Jill and I arrived in Cadiz this morning after a tearful goodby to our good friend Monica in Cordoba. It had to be done. She has a 2 year old and a 4 year old and a now very tired and tattered husband waiting for her back home in Australia. So off Monica went to Madrid as Jill and I made our way to the coast. Cadiz.
Back to the beginning though. After our most awesome adventures in Granada we bussed our way to Cordoba and our new shoe box sized accomodation. Very clean, very quiet, but truly tiny. One of us had to be sitting down on a bed if someone else wanted to be moving around the room a little. After our first task oriented evening (laundry, internet, finding food, finding accomodation for Jill and I in Cadiz) we were ready to spend a day as tourists in Cordoba. We were up nice and early for our regular cafe con leche and to the Mezquina. The old Cathedral/Mosque/church. The Moorish rulers who took over Andalucia in the 700´s built this huge Mosque (its final size being big enough to hold over 40000 worshipers at one time) on an old Church site. The mosque (La Mezquina) has very unique archetecture with hundreds of double striped arches supported on thin marble columns holding up a carved wooden ceiling. We took advantage of the very awesome audio guide to learn everything there is to know about the building...then of course promptly forgot it.
In the middle of the Mosque is a huge catholic cathedral. When the Christians took over Andelucia in the 1200´s, the rulers took over the Mosque, had it blessed as a church and carried on converting and building to turn it into a Cathedral. Very strange.
On we went to wander through old royal baths, the twisty streets of the Jewish quarter, and for a walk over the old Roman bridge. Getting an idea of the centuries and variety of history here? Everyone once ruled Andelucia. And everyone left their mark. North african archetecture and cuisine meets roman aqueducts and mosaic, meets glitzy catholic virgin Marys´ meets jewish quarters with menoras. And each ruling empire lasted for enough centuries to leave an indellible mark on the area. Facinating.
Also facinating is my knowledge of/lack of knowledge of Spanish. I have managed to get us on the right busses, trains, booked hotels, had casual chats with people, rented a car, asked for directions...but menus still seem to ellude me. We so far have gotten
Fried Anchovies when we thought we were getting fried zucchini
A huge platter sized portion when we thought we were getting a small plate of eggplant
The list goes on
I´m pretty good at getting some of the main ingredients of a dish correct, but one wrong word and you end up getting something very different than you would expect.
So far Spanish food has been tasty but plain. Jill has commented on its lack of presence. You can spot Italian food, Indian cuisine, Thai dishes from a mile away, but Spanish meals tend to be more subtle. The ingredients seem to be more Spanish than anything. Locally made cured hams and sausages and cheeses. Chickpeas and broad beans are used more than we do in Canada. Cafe con leche and Churros for breakfast are a staple not found elsewhere. The hours of eating are also unique. Shops open at 10:30, and close from 2 until 5 pm for siesta, during which main meals are eaten between 2 and 3 pm. This is when restaurants offer a set menu that offers both good value and some more interesting choices that we wouldn´t otherwise try. After a nap, people go out for a stroll or a shop and then head out for a light something at around 9pm. I really don´t know when anyone works.
So Jill and I are now in Cadiz. We spend the afternoon strolling the streets and will be spending the next 3 days here checking out the coast and taking ferries to nearby towns.