The Spanish Triathlon
Gomensoro’s marketing manager Miguel Ángel Maestre Terol put together an packed agenda for my visit to show me the best of Spain in only three days: from Monday to Wednesday, we visited Madrid, Córdoba, and Seville. The time was just enough to get a little glimpse of each of them (and an idea of all the things I wouldn’t see during this trip)—but I think that it’s a glimpse worth sharing with you.
Monday: Kickoff in Madrid
The tour of Spain started in the capital Madrid. Spain is a parliamentary monarchy, i.e., there’s a king (currently Felipe VI), a queen (Letizia), and a royal palace. With its 135’000 square meters and opulent architecture, the Royal Palace of Madrid really shows off the wealth and grandeur of the monarchy and attracts lots of tourists, many of whom probably enjoy dreaming of living life as a king or queen for a day. The actual King and Queen of Spain, by the way, don’t live in the Royal Palace, but in a more modest palace on the outskirts of Madrid.
When you visit Madrid with more time, you should definitely try to see some of its many museums, like the Prado with its enormous collection of masterpieces from periods covering the middle ages to the 20th century—I will definitely come back to see it. However, with just an afternoon for sightseeing in Madrid, we decided instead to walk around the city and soak up the atmosphere. Madrid is rich in charming neighborhoods and parks to take a stroll. The Parque del Buen Retiro, which the locals refer to simply as the Retiro, is one of the biggest parks of the city. It used to belong to the monarchy, but is now open to the public and very popular among locals and tourists alike. People come to take a walk, go for a run, or have lunch (or a siesta) in the shade of one of the many trees.
Tuesday Morning: A Brief Stopover in Córdoba
Spain has a network of highspeed trains, which made our tour of 3 cities in 3 days possible in the first place: on Tuesday morning, Miguel Ángel and I took a train at Madrid’s Atocha Station and arrived in Córdoba less than 2 hours later. Here, we met with Iván Portal, sales rep in the Sevilla area, for some sightseeing.
Córdoba is very popular among tourists for several reasons. Firstly, it is simply a very beautiful city with its narrow cobblestone streets and its colorful flowers planted in parks, on balconies, and in flower pots attached to the walls of houses. While I was visiting, the yearly patio festival of Córdoba was taking place, attracting even more tourists than usual: during this festival, which was first held 100 years ago, residents can open their private patios to the public and take part in a competition to find the most beautiful patio. Houses in Córdoba have been built with patios since the city’s very beginning, under Roman rule, to keep the houses cool in the hot and dry climate of southern Spain. Being an aesthetic solution to a very real problem, the tradition of patios continues to the present day.
Córdoba is not only nice to look at: there are also some fascinating sights that tell the city’s story, including the conquest by the Arabs in the year 711 and the recapture by Christian king Ferdinand III in 1236. The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba is a particularly impressive monument of the city’s turbulent history. The mosque was built in the 8th century A.D. under the Arab reign and expanded several times. After the recapture of Córdoba by Christian rulers, the mosque was converted into a cathedral. A few centuries later, a Renaissance cathedral was built in the middle of the former mosque, while conserving the Arab architecture surrounding it, resulting in a unique combination of the two styles.
Tuesday Afternoon: Off to Seville
Seville is just about an hour and a half drive from Córdoba (most of which I spent sleeping—after three months of intense traveling, there’s no place or time I can’t sleep). The city is known for its folklore—it’s the bithplace of Flamenco—and southern Spanish lifestyle. Unfortunately, there was a lot of rain in Sevilla while I visited, but it was good enough to indulge in tapas and red wine, which is an important part of experiencing Spain, too!