Not a great start, particularly as the alarm went off around 6.15 a.m.
Another party, appearing to consist mainly of Americans, was leaving at the same time, so breakfast was chaotic. Managed to grab something and check out of the hotel, our suitcases having been collected from outside our room.
The aforementioned Americans were boarding a coach parked in the only slot available to the hotel, and getting them on their way took absolutely ages, to the ire of our coach driver who had been queuing to get into this slot for quite a while.
Scheduled departure was 8 a.m., but we didn’t get away until about 8.20. As we had a slot booked for a tour of the Medina Azahara at 11.15, this put us behind schedule, not helped by roadworks, learner drivers and red lights. As a result, the driver pressed on when he could, only to be pulled over later on by a traffic cop on a motorbike for speeding!
We stopped for a comfort break after about an hour and a half, and around an hour later at about 11.20, we pulled into the parking area for Medina Azahara.
After a lot of faffing around, we met our guide, Enrique, and watched a short, but interesting, video. Then, about 70 people, after standing around in 32⁰ heat for 20 minutes or so, piled into a shuttle bus which took us up the hill to this amazing “city”.
Excavation of this site was started in 1911, and it’s estimated that they’ve only uncovered about 10% of the original site.
Once again, I commend a visit to the Wikipedia entry for this place at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madinat_al-Zahra. As a story of how various caliphates struggled for supremacy in southern Spain and northern Africa, it bears a remarkable resemblance to the tensions between Isis, Shia and Sunni Moslems today. The building of this city was all about power and display thereof, but this caliphate only lasted about 100 years.
Lots of pics follow, but much of this site has been reconstructed according to experts who envisage how it might have looked in the tenth century.
I confess I found all this fascinating, a view not shared by everyone. It was very warm and there was a fair bit of walking on rough and at times steep terrain. Enrique was very good value.
Back to the shuttle bus to take us back down the hill, where we boarded the coach to take us to our hotel.
The coach dropped us off about a quarter of a mile from our hotel, the Macia Alfaros.
This was an example of where the Saga/Titan organisation didn’t measure up. We all had to wait around whilst Colin called us all up in turn to the hotel reception to sign the necessary paperwork. Viking would have organised this much earlier and just handed out the room keys. We were second to last to be called up, so we’d been waiting over 20 minutes just standing there.
When we finally got to our room, it was a decent size and, to Jean’s delight, opened out into the swimming pool area. I managed to work out how to cool the room down (I think) as it was very warm in there.
No time for a dip now, as we had to dash back to Reception to meet Colin again, as he was taking us for a walk into town just to point out where things were.
We managed to find a nice café just off the main square, where we settled down to a couple of beers and some food – beef cheeks for Jean and pork in a tomato sauce for me. Very nice it was too, and remarkably reasonably priced.
We wandered back to the hotel, whereupon Jean had a short dip on a very hot afternoon and I wrote this up.
We all met up for a pre-prandial glass of sangria before we headed down to the restaurant for dinner. This consisted of three courses, no choice, served to us at the table. Lasagne to start with (heavy going), followed by roast chicken leg and cold rice pudding. Actually not bad, but we weren’t particularly hungry, having had a very late lunch. Good company, though, with Tony, Jan and Pete.
We are scheduled to do an official walking tour tomorrow morning, starting at 9.15, so we get a bit of a lie-in, thankfully. I’ll be reporting on that later.