At the moment the City is celebrating ¨Feria Taurina¨- which I assumed meant Fair of the Bulls because all of the posters feature a picture of a huge big black bull – but I have not seen a real bull anywhere so it must mean something else.
Regardless, it is loads of fun, very colourful, and everyone is happy.
I am staying right in the centre of it all, directly outside the Mezquita in the central part of the old city. The horse drawn carriages and horse riders go past my hotel and the yummy restaurants are here too.
The Spanish ladies are wearing the most beautiful dresses accessorized with fans, hair combs, flowers, necklaces, and shoes to match perfectly with each dress. Then there are the mantillas. These are works of art, so I discover, and their value is not only in whether they are made of pure silk, but also in the intricacy of the embroidered design. The first mantilla I fell in love with was 635 euros and when I regained consciousness I began to realize what little heirlooms they are. I now have a much plainer one, but still lovely, for a fraction of the price. They are worth it, they make you feel so exotic and wonderful and complete. I can understand why Spanish women invest in them and wear them.
I suppose the Spanish ladies are dressed this way because of the Feria. They are everywhere and are exquisitely beautiful. Couples walk hand in hand, the man wearing shirt and trousers and the woman a Spanish dress. Young girls hang out together, laughing and having fun, all wearing Spanish dresses. Mums pushing prams wear beautiful Spanish dresses. Grandmothers walk past, proud and beautiful like queens, with their darling little granddaughters walking beside them, heads held high, wearing tiny Spanish dresses. And get this, the local way of horse riding seems to be the man astride the horse, sitting on the saddle, (always with a hat on) while the woman, in a Spanish dress, sits behind in a sidesaddle pillion style and not only doesn´t she fall off, but she laughs and hold her head proudly, and makes the whole thing look effortless and graceful. Oh to be Spanish!
Because of the Feria there are rides and side show alleys and eating and dancing marquees, and lots of street performance and street theatre. One really made me laugh. It appeared to be a roadside table displaying a row of different painted masks for sale. Normal enough during a carnival – but one of the masks talks! There is a hole cut in the table and a man is sitting beneath. Only his head pokes through the hole, and his face is made up to look like one of the masks. When a beautiful woman walks past the mask smacks and licks its lips and rolls its eyes and swoons very melodramatically, and when a man walks past the mask barks profanities at him in an scary-clown voice. So hilarious to watch the reactions of the passers by who think it is just a shop. Really clever.
Also clever is the man I call ‘the xylophone man’, except from my poor knowledge of musical instruments I don’t actually think it is a xylophone. It is much bigger and much more complicated looking and it is tuned very precisely. He can play classical guitar pieces on it and another time he was playing Beethoven. He seems happy in his creative world, making all these notes come flowing and cascading out of the xylophone; rippling over the cobblestones like water. Fortunately he is positioned just near the icecream shop so you can go and buy icecream and then sit on a bench in the shade and listen for awhile to this amazing free concert. He is getting used to seeing me now as I can’t resist stopping whenever I am walking past. There is also a young violin-ista who stands at the entrance to the roman bridge and plays concert level violin.
There is a fairytale feel here, as if you could play princes and princesses all day long. I want to get myself a proper outfit and a horse!
Last night I went to an equestrian show at the Royal Stables in Cordoba (as they are called) and it brought tears to my eyes. I am going back tonight, and if I return to Cordoba I want to go back again. I suppose in other parts of the world they might call this dressage, but these horses were dancing, light of foot, and peaceful in the eye. It was rhythmic and seamless, dignified and graceful, manes and tails, rippling muscles and lightning hooves. Actually one rider used only his left hand on the reins and kept his right hand either on his thigh or against his chest. Anyone else might have fallen off with all the twists and turns and changes of gait and speed. There some dance routines involving a Spanish dancer and a horse. These animals are so beautiful – all horses are beautiful – but there is something about these Andalusian horses that, sort of like the mantillas, suddenly makes you feel fabulous. That extra je ne sai quo …
Now for a FOOD REPORT – I have been ordering fearlessly from menus and might turn into a plump little senorita very soon. The food is good and interesting but wine seems to be something that the waiters don’t know much about. Everything is called ¨rioja¨ which I understand is a region not a variety but they just shrug it off like this – northern Spaniards drink red wine and Andalusians drink white wine if they are not drinking sherry. Simple. You don’t get anywhere asking which red wine goes better with lamb and which goes better with steak. The answer to every question is simply ´rioja¨. But all the wine ordering experiments have been pleasant. They also have a nice beer here.
For those who have been asking here are some meals I’ve enjoyed, remembering because of language I cannot ask how these are cooked so I have to try and describe as best I can
- In Barcelona, for tapas, meat balls in sauce, potatoes in aioli, and chorizo
- In Tarifa, steak (perfectly cooked) served with poached apple slices, half an onion cooked in stock, green beans, a mild type of wasabi, french mustard and garlic butter
- In Tarifa, a chicken ´stirfry´ but perhaps a bit barbecued? (hard to figure out how they did it), with pinenuts and balsamic and red and green peppers and onion and broccoli
- In Cordoba, a shoulder of Iberian pork, grilled, with a fryup of potato slices, green peppers, caremalised onion, and egg
- In Cordoba, for tapas, (1) white anchovies (which were large like little fish, not hairy slugs) marinated in clear vinegar, not salted, with coriander, (2) mussels with uncooked green and red pepper salsa, and (3) a patate (or tortilla) which is like a big cake made of potato – and beer
- Almond gazpacho soup with apple and coriander (a bit rich and salty)
- a local Cordoban delicacy called Pastelon Cordobe which is flaky pastry pie, the pastry unsweetened but dusted with sugar, the filling like a sweet apple pie with large chunks of jamon ham in it but from reading other menus I think it might have been melon not apple – anyway – very strange and very yummy
- manchego sheeps cheese marinated in olive oil
- in the patisserie they have croissants so large and glossy that they look like roast chickens all sitting in a row
- Churros!!! One evening I bought churros and sat on the roman bridge under the sickle moon and ate them.
Tomorrow morning I head off to Granada and will be there till the 31st.
26 May 2012 – Cordoba, Spain
the ‘xylophone’ man