Cordoba at it’s best

Letter 95

In Cordoba, the month ‘May’ doesn’t exist. They have January, February, March, April and Cordoba. The city completely comes alive in May and I was very lucky to be there during the month of Cordoba.

For the last week of May, the Feria takes over Cordoba, bringing people from all over Spain and the world. There’s something to do for all ages and the whole event was wonderful to be a part of. My favourite part were the marquettes full of people eating, drinking and dancing flamenco to traditional and modern music. I could watch them dancing for hours, it’s so stunning! I found it fascinating that everybody knew exactly what to do, from toddlers to teenagers to adults. It seemed the whole of Cordoba descended on the Feria. There were amusement rides, live bands, food stalls and markets. It’s literally buzzing at all hours of the day. I met some great people at my hostel and we joined in the fun one evening, I loved it.

cordoba feria 1

Flamenco dancing at the Feria

cordoba feria 2cordoba feria bar

Back to the beginning though. I actually had no idea that the Feria was on, so luckily I booked my accommodation a few weeks back. I arrived late, good food at the supermarket, had a little stroll along the river and then got an early night. That walk was enough for me to know I’d love the city.

I only had 2 days in Cordoba so I wanted to get a good start on it on my first. By far the biggest attraction of Cordoba is the Mezquita, or Cathedral. This mosque come cathedral is famous all over the world and being inside such an incredible structure was spellbinding. It honestly might be my favourite building I’ve ever been inside. Every day it’s free between 8:30 and 9:30, otherwise it’s €10. I went early on both of my days in Cordoba to spend as much time enjoying it as possible. The photos don’t do it justice.

cordoba mezquita 1cordoba mezquita 2cordoba mezquita 3

cordoba mezquita 4

Whilst walking around the Mezquita, look carefully at the arches and you’ll see 4 stages of age in the mosque. The oldest are built using true white and red stones whereas the newest are fakes. They are only painted to give the same effect,

After the Mezquita I took a walk around what I later found out to be the Jewish Quater. My aim was to find some of Cordoba’s famous patios. That’s another reason May is renamed simply to Cordoba. During the first week of May there is the festival of Patios where people within the city open up their patios to be judged, and one is crowned winner for being the most beautiful. They work extremely hard tending their patios all year and I managed to get a glimpse of a couple that were left open.

cordoba patios 1cordoba patios 2

I took a free walking tour that my hostel suggested and it was really great. I always find they are great to get your bearings in a new place and learn some of the history so you can understand what you’re seeing. This tour was particularly informative, the guide was lovely and I got to see pretty much all of the important parts of Cordoba, as the city is small enough to walk around in a few hours. The main places we visited were Plaza de las Tendillas, Plaza de la Corredera, Plaza del Potro, Mezquita and the Jewish Quater. I found the things she said about the Mezquita the most interesting, and one of the reasons I returned the next day for a closer look at what she spoke about. I also met a couple of guys on the tour and we went for lunch in Plaza de la Corredera which was great! For a main square it tends to be very quiet.

cordoba walking tour 1cordoba walking tour 2cordoba walking tour 3cordoba walking tour 4cordoba walking tour 5

I then went on a long walk which tired me out to the point of dozing off on park benches around the city. I began by crossing the river to get a look at the Feria in daytime from a distance. It really is a spectacle, and the whole area is nice to walk around. Following the river I once again reached the Mezquita – you’ll always somehow end up here. Continuing around the riverside I eventually ended up at some lovely parks that head north. By this point I was knackered. I circled back to Plaza de las Tendillas and made my way back to the hostel through the winding streets of Cordoba. I ended the day with great people, the feria and wonderful views of a sparkling Cordoba.

cordoba walk 1cordoba walk 2 feriacordoba walk 3cordoba walk 4cordoba walk 5cordoba end of day

 

I only had until about 3pm on my second day in Cordoba, but I made the most of it. I visited the Mezquita again and walked up the tower, went to a museum about the baths, wandered around the beautiful gardens of the Alcazar and went to an art gallery about Julio Romero. It was all chilled and very interesting. I also got great student discount on everything!

cordoba second day 1cordoba second day 2cordoba second day 3cordoba second day 4cordoba second day 5cordoba second day 6cordoba second day 7 alcazarcordoba second day 8 alcazarcordoba second day 9 alcazarcordoba second day 10

Cordoba had me from the second I set foot off the bus. It’s a city of culture, history and ancient beauty and I only wish I could’ve spent longer exploring the many streets that connect to form the maze of old town. I definitely recommend visiting, and please, go in the month of Cordoba.

