Travel Tips for Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba, SpainA summer of Spain continues with Cordoba.

Cordoba is located in Andalusia, in southern Spain. The southern area of Spain has a Mediterranean climate but it does get very hot in the summers. When I visited Cordoba I did it in a day! I would certainly try to stay longer then that but in one day you can see the main sites. For travel information see “travel tips” below.

Cordoba is an impressive city. In the Middle Ages Cordoba was actually one of the largest cities in the world!

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On my trip to Cordoba I took the train from Madrid (2.5 hours) and from the train station you can take a taxi right to the Mezquita. You can also walk from the station but if you are short on time a taxi is the best option.

The Mezquita is the main attraction in Cordoba and I believe it is one of the items on the “must see before you die list” and I can vouch that it really is a “must see.” The Mezquita is also known as Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. It was originally a Mosque and is now a Roman Catholic Cathedral and this is the precise reason that the building is so magnificent, intriguing and stunning. You can’t help but walk in and be stunned. Most of your visit will be spent wandering through the Mezquita and marveling at the structure.

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A little history about the Mezquita… In 600 AD the building was begun as a Christian Visigoth church but was then bought by Emir Ad bar-Rahman who restructured the building as a mosque, a process that took two centuries to complete! The mosque has an unusual position as it points south instead of east-southeast in the direction of Mecca. The mosque was also an adjunct to Abd ar-Rahman’s palace. (Abd ar-Rahman was the founder of Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba, a Muslim Dynasty that ruled most of Iberia for almost three centuries).

The Mezquita is recognized for its unique interior. There are 856 columns with large striped arches. There is also a large dome in the center, decorated with blue tiles. The mosque was completed, along with the orange tree courtyard, in 987. But in 1236 Cordoba was taken over by King Ferdinand III of Castile and that is when the mosque was converted into a cathedral. The main alteration to the building was the insertion of a cathedral nave in the middle. The mixture of architectural elements is what is so intriguing.

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After exploring the Mezquita you should see the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos which is right by the Mezquita. The palace has extensive gardens with fountains and statues. Admission is free on Wednesdays! For a link to more information and admission prices see travel tips below.

And then I suggest you walk through the old city center, as I did, and explore the narrow streets lined with white houses. As you pass the white houses you will notice an abundance of flowers and flower pots as well as patios and courtyards that you will get glimpses of through iron gates. One popular street is the Calleja de las flores which is very photogenic.

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Overall Cordoba is a wonderful Mediterranean city with charming streets and the magnificent Mezquita!

For photographs, photo books, and accordion cards of Cordoba visit The Monica Store.

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Travel Tips:

1 – You can see Cordoba in one day if that is all the time you have. From Madrid you take the train right to Cordoba and it is a two and a half hour ride. So if you get there in the early morning and leave late evening you will have plenty of time to see the main sites. For train times and prices click here for Rail Europe.

2 – Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos information, admission prices, and hours.

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More Information:

1 – To read more about the Mezquita click here.

2 – Cordoba’s historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3 – To read more about the history of Cordoba click here.

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Travel Tips for Barcelona, Spain – Part 2

Casa Mila, La Pedrera, Barcelona, Spain

What to see in Barcelona, Spain  Part Two

To continue with Barcelona…always on the must see list, especially if you have a short trip… Casa Mila (also known as La Pedrera). The building was designed by Antonio Gaudi and was built from 1905-1910. Casa Mila is on the Passeig de Gracia, another wide street that has many notable buildings, great cafes, and it is a great people watching area.

Casa Mila can be toured and there is an entrance fee. With the visit you get to see the apartments which are unique and worth seeing as the building is circular so the rooms are all curved and create the feeling that you are inside a snake. From the apartment viewing you go up to the roof which is the most recognizable. Before you enter onto the roof there is a museum section with information about the architecture. On the roof, you will find a fantastical scene of chimneys that are larger then life and resemble geometric shapes and some have what look like faces. To see my photos of the Casa Mila chimneys click here.

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Also on the Passeig de Gracia is another Antoni Gaudi masterpiece and well recognized building, Casa Batllo built in 1877 and remodeled in 1904-1906. Casa Batllo is referred to locally as Casa dels ossos, or House of Bones as you can see when you look closely at the façade. You can also tour this building for an entrance fee as well but it is worth it because again, the building is entirely unique. It is theorized that the roof (which you can also walk around) represents a dragon with the mosaic and curved roof and tiles while the small tower and cross represent the sword of Saint George.

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Right next to Casa Batllo is the Casa Amatller which should not be overlooked. The building was designed as a house for Antoni Amatller, a chocolatier, and features amazing architectural details including a magnificent little sculpture of Saint George slaying the dragon on one of the columns in the front. Click here to see my photograph of Saint George slaying the dragon on The Monica Store.

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And of course there is the Sagrada Familia, also designed by Antonio Gaudi. The church has been under construction since 1882. It is certainly worth seeing. From afar the church looks like the castles you make as a child on the beach with the dripping wet sand, and yet from up close the façade looks like a sun baked sand castle and the interiors appear to be something akin to a Star Trek scene of alien cities. Each side of the church has a different theme: the East side is the Nativity, the South side is Glory, and the West side is Passion and the sculptures represent each theme. The whole building is breathtaking in astounding and unbelievable ways. I only hope to be around when it is finished to see what the grand plan turns out to be. For photography of the Sagrada Familia click here for The Monica Store.

