Reflective novel set in Denmark, France and Canada
Inspired to travel to CÓRDOBA by fiction
13th May 2022
Inspired to travel to Córdoba by fiction
Here we are at last in Córdoba, inspired by fiction, a perfect example of what we are doing at TripFiction.
I have always chosen books that have a strong backdrop, set in the place I have chosen to visit. The starting point for our TF venture was a planned trip to Vienna and I struggled to find a novel set in the city. I could only track down one that I had already read (The Fig Eater by Jodie Shields, in case you are wondering). That was a seminal moment and the thought of ‘what if’ started to formulate: what if there was a website where you could search your destination and find (hopefully) an abundance of books with a strong sense of place? The idea gradually began to gel. Now we know that there are many books set in Vienna and they are readily accessible on the website.
I then read Shantaram by Gregory David Robert and was determined one day to visit Mumbai. Just because I read the novel. That is now ticked. I took Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden with me to Kyoto and was delighted to see a geisha tapping along the cobbles in one of the backstreets. I built a whole imaginery world around that single sighting, gleaned from the book I was reading.
We then discovered that Stanford Travel, a wonderful travel and book shop in London, runs the annual Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards – including a category “Fiction, with a Sense of Place” – which truly underlines that there are people out there who are keen to find books that enable them to see a location through the eyes of an author.
Now, here we are in Córdoba, inspired to explore this wonderful city after reading All My Mothers by Joanna Glen. The setting and story are both 5* and evoke this glowingly golden toned and welcoming city in Andalucía. We are here to coincide with the Patios Festival which is held every year in May, when householders throw open their inner courtyards, crammed with plants and flowers, that are an absolute feast for the senses. This year there are 49 on view, they are all different and what is particularly striking is the cooling atmosphere, often further enhanced by the trickling waters of a central fountain.
All My Mothers is the story of Eva, who is growing up with parents with whom she just doesn’t seem to bond – Dad is Spanish from Andalucía and Mum is a fragile, reclusive woman who has no motherly warmth. They simply don’t feel like her tribe and when she discovers a photo of herself as a child, with the head of the the female caregiver removed, she decides that she really needs to understand more about her heritage. Dad then abandons his little family and returns to his home country of Spain, leaving the two females floundering. She is driven to study in Córdoba, where she feels she belongs. Her father, she knows, is in the vicinity and there is a good chance she might bump into him, of course. And it is there that she starts her search for her childhood history. It is a convoluted path to uncovering the secrets that have permeated her life and consciousness, a preoccupation that consumes her. Knowing, for her, is the only way she can understand herself better and come to terms with being passed, as it seems, from pillar to post and being deprived of unquestioning, maternal love.
Córdoba is truly a gem. It has history and culture aplenty and a fabulous wealth of bars and eateries. If you decide to go, inspired by the novel or by this piece, then here are some of the amazing places we have discovered:
Lunch when you are done at the Mezquita – and make it a late one otherwise you will struggle to get a table – Campos de Toros. Recommended by a local and worth it for a good lunch.
Fancy a Vermouth or gintonic aperitivo? Try Sojo Confusion Ribera which morphs into a lively night club later in the evening. it’s on the third floor of a car park (and don’t be fooled by the lift which offers plantas 2 and 4 – just press 4). The views are tremendous on the terrace, right across the river and it has wonderfully curious and quirky decor.
In the mood for a sublime meal? We were bowled over by Ragadera – tapas with a really inventive twist, sublime flavours complemented by excellent wine. Good for vegetarians /psecatarians.
If you choose to come here when the Patios aren’t in full swing, then you can get a feel for what’s on offer in May if you visit to the very wonderful Palacío de Viana where they have 10 courtyard gardens to visit all year round. And if you still haven’t had enough of garden culture, then you can join the (very slow moving) queue to access the Jardínes del Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.
Of course the BIG draw of the city is the Mezquita-Catedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating from the 10th Century which is quite startling and overwhelming as the styles of architecture interleave. It makes for quite a thought provoking visit about the meaning of religion and a true riotous mêlée of vernacular styles..
So, that, in brief, is the power of a novel and the joys of #literarytourism.
All My Mothers was our Book of the Month, August 2021.
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