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Texans in Europe for 20: Córdoba & Sevilla, Spain

Our 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all about it, just click on those links.

The day before, we explored the beauty of Toledo’s town square and it’s shining star, the Cathedral. Today, it just got better. Every morning we would wake up and say, “I don’t think today can top yesterday.” Then, we were promptly proved wrong.

Armed with cute clothes from our found luggage, we rose really early and boarded the high-speed train with stops in Córdoba and Sevilla. That train was something else. This van-loving Texan was quite impressed with the efficiency of the public transportation system in Spain – from the metro and commuter trains to the day-trip and high-speed trains – they really know how to move people. Except, that one time, when we got dropped off in the middle of nowhere in Madrid. Blog post coming soon…

We arrived in Córdoba and went straight to the Mezquita, the former mosque turned cathedral. The Moorish influence is such a beautiful one in the south of Spain. If life affords us another trip back here, I look forward to diving into more history. We hemmed and hawed about touring the cathedral’s interior but ultimately decided to walk around, take photos and then head over to the Hammam.

The what?

Two words: Arabian spa.spain_9238

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Our photographer had recommended this place and marked it as a “must-do.” Francisco was right. For practically pennies ($39 euro) we were able to enjoy three different baths (cold, warm and hot), hot tea, a massage with essential oils and plenty of relaxation. No photos were allowed in the baths, but I did find this one which is pretty close to how the main bath area and massage tables looked when we arrived.

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Source

I’m not sure I ever have been, or ever will be again, that relaxed. After changing into swimsuits (thankfully they had some for sale because who packs a swimsuit for a fall trip to Spain!?!), we were invited to enjoy the baths. That cold one was COLD, but I managed a good four minutes in there before jumping out. Those benches you see in the far left were a great place to sit, drink some tea and just, BE. About halfway through our times in the bath, we enjoyed our massages and the rest of the time Scott and I sat in that warm bath. At one point, I whispered to him, “Next week, when we’re back home and everyone is losing their ****, remember this moment.” He replied, “We’ll always have Córdoba.” Indeed.

In hindsight, I’m glad we skipped the Mezquita. Experiences like the Hammam don’t happen every day. We did it on a whim and I’m so glad we did. What a way to spend a morning in Spain!

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We skipped around town and I took one-billion pictures of doors (true story), plazas and the street and then we headed over to Bar Santos for their famous tortilla de patatas and $2 beer. I think the whole meal cost us $7, with beer! It is a teeny tiny space but by sheer luck, we landed the only table in the joint. The line was out the door! Perfect end to our day here and then it was back on the train to Sevilla.

As providence would have it, one of Scott’s co-workers has a daughter living and working in Sevilla. Because it was Saturday, she had the whole day free and gave us a live walking tour of town. It didn’t hurt that she’s also bilingual. Jackpot.

Jacqueline, you are THE BEST. We had such a good time with you.

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We walked some serious miles today, almost 18,000 steps! But, there’s no better way to get a feel for the energy of a city than by walking it and interacting with the locals. First up was “the mushrooms.” We hear Sevillanos aren’t too fond of Las Setas, but Scott and I thought it looked pretty cool and it’s made completely of wood. Whoa.

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We opted to save our views from another vantage point in the city and it did not disappoint. First, we stopped in at the Basilica de la Macarena. I know, I keep wondering when they’ll stop being so stunning. Spoiler alert: they don’t.

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Remember that monstrance in Toledo? Well, story time. Each year during Holy Week (Semana Santa), Sevilla transforms into quite the city. Each of the 115 churches in town has a “brotherhood” of men called costaleros who carry these massive floats (usually made of precious metal) adorned with candles, flowers and statues of the Virgin Mary. This is the basilica’s float, on display in the church the remainder of the year. I cannot even imagine how heavy that thing is. Jacqueline shared with us it can take as long as 12 hours for the floats to make their way from the church to the cathedral and back. She tell us the streets are covered in wax for weeks afterward!

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As providence would have it, the day we were in Sevilla, there was a “mini-procession” by one of the brotherhoods. We still don’t know the occasion, but what a gift to see this! Just multiply it by 114 for Holy Week. It meant the cathedral was closed but what an experience this was.

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Just before the procession, we hiked all the way up the adjoining tower of the cathedral for some spectacular views. In case you’re wondering, that was eight stories we climbed up, but thankfully it was an angled, ramped story, rather than steps. We only had to make 36 left turns. Ha!

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And, back at the base of the tower and cathedral…

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We snuck in one more church, a beautiful hidden garden and a few more stunning streets before eating an early dinner. Jacqueline chuckled when we told her we eat at 7pm. Spainards are notorious for starting their dinner meal well after 9pm. Oh, and how could I forget the stunning wedding we stumbled upon? Y’all. The Spanish know how to do high fashion. I didn’t want to stare, but boy were they dashing.