 

From Lou

About Me

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Malaga in pretty purple

Letter 94

I’ve had a short but very sweet stay in Malaga and it has left me with a list of things to go back and see and do. The city almost convinced me to extend my stay here, cutting short Cordoba, but after hearing such great things about my next stop I decided to stick with my plan. Besides, I’ll return to Malaga for sure. For now, enjoy my account of 24 hours in Malaga.

The first thing I noticed about the city was the colour. Every inch of it screams vibrant shades of oranges, yellows, blues and even purple – hence the title of this letter. I was lucky enough to be in Malaga to witness the trees blossoming in bright purple and littering their petals all over the parks and plazas of Malaga. Apparently this only happens for a couple of weeks in May so I was lucky to see it. The buildings in the centre are dressed in beautifully coloured facades encouraging you to wander the tiny alleys and vast avenues. Notable places to visit to see these stunning colours are in Plaza de la Merced, outside the front of the Cathedral, Plaza de la Constitucion and around the Picasso Museum. You may even spot murals, mosaics and graffiti around the city, brightening it up even more. I felt very joyful walking around the streets and plazas of Malaga.

malaga colourful streetflowers and yellow buildingmalaga blossomMuralcathedral and yellow building

Coming into Malaga on the bus from Nerja, we passed the port. This is a huge spectacle in Malaga and where all of the cruise ships arrive and tourists are welcomed to the city. It’s only a few minutes walk from the centre and is worth a visit – even if you’re not travelling by cruise ship. It’s lined with a long park with tropical trees, shaded benches and small cafes and shops. You’ll also find a line of market-like stalls selling traditional clothing, paintings and souvenirs. I found this to be busy with locals rather than tourists, but I’m unsure if it’s a permanent fixture. Whilst wandering through I came across a stage where flamenco dancers were performing and a crowd of Spanish couples and families enjoying the show. It was entirely in Spanish so I could only understand a limited amount, but everyone seemed to be having a great time. I have been told that the port is really spectacular at night when all of the lights are reflected on the water, but I didn’t have enough time to see this.

2 port and clock2 blossom and trees2 flamenco2 market stalls

In addition to the port gardens, there are other green spaces around the city. I went north of my hostel (mainly to get to the mercadona – my favourite Spanish supermarket) and found a lovely spot called Parque Canino San Miguel which I sat in to eat. It was laced in the purple blossom and filled with locals walking their dogs and kids playing. You can also find potted plants all over the city, adding to the grandeur of many of the streets. Even some of the bars and restaurants have thier own gardens. We were taken to a bar/restaurant called El Pimpi on the walking tour and were able to take a walk through their private courtyards covered in plants. They take their inspiration from the courtyards of Cordoba, so I can’t wait to see them tomorrow.

3 cathedral gardens3 el pimpi gardens3 park3 parkk

I learnt a lot about Muslim Malaga on the walking tour I went on and it makes visiting some of the key sights far more interesting. In fact, the Christian Cathedral of the city was originally the main mosque, but when the main religion returned to Christianity, it was extended and built up to form the present cathedral. Another interesting thing is that it’s not finished, and probably never will be. There is only one tower and the centre piece is missing. It’s also a must to go and visit the Castillo Gibralfaro which was a Muslim fortress. There are two and the top one is said to have incredible views across the city. Below these is the Roman Theatre which is quite a sight and when we were passing there was a class of children sat around it rehearsing a song.

4 castillo plaza4 roman theatre4 views

One stop that most people make is to walk around the streets that once housed Picasso. They are really beautiful in themselves and also interesting to look up at the windows that he once looked up at. There is also the museum of Picasso which I would have loved to go to. He even appears in Plaza de la Merced as a statue on a bench, a popular photo for tourists I believe.

5 picasso street cathedral

The walking tour I went on was with Explore Malaga (link to website). I was told about it by my hostel and I would highly recommend it. There’s no need to make a reservation, you just turn up at Constitution square. The guide was very informative and took us to all of the main spots in central Malaga.

The hostel I stayed in for only one night was Patio 19. I thought the hostel was really great. Very authentic, perfect location and lovely breakfast served in a beautiful indoor patio (hence the name). It was also very affordable and I would stay again. Link to page on hostelworld here.

patio 19 2patio 19 malaga

All in all I thought Malaga was great. It felt like a very liveable, friendly city and very easy to get around by foot. I could easily spend a week or two there because there is so much to do and even beaches to spend lazy days on. I’ll be back Malaga!!

