Friday, March 6, 2020

Cycling Europe 2019 Day 14: Córdoba To Zuheros - The World's Most Beautiful Village

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Cycling Europe 2019 Day 14: Córdoba To Zuheros - The World's Most Beautiful Village
Portugal, Spain & France: Day 14 Saturday, 9th November - Córdoba To Zuheros
This is part of a cycling tour of the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain), covering some cycling in Córdoba & Zuheros:
Cycling Distance: 7.78+3.0=10.78 km.     Level: Easy
Bus Distance: 86 km. (1:00 pm 2:40 pm, 1 hr 40 mins) 
Córdoba Cycling Time : 9:00 am to 10:50 am
Time Taken : 1 hr. 50 mins. (including visiting attractions, rest, regrouping & lots of photo opps.)
Zuheros Cycling Time: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Time Taken : 1 hr. 15 mins. (including visiting many stops to appreciate locality & lots of photo opps.)

This is page 12 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D13 Cordoba         |        Go To Other Days      |      Go to D15-16 A, la Real >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    On the Continental Europe, vehicles are left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. And do remember the traffic directions at road crossing. Also note that often cycling lanes run next to pedestrian lanes at town and city areas, at crossings there are separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles, so stick to the correct lane.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    In the morning it was a short ride at Córdoba to to visit several places including the Plaza de la Corredera & the El Alcázar Córdoba; this was followed by a ride to the Estación Autobuses Córdoba (Córdoba Bus Station) (GPS: 37.8892, -4.78958) to take the Autocares Carrera bus to Zuheros. The 90 km. bus trip took about 1-1/2 hours,
On arriving at the Zuheros it was a short ride along steep village roads (mostly down-slope) to the hotel with a small stretch along the Via Verdes hiking/cycling trail just before the hotel.
3. Weather
    Morning temperatures aCórdoba averaged 13°C. In Zuheros afternoon and evening temperatures averaged 14°C & 10°respectively, temperatures here was colder as the town is up in the highlands. It was a bright, sunny day with blue skies.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites are BBC WeatherAccuWeather, and for more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Bringing Bikes Onto European Trains, Buses & Trams
    Both in Portugal & Spain, full size bikes and folding bikes (there is no necessity to fold them) can bet taken into inter-city trains, metros and trams for free and without bagging. Do note that bikes may not be allowed during peak hours.
    For regulations regarding bringing bicycles onto different Spanish trains, click here. For regulations regarding Barcelona, Click here and click here.
    We took 1:00pm Autocares Carrera bus from Córdoba to Zuheros (the bus tickets were bought at the Santa Justa Train Station when we arrive a day earlier). The bus fare was €6-66 per pax, there was no charges for our bicycles which was folded & bagged to be loaded onto the bus hold. The bus journey took 1 hr. 40 min. and went along beautiful hilly roads that cut through olive groves and mountain villages.

5. Places of Interest
    Along this route were several places of interests, some of which we visited and others we did not for lack of time:

Morning cycling at Córdoba:
  1. Palacio de Viana (GPS: 37.88862, -4.77389).
  2. Iglesia de San Pablo (St. Paul's Church) (GPS: 37.88534, -4.77589).
  3. Templo romano de Córdoba (Roman Temple of Córdoba) (GPS: 37.88483, -4.77643).
  4. La Cazuela de la Esparteria (Jamón ibérico, Iberico Ham shop) (GPS: 37.88395, -4.77531).
  5. Plaza de la Corredera (Old town square with shops) (GPS: 37.88354, -4.77448).
  6. Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy College) (GPS:37.8827, -4.77427).
  7. Julio Romero de Torres Museum (GPS: 37.88125, -4.77486).
  8. Plaza del Porto (GPS: 37.88108, -4.77483).
  9. El Alcázar Córdoba (GPS: 37.87678, -4.78195).
  10. Plaza Puerta del Rincón (GPS: 37.88852, -4.77622).
  11. Saturday Flea Market at Plaza de las Tendillas (GPS: 37.88448, -4.77954).
  12. Monumento al Gran Capitán (Monument to the Great Captain, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba) (GPS: 37.88447, -4.77953).
Afternoon cycling at Zuheros:
  1.  The White Towns (Pueblos Blancoof Andalusia,
  2.  White towns seen enroute: Espejo (GPS: 37.67928, -4.55369), Castro del Río (GPS: 37.68871, -4.47956), Baena (GPS: 37.61736, -4.32445), and Luque (GPS: 37.55738, -4.27821).
  3. Museo de Costumbres y Artes Populares "Juan Fernández Cruz" en Zuheros (Juan Fernández Cruz Museum of Customs and Popular Arts) (GPS: 37.54443, -4.31312).
  4. Cañón rio Bailón (Mountain hiking trail) (GPS: 37.5397, -4.31586).
  5. Castillo de Zuheros (Zuheros Castle) (GPS: 37.54385, -4.31655).
  6. Cueva de los Murciélagos (Cave of Bats) (GPS: 37.54203, -4.30400).
  7. The Via Verdes Greenway Subbética section of the Via Verdes hiking/cycling trail (GPS: 37.5429, -4.32917).
  8. Hacienda Minerva (GPS: 37.54284, -4.33407).
  9. Sierras Subbéticas (GPS: 37.45312, -4.33700), mountain range popular for hiking..

6. Meals
a. Breakfast - Self made at apartment.
b. Brunch - light pastries at Cafeteria Exit Cordoba at the Estación Autobuses Córdoba (Córdoba Bus Station) (GPS: 37.8892, -4.78958).
c. Late Lunch - at Meson Atalaya (GPS: 37.54445, -4.31298in Zuheros:
    Lamb chop, Oxtail Stew, White beans with Partridge & Red Sangria.
d. Dinner - at Minerva Restaurant in Hacienda Minerva in Zuheros
    Duck Confit, Roasted pork ribs, Salmon stuffed with prawns & house white wine.

7. Accommodations
   One night aHacienda Minerva (GPS: 37.54284, -4.33407) in Zuheros which we had pre-booked through; two suites each with two bedrooms and a small living room (with a fireplace) at €285.28 per night  (or €35-66 per pax per night inclusive of a grand buffet breakfast). There was a  early booking discount of €28.22, otherwise the charges would have been €313.50. Our bikes were parked in a locked adjacent store-room.
    Address: Carretera Luque-Dª Mencía Km 9,8, Vía Verde de la Subbética KM 73,2, 14870 Zuheros (Córdoba), Córdoba, Spain.
    Phone: +34-957090951
8. Communicating with Each Other
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost.
    We bought pre-paid SIM cards from UK mobile provider Three on-line through Lazada. As some of us stayed for a shorter period, we got two plans with cost ranging from RM30 to RM70 for a 20 days 4G and a 30 days 10G plans respectively. These plans include their "Feel At Home" package which allow the phone's data, call and messaging allowance to be used in sixty countries (mostly European and also Singapore) without any extra charges!

9. Communicating with Locals
    In Spain, except in rural areas, many young locals can speak some basic English and communicating with them shouldn't be a problem. This is especially the case in hotels & restaurants.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour, do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak very good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedule.

10. Navigation
     Unless he or she is very familiar with the locals routes, the tour leader should carry a GPS units. It will also be good if another member of the team carry another GPS unit should the leader's one go faulty.
    Kevin was using a Beeline navigation unit that synchronized with pre-planned routes on his phone app. Sin & me were using the Garmin GPS units and had pre-plotted our daily routes into respective GPX maps usable in these units. We had pre-loaded the PortugalSpain & France Maps together with GPS coordinates of our destinations. Do ZOOM out to look for turning points further ahead; and ZOOM in at complicated junctions, otherwise one may make a wrong turn (it did happen to us sometimes).
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.
    At the towns and cities, we used Google Maps to navigate to various places of interests that were not shown on our GPS units. In Spain, Google Maps does work in Cycling Mode.