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If you have time, it is worth seeing the Monastery of Pedralbes. The Monastery was built in the 14th century and has a beautiful courtyard. Click here for a direct link to The Monica Store photograph of the Monastery of Pedralbes.

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Another must see building is the Palau de la Musica Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music). I actually was only able to see the outside of the building – they do have funny hours for tours and they can conflict with shows. Plus if you would like to see a performance, as I did but was unable to, book ahead of time as they seem to sell out fast! The outside is amazing and has so many details. Make sure to look up to see the enormous sculptures that represent Catalan music and for a glimpse of the mosaic columns on the balconies. There is a lot to see on the outside but even more inside – so on the next trip I will make sure to get inside!

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There so much to see in Barcelona. I am eager to go back and see more. I did manage to see all of the above as well as a few more things in three days, so it can be done.

Hopefully this provided some insight into what to see. See below for more information and travel tips. And as always you may visit my store site to buy a framed photograph of Barcelona, a wonderful travel photo book of Barcelona, and my signature accordion cards as well.

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More information:

1 – Casa Mila was designed for a wealthy couple. The building suffered some changes from its original design due to government regulations including standard building height regulations that prevented the installation of a sculpture atop the building.

2 – Casa Mila is also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

3 – The Sagrada Familia has eighteen towers which represent the twelve Apostles, four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ.

4 – To read more about Antoni Gaudi click here.

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Travel Tips:

1 – For directions and updated entrance fees for the Casa Mila click here.

2 – For directions and updated entrance fees for the Casa Batllo click here.

3 – For more information about the Monastery of Pedralbes click here.

Travel Tips for Barcelona, Spain – Part 1

Park Guell Barcelona, SpainThe two-month theme “all about Spain” continues with Barcelona, Spain.

I have been to Barcelona once and it is definitely impossible to see everything in one visit, unless of course it is a month long stay. But it is possible to see the main sites in three days. Keep in mind that Barcelona is hot and humid so the summer months are not ideal if you are not a sun/heat worshipper. My trip was actually in July which is definitely not when I would recommend going, but if you do, get out early and take a siesta in the middle of the day because the heat is truly unbearable.

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What to see in Bareclona, Spain

I stayed in a small hotel about two blocks from the street, La Rambla. La Rambla is one of the main streets in the city and includes a center promenade so you can admire both sides of the street, watch street performers, and it is a good point of reference if you get lost.

From La Rambla you can enter the Gothic Quarter, which is a maze of narrow streets that occasionally open onto small plazas. Most of the buildings in this neighborhood date from medieval times.

One of the main sites in the Gothic Quarter is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The Cathedral was built throughout the 13th to 15th centuries. The church is dedicated to Eulalia, the co-patron saint of Barcelona; she is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt. The impressive Cathedral also includes a cloister with a “Well of the Geese.” There are thirteen white geese who live in the cloister, thirteen because that is the age that Eulalia was martyred. To see and buy a photo of the geese in the Cathedral cloister click here.

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Visiting the Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

One of the main attractions of Barcelona are the buildings by Antoni Gaudi and Park Guell.

Park Guell
was designed by Antoni Gaudi and built from 1900 to 1914 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park is a fanciful space that feels like a fairytale. My advice is to get there early, just before it opens at 10am, which is the only way to get photos of the entrance and the grand staircase without hordes of people.

The park is very extensive and does take at least half a day to see. Upon entering the park you are faced with a huge staircase with a fountain in the center and a large mosaic lizard that is the park drop to many a family portrait. The first impression is that of a sandcastle. Traipse up the stairs to find a cavernous gallery of Doric column that feels like a scene from Alice and Wonderland. Wander over to a stoned colonnaded pathway with tilted archways; the colonnaded path is probably one of the most photographed places in the park and you can see a photograph on my store site.

The upper level of the park is bordered by mosaic serpentine benches and is the next spot to see. The benches, the columns, the colonnade all reflect nature and show how Gaudi integrated natural forms into his work.

You could spend all day in this park and some people do. The views are spectacular and some spots are positively restful. You can just imagine how it was when the park was first built.

For photos of Park Guell and Barcelona click here to see The Monica Store photos.

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More information:

1 – A little history of the Park Guell: The park was originally meant for a housing site for luxury homes. The original idea was that of Count Eusebi Guell, a patriarch who became a patron to Antoni Gaudi, and for whom the Park is named after. There were actually only two houses built on the land: Count Eusebi lived in the Larrard House and Gaudi lived in the second house with his family.

2 – To read more about Antoni Gaudi click here.

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Travel Tips:

1-  As with most Cathedrals in Spain and Italy, you must be dressed appropriately which means shoulders must be covered. If you lack the proper attire you will be denied entrance. Or you can purchase a shawl from one of the few enterprising individuals who linger just outside the Cathedral doors.

2 – Park Guell is a bit of a trek to get to since it is on the fringes of the city. After taking the metro it is about a 20 minute walk up hill to the park. There is a bus as well.

3 – Make sure to get to the Park Guell early, before it opens at 10am. This will help you get great photos without crowds of people and it will also be before the mid-day heat.

4 – For directions and more information about Park Guell click here.