Circumnavigating La Mezquita in Cordoba

La Mezquita simply takes possession of old Cordoba: vast, sprawling, the Christian cathedral emerging from the ribs of the Moorish Mosque, its bulk and presence are unignorable.

It’s a good idea to circumnavigate before you enter: wander the surrounding streets, catch glimpses of the spire from narrow alleyways or see it from up high, from the old stone towers of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, to get a physical sense of its mass and antiquity – and then go in, to a fantasy world of pink and white columns, horseshoe arches, chapels and pulpits, tiles and paintings, silver and gold, light and shade, a timeless and yet particular blending of cultures, faiths, visions and religions.

To give you a sense (I hope) of place, of time and locality, here are some exteriors.

Small-town Andalucia

Small-town Andalucia – those slightly run-down settlements you find on the road from Granada to Cordoba, for instance, places that are not on the tourist route, that are a little hard-scrabble, impoverished – still surprise, with their Moorish keeps, their sense of history. But it is a pre-democracy Spain you sense here – the Spain of Franco, perhaps – yet to be dragged into modernity.

We passed a number of these places along the road to Cordoba, stopping in one for a coffee, in another to use the bathroom. Here are some images: the first, which I took while Rob sipped her coffee at a little open-air cafe by the side of the road, are in colour.

The black-and-white images are from a little town quite close to Cordoba – our final destination for this trip, before we climbed on board the train back to Madrid, footsore and sunburned. But happy.


Flamenco at the Restaurant Cinque in Ronda

In Sevilla we heard, live on stage, in a modern, airy, wood-panelled auditorium, the fabulous flamenco guitarist Paco Jarana: a wonderful masterclass that blew us both away. To see flamenco dancing, however, we went to Ronda, to the Restaurant Cinque on the Paseo Blas Infante – a small, dark stage, with three red chairs for the handclapper-singers and the guitarist and just space enough for a single flamenco dancer.

The guitarist was not the great Paco, by any stretch, but he was pretty good; the singers and hand-clappers, likewise, were not in the league of Paco’s accompanists, but what they had was the raw intensity and the enthusiasm that the performance demanded.

And the flamenco dancer – offstage, just a slight, ordinary-seeming young woman – on stage, commanded your absolute attention. Entering silently, down a darkened staircase, she stepped out into the light, and from then until the show ended had us utterly entranced – no, not just entranced, completely riveted.

I chose on this occasion to take the Leica D-Lux, not the Nikon, as the Nikon would have been too large and intrusive. I asked if it was okay to take photographs and was told yes, so long as I didn’t use flash.

Here are some of the results.


A rooftop in Ronda

Back, then, from Paternoster, and back to Spain: Ronda, to be precise. Retracing our steps for the next couple of posts, to pick up on these images from our hotel rooftop before – in an upcoming post – sitting down in a small tapas bar for some foot-stomping flamenco.

The Moorish Keep, Olvera

The Moorish Keep in Olvera, Andalucia stands on a high promontory across the way from the Iglesia de la Encarnacion. I like the black-and-white images, but the image in colour works best in colour. I hope you enjoy!

Olvera, Spain – the Iglesia de la Encarnation

Olvera, one of the ‘white towns‘ or pueblos blancos of Andalucia, is dominated, as you will have seen in my earlier post, by a massive church-on-a-hill, the Iglesia de la Encarnacion

The building itself is in need of some maintenance, but its setting is magnificent, and its brooding presence over the white town below it speaks volumes.

Here are three images, in black-and-white.

Men of Olvera

We drove up the steep hill into Olvera, one of the ‘white towns‘ or pueblos blancos of Andalucia; parked, climbed higher, to the monumental bulk of the Iglesia de la Encarnacion from where we could look across to the Moorish Keep on a rocky outcrop opposite; looked out over the roofs into the streets below and the olive-clad hills in the distance, and then descended once more into the town, where we came across this group of men, retired one guessed, gossiping in the shade.

The Cathedral and the Keep tomorrow or Sunday; but here is my tableaux of old men, today.

A group of men, Olvera

Look out for my next post – Olvera, Andalucia

We took the road via Setenil from Ronda before joining up with the A384 en route to Granada. The back roads took us through rugged, heat-seared, spectacular country, dotted with little white towns with Olvera, pictured, offering dramatic views as we approached.

Needless to say, we drove up into the town, parked, and explored. We were on holiday after all.

More images to follow.

Olvera # 1