The Mezquita

The biggest attraction in Córdoba was literally a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  The Mezquita is truly a must see building.  It’s a massive former mosque turned cathedral with an amazing forest of columns topped by red and white striped double arches that have seen over 1000 years of history.  It is not only the largest mosque in the world, but the largest temple in the world as well.   It occupies an area of over 250,000 square feet or almost 6 acres.

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The Mezquita with Red and White striped arches

The focal point in the prayer hall is the mihrab – which identifies the wall that faces Mecca

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the Mihrab

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the dome above the mihrab

 

Originally built in 786, the initial construction lasted for about 200 years.  After Córdoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III in 1236, the mosque became used as a church.  Currently in the very middle of the Mezquita is a stunning Renaissance cathedral, which was built in the 1500’s.  Although some parts of the original column hall had been destroyed to make room for the cathedral – the building is still a remarkable and dazzling example of Moorish architecture.

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sun streaming in through stained glass

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the cathedral

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ceiling in the cathedral between the organ pipes

 

The Mezquita is certainly a signature attraction in Córdoba and visitors should plan on spending at least a half day to see everything.

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Our fun overcast day in Ronda, Spain

Well we didn’t have the greatest weather in Ronda, however the clouds stayed high enough and held in their rain fairly well so we could get some pretty decent photos.

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Ronda is an impressive town in the province of Málaga; an easy day trip from the Costa del Sol or for us a nice diversion on our car ride from Seville to Córdoba.  Ronda is built on and around a very deep gorge spanned by an extremely impressive bridge.

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Ronda was first settled by the early Celts, and later inhabited by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The Moors left an indelible imprint in the city, which only fell to the Christian Reconquista in 1485. In more recent times, the town has hosted a number of well-known writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, & James Joyce.

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This large and incredible bridge over the Tajo gorge, is called Puento Neuvo finished in 1793, is Ronda’s principal attraction. The bridge is 230 feet long and 320 feet high, roughly equivalent to a 30-floor building.  It was built following the collapse of an earlier bridge from 1735; this bridge had a single arch of 115 feet but collapsed six years after construction, killing 50 people. There are beautiful views from here of the Natural Park -Sierra de Grazalema to the west – although this was a bit tough to see on the day we visited.

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Views of the gorge and surrounding countryside are amazing, but that was not all we saw in Ronda.  We went on a self guided tour of the very quaint Santa Maria la Mayor church (built on the ruins of an older mosque) -which has outstanding views of the town from the roof and is well worth a visit.

And we of course stopped for a wine tasting.  While not world class at this point – (maybe another 10 years…or so) it was certainly a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the 13th century Arab Baths in Ronda were closed during our visit which just means that we’ll have to see them on a return trip as they are considered to be the best example in Spain.

Córdoba Spain – Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Monarchs)

In January we took our oldest Grandson on a trip to southern Spain to celebrate his upcoming high school graduation.  Coming from the midwest US, most folks think of warm weather beach vacations during the winter.  We wanted to do something with more culture and history – southern Spain in January was a perfect choice.  Mild weather, no crowds, mostly sunshine, tons of extremely interesting history and culture – AND fantastic food.

There are so many things to blog about – but let’s start with some history in Córdoba.  Córdoba was originally a Roman settlement taken over by the Visigoths and then taken by Muslim armies in the eighth century.  The Caliphate of Córdoba encompassed most of the Iberian peninsula and was likely the largest city in Europe in the 10th century.  It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236.

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No visit to Córdoba is complete without visiting the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral) and the Alcázar.  The amazing Mezquita will be the subject of an upcoming blog – for now let’s focus on the Alcázar.

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The Alcázar had been around for 200 years before the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand used it for one of the first permanent tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition.  In addition it was the used as headquarters for the campaign against the last remaining (at that time) Moorish kingdom on the peninsula which was the Nasrids in Granada.  After about 10 years, their campaign succeeded in 1492 – the same year the monarchs met Christopher Columbus in the Alcázar as he prepared his first voyage to what we now know was the Americas.

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View of the extensive gardens

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One of many security cats that monitored our visit

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A visit to Southern Spain should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Please let us know if we can help make your travel dreams come true.

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The Largest Passenger Cruise Ship in the World

Recently we sailed aboard the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas on it’s inaugural voyage from Miami, Florida.  She is the reigning queen of large ships with so much to see and do on-board that it would take several vacations just to experience it all.

Here’s a sample of what we experienced: water slides, robot bartenders, world class fine dining, high energy Vegas show, Broadway show – Hairspray, Water show with high diving into an ever changing pool , fireworks, balloon drop, wine tasting, fresh seafood lunch, organic italian pasta, laser tag, a real boardwalk carousel ride, a musical staircase, a bar that’s also an elevator, mini-golf, the international space station, and the Wright brothers flying a plane above the theater audiences heads.  I’m sure i’m forgetting something – and we were only there for 4 nights!

As there is so much, we’ve created a photo & video gallery if you wish to see more

visit our web page

Kids Pool

 

Symphony of the Seas – We’ll see you on-board.

Follow us on Facebook as we sail on the inaugural voyage from Miami on the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas.

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By the numbers she is 1188 feet long and 215.5 feet wide.  She occupies 228,081 Gross Tons.  18 Decks with 24 guest elevators.  4 Bow thrusters with 7500 horse power each.  There are 7 neighborhoods (really our favorite feature of this class of ship) Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool & Sports Zone, Spa & Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.  There are 2759 Staterooms which accommodate 5518 guests with double occupancy.  2200 crew members.

There are 9 complimentary dining venues and 11 specialty ones.

And this is all just the beginning – there is so much to see and do including Rock Climbing Wall, Water slides, Escape Room, Surfing, Zip line, laser tag and not to be missed the Ultimate Abyss.  Will we head down the tallest slide at sea?  Only one way to find out!

ultimate abyss

 

 

Italy will never be a normal country and we love it that way.

 

“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.”

-Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy…

 

On the Danube in Budapest

Cruising on the Danube river in Budapest past the stunning parliament building is a special treat both day and night. Did you know that the Danube flows over 1700 miles passing through 10 countries on its way to the Black Sea? You can travel almost all of it on an amazing river cruise. How much time do you have? 1 week? 2 weeks? More? Let us know and we can design the perfect trip for you.