La Mezquita

Lunes, Day 1 - Arrival in Spain

On Monday morning, May 1, we arrived at the Seville airport and picked up our car rental - not the sleek Mercedes promised in the ads, but a clunky Citröen. Still, with loads of enthusiasm and a map quickly acquired at a nearby gas station, we hopped in the car and headed to Córdoba, the first top on our odyssey.

En route, we stopped at the little town of Carmona. We intended to see the Roman necropolis on the town's outskirts, but couldn't find the darn thing. Instead, we had our first lesson in Spanish parking - that is, park anywhere you darn well please, so long as it doesn't block the street - and wandered the narrow cobblestone streets of the town. Finally, we happened upon an adorable town square housing a few little outdoor cafés, and lunch was ours. Dineen had a traditional spinach and chick peas dish she had just read about in the inflight magazine, and Mike had the also-very-traditional omelet. While we ate, we had our second lesson in Spanish parking - sometimes, park where ever you darn well please even if it does block the street. We watched a little parking drama unfold that included a couple getting out of their car to move a little barrier so that it closed off the street and then park in the middle of the street, then that couple leaving and another car parking in their stead. Both drivers seemed oblivious to the police officers a mere 10 yards away. As it turned out, there was no reason at all for them to be worried - as we were leaving our lunch spot, a police car pulled into the manufactured parking spot. And Dineen had been worried about Mike's parking spot against a building on a narrow side street!

After lunch, we continued on to Córdoba. Our maps were highway-only, and we had no idea how we were going to find our hotel. That's when we received lesson one in Spanish navigation - in the cities, major hotels and tourist attractions are well-marked by a plenitude of signs. And thank goodness they are, because these cities were built long before the car, and long before the grid system of laying out streets. Instead, the streets are purposely narrow, twisty, and unpredictable in order to confuse the enemy (if L'Enfant thought a couple of diagonal streets with roundabouts would confuse the enemy here in D.C., he obviously never visited Spain). But in Córdoba we discovered what would become our modus operendi for the entire trip - just follow the signs toward centro ciudad (the center of the city) until we found signs for our hotel. It worked every time.

As soon as we found the Hotel Alfaros, we crashed - hard (we had some fierce jet lag and had just driven more than two hours). Several hours later, we awoke refreshed and just in time to have dinner on Spanish time. At around 9 pm, we walked from our hotel to the oldest section of town, right near La Mezquita (the ancient old Mosque) for dinner at El Caballo Rojo, one of the two most well-known restaurants in Córdoba. Thus ended our first full day in beautiful Spain.

- Day Two -