“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” – George Orwell
We woke to a glorious morning and sunlight spilled like a waterfall into the room through the splintered cracks in the solar-bleached shutters weathered over years by rain and sun and in contrast to the previous two mornings there was a perfect piercing blue sky. These are my favourite sort of mornings!
The hotel was wonderful but didn’t provide breakfast so we found a place nearby and enjoyed hot tea, cheese, ham and pan con tomate, in the company of groups of young men who were sitting around chatting, preparing for later life and practising what the old men of the town do – sitting around and chatting – just as as Gerald Brennan explained in ‘South from Granada’ “…almost every Spanish peasant becomes wise when he passes fifty.”
For the first part of the morning we split up once more, Kim went to the main shopping street, I declined the opportunity to join her and in the ninety minutes that was allocated I planned a speed sightseeing tour of the city.
I began in the church opposite the hotel but there was a service taking place and I felt like an intruder so I made my way to the city museum which was still closed and not due to open for another hour so instead I walked to the bullring at the opposite end of the city but that was closed as well, with an apologetic sign that explained that it was being prepared for some sort of military display. I snapped some pictures and then walked back to San Sebastian.
With all of the unexpected closures I still had time to spare so walked back to the Alcazaba and Plaza de Santa Maria where the weather today was so much better for photographs of the city from this elevated spot. Reunited with Kim I explained about the bullring closure but I don’t think she believed me and we walked all the way back to get exactly the same result!
Now it was time for the moment that I had not been looking forward to – trying to manoeuvre the rental car from the cramped parking spot without damaging it so after settling up at the hotel I made my way pessimistically back to the garage. I was absolutely certain that it would be impossible to get out of the tight space. I was sweating, I was panicking, my stomach was tied in a Gordion knot but as it turned out I needn’t have worried, by a miracle ours was the only car in there and getting out was piece of cake but despite this piece of welcome good fortune I still told Kim how difficult it was and that it required all my driving skills to plot a safe way out – that is a secret by the way and I am trusting you all to keep it that way!
It was early lunch time now so before leaving Antequera we found a restaurant on the edge of town with a sunny terrace and a splendid view of the castle and the whitewashed town gleaming like salt flats in the sun or as though there had been an unexpected fall of snow so we stayed longer than intended and ordered more food than we planned and then we left and headed for Córdoba.
We didn’t drive directly there but made a short detour to Almodóvar del Rio where a large castle was perched strategically on the top of a hill and this looked well worth stopping for.
The Castillo de Almodóvar is a grand fortress erected on a strategic mound along the valley of the Rio Guadalquivir, which incidentally at four hundred miles is the fifth longest river in Spain and is one of the country’s most important because it irrigates a fertile valley and creates a rich agricultural area.
Square towers flank its towering walls and the entire castle is surrounded by a large moat. During the years of Moorish occupation it was an Arab stronghold and after the reconquest it became the medieval home for members of the Spanish nobility. After the Reconquista and no longer required for a military purpose it gradually fell into disrepair and much of it was plundered for convenient building material by the people of the nearby town but the Count of Torralba rebuilt it a hundred years ago restoring the external appearance of the original Arab fortification.
At its elevated position there was a spectacular view of the plains to the south and the mountains to the north and although the sun was shining it was getting cold and the clouds were getting closer. We visited the castle in the company of a school outing who were enjoying an interactive history lesson which must have been highly entertaining judging by all of the laughter and giggles. It was a good castle and well worth the €5 entrance fee and we climbed the towers and walked the ramparts and when we had seen all there was to see we left and continued the drive to Córdoba.