11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.


Acting cool at Plaza de España in Seville.
Yesterday we had taken a train from Seville to Córdoba and did a bit of cycling to visit the main attractions there. This morning we did more cycle exploration of the city before taking a bus to Zuheros, a quaint town up in the hills. Will it be as nice as visualized?


Cycling Route: Como en casa>Palacio de Viana>Plaza de la Corredera>El Alcázar Córdoba>Como en casa>Plaza de las Tendillas>Estación Autobuses Córdoba.
This is a short ride around Cordoba to visit some of the city's secondary attractions such as the Plaza de la Corredera & El Alcázar Córdoba, etc. before heading to the Estación Autobuses Córdoba. It is an easy route with just a bit of climb.
Cycling Distance: 7.78 km.     Level: Easy

We will be heading for Zuheros in the afternoon, so in the morning led by Sin we went to explore Córdoba further. This time it was to the lesser know attractions of the city and mostly along side lanes and back alleys. It was an interesting route that also took us through small niche parks like the above.

Our first destination was the Palacio de Viana. But alas! When we arrive at the Plaza de Don Gome that leads to the entrance of the place, we found the entrance locked. The place only opens at 10 am. 

Through the locked grill we could only peep into the first courtyard; it looked like a nice cozy place. It should be as all in there are twelve of these beautiful courtyards, making this place be know also as the Museum of Courtyards. The Palacio de Viana has a colorful five-century history, stretching from the late 1400s to the present and was inhabited until the late 20th century by noble families which gave it its great traditional character within its Roman-Arabic architecture.

Many simple but interesting buildings could be seen along our route along the narrow lanes, like this white-washed building with bright blue highlights.

Along the way too were many tile artwork like this one of the Mezquita-catedral de Córdoba (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba).

Sin at the main entrance of the Iglesia de San Pablo (St. Paul's Church), it many look like a small archway but it leads into a fairly large five-century old church built along Baroque and Mannerist styles.

Along Calle Capitulares, just outside the Cordoba City Council, there was an open street exhibition showcasing tourism in Romania.
The above capture from one of their posters shows Plopis Wooden Church, a church built in 1798 at the Șișești village which is located at the scenic Chioar Cavnic valley .
The wooden church building reminded me of similar ones I saw at the Museum of Wooden Architecture in Suzdal during a 2019 tour of Russia.

Another poster showed Lolas' Carnival Sighișoara where a beautiful laddy led a colorful group carrying a trunk through the street of the town. It's one event held during the Sighişoara Medieval Festival held at the town; I wonder what this signified?
Another showed young lads of the Călușari performing the Căluş Ritual.
Okay.... okay..... I detract, let's get back to our ride. But it was good to know something of Romanian architecture and culture of Romania; perhaps I should go cycling in Romania next. 😆

En-route we passed by the La Cazuela de la Esparteria, it's a restaurant that serves Jamón ibérico, the prized Spanish ham. But on it's window display, with many legs of ham hanging from the ceiling, it seems to be selling also Jamón ibérico too. A closer looks showed it to be selling the even more prized Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, this is a higher grade of ham made from free-range pigs which are fed with acorn (bellota) as compared to the farm-fed Jamón Ibérico de cebo. The former can cost double that of the latter and is so tender that it can "melt in the mouth".

Even as we entered our destination, the Plaza de la Corredera, we knew that it was going to be something special - the rich pastel red arches just beckons one to enter this plaza.

This 400-year old square is surrounded by red-white arches and balconies on the three upper floors. The ground floor is occupied by shops/stalls and rightfully so as this square was once the marketplace of Córdoba, presently it has shops which cater more for tourists.

The beauty of the place enraptured me: framed by an archway, wooden ceiling joists lines up a corridor.....

..... aches in a row forms a weaving pattern along the perimeter of the square; with the morning sun brightening them up, they look just right.

