Cordoba and Once Upon a Time

pretty door - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To GoOur arrival in Córdoba didn’t go exactly as planned and reminded us, once again, that the travel gods have a sense of humor even if we don’t.  We’d arranged a swankier than usual room at a small boutique hotel through hotels.com since one of our nights in the city would be free with their loyalty program and, following the hotel’s instructions, arrived mid-afternoon to check in.  Since the hotel was in the historic part of the city, a maze of winding streets with many only wide enough for bicycles and pedestrians, the taxi driver dropped us off and pointed the way down a cobbled path.  We found the correct address along a whitewashed wall of connected two-story residences, took hold of the heavy brass knocker, and rapped, a loud and hollow sound that seemed to echo down the narrow lane.  We waited a bit and tried again (and again) with similar results.  Finally giving up, thoroughly out-of-sorts, grumbling and dragging our overnighters behind us, we managed to plaster smiles on our faces as we asked for directions and followed the pointing fingers of a few helpful people until we found a street busy enough to hail a taxi.  Fortunately, we had the name of a place to give to our driver, Hostal La Fuentes, where a friend of ours was staying.  Now that the travel gods had had their fun, they decided to smile on us and we were happy to find a clean and comfortable room for three nights at half the price. A call by Skype to hotels.com resulted in the cancellation of our reservation and a refund of both our money and the free night to use in the future.  Travel is a good way to remember that, contrary to our illusions and the plans we make, we really don’t have control over much!

street scene - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To GoWith the detail of where to stay for the next three nights resolved, we turned our attention to making the most out of our visit to the historic area of Córdoba. Its history stretches back over two-thousand years and includes a population who practiced three major religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, you can bet that the city has many fascinating stories to tell.

Roman Bridge - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To GoOnce upon a time, Córdoba was a Roman city.  Founded around 152 BCE alongside the Guadalquivir River, the Romans constructed a wall around the city and built a bridge.  Known as El Puente Romano, the Roman bridge still spans the river and has been restored and renovated numerous times. The Romans shipped Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Rome and the city was the capital of the Roman Province of Hispania Ulterior (the southwest corner of modern Spain) which translates rather poetically into Further or Thither Spain.

Roman Bridge - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To GoOnce upon a time, Córdoba was ruled by the Visigoths. After Nero fiddled and the western Roman Empire collapsed, and despite invasions by several tribes of Germanic origin, Córdoba continued to flourish.  The Visigoths brought Catholicism with them when they conquered the city in 572 CE and built a couple of churches over their relatively short rule of 150 years.

Once upon a time, Córdoba was a major Islamic center. The Moors invaded and conquered the city in 711 and occupied it for the next 525 years.  In its heyday, the city became the capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba, governing almost all of the Iberian Peninsula.  As one of the largest cities in the world with a population estimated around 450,000, as well as one of the wealthiest in Europe, Córdoba was a haven with a reputation for progressive thought.  Here, Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted, more or less amicably, in a spirit of religious tolerance.  During this time, the city became a center of Moorish philosophy, architecture, mathematics, arts and poetry. And thriving alongside the Muslims, the Jewish community also became an important seat for Jewish scholarship, medicine, learning and culture. Perhaps most notably for us travelers, this was the era of some of the Moor’s greatest architectural glories.

Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To Go The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos or Royal Palace is an enormous complex with multiple towers and a fortress begun in 785.  It has a complicated history beginning as the home for Caliphs (leaders of the Muslim community), Spanish Kings and Queens, the Headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition, a garrison and military prison as well as a civil prison.  Now a national monument, it’s not hard to imagine the history that played out within its maze of mostly empty rooms, halls and towers. Outside, are the patio and magnificent gardens laid out in three terraces with ponds and fountains, boxwood hedges, cyprus and citrus trees and flowers, few of which were in bloom since it was winter.

gardens - Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To Go

Alcazar de Reyes Cristianos - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place To GoConstruction on The Great Mosque of Córdoba (now called the Mosque-Cathedral) began in 784 and continued over two centuries.  Without a doubt, the most stunning religious monument we’ve ever seen; we devoted our last post to this magnificent building that you can find here.

Mezquita - Catedral de Cordoba/The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba - Photo by No Particular Place To Go

Mezquita - Catedral de Cordoba/The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba - Photo by No Particular Place To GoA reconstruction of the Albolafia Water Mill (1136) is next to the Roman Bridge on the northern bank of the River Guadalquivir.  Water was drawn up by a chain pump and carried through a series of aqueducts to the Alcázar Palace Gardens.  Legend has it that Queen Isabella ordered the water wheel dismantled since its noise disturbed her.

