see, I’m off dessert for a while… When it arrived, it arrived in a sweet little cup, smaller than I’d ever received before.  (WOW).  Espresso?  I took a breath and sipped.  Yep, espresso with a creamy top.  I drank every drop.  I might have grown a couple hairs on my chest in the process, but when in Spain…(drink the coffee, not grow hairs).

After my lovely lunch, I walked to the bus/cafe to check the timetables for tomorrow’s bus back to Ronda.  The sun was warm on my back, children played in the square and mother’s beckoned with children laughing in return.  They skipped, laughed and played.  One little boy held a gun in front of him and it pulled me back a bit.  The bus will leave at 4:00 and 7:00 pm, so if I go at 3:00 and wait, hopefully I will get one of them. 

Of course, by now it was about 4:15.  I was done exploring for the day.  I was a little bummed about the flamenco shop, so when I saw Bar Canijo (my landlady suggested was the best local place in Algodonales), I slipped into a chair and started writing my daily journal.  I asked for sangria but she shook her head, no.  She offered me a “tinto verano con limón” and I recognized it because Lyn had given me that drink.  It is red wine mixed with lemonade.  ($1.20) Yum.  It tasted like sangria, looked like sangria and went down like sangria. (smile) 

I never feel rushed when I am at a table eating or having my sangria here.  Often I have to look up the server to pay my bill.  Today, I saw a car double parked next to the bar without a driver inside.  I also saw a man at a table across from me leisurely sipping a beer and chomping on a small bowl of nuts…at least fifteen minutes went by as I scribbled in my notebook.  When he left, he walked across the street to his car —- the one double parked!  The ways are so different here.

I mentioned the history of Algondonales and the May 2, 1810 date I see everywhere.  This was a very important time in their history…Algodonales was pillaged and burnt by the French and it was awarded its village status in 1817 in recognition of its inhabitants’ opposition to Napoleon’s army during the War of Independence. 

Tonight I would go without dinner again.  I was filled up from my chicken and salad.  I did, however, snag three pieces of bread and wrapped them in a napkin.  And then when I finished my wine, I dumped the nuts into another napkin.  My dinner was perfect, bread and nuts.  Now, I have been fighting with the internet since I returned to my room and began typing up my notes.  Trying not to feel anxious about it, they will just have to wait until I get to Ronda if it doesn’t work.  But feeling a bit disconnected from my loved ones doesn’t feel good at all. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A train, a bus and a charming white town, ALGODONALES

Despite a slight tugging at my heart this morning (Wednesday), I left Córdoba with a smile on my face.  When the taxi driver wove his way around the maze of streets on my way to the train station, I laughed.  Because my last memory of the great city is seeing an old woman (older than me, I think) texting on her cell phone, oblivious to the traffic and life around her.  It's not just for the young! We oldsters are trying to get a beat on techy devices!

Today was a very different adventure for me.  I experienced trepidation, anxiety, satisfaction, laughter, exhaustion, panic and elation.  All in one day!  So, I will start at the best place, the beginning.  

When I got to the train station in Ronda, I pinched my ticket firmly in hand, pulled my bag along behind me and found a seat.  I was one hour early, as planned.  People were rushing all over the place, coming and going.  Beside me were two doors.  One was "1 - 2 vía" and the other was "3 - 8"  - I looked at my ticket and my platform was a 4.  The 1-2 door had a security area and the 3-8 didn't.  I knew I had to go through security, but I wasn't on 1 or 2... 

I leaned over to a woman next to me and said, "Hable ingles?"  
"No," she answered.  
So, my Spanish sort of kicked in.  She had pretty blue eyes and I think she was about a hundred years old.  And then she started chattering and pointed to both doors (really?).  
"Es necesario a llevar mi maleta de la seguridad," I said.  (It's necessary to take my luggage to security.) 

