The Jewel of Córdoba

Mezquita Entrance

 

 

 

 

 

In the great city of Córdoba, Spain, there are many sites to enjoy. The Mezquita (Cathedral-Mosque) is named “The Jewel of Córdoba” and for good reason. Construction started in the 8th century over the Visigothic* Basilica and since then, there have been many renovations and expansions. In 1238,  after the Reconquista (Spain regained control), the Mezquita became a Christian Cathedral that merged with the old Islamic style columns and arches. Breathtaking to say the least, the columns seem to go on forever. The Islamic minarets have been changed to bell towers reflecting the Christian culture. The layering of Islamic and Christian architecture is a constant throughout the Andalusian region.

Islamic Arches

 

The last Islamic stronghold, Granada, home of the magnificent Alhambra, was finally reclaimed by the Spanish in 1492 and the Muslims were ousted. Their 700 year reign over Andalusia has left many remaining architectural wonders to be enjoyed by Spain’s growing tourist market. Incidentally, Spain just edged out the United States as the number two travel destination in the world. France remains the first.  If you plan to visit the Mezquita, it is open Mon-Sat 10:00-18:00/adults 10€. Budget tip — arrive Mon-Sat between 8:30-9:30 and you can enter for FREE! Not only do you save money, the place is less crowded!

The Alhambra

The Mezquita is located in the walled Jewish quarter of the historic district with its narrow cobblestoned streets laced with taverns, restaurants and hotels. If you plan to enjoy some breathtaking views over the Jewish quarter, you can go up to the old Laminar at the top of the bell tower (passes available every 30 minutes/ 2€). On your way to find the entrance of the Mezquita, much of the quarter is home to many residential areas with antient open foyers strewn with lush plants standing sentry to the wrought iron gateways. With an abundance of large potted plants and flowers, the residents open their foyers to the public for the “Festival of Patios” in May of every year. We’ve learned through several trips to the region to find the Jewish quarter for that authentic feel of  old world Spain.

Whether you find yourself in Seville, Córdoba or Granada, the Jewish quarter offers taverns, restaurants, performers, and architecture of an age gone by. Also the BnB’s are both plentiful and very affordable in the area. We found a lovely place at a very good price. It was only a 15 minute stroll from the flat to the majority of historic sites. We highly recommend this place – brand new, super clean, and a perfect hostess.

Patio

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21024064.

 

Jewish Quarter

Although there are many places to get tapas and dinner, we found one to our liking close to our BnB which stays open during siesta. Morelis (at the corner of Antonio Maura and Marruecos) is a neighborhood bar with attached dining room. It draws its daily local crowd and offers a free tapa with a small caña of cerveza – 1. 20€. On our second visit to Moriles, we split a platter of fish bites, pork filets, salad and french fries for under 5€ and pretty much spoiled our dinner with the vast quantities of yummy eats. There are outside tables under a tent with flamed heaters for those cool evenings.

Moriles

As we continue to visit cities in the Andalusian region, Córdoba will be hard to beat and we only spent a couple days and explored one small neighborhood by foot. There is more work to do here and we expect to return soon. Seville is lovely but is truly a large city. Malaga, too, is a bustling metropolis with both gorgeous sites and big city ills. Granada is very high on our list of places to stay. Although the Alhambra draws many tourists, there is a Middle Eastern market strewn with tea rooms and hookah bars that we found enchanting.  We prefer the off season to avoid the droves of people. We will continue to return to the Andalusian region with it’s mild winters, warm people and affordable prices. As Arnold aptly said “I’ll be back!”

 

 

 

*The Visigoths were a nomadic tribe of the Eastern most region of the Germanic people. In the early 5th century, the Huns began to push them west. Alaric, a Visigoth warrior, had fought for the Roman Empire on its northern frontier. He was passed over for promotion in the Roman Legion and turned from friend to foe using what he learned about warfare to launch his own war of aggression. In 408, Alaric decides to strangle Rome by cutting off the supply lines due to the impenetrable walls of the city. In 410, Alaric finally attacks and sacks Rome. After sacking Rome, the Visigoths began to settle in Gaul, then eventually in Spain and Portugal maintaining a presence from the 5th to the 8th century. At this time, the Arabs moved up from Africa and held the area of southeastern Europe from the early 8th century through most of the 15th century until the Reconquista.