Albolafia Mill - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to GoThe Caliphal Baths, also known as the Arab Baths, were built in the mid-tenth century and are adjacent to the Alcazar.  The pools reproduced the Roman series of cold, warm and hot water baths and were an important part of social life as well as the ablutions and ritual cleansing mandatory before prayer in the Islamic religion.

The Calahorra Tower - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to GoThe Tower of La Calahorra, the oldest defense building in the city, is located on the far side of the Roman Bridge. Built towards the end of the twelfth century as an arched gate between two square towers, a third cylindrical tower was added a couple of centuries later and connected the original towers for additional fortification.  Past use has included a prison as well as a school for girls (an eyebrow-raising perspective on a previous educational system) and currently it houses a museum with interesting exhibits of Cordoban life and history.  A climb up to the roof is worth the effort as there are spectacular, panoramic views of the Roman Bridge, the city and the Mosque-Cathedral.

Once upon a time, Córdoba was the home of the Catholic Monarchs: Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon.  After centuries of warfare between the Christian Kingdoms and the Moors known as the Reconquista, Córdoba was conquered by the Christians in 1236. The splendor of the era and progressive thought under Islamic rule vanished with the expulsion of the Moors.  Over the next two centuries, the economy weakened and a series of epidemics including the Black Death (aka the Plague) in the spring and summer of 1349 led to a decline in the population from Córdoba’s heyday of 450,000 to 25,000.  Ferdinand and Isabella used the Alcázar as one of their primary residences while they set about ridding Spain of the last of the Moors in Granada (1481-92).  Any Muslims allowed to remain in the city were forced to convert to Christianity and were known as “Moriscos” although they fared better than the Jewish community who were labeled “a scandal against Christianity.” During this time, Jews were either forced to convert to Christianity and become “Conversos” or flee, culminating with the final order leading to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1483.   Here is where Ferdinand and Isabella met with Christopher Columbus to discuss the little detail of financing his expedition to the “New World.”

Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand and Isabella - photo by No Particular Place to GoAnd here is where they launched the Spanish Inquisition, lasting over three centuries, that strengthened the Church and enriched its treasuries. The Royal Palace was converted into a tribunal with interrogation and torture chambers and many of its first victims were the Moriscos and Conversos.

Note:  We don’t usually say to flat out avoid a museum but that’s what we recommend regarding the Gallery of the Inquisition.  This horrifying museum is located in the heart of the historic Jewish quarter (the Judería) and has several rooms filled with various implements and devices used in the Inquisition that are designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain, cruelty and humiliation upon its victims. Many methods of torture made burning at the stake a favorable alternative.

Once upon a time, and over the next few centuries, Córdoba became something of a cultural backwater. Although Spain was at the peak of its power, Córdoba retreated into the background and many of its buildings fell into decay with little business or commerce to entice new residents.

The Caballerizas Reales de Córdoba, translated as the Royal Stables, are located next to the Alcázar and were built in 1570.  Home to the magnificent Andalusian horses, we devoted a whole post about these magnificent animals here.

view from the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Cordoba, Spain

Caballerizas Reales de Cordoba, SpainPuerta del Puente or Gate of the Bridge was built in the late sixteenth century (circa 1576) in an urban renewal project and effort to spiff up the city with a ceremonial gateway.  Located at the opposite side of the Roman Bridge from the Tower of La Calahorra, the gate is a beautifully elegant structure built in the Renaissance style.

Puerta del Puente (Bridge Gate) - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to GoThe Plaza del Potro is one of many public squares in Córdoba.  Once a horse market, the plaza has a Renaissance fountain dating from 1577.  Off the plaza is the Posada del Potro, a legendary inn described by Cervantes in his book, Don Quixote (1605) as a “den of thieves.”  The inn is now home to the Centro Flamenco Fosforito, a museum which has the reputation as “possibly the best” flamenco museum in Andalucia.

the Plaza del Potro - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

Flamenco Fosforito - Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

Flamenco Fosforito - Cordoba, Spain - photo by No Particular Place to GoOnce upon a time, Córdoba was sacked by Napolean.  During the Napoleonic Wars, the “Nightmare of Europe” fought Spain, Britain and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula.  His armies sacked the city (1808) and for a time were garrisoned in the Alcázar.  Before leaving Córdoba, they seized the Andalucian horses, long prized for their reputation as adroit war horses, to use in their own invasion, which almost led to the demise of the breed.

Once upon a time, Córdoba sided with Franco early (1936) in the Spanish Civil War.  Someday we hope to delve into this subject but for now, it’s definitely another topic and trip.