Again she pointed to door number 1.  It was like watching that game show years ago and I was afraid I'd pick the wrong one. I had to think.  So, I went to the bathroom and lugged everything in with me, of course.  Once inside, I found a young woman and explained my predicament.  Her Spanish was fast and incoherent, so back to the old woman again.  I plopped down and started telling myself...if I was in America, which door would I choose?  Hmmmm...I should go through door number 3-8 because 4 is in there somewhere.  So, I did.  And lucky me, there was a security niche right behind the door hidden behind a wall.  Wow...I was so happy, I tossed on my bag and purse, got through fine and ran for the escalator.  

"Hola!  Hola! Hola!" a woman called to me.  (Oh, my ticket?)  
The escalator was a ramp, not steps.  I had such fun holding my suitcase so it wouldn't get to the bottom without me!  Once down on the train platform, I planted myself firmly in front of Platform 4.
And sat next to a friendly woman eating a breakfast sandwich who spoke English!  We were both relieved, I think.  When her husband pointed to the train, we all got the wrong car.  It said Car 6 but we turned left into Car 10 amid a coach full of teenagers.  (Where were cars 7, 8 or 9?).  When their chaperone steered us into the next car, we were happy to change cars.

The couple sat behind me.   I sat next to a young man and it was a quiet ride toward Ronda.  When I heard the knocking, I thought someone was trying to get through the glass door that separated the cars.  I ignored it and so did everyone else.  When the knocking sounded a little louder, I still ignored it.  Surely someone would open the door.  And then the knocking was VERY loud.  I turned around in my seat and a Spanish gentleman was tapping on the toilet door, obviously talking to someone inside.  Interesting, I thought.  

When I realized someone was locked inside the toilet, my curiosity perked up.  When the man next to me said, "I think that's your friend locked in the loo."

I glanced behind me and my new friend's husband was reading a book, oblivious to the calamity.  I jumped up, got his attention and we both went back to the toilet...  The old Spaniard took off in one direction to find the train steward and the husband went to the front of the train.  I stood there and tried to get the lock open and talked to her through the door.  I think she was giggling, but I can't be sure.

When the steward came with the key, we were glad to see him slip it into the lock.  The husband was back.  The door wouldn't open.  This time, it was the husband who stood at the door talking to her and the steward left again.  He returned with a screwdriver in his hand and a tool kit.  I tried so darned hard not to laugh, but by then everyone on the coach was laughing at this poor woman's predicament (even her husband, I think).  The screwdriver worked.  He removed the entire handle and lock.  When my the woman came out, she was laughing.  My kind of friend (smile).  We both decided that if you are going to get locked somewhere, the bathroom is the best room to do it in...

The farms and mountains of Ronda rose above us and we arrived at the station on time.  My new friends went one way and I followed signs to the bus station, dragging my roller bag behind me.  I was so pleased with myself when I found it, I bought my 3,3 euro bus ticket and held it in  my hand.  I was thirty minutes early.  By the time it was five minutes before I should be on the bus and there was absolutely no activity there, I knew I was in trouble.  I zipped back into the ticket seller and showed him the time and asked where was my bus?  He jumped up, grabbed my bag in one hand and my hand in his other and trotted us outside again.  The bus at the end was revving its engine and I wasn't on it!  My ticket seller tapped on the windshield, the driver opened the hatch and I was practically pushed up the steps.  Big sigh.  I was on my way to Algodonales.

The bus had six people on board.  When we left Ronda, the driver stopped three times and each time, there was nothing on the side of the road at all.  The passenger got off, waved and we were off again. One town was especially quaint and two others got off.  That left just me.  When the driver stopped at another whitewashed town, I wished it was Algodonales because it looked so inviting.  I glanced at my watch and saw it was 2:00.  It WAS Algodonales.  He didn't say a word and started to leave again.  I raised my arm and yelled (sort of), "Algodonales?"
I jumped up, he opened the hatch and I grabbed my bag (good grief).  I realized I wasn't in the city anymore.  There were women chatting around a bench, but I didn't see Marina, the woman who said she'd be "waiting for me."  After about ten minutes of being the main conversation point to those around me, I suddenly realized she may have meant she was waiting for me at the house, not the bus. So, okay.  I can do this, I thought.  I'll get a taxi.  Since I now have the words, "ayudame" down pretty good (help me), I asked a man where I could find a taxi?  He pointed to the cafe as if I'd asked for a monkey.  Once inside the bus/cafe, the man looked at me the same way.  I smoothed my hair and stood up tall.  Maybe I was looking funny by now?  I had been going through some emotional events...but a young girl came out and I showed her the address to my Air BnB.  She told me to walk down the main street, past the church, across the square, next to the Restaurant Bodeguita and there's my street.  Hmmmm.  Okay, here we go again.  

