Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cordoba, Spain

Heading south for some sunshine

Relaxation and some more tapas….

After Madrid we headed south to Cordoba for a couple of days of chilling out and to continue our exploration of the south of Spain. We dropped our bags off at the hostel, and then wandered off to find some food to fill our empty stomachs. By mid morning, the sun was shinning brightly and the sunglasses had finally come out.

We found a street of small tapas restaurants very close to our hostel. We picked one called the Muséo de la Tapas y el Vino (the Museum of Tapas and Vine). Prices were reasonable and they were open prior to the busy lunch rush. A more detailed post of this restaurant will come in the future.

After lunch we checked into our room at the hostel and then went exploring around Cordoba. First we walked along the river and over the bridge. Then we walked past the mosque and the old city ruins. Next we decided to explore some of the back streets, and found a small garden and courtyard with a nice staircase.  We also found the oldest Synagogue in Spain and the only one in Cordoba, since there is a very heavy Islamic influence in this city.

Cordoba's Mosque: Mezquita

Gates to Cordoba
pretty courtyard we stubbled upon

Jewish Synagogue 

We also found another square, similar to the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Spain seems to be famous for squares, filled with restaurants that catch the sun at certain times of the day. These plazas are a good place to chill out and enjoy food and drinks with your friends and family. Gaffa and I enjoyed a “quick” vino at one of the restaurants after a long day of sightseeing. But we weren’t there for long, as our sunny spot soon turned to shade and the cold spring breeze sent a chill down my spine.  

enjoying the sunshine in Cordoba's plaza
For dinner we decided to go back to the same restaurant we had lunch at. Gaffa and I must appear to be creatures of habit, in the sense that if we find a restaurant that we enjoy, we’ll go back there for another round. But at least we’re guaranteed a good meal if we go back again! Plus we also like to blog about good places and it’s good for us to get a broader picture of the menu variety… well that’s our excuse anyway!

Love tapas! 
The next day in Cordoba, we decided to splurge and enjoy a few hours at the Abrabic Spa Baths called Hammam Al Andalus. We must miss Egypt since we were visiting another city with a Mosque and Arabic Baths! Gaffa was a bit sad that there was no diving around though….

We were due to start our spa session at 12pm, but we were told to arrive early. We arrived and entered at about 11.30am. The session was due to end 2 hours later, but somehow we managed to stay in the spa baths until well after 3.30pm when we were kicked out! The spa session included a 15 minute massage for me, and Gaffa paid a little extra for a 30 minute massage. Inside the baths there were two very hot baths, a steam room, a warm bath and a freezing cold bath. They also served mint tea! So for 4 hours we jumped from pool to pool, enjoying refreshing cold chills after sweating it up in the steam room and hot water for a while. It was nice and relaxing to kick back and rejuvenate our bodies after our hectic travelling schedule, plus it was quite romantic to spend some time with my new fiancé.

Since photography inside the spa baths were not allowed (for obvious reasons), I will try and paint a picture with words as best I can for you all:

You pass through the male or female changing rooms into the cold splash pool area. This has two large stone baths filled with fresh icy cool water running from faucets constantly replenishing the water. From here you walk through an Arabic looking archway, complete with pillars, and alcoves with candles set into them.

On the other side of the archway is a large room again with lots of pillars and arches. This room is lit with natural light from the sun shinning through the Arabic design skylight set in the ceiling. In this room there is a large square pool – the warm water pool. Surrounding the water’s edge are a few lazy lounge beds and tables (where the mint tea is served). Plus on the far side of the room are numerous massage tables where your 15-30 minutes of indulgent massage takes place when they find you somewhere in the spa.

Through another archway leading from the main pool, is a dimly lit (by candles only) room you will find the two hot water pools. These have fresh hot running water constantly replenishing. The water in these baths in extremely hot and takes some getting use to, especially after an ice bath! From this room you will also find the Turkish steam room. This room is very hot and steamy!!

After our time was up (when we got kicked out) we went back to the changing rooms and took advantage of the free shampoo, shower gel and moisturisers to complete our afternoon pamper session. The Hammam Al Andalus is well furnished with authentic Arabic décor, well trained professional staff and provides the perfect relaxation for any traveller with a reasonable price. They even give student discounts and also discounts for non peak hour visits. Towels were also included in the price! We booked a day in advance but you can also book it online

By now, our tummies were rumbling. Where did we go for lunch?? Yep, you guessed it – so I needn’t say anymore about that place, until I write the restaurant review. But trust me, the food was damn good!

For dinner we thought we’d save some money and make our own tapas dishes of cheese, chorizo, jamon, bought from the local supermarket. 

inside the mosque
On our final morning, we did try to visit the Mosque before 10.30 as it is free entry from 8.30am – 10.30am on certain days (check when you arrive in Cordoba). Unfortunately for us the Mosque was closed due to a religious festival. So we just took a few photos of the inside courtyard, and continued on with our Spanish adventure.  
Andalucia here we come!

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