April 24, 2015: Madrid to Córdoba

I was up at eight this morning, an early day for me as my meetings at work start early this morning.  I need to be in the office pretty close to nine, much earlier than I am used to.  I showered and got out the door while everyone was still fast asleep.

I got to the office just after nine but quickly discovered that there was no one else there!  I ended up having to wait until after nine thirty for someone to arrive and unlock the office!  Apparently on Fridays they all come in at the very last second.  We had a nine thirty meeting that I was the only person who was on time for and we did not get started until nearly ten.

Nearly the whole morning was spent in the large, all hands meeting.  It went very well and was really informative.

At eleven thirty Dominica and the girls were ready to check out of the apartment.  So I left the office for a little bit to help them carry the luggage out and get it stowed in the car and ready to go.  Once they were all set and were free to just wander the city for the day I went back to the office and they went north on Fuencarrel to look for some large playgrounds that we had been told about last night that would be far better for the girls to play on today since they have many hours to spend there.

Dominica had originally planned on taking the girls to the zoo today, but that would be expensive and a lot of work for her to do on her own and potentially they would only get an hour or two there, which would be a big waste of the energy and money.  And the girls will be much happier, we assume, just playing on a nice playground.  So that was what they did.

The playground that they found was big and very nice.  The girls had a great time.  Liesl was the oldest kid there, as today was a school day, but there were lots of little kids and Liesl is an expert at fun games with little kids and so she actually developed a pack of little kids that followed her around!

At one point a little two year old accidentally threw sand in Luciana’s face and got it in her eyes which made for a very unhappy episode.  Thankfully Dominica had bottled water and was able to flush it out.

When they finally had to leave the playground, after hours of having been there, Liesl had a bit of a temper tantrum and has been grounded from playgrounds for five days which is very sad as we are heading to a city tonight that is probably full of them.

It was a very nice day in Madrid with the sun out bright and strong but the air decently cool.  As long as you were outside in the breeze it was a very nice temperature.  The office seems to be extremely stuffy and always warm.  But once outside it was very nice.  And we have gotten so little sun here in Spain that having a sunny day was a very nice change.

I left the office at four, I was nearly the last one there and needed to leave before the last people did as I did not know how to lock up the office.  I went to the book seller that was right out front and while Dominica and the girls made their way back from the playground I did some shopping.  I got three travel guides for Spain, in Spanish, and a big ancient history book for Liesl, also in Spanish.  It is her first St. George’s Day book!

We all went straight to the parking garage and met there, saving some time.  It turned out that our credit cards were not accepted there and I had to leave the garage for fifteen minutes or more to wander around Gran Via looking for an ATM in order to get enough cash to cover the $63 parking fee!  I am really not happy that Visa has not figured out universal access and just because someone takes Visa doesn’t mean that they take your Visa.  American Express is not accepted as many places, but anyplace that accepts it really accepts it.  So it is far less stressful and more reliable.

The drive out of Madrid actually went quite well.  It was pretty easy to get out of town.  Madrid has a really impressive underground highway infrastructure and we almost never had to drive above ground to get all of the way to the outskirts of the city!  We were underway in no time.

We tried taking the Radial 4 instead of the Autovia 4 which turned out to be rather expensive and I don’t think that it really sped us up getting out of the city, but Dominica thinks that it did.  Both roads seemed to be moving pretty quickly.

The drive south to Córdoba was very nice.  The road was clear and easy to drive and the scenery was very nice.  We got to see a lot of La Mancha that was new to us, including many additional old fashioned windmills like in the story.  We got to see a really pretty sunset during the drive.

Getting into Córdoba was very easy.  Unlike most any other city that we have dealt with in Spain this required very little European driving expertise or crazy navigation.  The roads were mostly easy and pretty straightforward.

We are staying in the old Jewish Quarter, the most ancient and well preserved portion of the city.  The person renting us the apartment is also renting us a parking space under the old city wall and was standing by the wall waiting for us as we made the turn off of the boulevard that lined the big park in the center of the city.  That made things very easy.

We followed out weekend landlady and she walked us (as I drove) to a tiny little garage door through which I had to drive down an incredibly steep ramp where the car barely fit and into a tiny parking garage where I had only inches to back up into a tiny parking space.  Dominica was really impressed that I was able to do it at all let alone go right in and park, straight on, with less than half an inch between the car and a pillar, backwards.  Getting out is going to be fun.

We walked to the apartment which was not too far away.  The landlady was there with her teenage daughter.  She was pregnant and due in a week which was a surprise.

The apartment was on Plaza Ángel de Torres which was really nice.  We had a little fountain and a little area with trees right outside our windows.  The apartment was on the third floor (fourth floor for the Americans who don’t count from zero) and was really large.  It was a two bedroom, two bath (with a shared shower that was really interesting) with a huge living space and tons and tons of windows and a couple balconies, one of which ran from the master bedroom, around the corner of the house and along the living room!  Everything was brand new and really gorgeous.  It is our understanding that we are the very first people to have rented this place – the owners only just moved out of it a few weeks ago.

We unpacked a little and pretty much immediately set out to find dinner as it was quite late and we did not want to miss out on a chance to eat as none of us have had a meal today.  I had a croissant at the breakfast meeting but that was it.

We had seen some restaurants on our walk from the park to the apartment so we just went back that way hoping that at least one of them would be open.   We were in luck, even though it was around ten there were four that looked like they were open all in one spot and the one had hours posted saying that they were open until close to midnight.  So it looked like we were going to be okay.

We scoured menus for a bit before deciding to try the Casa Rubio which was in the middle of the row and had the most interesting looking menu.  We would later find out from Jeff Rubio (my old boss at Citi) that this was highly ranked on TripAdvisor and later we would find out that this was the only recommended, affordable category restaurant on WikiTravel for the entire city!  So we really chose well.

Dinner ended up being really phenomenal.  Everyone enjoyed their food, a lot.  And we got some variety too, which was great as we have a tendency to get a lot of the same foods over and over again.  We got Dominica’s favourite food, patatas bravas but here they were more like a curry based than what we have had before and they were the best that we have had yet, really something.  We got a kind of hummus-like cheesy dip that was quite good.  We just dipped bread in that.  We tried the local Jewish Quarter specialty, aubergines (eggplant for the Americans) fried and covered in “sugar cane honey” called “miel de caña” here, but is really molasses.  They were amazing.  We would never have guessed that such a thing existed.  We are so glad that we tried that!  We just loved it.

We got calamari for Luciana but it ended up being whole squid, not rings, and not fried.  So she was not interested.  It had a nice, spicy red sauce on them and they were grilled.  Liesl happily tried it and liked it.  For the girls we ended up getting them tempura fried cod pieces that they both completely loved.  In fact, Luciana would demand that we return and get that fish again, too.

After dinner we just went back to the apartment.  It was nearly midnight and we were all pretty tired.  It had been a bit of a long week for us.  On the way back, across the street from our apartment, we found this really neat little street through an ancient set of wooden doors that was completely amazing.  Very Arabic in design, a fountain in the middle of the street and several places for sale in it.  Very cool, we will explore it tomorrow.

Our Internet access is great, for a change.  Rock solid (and it even works way outside in the plaza by the fountain) and no issues.  So all of our pictures are getting uploaded and we are easy to contact while here.