I already want to return to Córdoba after this too brief visit. Christina has been here to learn Spanish as a teenager and I cannot understand why it has taken us so long to get here. She says we've never had the chance to, but I'm wondering. I mean, it's 21 degrees C and she's wearing a coat. I suggested she take it off, or at least put the hood down, but she pleads a cold and headache. Does that explain why she lay down in the back of the taxi? Whatever the reason, there must be a statute of limitations on everything and we will revisit soon
The hotel we are in is fascinating and it is one of the best equipped of all those we've stayed at. We can only apologise to them for the bubbles in the jacuzzi. Who knew one small bottle of gel could produce that much.
Las Casas de la Juderia, or Casa de Juifs, or Casa-Palacio de las Pavas to quote the hotel name plate, the pictures on the wall inside and the history guide respectively, has parts dating back to Roman times, but is mostly, above ground, Renaissance laid onto earlier Spanish-Islamic forms. The hotel has been sensitively modernised and restored, but not obsessively so.
Recalling our trouble of the evening before in trying to get out of the hotel via some of the many courtyards and gardens there are, we opted to go to reception and ask for directions from there. They not only told us, but came part of the way to make sure we arrived safely. We still got lost, but not for as long as it might have been had we not returned to base camp to start from there. On the plus side, we got to see more courtyard and bits of archeology that we hadn't noticed before. I asked at reception about a guide to the hotel and one of the receptionists conceded that she had got lost a lot when she started work there. I know painted lines on the floor like in hospitals wouldn't be a good look, but some kind of gps locational settings might just get you around quicker. Or perhaps, exploring such an interesting and historic building is more fun if you don't know where the next set of stairs or garden will take you.
When we arrived at the breakfast salon downstairs, it was to be confronted by a large piece of roman masonry, a metre thick. A statement wall in any room.
If taxis in Córdoba were any cleaner or newer, you'd have to suspect they make them around the corner and ship them in fresh every morning. I liked the taxis of Morocco which looked like they'd had a life and got up late in the day after a good night out. These white saloons make you careful not to damage the paintwork with your bag as you hoy it into the trunk. Mind, a week in Marrakech and the Córdoban taxis would bear a few scars of their own. People in Córdoba drive with due care and attention to the rules. Our journey to the station was without incident, except for the pedestrians who threw themselves towards our cab as if trying to test the driver's reflexes. The cab driver was refreshingly surly. Perhaps for him, like many Córdobans, the day didn't really start this early. Some shops were still closed at 9.45 when we left the city.
On the train journey at first north and then east, we were alarmed by the sight of snow on the trackside and hills around Madrid. The temperature at midday was around 14degrees C, so it must have been quite substantial snowfall to remain in full sunlight for so long in the day.
At Barcelona Sants all we knew was that our hotel was of the same name and to be found above the station itself. It should therefore be easy to get to. What we encountered was a lot of very nice and expensive shops and a lot of people who cannot tell you which way to go to get there. The directions from one person led to the toilets, a perfectly natural mistake to make. I've been in some pretty rough station hotels in my time and these toilets were more than equal to any comparison.
It would be a mistake to take the address of the hotel as an indication of which exit to make as the Placa de Catalunya is on the exact opposite side to the one you need. By all means look for the tourism advice desk. It its there and they were helpful, but most of the (i) for information signs related to train tickets and not exits from the station.
When you do get outside, be careful which entrance ramp you take as you could easily find yourself outside again, only this time on the roof and unless you know you parked a car up there, you are likely to find yourself in the Eurocar office asking for directions. Not that we did, but I spotted the danger signals in time and anyway we have history at Barcelona Sants and Eurocar.
If, like me, you are hesitant at booking a station hotel room, be not afraid, for Barcelona Sants hotel has been completely refurbished in 2013 and anyway this is Barcelona, It has to be cool and sophisticated. Actually, it is themed after a spacestation or a mission to another planet. Which I hope does not put you off. For the touch is light and without me telling you, you might easily come and go with barely a sense that some earthly marketing person dreamed it up for a, no doubt unastronomical, fee.
You might just consider the corridor lighting, subdued and the labelling of areas such as ground control for the front desk to be slightly eccentric, but once in your room with the views of downtown Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia in the distance, or out over the water park beside the station and the hills of the Castell de Montjuic in the background, you'll forget all that.
Unless of course, you love space travel and then you'll be delighted by the space pod nature of the shower and toilet, the bubbles on the walls that give you details of the climate outside your crew quarters. You can stand for ages, I've no idea how long, that's for you to decide, staring at the huge screen showing someone floating around in what is possibly the real spacestation in orbit around the earth. Else, you might examine the astronaut costume in the lobby, sorry at mission control, that might be from an actual space flight. There's more besides, but for me time was too short and I wanted to go and get some food and a haircut. Otherwise I'd have been perfectly happy to stand and soak up the view from the fifth floor as the sun went down.
A lot of stations are based in seedy or rundown parts of the city, but Barcelona Sants is in a wide open area. There were no signs to essential services such as a pint of milk, or a haircut. We approached a woman crossing a pavement for some directions. She blanked us completely, not even turning slightly to acknowledge our presence, or her need to rush away for a train. Then, we realised we were positioned in front of a phalanx of evangelical Christians who probably stand there regularly to catch the eye and ear of commuters. She took us for a member of this group and ignored our entreaties completely. The Christians realised our situation although perhaps not aware of their own part in it and began to ask what it was we sought.
Normally we might have ignored them and done the same thing as the woman had to us. However, we were feeling more generous, due to our treatment a moment earlier. They not only understood our request for a hairdresser but had opinions on which establishment to visit. We set off down a very windswept avenue, passing other hairdressers in our quest to honour their suggestion.
Having a haircut does a lot to improve your self regard. Having a facial and back massage at the same time is something way above this in terms of wellbeing. Several times during the course of the pampering at the hands of this artist, I could easily have fallen asleep. That I didn't was only because I kept getting moved from chair to chair for the various stages of the operation. Finally the result was unveiled just before the associated cost. I suppose it's not surprising they do it in that order, for otherwise the shock of the one would overshadow the other. Certainly, the cost was greater than I'd ever had to pay before, but and here's the thing, I still think it worth it a day later.