While I was busy admiring the place, Lynne was busy doing some window shopping!

After half an hour we left the square, it's a beautiful place, yah?

By now we are getting used to cycling along the back & side lanes; going along the flat perimeter instead of the rough cobbled center. But the sides are actually meant for pedestrians too, so ever so often we stopped to give way to them.

The next stop was not a scheduled one, but the statue of a priest carrying a young orphan boy at the Colegio Nuestra Señora de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy College) just attracted us.

Next was a quick stop at the Plaza del Porto, with Goofy (my bike) posing at the horse fountain.

Here too, standing high on a tall column was the Archangel Raphael; he is the guardian of the city.

Nearby was a mural facade painted in pastel colors.

We continued on the cycling path of Ronda de Isasa which ran along the Guadalquivir River riverside and reached the El Alcázar Córdoba. Short of time we did not go in to visit but just took a short rest, lolling at it's exterior garden and just took a peep in where we saw a Christian knight guarding the entrance.
Also known as the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Monarchs), this fortress once served as one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

En-route back to our apartment, we resisted the temptation to visit the Puente romano de Córdoba (the Roman bridge of Cordoba) again, but could not help making a quick stop at this wall mural for a group photo.... Hah! we are now part of Córdoba's landscape!
On the wall were the words "Dios Salve A la Poesia" which meant "God Save the Poetry", well that's us too.... poetry in motion while we were cycling 😊.

Back at our apartment, we quickly packed and checked out. After days of visiting notable cities of Spain, we are now excited as we will be leaving the urban landscape and head up to the highlands to stay at Zuheros, one of the notable White Towns (Pueblos Blancoof Andalusia. And Zuheros is reputed to be the most beautiful village in the world! So one can understand that we could hardly contain our excitement.
We cycled to the Estación Autobuses Córdoba (Córdoba Bus Station) to take a bus to Zuheros. On the way we did make a couple of stops, first was at the Plaza Puerta del Rincón, a peaceful place where a statue of a lady seems to be watering some potted plants set high up on a wall .....

And then at the Plaza de las Tendillas, where we "accidentally discovered" a Saturday flea market.
At the Estación Autobuses Córdoba (Córdoba Bus Station) we packed our bikes into Dimpa bags, loaded them onto the 1:00 pm Autocares Carrera bus and headed for Zuheros.


Cycling Distance: 3.0 km.     Level: Easy
This is a route from the Museo de Costumbres y Artes Populares "Juan Fernández Cruz" en Zuheros in Zuheros town to Hacienda Minerva. It goes along the main road but there is an alternate route that goes along the Via Verdes Greenway Subbética, a trail that follows the route of the old Olive Oil Train.
(Zoom out to see bus and cycling route from Córdoba to Zuheros)

We left Cordoba, crossed the Puente de San Rafael (San Rafael Bridge) which spans over the Rio Guadalquivir, slightly further downstream from the famed Puente romano de Córdoba (Roman bridge of Cordoba). The river was calm but not our hearts which was raging in excitement.
Soon the bus started climbing uphill and a vista of olive groves unfolded; it's a beautiful sight of an olive green stretching to the horizon to meet the bright blue sky.

As we climbed higher, the first of the Pueblos BlancoEspejo, appeared. These white towns/villages are depictive sights to be seen at the Andalusian mountains. Somehow their simple white with red clay roofs stands out against the green and blue. Most of this towns will have a church or cathedral, and some will have a castle too! We later passed other white towns like Castro del RíoBaena, and Luque. At several of these towns the bus detoured in to drop off and pick up passengers.

At Luque, the climb became even steeper and the roads narrower. We are now skirting the edge of the Sierras Subbéticas mountain range and scenes of rural life became more evident as a herd of goats blocked our way. The driver is patient and without honking (so this must be a common site) waited for the goats to move to a side before continuing on.

