Out of NYC on July 4th, and 18 hours of travel through Frankfurt took me south to two nights in Andalusia, Spain, and more specifically, Cordoba. Cordoba is about 2 hours south of Madrid via the fast train and was the capital of the western part of the Moorish empire that ruled in Spain from 711-1492.
It was the most modern city of its time in Europe, with street lights, running water, huge libraries and a population that was split between Jewish, Islamic and Christian factions. I stayed in the former Jewish section of town, the Juderia (at the charming, clean and recommended Hotel Lola) where the streets were designed crookedly to keep the blazing sun from pounding directly on the streets. Cordoba is reportedly the hottest city in Spain, and I'll attest to that, for it was about 105F on both days I was there. Everything closes between 4-8pm, and afternoon naps hiding from the sun for a few hours are almost a must.
The big sight in Cordoba is the Mezquita, a huge mosque begun in 785 and modified into a cathedral in the early 1500s, after the rise of Ferdinand and Isabella (Columbus's benefactors) when they tossed the Jews and Moors out of Spain in 1492. I didn't see much more than the old quarter of the city, but it's a gorgeous, quiet place, even with the gross tangle of souvenir shops a la Canal Street around the Mezquita. Lots of mosaics, the air is warmer, the golden glow of the sun until 10:30 pm, and the perfume of the place is exotic from the Moorish influence. I had a fantastic meal of pork cheeks at Casa Pepe de la Juderia while sitting on their roof deck, as the sun set, and birds flew in and out of the bell tower of the mosque. It was one of those magical moments of travel where I take a deep breath and positively know there is no place I'd rather be than that exact moment.
I'm glad I started my trip off here slowly. I want to go back and explore the south of Spain on another journey, inclusive of Cadiz, Saville, Granada, etc. for I was instantly enchanted by how different this part of Spain felt. Although I haven't been in Spain in 9 years, thus began my mantra of the next few days as I worked my way through loads of tapas and Spanish reds: I Love Spain.
Pix below as follows: three pictures of the exterior of the Mezquita; oil vessels in a chapel in the Mezquita (general holy, baptismal and sick from left to right) ; interior of the Mezquita; old city wall in the Juderia; and a (ubiquitous) horse head in the former Royal Stables.