I had on my light jacket, scarf, pulling my roller bag, backpack purse on my back and my little bag filled with water and apples for later.  It was a little over 70 degrees and it was all up hill.  By the time I saw the church, I couldn't find the Restaurant Bodequita.  By this time, I was sweating, tired and wished I hadn't worn my sparkle shoes.  When the young woman came out of a shop, I nearly lunged toward her.  And found I'd overshot the restaurant and the street by about four blocks.  The sweet girl walked me all the way to the square.  There, a Spaniard saw her pointing me toward the restaurant.  He grabbed my elbow and my bag to lift me up the four stone steps.  (This man-handling stuff was taking me places at least.)  

Okay.  I found the restaurant and the street.  Yep, all uphill again.  I walked until I couldn't anymore.  And then a girl came to my rescue.  I know I sound like I'm lost all the time, but really...?   Marina, my landlady, saw me and she rushed to help me.  When she opened the metal door to lead me UP, I saw a hundred steps and I thought, Oh.  Lord.  No.  

She chattered all the way up the steps as we both lugged up my bag.  Thank goodness I left bag #2 with Lyn in Los Nuñez to pick up on Saturday.  By the time I'd picked each foot up and got to the landing, I was yanking off my coat, scarf, everything (almost) and she pointed out all the things I should know.  She is absolutely delightful.  And then she left so I could faint.  My view is beautiful.  My apartment is more than I could hope for.  Everything is artsy and spotless.

After laying down about fifteen minutes, I was good to go.  I was so surprised to see that about 85 steps had disappeared as I walked downward and counted only 15. (smile).  I wish I could say this was the whole story, but I haven't reached that one other emotion I mentioned at the top of this missive.  Panic.  

I decided to walk down to the square and look for the flamenco shop I am going to visit tomorrow for my book research.  It is only one main street, one square and a small village after all.  It was a nice walk and when I came back toward my street, I sat down and what else?  I found a little bodega (Mesón Tendido Cero) and ordered a chilled glass of sangria.  The trees were filled with chirping birds and I am watching them closely in case I need to cover my glass with my hand.  I didn't want any surprises.  I wrote my post notes in the slight breeze as it ruffled my notebook pages like a lazy hand.  And listened to people chatter around me.  What a nice way to end the afternoon.  I'm sure this place will be Callie's favorite when I write her story.  Now, it was time to get back "home."
"La cuenta, por favor."  (The ticket please.)
The waiter said, "uno, veinte."  
I must have looked like a crazy woman.  "Uno," I asked again.
I was stunned... sangria costs only one and twenty?  (About $1.40) When I told my friend this story this afternoon, he said since it costs one third of that in the city, maybe I should have ordered three.  (smiling of course)

Okay, now the panic story.  I was so bedazzled over the money I saved from the amount I paid in Córdoba and the fancy, beautiful one that Lyn and I had in Benalmádena, that I wasn't thinking straight.  (Good thing I didn't have three).  I'm sure it was the shock, not the sangria... but, I couldn't find the number of my "house."  I was walking up and down the street for about fifteen minutes.  I backed up against one of the buildings in the shade and started laughing, clearly panicked.  When the Spaniard came around the corner and saw me there, he walked away from me fast.  So, I had to call my landlady.  Why are the houses numbered up to 16 and then skip to 27?  I knew I held the key to number 17.  She said I was walking on a parallel street that connected to my baby street.  I was about fifty steps away.  
I have a mystery to solve... What happened on May 2, 1810 in Algodonales?  It is on plaques and murals.
The Guitarras Valeriano Bernal shop is my adventure for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MAGIC moments in Córdoba

I found my muse this morning...a roller shield like mine, except this one has a señorita painted across it...