As we rounded a sharp bend, Zuheros came into view!
A signboard said "Zuheros, uno de los pueblos más bonitos de España" which means "Zuheros, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain".
It is indeed a beautiful village and my photo does not do justice to it; click here for a better bird's eye view, one from a Google Street View seen from the mountain side. And here's another closer view seen from the Castillo de Zuheros (Zuheros Castle).

2:40pm - Our first impression of Zuheros was one of being stumped, not by the beauty of the place but by being unceremoniously "dumped" at the roadside. See there is not bus station in Zuheros, just this simple, small bus stop in front of the museum opposite restaurant Meson Atalaya. We just looked in awe as the bus quickly dropped us and drove away to continue it's journey 😮😕.
If we were stumped, the locals must have been even more stumped. Here we were, a group of foreigners with large cheap looking bags, we must have looked like illegal immigrants!

"No point in moaning." our stomachs groaned. Might as well go have a late lunch over at Meson Atalaya. We sat at the front verendah with the strong afternoon sun shining glaringly into our eyes! This was a good thing as high up here in the Sierras Subbéticas, even in the afternoon temperatures can be as cold as 12°C.

And here's our lunch: Red Sangria, olives starter, Oxtail stew, grilled beef, lamb chop and partridge with white beans. Meson Atalaya food here is quite good, especially the grilled meats.

While in Spain, don't miss their green chili pepper; this one here a Poblano, is just simply fried but taste very good and not overly spicy.

And it's a meal with a view, far away can be seen Castillo de Zuheros (Zuheros Castle), standing on a cliff over this Pueblo Blanco.
Zuheros was originally settled by the Ibericos Pleno to protect an ancient roadway known as the Camino de los Metedores, the smugglers track. The Romans followed shortly afterwards, leaving behind them relics found in the Las Cuevas de los Murcielagos. Towards the end of the ninth century, Moorish Banu Himsi soldiers built a castle on the impregnable rocks, called SujairaIn the year 1240, the settlement was conquered by Fernando III.

Tummy happy, we rode off towards our home-stay, riding on calm roads going pass the white-washed houses.

The road winded steeply but fortunately we were riding downhill.

It's beautiful here and the contrasting brownish Sierras Subbéticas mountains made a good back-drop for the white Pueblos Blanco.

But somehow we went the wrong way and ended up at the main road CO-6203 and having to climb up steep slopes a fair bit. From there we looked down and could see our home-stay for the night, Hacienda Minerva, sprawling among olive groves in the distance. A country road can be seen at a lower lever leading to it; this was part of the Via Verdes and we had taken a wrong turn and missed it. Dang!
Our original plan was to cycle from Córdoba to Zuheros, riding along the Via Verdes, but the cold weather deterred us.

Anyways, we were happy to check in at Hacienda Minerva was really a nice place. It's a fairly large and beautiful hotel and staying there made us feel like those rich Spanish Vaquero cowboy in our own hacienda.
We got settled in and were soon comfortable in our own balconies.

We took a walk around the place and here are some more photos of the hacienda!

An later in the evening, a dinner at the hotel restaurant (clockwise from top left):
 Señorío Real (Royal Manor) house white wine, salmon stuffed with prawns (good), dessert cake, lamb cutlets (good), roasted pork ribs (below average).

My favorite was their Duck Confit (Pato confitado); served with a variety of berries it was one of the best that I had tried - as good as the Confit De Canard I had in Montmarte, France.
It had been a good well balanced day of a transition from urban riding to a rustic mountain ride, itchy legs sated, grumbling stomachs happy - and in the setting rays of a violet dusk, we rocked like John Travolta in Night Fever.

¡Vamos a rockear!
(That's "Let's Rock!" in Spanish)

Click here for a Relive bird's eye view of our Day 14 bus ride from Córdoba to Zuheros & from there our cycling to Hacienda Minerva .

(For more photos of the Day 14, Click Here)
This is page 12 of a 20-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D13 Cordoba         |       Go To Other Days      |      Go to D15-16 A, la Real > 

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