Escape to Andalucía: One day in Córdoba

One Day in_Córdoba

Back in October-November 2017 I spent my half term wandering around the streets of Madrid, which I blogged about here and here. I seized at the opportunity to get out of the capital and spend a day in a very different city I had yet to visit.

The greatest part about Madrid is how it sits smack bang in the centre of Spain and has excellent rail connections to most parts of the county. In only an hour and a half after boarding the train at Atocha station, I was walking the streets of Córdoba in the balmy heat of your average Andalucian Autumnal morning.

Córdoba is a small city, so a gentle 25-minute walk from the station will find you at its historic centre, where you will find plenty to fill your 1-day itinerary.

Most visitors come to marvel at its iconic Mezquita. You can book tickets in advance online and you should! I had read many reports that the Mezquita is never too crowded and it is easy to get a ticket on the day. How misinformed I was. Usually I book these things in advance just in case things go wrong; but I had been in Spain a few days and already I was super relaxed about everything.

The Mezquita had a massive queue when I arrived, but it closed for several hours in the afternoon when I came back for another try, and only reopened a little before I had to catch my train back to Madrid. Before heading back to the station, there was the most ridiculous queue of people waiting at the entrance to get inside. It was disappointing, so I will know next time not to leave these things to chance.

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Outside the Mezquita

Despite not being able to visit the main site in the city, Córdoba had a few other places of interest which I may not have had the chance to see otherwise!

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos

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Not far from the Mezquita is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, or Palace of the Christian Kings. The gardens were enjoyable to look around and you can see inside some of the original buildings. It is very different to the Alcazares of Sevilla and Granada as this one seems less grand and much smaller, but for a couple of euros it is a must-do when in Córdoba.

Roman Bridge

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Opposite the Mezquita you can walk along the Roman Bridge. This is a famous film set too for Game of Thrones as the ‘Long Bridge of Volantis.’ As a fan, I appreciated this.

Jewish Quarter

Córdoba has a small but rich Jewish heritage in its historic centre. Visit the small but informative Casa de Sefarad to get an idea of what life was like for Jews in the city prior to C15th. Around the corner is a Synagogue, built in the 14th century which still has some beautiful and intricate carvings on the walls.

Celleja de las Flores

Be prepared to be patient if you are heading to this next spot and wanting a picture-perfect shot of the tiny street adorned with flowers, as everyone else is trying to do the same thing! Look past the crowds and enjoy the beauty in this small place.

The best part about Córdoba is wandering its narrow streets, stumbling upon beautiful buildings, and being lost in another time. It was particularly good to stock up on some Vitamin D as this was the last time for a while that I felt the suns rays before I returned to the cold of winter in England!

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SHOREDITCH, London

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I’m definitely warming up to London the more I visit, and an afternoon in Shoreditch did win me over.

I took the train in for the day to meet up with a friend to see an art exhibit and then see where to go after. J. suggested Shoreditch as a good place to explore for the afternoon. I had never been but it was easy to get to on the Tube/Overground from Victoria.

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We headed to Brick Lane to indulge in the famous beigels at Beigel Bake. So many of my friends have raved about Brick Lane beigels for years and finally I can understand what they are on about.

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a generous portion of salt beef beigel – yum!

The area is a vintage shop-lovers/street-art enthusiast’s paradise, and I could get lost in the rails upon rails of clothes for days or wander the streets looking for cool art. The area is so edgy but that’s the charm.

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By reading this you probably guessed that I actually absolutely loved Shoreditch. It’s a shame that this corner of LDN hasn’t been on my radar until now. There is a lot to see and do – I have only just scratched the surface; so when I’m next down to London (hopefully soon – wait did I just say that?!) I will be wanting/demanding to spend some time here.

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Rainbow Beigels


What do you make of Shoreditch? Anywhere in particular I need to check out on my next visit? Let me know in the comments 🙂

 

Day Trip: Hadrian’s Wall

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There are many ways to visit Hadrian’s Wall. There are one-week walking holidays across the entire length of the wall, cycling holidays, day trips, tours – the best thing to do is research before you go what you want to see and how you want to do it. We had a weekend in nearby Hexham, and spent the Saturday visiting some of the main sites.

