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Madrid to Madrid report part 4 - Cordoba and beyond

Nyleve | Oct 22, 2016 10:09 AM

Well first of all, I must post a short addition to our trip from Caceres to Seville (described as boring in part 3). For some reason I had completely forgotten that we stopped enroute for lunch in Merida, on the rather enthusiastic recommendation of our hotel manager. This was an interesting city, filled with Roman ruins, including an impressive amphitheatre, a large aqueduct and a very well-preserved bridge. Lunch was forgettable at a small cafe near where the hokey little tourist train starts (we took it, of course). If you have nothing but time, Merida is worth a visit. Ditto if you are an aficianado of Roman antiquities.

Anyway, our trip continued from Seville to Cordoba during which we discovered that we could access my Spotify account using my phone and the car audio system. This led to an obsession with the soundtrack to The Man of La Mancha, which became the theme music of the trip. No day could begin without a rousing rendition of "I, Don Quixote". It became an ear worm and has taken me almost a month now to get it out of my head. I am afraid I may have re-ignited it by even mentioning it here.

Nevertheless, we arrived at our apartment in Cordoba, not without getting hopelessly lost trying to navigate the narrow streets for about an hour, but whatever. We dropped our stuff and went in search of a late lunch. We ended up at Casa Pepe, where we opted for a sit-down lunch. It was about a half hour wait at the bar, with a glass of very nice wine and a pretty adorable bartender to watch. Also we noted the historic photos of the famous bullfighter, Manolete, that papered the walls of the bar. Lunch was reasonable, and good - I know I had rabo de toro (it seemed appropriate), which was pretty delicious and we shared a plate of fried padron peppers and a tomato salad which was ridiculously overpriced for what it was but I was craving tomatoes. I know one of my friends had some fish dish which was just ok. Since we had such a late lunch, our dinner that evening was just salad with some anchovies or something at a non-memorable place that had a seat outside in the garden. We chose the restaurant for the garden, not the food.

The next day, after quite a lot of walking around the Juderia, we decided to have lunch at Casa Mazal, a Sephardic restaurant near the synagogue. This place was recommended in so many reviews of Cordoba - and we were looking forward to a small change from the food we had been eating on the trip. Look, it takes a lot to make me actually leave most of my food on my plate. And truly, I love Moroccan and north African cooking. But this. There was nothing any of us ordered that was anything but awful. I had a lamb couscous, my friends ordered a vegetable couscous and I think a chicken one. The vegetables were a soggy and tasteless mess. The lamb was edible, but only just. I know we had a couple of other dishes but literally everything was really poor - the kind of food that you will eat at home only because it's last week's leftovers and you don't want to throw them out. And it was not cheap! I can't remember exactly, but it was in the range of 30 euros per person for lunch - and I think I was the only one who even had a glass of wine. Bleah. But wait, there's more! Throughout the meal, I kept getting wafts of sewage smell, but figured that it was an old city and these things are to be expected. Then, just before leaving, I decided to use the ladies' room. TURNS OUT that the bathroom is actually just a cubicle that was built in a corner of the dining room with the walls MADE OF ONE-WAY GLASS! So you're sitting on the toilet and you have a clear view of everyone eating in the dining room. I was hysterical. Returning to our table, I suggested that someone else use the bathroom. When my friend was obviously seated within, we began waving at the cubicle from our table. You could hear her laughing from our table. When our server asked if we enjoyed our lunch, we told her the truth. She seemed surprised.

I can't remember what we had for dinner, or where. Obviously our lunch experience has blotted everything else from my mind.

What I did notice about Cordoba was that there were so many shops selling olive oil and other local food products. Knowing that this was an important olive growing area, we decided to find an olive oil producer where we could get a tour. In Baena, about halfway between Cordoba and Granada, the producer Nunez de Prado (please excuse my lack of tilde over the letter N - I can't find it on my keyboard) is open to the public. This is where we headed. The city of Baena itself is nothing really special, but we really enjoyed visiting the factory. We were shown around by the elder member of the family, who told us that the company has been in their family for 300 years and he is very clearly proud of the oil they produce. Unfortunately, they weren't actually making any oil at the time - harvest is in November - but it was interesting to see the equipment and Senor Nunez the Prado was quite charming (if slightly absentminded). We bought oil. A lot of it.

On to Granada!

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