It was a busy, non-wine, non-sightseeing day today, however we were everywhere! We awoke rather early in Cordoba after our one night (turned out to be 12 hours) stay, grabbed some breakfast and then walked through the historic little town. Cordoba is a city of great history – one not unlike many European centres that have endured multiple conquerings and religious overthrowings in its past. Cordoba appears somewhat special, however, in that the Christian conquerers in the middle ages did not destroy all of the muslim edifices, due to their beauty. The central historic monument is in fact a mosque that is physically encompassed by a monastery. It is a delight to look at and is wonderfully maintained. Similarly is a 9th century Roman wall that half remains standing for hundreds of yards nearby.
The other remarkable feature of Cordoba is its temperature. It is the hottest city in Europe in the summertime, today recording a high temperature of 40 celsius. This is why we awoke early. Finishing breakfast by about 9:30am, we walked around the monastery, mosque and across an historic bridge and by 10:00am it was becoming far too hot for us to continue. I estimate it was over 30 degrees by then, and the stone and brick buildings were radiating additional heat. So we retreated back to our room for a nap.
At around noon we left for the train station for our second high-speed train experience. This time we departed for Madrid in order to begin our trip to Porto, Portugal. The train was enjoyable again; more so than the flights we would take later on. The train has lots of legroom, interesting sights to see, and in first class, where we travelled, power for your electronic devices. And a reasonable lunch too, with multiple beverage service.
We arrived in Madrid, which was quite hot as well, and grabbed a taxi to the airport. A fleeting visit to Spain’s capital, you could say; we were only there for about two hours and were sightseeing the city via freeways in the back of a taxi for a small portion of that.
From Madrid we flew to Lisbon. We saw it for even less time, as it was merely a stop-over en route to Porto. Lisbon’s airport frustrated and confounded us. First and foremost, we lost one of our two bags upon arriving in Porto. My wife’s bag did not show up on the carousel, which is maddening, however we are lucky that most of our essential items are in my bag (bathroom gear, etc.). Apparently this is common, though with TAP, or in Porto, or through Lisbon we are not sure. Hopefully it arrives tonight.
Lisbon’s international airport confounds me for less impact-ful reasons, but entirely odd. The airport, you see, has two terminals. They are separated by about 400 metres of apron and tarmac. Our plane landed from Madrid, at Terminal 2. It pulled up to within 20 metres of the terminal, but no mobile walkway was present (for us or any other plane). Instead, we disembarked down a staircase, on to an awaiting bus. This added about ten minutes to the experience as we waited for all the passengers to load. The bus then drove around Terminal 2, to Terminal 1, where we unloaded. Transferring passengers were shown to a waiting area up an escalator, where we loaded onto another bus, and – you guessed it – were driven back to Terminal 2. No opportunity to simply wait there it seemed. When our connecting plane arrived an hour later, it too pulled up to within 20 metres of the gate, but we did not walk to the plane; a bus pulled up, we were loaded on board, it drove the distance to the plane, and we walked up the staircase. Perplexing.
On a positive note, we were picked up by a private car courtesy of my Port wine client – a Mercedes S-class sedan – and taken swiftly to the hotel booked for us in Porto – the Hotel Infante de Sagres. It is gorgeous. A member of the Leading Small Luxury Hotels of the World, it fulfills its membership admirably. Apparently this is where the Dalai Lama stays when he is here, as well as most European royalty. A welcome glass of delicious ruby port as we checked in was just what we could have hoped for. Now for some rest. Tomorrow is one of the stops that I’ve looked forward to the most – Pinhao and the Douro River valley: the home to Port wine.
PS: I may not be able to blog tomorrow, as we’re spending a night in Pinhao. I will endeavour to post if possible.
the narrow brick roads of Cordoba
Cordoba’s famous mosque within a monastery
This is our plane, from Madrid to Lisbon