2017 Travel Challenge MET!

It has been a long time coming, but I have finally finished logging all of our expenses from our trip to Spain last January! It is quite an undertaking to track every single dollar you spend for 55 days!! You know, we don’t make a lot of money. And you know I am a travel addict! I think it is fair to say that I have pulled Mitch into my addiction. He’s not complaining either! We find ourselves wanting to travel for longer and longer periods of time. Two weeks a year just won’t cut it anymore. So with our limited funds, we have had to become rather creative to feed our addiction!

For several years, we have been avid followers of Nomadic Matt. Matt Kepnes is a prolific traveler and blogger! He has been on the road since 2006 and visited over 80 countries. In 2013, he wrote “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”. Not only has this book become a NY Times best seller, it was also my inspiration! I was already aware of many of the travel hacks he shares, but I did pick up plenty of useful information. My competitive nature drove me to go one step farther – do it for less than $40 a day! Matt figures $50-60/day in Western Europe and about $35/day in Eastern Europe.

Our combined expenses for our trip were $3737.11. Do the math and you will see that we managed to explore Spain, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro for an average of $33.97/person per day each for 55 days!!

I know it still sounds like a ton of money. But, consider this! According to Value Penguin, the average cost of a 4 night domestic trip in the US in 2013 was $581 or $144/day. The average cost for a 12 night international trip (also in 2013) was $3251 or $271/day. Adjust these prices slightly to account for inflation.

A low-end 4 night Disney vacation in 2017 averages $3564 for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children under the age of 10)! This price includes airfare and accommodation at an off-site hotel. The average price for the same trip with on-site accommodation is $6,360! Staggering! One day admission to Disney is $124!

It costs how much Mickey?

Hell, if I take into account my mortgage payment, transportation costs, etc. for staying home, I am not sure it would be less than $34/day……hmmm….more numbers to crunch. My brain is getting tired!

These figures include three roundtrip airline tickets – transatlantic flights from NYC to Malaga, Spain; then roundtrip from Malaga to Milan, Italy; and finally roundtrip from Milan to Podgorica, Montenegro.

Also included are ground transportation costs – buses, trains, rental cars in two countries, gas and tolls. We had a rental car in Spain for 39 days! We had a rental car for our one week journey through Montenegro, Croatia and a wee bit of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We did have some help on the car rental prices as we did some ride-sharing with friends and family who came to visit!

How did we manage so cheaply? Well, house sitting saved us a bundle! We flew Norwegian Air from NYC to Malaga. If you don’t know of it, Norwegian is a budget airline. Our ticket price did not include seat selection, checked bags or meals. But we still ended up sitting together. We never check bags anyway. And we packed a few snacks! Our original ticket price was under $400….then we used credit card points to lower the cost – Mitch’s ticket cost $111 and mine was $60!! Earlier in the year, we each took out a travel reward credit card from Bank of America. We were given a bonus of 20,000 points if we charged $1000 in the first three months! So we started putting all kinds of purchases on there that we would normally use our debit card or cash to pay for — gas, groceries, some bills. Then we put the cash aside to make the credit card bill! 20,000 points = $200 each! We also earned 1.5 points for each dollar charged. So that initial $1,000 netted us an additional 1,500 points. Travel hacking!!  Gotta love it!

Cave AirBnB in Granada, Spain

When house sitting is not an option, we almost exclusively use AirBnb to rent entire apartments! We try to never spend more than $40/night and we have had some amazing places! Having an apartment means we can cook in which saves money on food costs. We do eat out a few times a month; but even at home, we prefer to cook. With so many amazing markets at our disposable when traveling, it is a real pleasure to cook! Those times when we don’t have a kitchen to use, I always wander through the markets wishing I could buy up some of the gorgeous vegetables and go at it! Eating out in Spain is cheaper than in the US! A really good glass of wine costs 2€. A small draft beer is 1-1,50€. Often you will get a free tapa (small snack) with each drink order!

Market in Malaga

 

So many types of olives!

Later in 2017, we spent a week in Guanajuato, Mexico! Eventually I will compile those figures as well! We are now back in Spain for two months and then off to Morocco! Again, I am tracking the pennies!

So, for now, keep on traveling and we will all keep on dreaming about traveling! It can be done on a budget!!! More tips to follow in upcoming posts! XOXOXO!