We were ready to set an early alarm to seize the day, but our first port of call, Vindolanda, did not open until 10am;  so instead we enjoyed a more relaxed start to the day with a tasty breakfast at the hotel.

Vindolanda

Vindolanda is an easy 20 minute drive from Hexham. All the sites are well signposted en-route, which made navigating really simple. We arrived at Vindolanda – the first ones #keen. We bought a combined ticket to also visit the nearby Roman Army museum which is worth going to.

Vindolanda is an impressive site and what is even more staggering is that only part of the site has been excavated and there is still plenty more history to be uncovered. After making your way through the archeological site, you come down into the gardens and towards the Vindolanda museum which holds a large collection of objects discovered at the site: shoes, coins, weaponry, beauty products all the way to a calendar device and the pride and joy of the museum – the famous writing tablets.

Length of visit: 1 hour

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After a short detour to the Roman Army Museum, make your way back past Vindolanda to Housesteads, the best preserved Roman Fort along the wall.

Housesteads Fort

We were delighted to find out that this is a joint English Heritage and National Trust site, so our NT membership cards came in handy here with free entry! What was a shame was that parking is not free, even for members and was £3 for 2 hours (quite expensive!). Housesteads has its own little museum which is worth having a wander around and this is the first place where I got up close with the Wall! The car park and Visitor’s Centre is a 5-10 minute walk from the Fort which is uphill, so it is not the most accessible site.

Length of visit: 45 minutes

Sycamore Gap

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We were keen to visit the nearby Sycamore Gap, a 1 hour 30 mins walk from Housesteads or a 30 minute walk driving to Steel Rig – we chose the latter! Jumping back in the car, we parked at Steel Rig, only a few minutes down the road. £2 for 1 hour parking (again, not cheap) but this is ideally located along the path to Sycamore Gap and only a moderate 30 minute walk to the tree. The car park is small, so parking would be difficult in busier months.

The walk is only an hour in total. We did it in layers, jeans and walking boots. I forgot to leave my handbag in the car, so that came with me. The terrain was very muddy so I was more worried about falling and ruining my nice handbag more than anything – I looked quite ridiculous while all the other walkers had proper gear on! Luckily I didn’t fall…

The route is not easy, and there were a lot of undulating hills to go up and down. I am so glad I have been going on the stepper regularly at the gym! The views were breathtaking though and it wasn’t long before the Sycamore branches were reaching out to welcome us. This is when we realised…there was a much easier route – a flatter route which cuts out most of the climbing! On the way back to the car park, I was grateful for the gentlier walk but glad I had managed the trickier one on the way there.

After a busy day of sight-seeing and walking, a pub lunch down the road at the Twice Brewed Pub was a great reward, before heading back to Hexham.

Have you been to Hadrian’s Wall? Have you seen any of these sites or different ones? Let me know in the comments.

Robyn

 

Road Trip: Hadrian’s Wall in February

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The historical value

Since studying Latin at school for GCSE, Hadrian’s Wall has been a place on my radar for so long. It was interesting to visit the nearby Vindolanda, partially due to it being the home of Minimus, the main character from the first Latin course I studied in primary school, but also for its historical significance – of course. We also visited the nearby Housesteads Roman Fort and a moderate walk to the picturesque Sycamore Gap nearby.

Where to stay?

Trying to find accommodation available and in budget was interesting – booking a trip during half-term and the weekend before Valentine’s Day was not easy! Luckily we stumbled upon a great deal online for two nights at a hotel in Hexham – a historic market town we had not heard of before. A quick check on Google Maps and it was a great location; in the heart of Northumberland and in close proximity to Hadrian’s Wall. Hexham itself also has a few places of interest worth visiting itself too.

My last and only trip to Northumberland was several years ago on a day trip to Alnwick Castle  and I have been wanting to explore more of this beautiful region ever since.

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Road Trip!

But February is too cold!