From Lou

About Me

PS. Here’s a photo of me that a very nice Spanish man insisted on taking…

me

Nerja in a nutshell

Letter 93

I’ve had an absolutely amazing week spending my days relaxing, swimming, sunbathing, reading and eating. All in the beautiful surroundings of Andulucia, a stunning region of Spain with charming villages, an array of beaches and crystal clear water. Not to mention the mountains that soar up behind you providing postcard perfect pictures. I found it very hard to leave, especially since my boyfriend was flying home and I’m sticking around in Spain, and I already miss it. Not that I have the duff end of the deal – I get to explore Malaga, Cordoba and Seville over the next few days before heading off to Portugal.

nerja beach

 

Most of the days were a blur of gorgeous beaches, whitewashed streets and wonderful food. We indulged pretty much every lunchtime and ate lots of different foods. We found a couple of really great restaurants with lovely food and service with a smile. We tried different beaches every day and secured favourites in our minds. We wandered the streets of Nerja from sunrise till dusk and got lost almost every time. We watched families enjoy their holidays and locals go about their days. We enjoyed chilled breakfasts and dinners on our balcony playing cards and listening to music. The whole week was completely blissful and I enjoyed every second.

Nerja 1nerja 2nerja 3nerja 4nerja 5nerja 6

 

We didn’t stay in the town every day, we also ventured out to neighbouring villages which were some of my favourite places. A €1 bus will get you up to Frigliana in the mountains. This village is incredibly beautiful with tiny cobbled streets, small parks and stunning 360 views. It’s a great place to spend the day, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the views. We were planning to go for a walk into the mountains but instead stayed in the village all afternoon.

Frigliana 2Frigliana parkFrigliana stepped streetFriglianaFrigliana Panorama

 

We also took a long walk one day to Maro, a sleepy village just west of Nerja. It’s a lovely walk, not difficult at all, the village is lovely and the beaches are quiet, unspoilt and have a lot of life in the sea. It was such a great day.

Maro walk 1Maro walk 2

Maro walk 3

Abandoned Factory

Maro walk 4

Roman Aqueduct

Maro walk 5

Trains go on the roads here too

Maro beachMaro town

 

We actually had a pretty rough start to the week, in that after a 2 hour trip from the airport in Malaga and arriving in Nerja at 1am, we came into our apartment to find an Irish couple. Long story short, there was a misunderstanding and the Irish couple were due to have the apartment for 2 more nights. We thought our holiday was ruined – and where the hell were we supposed to find a place to stay at 1am in the sleepy town of Nerja?! Luckily some lovely Spanish hostel owners, who we rudely woke up in the middle of the night, let us have a room. It was a great hostel and after a much needed sleep we enjoyed the breakfast on the terrace. We moved to a cheaper guesthouse the next day which ended up being really great. Lovely staff, spacious traditional room and a kitchen and a terrace. All round the corner from a huge supermarket and near the centre of town and the beaches. All in all the disastrous start to the holiday ended up being okay and we enjoyed the first couple of days as much as the rest.

This is the room and terrace in the Azahar Hostel which is right next to the bus station in Nerja. Great hostel, great breakfast and if you ask nicely they might get out of bed to let you in at 1am. Azahar Tripadvisor.

Here is a double room and the terrace, which connects to a kitchen, at the Easy Nerja Guesthouse. It’s very near the centre of town, very cheap and is a lovely place to stay. Easy Nerja Guesthouse Hostelworld.

This has been one of my favourite holidays – we’ve had the most fantastic time and  the rest was much needed. Nerja is a great town with a lot going on both in and around it. Now for travelling around some Spanish cities…

From Lou

me and sam

Favourite activity – finding hidden caves and rocks

About me

Return to the great city

Letter 92

London has a strange pull on me. Though I’ve never had the pleasure to live here, it’s where both of my parents grew up and is still home to the majority of my large family. Coming here is coming home.

It contrasts my beautiful Edinburgh spectacularly and the sudden buzz and masses of people when I disembark the train still excites me after 20 years of visiting. I have just spent a lovely weekend here catching up with my nan, aunties and cousin which has made me feel relaxed and very happy. I love my family and it’s hard not to see them more often, but when I do see them, it’s special.

Edinburgh Waverley

I jumped on the train at Waverley in Edinburgh on Friday morning. I was lucky enough to have a window and table seat and enjoyed a pleasant 4 hour journey through the British countryside. I read for the first time in a long time, I had a guilt-free nap and I caught up on some letters. All things I haven’t been able to do whilst finishing off my studies – something I am still revelling in.

Stepping off the train into the Kings Cross iron train shed is akin to stepping into another world. I see people rushing around me to get to the underground or grab a taxi, but no one stops to admire it. The sheer volume and complexity of the structure is quite frankly mind boggling and I could stop and stare all day. It’s safe to say my course may have influenced the way I look at things.

