Friday, January 29, 2016

Random Madrid

Assumption of Mary
I keep going back to Madrid. I like it so much I was there twice this year. On the second visit, I decided to check out some of the places I hadn't yet seen like the Templo de Debod and the CaixaForum. I wanted to see the statue of Julia in July but didn't have much time then so it was great to see her last November.

I was made aware of the crypt of the Almudena Cathedral by local friends. The entrance to the crypt is on Calle Mayor, at the back of the cathedral. A chapel runs the length of the crypt and it is flanked by side altars separated from the apse by a row of columns supporting a vaulted ceiling.  At the back of the crypt and across the central nave from the main altar is this beautiful painting of Mary, Queen of Heaven. There were many people inside the crypt on the feast of the Almudena and the tombs were decorated with beautiful flowers, just like on All Soul's Day. A choir was singing the Almudena hymn which has a beautiful refrain: 
Santa Maria de la Almudena
Reina del cielo
Madre de amor

Metro: Opera (this is a long walk to the Cathedral)


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Feast of Our Lady of the Almudena


Offerings
The statue of Our Lady of the Almudena was brought to Spain by St. James, the apostle. It was hidden for centuries to keep it from being desecrated and destroyed by the arrival of the Moors in Spain in the 8th century. The search for the statue commenced after Spain was reconquered from the Moors in the 11th century.  It was miraculously found on November 9, 1085 during a novena and procession held for the purpose of finding her image. Since then Madrid has celebrated annually the feast of Our Lady of the Almudena, the patron saint of the city, on November 9.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why you should enter the Mezquita with your eyes closed

"To Cordoba belong all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight. Her long line of Sultans form her crown of glory; her necklace is strung with the pearls which her poets have gathered from the ocean of language; her dress is of the banners of learning, well-knit together by her men of science; and the masters of every art and industry are the hem of her garments." Stanley Lane Poole, The Moors in Spain: Introduction 

Mezquita
One of the most amazing places I've visited in the world is the Mezquita. The Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba was built on the site of the Church of San Vicente from the Visigothic occupation of Córdoba in the 6th century. It has changed ownership a few times since then. Muslims ruled Córdoba from the 8th century through 1236 when Córdoba fell to Christian Spain. The Mesquita which was completed in 976 was left intact until King Ferdinand III converted the mosque to a cathedral within a mosque in the 13th century.

When you enter the Mezquita, do so with your eyes closed. Open them only when you are inside the great hall to feel the full impact of 856 columns topped by two tiers of red and white arches stretched across what was once the Great Mosque. There's something transcendent in this hallowed hall that tugs at my being. It's a sacred place.

Calleja de las Flores
Córdoba is also famous for its Festival of the Patios which happens annually in May when flowers are in full bloom. We visited in late October and cooler temperatures had permeated the air but there were still traces of the colorful floral displays in the streets and courtyards of the old city. It's so much fun peering through wrought iron gates to catch a glimpse of the beautiful patios. 

The tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is framed by the narrow alley called Calleja de las Flores. The alley is frequently mobbed by tourists and trying to take a photo could be quite a challenge. It's a lot more quiet in late afternoon.

Garden of the Alcázar 
The garden of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is a welcome escape from the Andalusian sun with its fountains, citrus trees, colorful flowers and inviting benches. 

Cypress trees line the path which leads to the statues of Columbus and the royal couple. This grand garden was once fed by the waters from the Guadalquiver River nearby using a waterwheel which is still in existence. The large ponds are 19th century additions.

Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Córdoba is also the birthplace of Cordoban painter, Julio Romero de Torres. He is best known for his portraits of women with expressive eyes. The museum was founded by Rafael Romero Barros, the father of the painter. It's located on Plaza del Potro and has one of the most beautiful patios in Córdoba. 

Patio of the Museum of Fine Arts
How to get there:
Take the Ave train from Madrid for the two hour journey to Córdoba.

Where to stay:
Eurostars Maimónides Hotel 
Torrijos 4, Córdoba (Across from the Mesquita)
The Maimónides is a very good hotel and reasonably priced. Our room was spacious and included wifi. The hotel is a stone's throw from the Mesquita and is conveniently situated close to many "must see" sites in Córdoba. 

Where to eat:
Ordoñez Taberna y Vinoteca,
Calle Medina y Corella 1
I loved the honey eggplant!

I liked the area of the Plaza Agrupacíon de los Cofradias which is a small square and has less tourist traffic. Found the food at the corner restaurant quite good and the service was fast and efficient. It was relaxing to eat lunch al fresco in this plaza. The restaurant had several kinds of fish dishes on the menu and I ordered the salmon.  I wanted to return that evening for the espada (swordfish) but we decided to stay at the hotel after a long day of walking and sightseeing.

*****

Images by travelswithcharie