The only concern of mine for this weekend away was the weather. February is one of the coldest months in the UK and the weather forecast was pessimistic all week, talking of snow and ice. Somehow we managed to avoid the bad weather and we were blessed with bright sunshine both days (albeit still very cold!). Best advice is to prepare for the worst, wrap up warm with plenty of layers and make the most of this lovely slice of rural England. With it being the off-season, the empty car parks and low number of visitors was warmly welcomed, I couldn’t imagine how busy everywhere must be in peak season…

In my next post I will be sharing all about what we did on our weekend trip. Northumberland is such a vast county and I cannot wait to plan my next trip – hopefully to the Northumberland coast I am hearing so many good things about!

Have you visited Northumberland and/or Hadrian’s Wall? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Robyn

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to my lovely readers.

2017 was a wonderful year of travel for me – the busiest yet, travelling to three continents and exploring places new and old. Looking forward to what 2018 has to bring!

Berlin in February

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Making it to Japan for sakura (cherry-blossom) season

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Exploring the beauty of Kyoto!

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Camping in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Survived the downpour of the first day…

Exploring Prague in July – the wettest/coldest spell you could have asked for!

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All the food in Chile.

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Celebrating my 23rd birthday in the Atacama Desert.

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Experiencing the wilderness in the Bolivian Salt Flats and its surroundings.

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Visiting Machu Picchu for the second time!

Soaking up the last of the sun in Spain in Autumn.

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Thanks 2017, let’s make 2018 even better!

Mooching around Madrid [Part 1]

Eight weeks long, the first and also the longest half term in the school calender finally came to a close last week. The first 2 months as an NQT have been tough,  but having my little trip to Madrid kept my head above water.

I booked cheap flights on a whim earlier in Spring, knowing very well that neither J. nor any of my friends would be able to accompany me. The Ryanair scare of thousands of cancelled flights did not affect me and I was still able to go.

This was not only my first time back in Spain since my Year Abroad and but also the first time I have done solo travel in two years. I visited Madrid on my own before flying home two years ago; three days in summer was not enough to make the most of the city, so this time I booked 5 days to make the most of my time off.

I have travelled alone so many times over the last 5 years and really enjoyed it: Paris, Madrid, Porto, Wroclaw, Warsaw, Lisbon… but admittedly, it was something that took a few days for me to get re-accustomed to. I chose my hostel in particular as from the reviews, it was very sociable and friendly, but unfortunately it was anything but. Frustrating, as when I have travelled alone in the past, the hostels have really been a highlight of the trip.

Even after having spent a total of 8 days in the Spanish capital, I cannot say I have done everything, but that was not my intention. I did what I wanted in my own time. I saw some museums, slept during siesta, did some shopping, did the day-trip I wanted, splurged on that opera ticket, went to a spa, went to the cat café. I actually did quite a bit but it was not rushed. That is the beauty of going to a place and having the time to do it slowly, you don’t have to rush and cram everything in.

So I am home now, mentally preparing myself to go back to work tomorrow and also for the next seven weeks before the Christmas holidays. At least it is Bonfire Night tonight!

Stay tuned for Part 2

Weekly blog posts about my South American adventure published every Sunday!

Robyn

Travel Update: Autumn in Madrid

My travels from South America this summer are still making their way onto the blog but I am also looking ahead at my upcoming adventures! 

The next trip will see me going back to Madrid for 5 days during half term. I haven’t set foot in Spain since completing my Year Abroad – which feels like a million years ago by the way!

I am going back to the Al-Andalus baths to relax on my first full day – wash away the stress from work – at least for a few days.

I will be catching the high-speed train to Córdoba another day, somewhere I have been dying to visit for too long. Then, for my final night I have managed to snap up a ticket for my favourite opera, Carmen! It was too perfect an opportunity to miss. I bought some opera glasses in an antique shop this weekend so I’m glad to be getting use out of them so soon. 
There will still be plenty of time for delicious food, shopping and hopefully I will make it to some museums and the Royal Palace which I skipped last time. 

I haven’t travelled solo for quite a while now, so it feels a bit strange, but I am excited to do whatever I feel like doing, having some me-time and more Spanish practice!

Any recommendations for Madrid/Córdoba? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Robyn