It’s 8 o’clock and the sun is slowly heading for the horizon, its light dripping away from the olive trees growing on the distant yellow hills. The smell of vegetables roasting in the oven wafts towards us from the kitchen, where we’ve also got sangria cooling in the fridge. We still have a couple of hours before darkness falls, but all we want to do is sit here on our little fourth floor terrace taking in the world.
Beneath us, the rooftops are in chaos, facing every-which way to create a maze of tiles shielding Toledo’s narrow, winding, shadowy streets from view. It’s quiet; all we can hear is the faint chiming of church bells in the distance and the sweet twittering of birds as they flutter between earthy coloured buildings that complement the tones of central Spain’s dry landscape.
Sitting on a rooftop in Toledo in the fading summer twilight seems the perfect way to wrap up our adventures in Spain. The past two weeks have taken us through scorching Andalusia where we’ve marvelled at incredible Moorish architecture, encountered enough history to fill a textbook, and embraced local culture by taking a much needed siesta every afternoon.
Seville was our first stop, where we were immediately hit with a wall of heat as we stepped off the bus; it was after 7pm and the temperature was still pushing forty degrees Celsius as we walked, packs and all, to our Airbnb apartment. We would later find out that Seville is one of the hottest cities in Western Europe – clearly a great destination to visit at the height of summer.
The city’s famous Alcazar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gave us our first taste of the intricate beauty of the Moorish buildings for which Andalusia is famous. The palace was constructed during the 12th century, though many expansions and reconstructions have occurred since, and has been home to many a monarch since that time. We spent a few hours one morning gazing at its ornate details and wandering through the shady gardens, trying to imagine how the royals would have passed their days here over the centuries.
Granada is equal parts pretty, grungy, historical and cool, and you get a completely different vibe depending on where you wander in the city. Here we spent hours at the Alhambra, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring its pretty gardens, its fort, and the famous Nasrid Palaces. With a history dating back to around AD 889, when a fortress was built atop old Roman fortifications, the place is made up of near innumerable layers of history preserved in the stones, ornately carved ceilings and colourful tiles.
In the evenings, we let ourselves get lost in the picturesque streets of the Albayzín, climbing the hilly cobbled streets as daylight faded, before returning to the more modern streets of the city centre for wine and sangria and free tapas by night.
We then found ourselves in pretty Córdoba, famed for its Mezquita, a church turned mosque turned church, whose dimly lit interior is filled with arches and an oaky scent that wafts through the air.
During the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ in Europe, particularly during the ninth and tenth centuries, Córdoba was an advanced economic and cultural hub and a renowned centre for education, and the splendour of its Moorish past shines through to the present day in its historic centre, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Many hours were spent wandering here before we left Andalusia behind, enroute to Toledo and beyond.