After getting lost yesterday (Monday), I charged forward today with a cup of cafe con leche para llevar (to go) and felt very American.  I was the only person carrying a cup of coffee on the street! Why do they advertise it (to go ) if nobody does it?  I drank it fast and tossed the cup...   I was ready to roll and neither the narrow streets nor those labyrinths would stop me.  And I made it!  The tour began under cloudy-sunny skies...

Only a baby bump in the road.  There were two tour guides, one spoke Spanish only and one spoke Spanish and English.  I followed the wrong one (really?!) but only for two blocks.  Backtracking quickly, rushing across the street to the same arched doorway I fled through yesterday, I saw the backs of my real tour group.  What?  Back into the labyrinth I went.  But this time, I wasn't alone.  I heard the woman's voice in my "whisper" as they call it, which is a radio receiver.  Her words were staccato bursts.  When she changed from Spanish to English, I almost didn't catch it.  I have never heard a woman talk so fast in both languages...never ever.  

History of Córdoba filled my ears, but it was a duplicate of my Road Scholar tour, so I listened quietly and let my eyes roam in all directions as we stood in the small plaza before heading into the long tunnel-like alleyways.  

First, la Judería, Córdoba's oldest Jewish Quarter, located between the Mesquita and the beginning of the Avenida del Gran Capitán  If you read my post yesterday, you know that's where I got lost in its network of lanes, but this time, we entered small patios, the synagogue, a flowered plaza and I thought of my Jewish friends, Lucie and Jake.  My eyes flit from one corner of the area to the other as I listened to history inside the synagogue and noticed the small brass emblem on the doorway.  I missed the name of it, but I knew it must be important. (A mezuzah?) 
We passed the statue of Maimónides, the Jewish philosopher and doctor.  The guide said folklore tells us to rub his brass feet and a bit of wise-ness rubs off.  Of course, I did that.

And then we walked en mass to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.  It served as a residence of the Inquisition, so the rooms are a bit dreary, but we saw a fascinating display of some fine mosaics from Roman Córdoba inside the chapel.  We heard the history of the wife and the mistress.  The wife had one child and the mistress had ten children... 

The gardens, on the other hand, were FABULOUS.  I didn't see the garden with Road Scholar and this was a place I wanted to stay...just for a little while.  Inside the palace, there was a cold water room, a warm water room and a steamy, hot water room.  The guide said that the Moors bathed five times a day to be clean for prayer times, so the Christians decided to bathe only when needed (?) to separate themselves from Moorish culture.  (crazy)

By now, my body was telling me to stop, sit, eat...I'd missed breakfast (I didn't want to get lost again, so I left early), but the mosque, La Mesquita waited for me (again).  But this time,  a different guide spoke Spanish and English slower and his lecture was quite different from the one I had before.  I am so glad I didn't skip it to look for a chair and food. 
This second tour of the mosque was absolutely fascinating.  How did I miss all this the first time?  Too busy taking photos?  Not listening?  This time, the forest of columns held a new significance for me.  

The top of each column is different from the other.  
Each top was brought to sit on each column by different people.  No column is the same.  
The red in the arches was not paint like in the newer (10th century) but red brick and stunning.  
And a statue with a palm leaf in its left hand signifies victory.  It also signifies the person was a Christian.  But in both Jewish and Moorish traditions, there is also a special significance.  

And the ornate arches?  The numbers 5 and 7 are significant to both the Moors and the Jews.  5: The first five chapters of the bible for Jews and the Five Pillars of Islam for the Moors.  7: is the seven layers of heaven and earth for the Moors and the Menorah for the Jews is the seven-lamp (six branches) Hebrew lamp stand.  There were many more interesting parts to his lecture that weren't touched during the Road Scholar tour.  It was interesting but this was truly fascinating.

