And it was really lovely. However, the village, full of beautiful houses, was only occupied to around 30% and that with people over the age of 60. Nothing wrong with that per se but on a day that was a school holiday, we saw only two children in two hours - the village was without life.
We went to the neighbouring village, where there were schools but that was even less inspiring. The children were with us and they agreed it was just too quiet. It made us realise again just how lively and bustling Alcala la Real always is and how very difficult it will be to find anywhere quite like it.
So we decided we'd just have a day out instead, rather than make any life-changing decisions
And we drove to Cordoba.
Around two hundred years later, the Christians arrived, the Moors left and things started to change. The Mezquita was only 'tweaked' - most of its Moorish insides were left pretty much intact, fortunately. The Christians did, however, expulse the Jews - a while after they'd got rid of the Moors - and as time went on this led to a financial and economical decline - not helped another few centuries later by Napoleon's visit - a not entirely friendly occupation. Not until the 20th century did Cordoba manage to reestablish itself as a University city with an acknowledged historical centre, declared World Heritage by UNESCO.
|Gorgeous patio photo courtesy of nh hoteles|
As we crossed the road and headed down some steps, through a big, warm-coloured, sandstone arch, we entered a pedestrian zone where the scent of orange blossom on the trees almost lifted you off your feet with pleasure. The streets were cobbled and seemed to get narrower as we walked parallel to the river towards the Mezquita and the Mediaeval Jewish quarter. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, dramatic and yet peaceful and elegant - giving off, to me at least, the most wonderful positive vibes. I have been once before, almost seventeen years ago, with my mother-in-law. We visited the Mezquita and walked around the ancient streets where I remember feeling as though I could sense the intellectual vibrations from centuries ago - it felt like a very learned place. On Monday, it still felt learned but it felt like a city that had learned how to have fun with that too.
I have fallen in love with Cordoba - and whilst the comparison doesn't hold much water - it reminded me of another place I always loved to visit in the UK. It reminded me of York. The colours were different, the climate was very different (I've never been warm in York!) and the previous inhabitants have varied - theVikings brought a different culture to the Moors and left a different inheritance - but there was something of the same confidence of a city with a past; with a huge, imposing and impressive place of worship; with a wide, energy-giving river running through it; and with a constant stream of visitors walking its historic pavements smoother and keeping that sense of history alive.
I shall go back to Cordoba soon. This time, I WILL take my camera with me.