Kings Cross Train shed

In quick succession from the train shed is the shopping centre style station behind it where busy locals and travellers eagerly await their platform announcement, business people stop for a drink and shoppers explore all Kings Cross has to offer. It’s a stunning place and perfect for people watching – a key quality I look for in public places.

Kings cross station

Stepping outside into the streets of the city you’ll find the grand King’s Cross St Pancras frontage designed by the great Scott. The red stone Gothic hotel marks the symbolic entrance to this departure point and it really is wonderful to behold. My phone photos on this cloudy day do it no justice, but it is a fantastic piece of architecture. Ironically it was first built to hide the highly engineered train shed behind, whereas now it is celebrated.

Midland Grand Hotel Kings cross

The next step of the journey, and one of the most iconic in London, is the underground. I normally despise this mode of transport in the city due to the business, sardine crowds and lack of views, but in this instance, I was happy to be on it. That might have something to do with the empty carriage I was left with for about 6 stops before my exit. It also might be because I actually missed it. I miss being in a city so big that you need an underground transport system to accommodate the incredible population. I miss that somehow even when the trains arrive every 3 minutes, each one is still jam packed in rush hour. I miss the diverse array of people you see sitting and standing on the trains and wondering where they’ve come from and where they’re going. It’s quite amazing really.

London Underground

That’s it for my short stay in London. I’ll be back in a few months and I’m looking forward to it. This is my home, whether I’ve lived here or not. Bye bye for now.

From Lou

About Me

Alive again

Letter 91

Finally it’s over. Months of hard work, weeks of long days and a number of sleepless nights. Architecture is not a healthy subject to choose and this year has been a killer. Despite half loosing my mind at the end and putting in more time and effort than ever before, I feel I managed it well. Seeing my classmates sleeping at their desks, surviving solely on energy drinks and having to submit late due to rushing at the end made me realise how well I’ve done. So I’m proud of myself and I want to share that with you guys.

I am not one for nights later than 11 or living on fast food and redbull. Instead I focused hard all year on keeping up with work and therefore only had to slightly step up the intensity at the end. Frankly, some of the hard core architecture students have done better work than me and will get better grades, but I’m content. I knew there was more I could do but I refuse to make myself ill just to get one more drawing done. What I’ve done is enough and I’m confident that I’ll at least pass.

I did have a few dramas towards the end. Exactly 1 week before my final deadline, the day before my history exam, when everything was going swimmingly, my laptop died. My bad luck was almost comical – I mean it couldn’t have held out for one more week?! This would have been the perfect time to freak out but after some quiet anger, secret tears and a chat with my mum, I realised that it could be worse. I first tried to get it fixed, which failed. My beautiful, expensive, extremely powerful laptop, that was only 2 years old, was fried. Then I toyed with the idea of using the university computers to finish my work and quickly concluded that this was not an option due to the late hours I’d need to put in. So I spent an afternoon with my boyfriend learning laptop lingo and choosing a suitable device, and then shelled out £600 so that I could finish my course. Pretty stressful 48 hours but everything worked out well in the end. Not a totally stress-free end to the year but I survived.

At the end, it’s all worth it. I designed a building that I’m proud of. The things I’ve learnt from my incredible tutor, along with the literature I’ve studies have influenced my work and will stick with me forever. My final presentation was something I felt proud of and I have achieved (mostly) what I set out to. I may not be the best architecture student, but I’ve done my best and made myself proud.

Now I’m putting it all behind me.

Since the second I finished I’ve been getting ready for summer. The countdown to jetting off was 1 week and now that’s down to a measly 3 days. Not only do I have to finish gathering things for my 2 and a half month trip, but I also have to pack up all of my stuff to go into storage and do my part of cleaning the flat. Pretty busy week. So far I’ve sorted all my stuff and began packing, washed a ton of things ready for storage and deep cleaned the bathroom, oven and fridge. It’s been a fun few days. (Not even joking, I love cleaning.) I’ve also had a lovely catchup with a good friend of mine who will be going home to Vienna today and then studying in Copenhagen next year. Can’t wait to visit! I’ve caught up on sleep and my body is slowly un-tensing and I can feel my mind returning to its normal state.

Did I mention I was flying out in less than a week? Oh yes, in 3 days actually! I am beyond excited and can’t wait to get travelling again, what I’m always dreaming about doing. I completely live for my summers and this one will be particularly special and different. Everything for the first month is booked because it’s mainly holidays with friends and family, and after that I have free reign! From Wednesday the 17th you can expect posts about Spain, including Nerja, Malaga, Cordoba and Seville. That’s only 2 weeks of my trip, there’s lots more to come after!

I hope you’ve all been well, sorry for my absence on here but that’s all about to change and I’m so excited for the next few months! I’m alive again!

Happy travels!

From Lou

About Me