Postcard from Cordoba

Madrid – Cordoba – Madrid April 2013


Airport taxi traversing the patchwork quilt of roads in North Madrid, unsparing accent flat to the floor; then, typically, reversing to check the directions to the hotel entrance were understood;


A walk in chilly spring sunshine through the Parque Del Buen Retiro to catch the southbound express: broad acres, Victorian stone majesty shrinking beneath the new season’s growth, the breeze-ruffled lake, runners pounding miles of gravel paths;


The AVE, leaning into the countryside, laser-straight, clean and spacious to an inch of its state-owned life, to Cordoba, drenched to its ancient bones in a rain storm;


An apartment blotch-bright in Andalucian ceramics, quirky, the shower floor lumpy as a Gaudi sculpture, but warm, fringing a patio clambered with plant life; welcoming smiles;


Then sun, watery at first, turning to full beam, and a Saturday when the quiet square erupts, sprouting crowds, old, young, red wigged stags, eating, drinking, dogs barking, toddlers passed from hand to hand, drinking, eating, empty Amstel bottles multiplying, just a thing they do each Saturday the sun shines (and by the morning, the ghosts have swept the square clean again);


A Sunday in Seville, the two Guillermos showing us the futuristic town square in the sky, the city spread before us, cathedral spires and telecom spikes and ruined banks’ towers of hubris holding up a sky as blue as any flag; a local restaurant, tureens of paella;


Back in Cordoba, Plaza de la Corredera rough and ready with watchful drinkers, scooters exploding from side alleys, beer lorries from improbable corners, harder edged; best cerveza del grifo in the whole damn place;


La Juderia, streets like fingers of light and shade in a broken Moorish tile, sudden wells of coolness glimpsed through iron gates, clamour of tourist shops and French voices quieting as you head uphill, scents of frying garlic, spice and orange blossom;


Everywhere, Moorish mouth music, shivering Andalucian guitars in a minor key, dark eyes, dark hair, (or bleach-blonde);


Last but not least the Mezquita, giant mosque that swallowed a cathedral, losing it in telescoping vistas of red and white arches, peace ruptured only by the messy business of living, whining drills, and distantly, the organ pondering the morning mass; a glass floor unmasking pointedly, below, tiles said to show before the cathedral, before the mosque, an ancient basilica.


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