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At this point, we’re starving for, you guessed it, tapas. We walked down the street from the cathedral and found a gem of a place. We enjoyed oxtail, shrimp tortillas, spicy potatoes and steak with fries. The shrimp and oxtail were melt-in-your-mouth. A light meal, but packed with flavor. I had a drink that I wish I would’ve written down the name of, but it was basically soda water with red wine. A perfect summer drink and at 90 degrees that day in Sevilla, we needed it! I’m not an adventurous eater, but I made a promise to myself, and Scott, that I would try any food brought to us. Only one time did I regret doing that (octupus), the rest of the time, I absolutely loved it.

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We had one more place to visit before heading back to Madrid for the evening, Plaza de España. Otherwise known as that cool place from Star Wars: Episode II. It’s an impressive half circle of government buildings, adorned with that stunning Spanish tile. Along the interior are tiled works of art depicting the different provinces of Spain. What a way to end our time in Sevilla.

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We hopped in a cab for the train station, gave Jacqueline a huge hug (no way would we have seen all that without her) and then did the walk of shame through McDonald’s. I swear we only used them for their wifi. Promise. The Spanish were all so surprised we didn’t love eating here. “Don’t all Americans love McDonald’s?” Um, no.

We had a spectacular day of relaxation, fun surprises, good eats and beautiful architecture. Madrid, we’re coming for ya tomorrow! We take illegal photos, have a surprise moment with God and end the day with a bang.

Places Visited Today
Córdoba Hammam
Mezquita
Cathedral

7 Comments

  1. mary on October 21, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Let’s just talk about that spa for a moment. Were the baths/massage tables JUST for you guys? Or were there other people there? Man, the jealousy is real.

    Seville is beautiful, for World Youth Day Spain, we stayed for four days and loved every second of it.

    • Kathryn on October 21, 2016 at 8:33 am

      Gah, four days in Sevilla sounds divine. The baths were for other people, but when we were there, only 4-5 other folks were there and we were all in different places. Some were in the baths, some massage and some drinking tea. It definitely felt relaxing and because there’s no talking that really helped with the atmosphere. Plus, we went early before the crowds came.

  2. Michi on October 21, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I am so glad you were able to get out of Madrid. I’m from Spain, and don’t get me wrong but when visiting Spain I always tell people to leave Madrid and visit other cities. Only going to Madrid is like only going to NYC here in the US. You would miss so much of what is the “real” US instead of the large Cosmopolitan and Tourist city that both Madrid and NYC are.
    You visited my most favorite city Córdoba! You know, La Mezquita is actually a Mosque, a Cathedral and a Jewish Temple! So much history in just one place!❤️
    Also, Sevilla has my heart and a lot of my family still live there. My family is actually from estremadura which is the neighbor Provence to Andalucía. I’m glad you were able to visit Sevilla. Did you get to visit the neighborhood called Triana? That is where you can find the best flamenco shows and tapas!
    Oh, the drink you had is called a “Tinto de Verano”. (Summer red). It is a red wine with soda water. You can choose “blanco” (plain soda water/club soda)or “con limón”(lemon soda water/club soda). It’s my all time favorite! More so than sangria which I always find to be too sweet (outside of my homemade sangria😁)
    Did they tell about the tower you climbed? La Giralda- it has ramps instead of steps because it was used to ride a horse all the way up to watch out for the moors coming in to attack the city. In the summer you can smell the orange trees that are in bloom in the Cathedrals courtyard beneath the tower.
    Also, did you notice the cathedral is in the Guinness record book? I can’t remember correctly but I think it’s because it’s one of the longest cathedrals in the world or something.
    I am enjoying your blog and loving the way you have really explored and spent real time marveling at the beauty of my country!
    I’m sorry you didn’t like the octopus. It’s one of my favorite. I hope you enjoyed all the other foods.
    I’m looking forward to reading more about your trip. Also, loving your tips! I’ve never heard about the vacation photog! I love the pictures you got them to take! What a great way to preserve memories! When we travel I always dislike putting myself or the family in front of some building we are visiting because it just looks so posed and not creative. But, the pictures your Photograpgher capture are so special! I love the idea! Thank you!
    Blessings,
    Michi

    • Kathryn on October 24, 2016 at 7:09 am

      We were so happy to explore more of Spain, too. Boy, you have a beautiful country! We walked all over the city, but I can’t remember which neighborhoods. Oops! YES. Tinto de Verano was just fabulous. I had the lemon version too and it was just as refreshing. Ah, now the ramps make sense for the tower. Thank you! The octopus was okay, just not my favorite. My husband absolutely loved it, though. Blessings right back to you, Michi!

  3. Nicole on October 21, 2016 at 9:55 am

    What an amazing visit. I am always blown away by the beauty you see in Europe, and not just in the architecture, but also in the everyday, too. I have never been to Spain… Some day! Your tour guide is adorable, and that was so fortunate that she was there to be your guide.

  4. […] 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all […]

  5. […] 20th anniversary trip to Madrid, Toledo, Córdoba and Sevilla, Spain; Fatima, Santarém and Lisbon, Portugal; and Rome, Italy, was flat out amazing. To read all […]

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