Okay, history lesson is over.  Once we walked through the large Patio de los Naranjos (Patio of the Oranges), the scent permeated the area and I walked over tiny rocks embedded into the ground beneath the trees with water troughs lined up in tandem throughout the area.  All in all, the first glimpse of this place is immensely exciting.

Food!  My cousin, Angela Ruiz Fernandez, told me I should eat at Casa Santos.  When I saw it in front of me after the tour, I marched right in and ordered a bocadillo (sandwich) with chorizo and a glass of Ribera del Duero (I am still listening to you, Rina!)  Holding my feast to my chest, I went "home" which was only a very short walk because...remember, the Hotel Boutique Caireles backs up against the mosque.  It is a clean, beautiful room and I could never have found it on purpose.  It is a perfect spot.

After eating, snoozing a bit and checking my texts and emails, it was time to explore.  This time, I went the other way because I wanted to get farther from the tourist area.  What fun.  Well, of course, I didn't actually get lost...I just couldn't find a street to find my way back (does that count?)  I walked about three miles and followed a woman up some wide, beautifully designed steps between buildings that I was sure would lead me back to the mosque.  New horizons.  New shops.  New people.  And then I spied the clock tower ahead at the same time I saw the bodega taberna.  My legs ached and it was in the shade (about 70 today).  As soon as I sat down, a man was smiling at me and brought me a sangria.  Ah, then people watching.  The couple across the plaza were extremely interested in one another and couldn't keep their hands to themselves.  (hmmmm...characters for another book?)  

As I sipped the sangria (very strong and lovely), I scooped some of the fruity pieces into my mouth with the tiny spoon and slurped up the cold punch.  When a Spaniard sat across the square and pulled a guitar from his case, I heard the most beautiful guitar music and his voice sang Spanish songs that had everyone tapping, videoing and dancing their feet.  Ah...what a dreamy end of my sojourn in Córdoba.

As I type this post, both sets of French doors are open.  I can hear someone playing gentle flute music in the lane below.  Lights shine from the clock tower and the gentle chatter of people below waft up toward me.  And the sweet Spanish girl at the front desk just knocked on my door to give me a small bag of "Sweet Dreams" jelly candy as a goodbye gift.   Is this the life, or what?

Tomorrow, another train.  
Another bus.  
Another village: Algodonales northwest of Ronda. (So back to Ronda tomorrow!!)  Algodonales is where I research book 4 of my mystery series about flamenco guitar making for Picasso's art colony...  Unfortunately, my friend, Jose Luis, is ill with the flu, so I will miss him!  But, to my delight, Eterio (the documentary director) wants to film me there with Jose Luis;   Eterio will pick me up from my house in Calahonda one day in May with his film crew and we will spend the day there.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Labyrinth in Córdoba and new friends!

Where am I??  I asked myself this question after taking off on my scouting mission this morning, map in hand.  Tomorrow is my tour of La Mezquita Cathedral (the Mosque), Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Palace of the Christian Kings), La Judería (Jewish Quarter) and the gardens. I meet the tour group at 10:30 a.m. and I wanted to find the meeting point today instead of leaving the "finding" for the last minute.

Despite raindrops, I reminded myself I couldn't get lost since the clock tower rose high above it all.  It would guide me "home."  The map showed Calle Doctor Fleming on the corner of Calle Doctor Maraña.  At first, I walked in the general direction based on my street map.  But the streets didn't cooperate and I got lost immediately.  Then Plan B told me to head toward the Puente Romano Bridge where I'd spent the evening last night. I'd seen a street going in the direction of the Visión Tours Offices.

I walked toward a bustling street I hoped was Fleming and found photo points along the way...

There were rocks, antique walls, tiered watered areas...but it wasn't Fleming after all.  It was a huge street called Avenida del Corregidor.  Whipping out my map, holding my umbrella in one hand and tracing my finger along the lines of streets, I realized I'd overshot my destination by about two miles.   I could hardly believe my eyes.  I could see the clock tower all right...just barely.  It jutted into the sky smaller than my hand.  Continuing along the wide boulevard, I found Calle Doctor Maraña and Fleming!  Now, I wondered how on earth I'd find it in the morning?  Backtracking was out of the question.  NEW tracking was the best...but where?  How?

