Stranded In The Southland

Friday, May 27, 2005

Voila! Great Internet and More Ramblings on Cordoba

Okay, I finally scored, with some great Internet in Granada -- the guy running the joint didn't know anything about Unix, but was enthusiastic about seeing how I configured it to get my box on the net. Woo hoo!

Cordoba was interesting, but a bit too touristy for me. I mean, there was a constant stream of busloads of tourists diving into the amazing mosque/catherdral there, and it was almost a bit too much for me. Plus there was a huge fair going on, with bullfights and rides and dancing and all manner of fun.

That's nice, but it made it tough to find a place to stay, and tough to get anything done in town, as the museums (and Laundromats) closed at 2PM for siesta, but didn't reopen (as they usually do) at 5PM. If you didn't see it in the morning, you didn't see it. Bummer.

The mosque was definitely worth the trouble, though. It is an enormous building, perhaps 150m by 150m (apparently 23,000m^2 in area). The really weird part is that the Catholics, when they took over the town, built a Cathedral right in the middle of it.

You walk in, see this vast empty floor area, with 10m ceilings, and then there are the walls of the cathedral rising out of the middle of it. It is kind of a shame that they had to ruin such a cool ancient building by putting up the cathedral in the middle of it, but then again, the mosque was built on the site of an ancient basilica, so I suppose turnabout is sorta fair play.

It'd be worth it if the cathedral really rocked, but it was kinda mediocre.

The food in the town, though, was far from mediocre. They have a sort of very thick gazpacho made of tomato, garlic, and olive oil, called salmonroja that just rocked my world. The rest of it wasn't bad either. Plus there was plenty of Cruz Campos beer to wash it down -- much preferable to the far too thin Mahoa that is ubiquitous throughout the parts of Spain we've been through.

Hopefully Granada will be fun, too.

More on Merida and Toledo

Well, today we're in Corduba, which is great, but I'm ready to write some more about Toledo and Merida.

In Toledo, we had some great food in the Trebol Bar and La Tabernita, both on the far side of the Plaza de Zocodover. Both were recommeneded by the Lonely Planet guidebook, but they sure steered us
wrong on Bacus. We had the Media del Dia (the lunchtime special, which is usually a good deal and provides lots and lots of food).

Pwhew, did it suck. M.'s bistek (steak) was gristly and awful. My food was memorable only for its extreme mediocrity. Heck, it didn't even rise to that level. And the wine with the meal was postively the worst I've ever had, anywhere. Raw and nasty.

But, hey, the other places recommended were just fantastic. We liked Trebol so much we went back again (and on a two day visit, given our constant urge to try out new things, that's saying something). It was comfortable, nicely laid out, and had a great menu.

Since the festival of Corpus Cristi was going on all week, they had a strange sort of canvas cover rigged up over a bunch of the streets in the town. I sort of assumed that this was for the processions through the town, but I could be full of it; maybe it was just to keep us tourists shaded and cool? :-)

Anyway, it was this strip of canvas, deocrated at intervals of 150m or so with sewn or painted on ecclesiastical symbols. It was about a third the width of the street, and suspended about 7m up, tied to ropes on permanent brackets stuck into the walls. Strange.

On to Merida. We had a great time there. It was a small enough city to feel comfortable (about 50,000 people), but large enough to have some variety. We had a bunch of good (if not great) meals, and just about everybody we dealt with was friendly.

We had some great tapas in Cafe Benito [check this in the book!] which is decorated top to bottom with artifacts of tauromania. There are stuffed bulls' heads on the walls, newspaper clippings, posters, pictures, just an amazing collection of bullfighting material. Yow.

I also got a haircut in Merida -- M. was along to ensure that I didn't accidently ask for a scalping, but it all went well. For eight Euros, I got a great cut. (To be perfectly honest, I usually cut my hair myself, with the number two setting on the clippers. This guy did the number two business, but then used a straight razor to clean up the edges. Yow, that's a steady hand.)

The various Roman ruins around the city are just fascinating, and the Roman Art museum is pretty fun. We kind of raced through it due to time constraints, but there's just something wonderful about standing on the stones of a 2,000 year old Roman road as it runs under the museum, down in the basement!