And they lived happily ever after ….  Well, maybe not all the time but our visit had us describing the city in long lists of superlatives to friends and trotting out the words “picturesque” and “charming” way too often.  Córdoba is a city that had us at hello and left us with the feeling that we had to say goodbye too soon.

By Anita Oliver and Richard Nashsteet scene - Posada del Potro, Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

Cordoba, Spain photo by No Particular Place to Go

 

56 comments

  • What a beautiful looking place, I really love the architecture!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Your photos of this magnificent city are so beautiful. I especially like the one overlooking the bridge and city (is it taken from the tower?) I think that same darn crane was in our photo too! Glad you ended up finding a nice (and cheaper) place to stay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your very nice comment about the photos, Caroline. We must have taken a (conservative estimate) gazillion of them! 😁 And yes, the photo of the bridge and city was taken from the tower, definitely a terrific staging point for hopeful photographers. That’s funny about the crane – we’ve been looking at one near our apartment here in Portugal and wondering if it had ever been moved too!

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  • Yes

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and experience

    I will visit Andalusia this summer but next year will drop by 🇵🇹

    Do you like staying in Portugal so far?

    T

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  • What an interesting story. I wasn’t aware of Cordoba but it certainly has some remarkable history and beautiful architecture. Good for you for soldiering on and making the best of a difficult situation at the beginning of the trip. Good reminder that we so rarely have control.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’d heard of “no room at the inn” but “no one home” was a new twist to add to our list of things that can go wrong while traveling. At some point we’ll muster up the courage to go back to the smaller, boutique hotels since we always enjoy a more personal experience but I’ve found myself planning future visits where I know there will be someone to welcome us in the lobby. That will be our takeaway lesson until the next thing that goes wrong! 😁

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  • I knew nothing about Cordoba before reading your posts Anita. It sounds enchanting. I’m not sure why cities find it important to have museums that specialize in torture but we have seen several in our travels. Misadventures do seem to be a big part of travel, don’t they?

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    • So glad we were able to share what we learned and enjoyed about Cordoba with you, LuAnn and enchanting is a great word to describe it. I think the only other place we’ve visited with a torture museum was in Cartagena, Colombia and there we were surprised and shocked to find out that the Inquisition was still happening into the 18th century. We’ve decided however, that we’ll avoid any future visits to exhibits on torture. Sadly, I think the stuff of nightmares is easy enough to imagine in today’s world. The fact that humans are cruel is demonstrated every day. For us though, its more important to remember that we can do our part to work for change.

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  • Wow Cordoba looks amazing! I love your photos, especially The Great Mosque. And you’re right, we’re never really in control, that’s why our motto for 2017 is Adapt and Overcome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • A great motto, Nat and Tim! We learned early on in our travels that it was much less stressful to fill in the details as we went rather than micro-manage our travel itineraries because so many times, the unexpected would happen. And new glitches occur, just when we think we have everything figured out. 🙂 The best thing for us is to just try to stay positive and find the humor. Things have a way of working out and many times, even better than we’d originally anticipated!

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  • I knew a lot about the history of Cordoba – yet, you just taught me a lot more about its changes throughout the centuries! After South America we might try to travel in Europe and I certainly would want to return to Southern Spain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The fun thing about history Juergen, is that you can follow it in so many different directions and still find new stories. As US expats, we’re especially enjoying digging deeper into European history and it just naturally goes hand-in-hand with our travel destinations, making each experience richer. We have so many countries to visit and explore in Europe but we certainly have enjoyed our proximity to Spain. I think you and your wife would definitely enjoy further travels in this fascinating area!

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  • Cordoba looks like the kind of city I’d enjoy visiting. And three days doesn’t sound like enough time. I like all your “Once upon a time” paragraphs. Great way to describe the rich and varied history of this city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re so glad you liked this post and the “Once upon a time” theme, Donna. Cordoba has such a long and complicated history that this struck us as a good way to tell some of its highlights. I think you’d love Cordoba and you’re right – for slow travelers like us, 3 days isn’t enough time to see everything the city has to offer!

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  • Terrific post! You always have me at hello. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loved your comment, Debbie and I had to laugh as the “hello” phrase was our working title for this post until a blogging friend beat us and used it in her post! 😉 Many times, the title shapes a post so, once we came up with an alternative, our story just unfolded. I’m not sure how you write but many times the writing kind of takes us along rather than us controlling it and that was especially true in this case – some 1800 plus words later!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Wow, another terrific post, about a great city and its rich history. We’d known about the plague, of course, but never realized how it nearly destroyed the population. Incredible. And all because of a bunch of little fleas! Great pictures, too! Keep ’em coming.