Across the street from the tour office, I spied a small plaza with a stone archway leading down into a rock-tiled area.  People were coming out, so I headed in.  To my surprise, I was in a very narrow alley...long, empty and edged inside by tall walls on both sides.  Well, I was there so I kept walking although I couldn't see anything above the walls...(not the clock tower for sure).   Twists and turns led me through six of these long, narrow alleys.  Nobody was there but me.   When I finally burst out onto a cobblestoned street, I sighed with relief.  But again, where was I?  The niches and alcoves I found along the way once on the real streets were beautiful and inviting...but I wanted to go "home".

I turned around in circles to gather my wits and decided to photograph landmarks as I walked in the general direction (really?) toward my watch-tower-hotel.  Snap, snap, snap -- I began to recognize shops! (I think)  I passed the familiar Lladro shop and nearly skipped with delight.  And then I was lost again.

I approached a woman in a doorway to ask directions.  I asked, "Hable español?"
"No," she responded.  (oh goodie...)
Thinking fast, I said, "Donde está Calle Cardenal Herrero, por favor?"  (Where is Cardenal Herrero Street please?)
She pointed around her corner!  I was close!  (big sigh).
By then, I'd walked 3 and a half miles and I needed a coffee.  My new favorite little place next to my hotel is called Queen Heladerias.  It's an ice cream, coffee, sandwich shop.  I ordered a chocolate croissant (I'd banked lots of burned calories surely...) and the oh, so creamy café con leche.
It felt so good to sit down.  When I finished, I asked for another coffee para llevar (to take away)  just about the time I received a text from my WLM friend, Sue C.  They were on their way from their house about an hour away from Córdoba and we were meeting nearby at 1:00.  I was so glad to have found my way "home" in time for our date and the next adventure that waited for me!

And they found me!  What a lovely meeting we had!  Sue and David are delightful.  She is half Spanish and he is half Brazilian.  Both are English from the northern part of the UK.  They guided me along the narrow, cobblestoned streets to their favorite restaurant, Rafaé Bodega-Taberna and it was all they promised.  Sue ordered Berenjenas (eggplant) dipped, deep fried and slathered with molasses. (her favorite) and David ordered fish and it all looked delicious.  Me?  I ordered garbanzo soup.

I wanted to compare my soup to my abuelita's.  This soup included chorizo and spinach, not like abuelita's at all, but very good!  I told them I'd eaten oxtail called Rabo Tapa last night and  Sue said that is bull's tail. (what??!)  We had a good laugh and then David paid for it all... (thank you, David and Sue!)

We had a lovely visit and then they led me to the orange tree gardens inside the mosque's walls but the recent rain had taken away the beautiful scent.  We shrugged our shoulders and I followed them toward the Alcázar because they assured me I'd want to explore inside when it opened.  Since it is included in my tour tomorrow, I will see it.

Meeting Sue and David added polish to my Córdoba interlude...and then we said goodbye.
They had errands to run and I decided to backtrack through the labyrinth to find my tour spot again just to make sure I could find my way back.  I couldn't.  The photos I'd taken to lead me back didn't help me.  I was hopelessly lost in the Jewish Quarter until I found a street that was familiar.  I knew it led to the labyrinth, but did I want to go in there again?  No.  I chose, instead, to follow the street to the end and to my surprise, I was in front of the tour office.  I was grinning by then and headed back "home" to rest.  I'd walked nearly 11,000 steps and I felt it all over the place.

What a day this was.  Since it is now afternoon, I check my phone every few minutes because now it is the time in America that I receive text messages, so wonderful  to receive across the miles.  The sounds of the tourists outside my window have died down, the rain has stopped and the sun is now sliding past my window.

The day is beautiful and I am a happy.  No nightlife for me tonight.
Tomorrow, is the tour and I think I know the way to the tour office!