    BE/ME

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much. 😁 We always have a great time digging into the history and it’s our pleasure to share it! There were so many reasons for Córdoba’s decline in population including the expulsion of both the Muslims and Jews, the Spanish Inquisition, the decline in the economy and industry and the plague. We tried to find estimates for how many people died during the plague and read estimates of up to one-third of Europe’s population in the 14th century or 20 million people. What’s astounding is that, what was once a death sentence then, is easily treatable with a common antibiotic today.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Howled at your hiccup (but seriously, could imagine the frustration as well) but isn’t it great the way life has a way of working out even when travels don’t go as planned. Loved the photos and appreciated the work that went into the narrative! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Jackie and we’re so glad you liked the narrative. Cordoba has a long and complicated history that we found fascinating and wanted to share with both the history lovers as well as those who like the lighter side of travel. Oh, and you should have heard us grumbling (and more!) as we rolled our suitcases over the cobblestones. A lot of times funny travel glitches aren’t remotely amusing when they happen. But, as you said, we all need reminders from time to time that things usually do work out!

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  • Hi, Anita. How bizarre that no one answered the door at your hotel. Your photos are lovely and keep Cordoba on my must visit list. I love your mosque shot. How long were you in the city? How many days do you recommend?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just when we think we have the travel kinks ironed out some new wrinkle appears! 😁We agree – it really was strange, especially when we found a note confirming our travel plans. We were in Cordoba for three days and still had some things left on our list to see. Next time, rather than the Inquisition Museum, we’d like to visit the Juderia and see the 14th century Synagogue. If you make it over to Portugal next year for a visit Nancie, maybe we should plan a trip to Cordoba!

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  • I only managed a day in Córdoba but found it fascinating. The Mosque/Cathedral is one of the most amazing religious buildings I have ever been in and, although the Alcazar was smaller than the palaces in Seville or Granada, we had the bonus of having it almost to ourselves (the benefit of going on a rainy day…)

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    • There are so many great reasons for traveling during the off-season, Karen and visiting some of Spain’s UNESCO WHS is definitely one of the best. It’s terrific to be able to wander around some of these amazing places and spend as much time as you want absorbing the atmosphere or examining the art without being overwhelmed by crowds. And we agree with your opinion about the Mosque-Cathedral – it is a completely unique building that inspires awe at its grandeur!

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  • I should have visited Cordoba when I was staying in Malaga. What a beautiful place. While your visit started out with a (big) hiccup, so glad you were able to not only find another place, but get a full refund! Guess it’s all part of the “travel experience”…the highs and lows. And your visit to Cordoba had many more highs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those travel “experiences” and hiccups are what make us appreciate the journeys that go without a hitch, Jan. 😉 As one friend pointed out, sometime the things that go wrong end up being better that originally planned and we certainly had no complaints with the great location of the hostal where we ended up, nor the staff and the much lower costs were welcome too. And you’re right, Cordoba was a city of many high points!

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  • Thx so much for this fascinating post on Cordoba. I have not yet been there, but your intriguing photos certainly make me want to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

  • When I read ‘Cordoba’ in a post title I always assume it is the, much less well known, Argentinian city of Cordoba. Last time we were there the travel Gods also frowned and then smiled on us. Our bags got lost in transit and then got found. After a super hassle arrival we settled in to a lovely few days. One day I will have to visit ‘your’ Cordoba and see if it measures up to ‘our’ Cordoba.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s fun to see how many names from cities in of the Old World have made the trip over to the New World! One of our ideas for a future trip was to visit some of these sister cities in Spain and compare them to cities in Mexico and Central America some time. We weren’t aware that there was a Cordoba in Argentina but so glad that your luggage hassle ended up with some great memories of the city. And, if you haven’t guessed it Lyn, we would definitely give a thumbs up and recommend a visit to “our” Cordoba!

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  • Is there any place in Europe that doesn’t breathe history?! What an amazing city – you worked hard to give us a great summary of its history and the many “visitations” it has endured.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So far we have yet to visit a village or city that doesn’t have some historical lore, fort, castle and even Roman ruins attached to it. We got kind of carried away especially with Cordoba’s history and found the hard part of writing this post was trying to decide which story to tell and how. Lots of rabbit holes to dive into and they all had fascinating side stories to add to Cordoba’s history. What fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  • Are you,Dick and I in the same world? Thank you for bringing your world to me. Just returned from Belize, Ambergris Cay Island where I was in Summer in January at Tradewinds. At Paradise Villas.
    Now coping with East Coast snowstorm, I’ll know we are in different worlds. I love hearing about your travels. Keep well and keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many times it does feel like we’re in a different world as we step back in time to learn some history or walk about cities that are centuries old. We find both the travel and the stories fascinating and are so glad that you’re enjoying them also. Keep warm on the East Coast and try not to get buried with either the political storm or snow! ☀

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  • Awesome post! I did laugh a bit about the hiccup. It’s always frustrating when things like that happen and if you remember, we had an epic one to say the least in Cordoba! We survived it however and ended up having a blast despite the crap of money we lost. I think of Cordoba as a bottle of Malta, so much goodness in a little portly bottle :-).

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  • You must be having so much fun walking those places of history (almost like a fairy tale 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now there’s an understatement and we’re glad you stuck with the story to the end! (Right? 😉) We’d actually planned on writing one post about Cordoba but, as we dug into the history of each place a couple got their own “spin-offs!” It’s fun to do the reading and writing about places we visit and a lot of times the sharing is just as enjoyable!

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  • Wonderful info. and photos! Curious – did you do all this research in advance, or from a guidebook, or — ??

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    • That a great question and we’re so glad you liked this! We usually do some online research on places we’re going to visit to come up with a list and a little background but Cordoba just kind of sucked us in as its history is complicated and fascinating. It’s lucky we even got around to writing this post because, as you may have noticed from the two previous posts we wrote about our experiences in the city. we took a few writing and research side trips. The research comes from many sources (no guidebooks) including one of our new favorites, scholar.google.com. We’re both history geeks and for us, the hardest part was trying to figure out what to leave in as well as leave out.

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  • We love hearing about your adventures. Thanks for sharing. Seems like when the Christians show up, everything goes to hell.

    Nothing has changed in that regard.

    Keith

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    • Hopefully you can appreciate how hard we laughed at your comment Keith because that was one of our discussions too! Seems like every religion has it’s share of hard core zealots determined to force their ideology about which way to heaven is “right.” And the Spanish Inquisition was a shudder-fest of horror all the way around. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around “Christianity” when you read about the wholesale looting of the “New World” and the murder of thousands of native people while the true religion was spread. Give our love and a hug to Corky. One of these days, we’re hoping our paths will cross again!

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  • Beautiful city with tons of history!

    Liked by 1 person

  • “Here, Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted, more or less amicably, in a spirit of religious tolerance.” What a concept.

    When we arrived in Santiago after walking for 35 days on the Camino, we knocked on the door of the apartment we had booked for 2 nights and well in advance of our arrival. How could no one be there?! Frustrated, exhausted and hungry, we found a nearby restaurant where we sat down to a yummy meal and a bottle of wine. More importantly, we were able to plug in to an outlet and get on the internet. I looked up our reservation on booking.com only to discover that when I booked the apartment, the drop down menu had clicked down to the next year. We had reservations alright, but not for another year! AUGH! We walked the length of the city a couple of times and finally found a room for 1 night and then switched to a nicer place for the 2nd night. Yeah. Sometimes the travel Gods are brutally NOT funny! 🙂

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    • Hard to “plaster” that smile on your face, Patti and go scouting for another “room at the inn.” The situation you’re describing is one of those ones that, if you break down, you just might dissolve! And here’s the really hard question: “Is it easier or harder, to blame someone else or yourself? 😀 haha! What was so strange in our scenario was when we arrived at the hostal and Skyped hotels.com to get a refund, there was a nice welcoming note from the boutique hotel. However, hotels.com tried several times to get someone on the phone also with no luck so, fortunately our refund went smoothly. And in the end, the hostal was a great place to stay with an amazingly helpful staff. Oh course, we fell all over ourselves with gratitude so that may have helped!

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  • Great pics! And oh my, but you DO do your historical homework, my dear! Truly brings everything to life.

    Oh, and that little arrival hiccup? Yep, those travel gods sure do like to play stray tricks. Keeps us on our toes though, ever ready with a Plan B, C and D. After all, a lot of the fun of travel is the unexpected. If everything always went smoothly/as expected – we’d miss out on some of our best travel stories, no? 😉

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    • Travel and history go hand in hand, don’t they? As for hiccups … You’ve hit the nail on the head, Dyanne because sometimes the biggest travel fails make the best stories. I think our favorite one was arriving for a month-long stay at a beachfront apartment ($ muy caro $) in Cartagena, Colombia and finding only a box spring made up with sheets. You can’t make this up! And a lot of times, we don’t have a plan B, let alone a Plan C. Perhaps that’s why I love reading about other’s misadventures too!

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