Iznájar, La Rambla, y Córdoba: a Mother’s Day Weekend road trip

Travel log for Iznájar May 11th-13th, 2018


8:10 pm. Got on the road much later than expected due to unforeseen office party. Also dealing with latest daycare induced plague. End of billing cycle so limited data. Google Maps set to Iznájar, 3 hours east? check.

Road trip food? check. Baby, already recovered from plague, buckled in carseat with bottle? check check. And away we go.

9:10 pm. One hour in and making great time. Also trying not to chew off fingers because of stupid daycare plague. The window of contagion has probably closed but still I itch. Also, agh, that sun won’t quit. Neither will the baby. Falls asleep here, then wakes up from the hot glare coming over the skyline. Oh summer sunsets, what’re you doing to us?

10:00 pm. Definitely over halfway to Iznájar. James is officially sleeping. The light is misty and softening. Nighttime shapes hard to tell from the clouds, like floating islands in the dark, a much grander earth breaking off out of the mist.


10:15 pm. Driving by moonlight. The landscape so pretty and distorted, like seeing giants in the dark but without their faces. Sets off the imagination. What would this journey be like without paved roads and electric lights? The landscape haunts enough as is. Man these roads are twisty. Is that a castle on a hill? The building with all the lights? Yes? Spectacular. I love road trips.

11:10 pm. In our room! Snug Andalusian hotel on an isthmus jutting out into a sizable inland body of water, the Iznájar Reservoir. Cody and I end up with separate twin beds but there’s a crib for James. He’s all bubbly words and observations at this unfamiliar time of night in this new room. Lights out after extra reading of the bedtime story, Ferdinand.


12:30 am. Door rattles in frame. Baby whimpers in sleep. My skin is on fire. Damn this plague.

2:00 am. Baby shrieks again. Still asleep? Yes, there’s the deep breathing. My skin still on fire. Tiny pinpricks dancing up the pads of my fingers. Is this hotel comprised solely of rattling windows and doors?!

8:00 am. Up and awake and staving off the sleepiness. Breakfast of champions in hotel restaurant. Toast and olive oil, tomato jam, queso, and jamón. The aromatic silver lining to a night of little sleep? Coffee. The café con leche here is especially rico this morning.

Good morning
Cool and quiet Saturday morning.

9:30 – 9:50 am. Woohoo, on the road bright and early to La Rambla. Drive by beautiful cloud bathed city, first. La Flor de Rute is it? Gorgeous start to our drive. Add it to the list of future places to visit. I read they have a sugar museum?


10:30 am. First stop on Spanish-ceramics-shopping day, a warehouse just outside of La Rambla. Just a quick look. Mmhmm, mhmm, we’ll probably be spending our money here today. Confirmation from owner’s son that they close at “thhrrjdsjfkj”  (3 fingers).

10:50 am. Made it to La Rambla. Almost get stuck driving through narrow streets. Just a reminder to stick to the navigation, people! Don’t veer off on a side street for parking or you will be taking a one way tour around every itty bitty corner in the city.

10:55 am. Second stop, the store El Titi, is closed for desayuno-ing, says the sign. We walk ten steps to kill time in the park. Amidst ample senior workout stations, there’s a couple kiddo toys James can fit into. Wheeeeee!


11:10 am. Amble down the street to our third stop with lovely, large vases and plates. Statement pieces. Spend much time admiring. Friendly owner and artisan. Kindly lets me lay out several like-items on the floor for deliberation. Much deliberation. First purchases of the day. € € €


11:40 am. We just bought some beeeaauuuutiful ceramics, but, I mean, we need to walk by El Titi to get back to the car, so why not stop in now that the owner is back from breakfast? She’s friendly and vibrant and receptive, and James, who needs a nap, just isn’t having it. While I shop, he takes a much needed milk moment.

“Just be done, mom.”

Cody, mi marido, is complimented by the owner as being muy bonito. I would normally agree, but my delayed comprehension has me responding with an unenthusiastic “uh-huh” about the plate on the wall instead. We leave with a very nice blue dining set.


12:45 pm. Back to the first ceramics warehouse, Arroyo’s, we go. So much dust making my hands itch. Damn this plague. But, must uncover every design. Four other Americans walk in with us. I’m hanging out too long in front of a corner, obsessively trying to pick my 8 favorite plates from this one design, stymieing their access. I abandon the plates. Jamesy crawls through the dust.


1:30 pm. Final purchases decided. Artisan’s son is doing the ringing up. He’s not the type of person to meet anyone halfway on their burgeoning Spanish. I keep trying anyway, asking prices for plates on the walls I’m not intending to buy, my version of Spanish small talk. He finishes wrapping my pitchers with the “erótico” section of the newspaper.

He shows me the final price.

I hand him two crisp bills.

He frowns.

He keeps asking for “Diez?”

I shake my head. “No diez.” I’ve only got a five and twenties left.

He’s getting frustrated. I’m getting more confused.

“Diez! No cambio,” he motions.

You can keep the 20 cents! I try to say, meanwhile, thinking how would a 10 euro note for change make any sense? Just take my freaking money! After 5 minutes of back and forth, his dad comes by with the change. Cody returns from a diaper change with Jamesy and glances at the bill. “That’s a 1, not a 9.” Oh, I say. I try to explain my mistake. How does one translate “regional handwriting variations”  into Spanish? The boy raises his eyebrows at me. Let’s BEGONE I say to Cody.  Lovely selection and wares at this ceramics shop, but my buying arrogance has got me feeling low. No more Spanish talking today, I vow. I suck.

2:00 pm. We’re off to Córdoba. Planned to go tomorrow but it’s just so nearby, why not? We were going specifically for the Festival of the Patios to see all their beautiful floras beautifying the nooks and crannies of the city. So was everyone else apparently. Whoa busy weekend. Sooo many people. No parking.

2:20 pm. Finally find a parking garage that has a “libre” sign flashing. Stop for something to drink at the park restaurant. No food menu? We eat the sandwich we clandestinely snuck out of the hotel breakfast table instead. James is content enough with his Crispex and veggie pouch.

3:00 pm. Made our way to the Judería of the city. Wow, busy! Look at the bridge compared to last year. And getting so hot now the clouds are flying away. This daycare plague has me feeling burned and grimy in the sun. We push towards some shade.

This man also impressed by how many people are willing to fit on a bridge

3:30 pm. Pretty streets in Córdoba as always with muy bonito company.


I duck into a Marseilles soap shop. Love me some triple milled soap. Mmm, hold the pastel bricks in my hands, take a few deep whiffs, drink in all the milky goodness. Three for 10€? Hmmm, maybe with this plague I had better buy the bars I’ve been caressing. It would only be kind given the window of contagion and all, hrmm yes. Salesperson rings me up while Cody gets ice cream. We pause by a bench. James squawks for more minty goodness after every bite.


4:00 pm. Tienda La Torre Artesanía … success! We found the shop with the paintings. I bought one of these last summer after much debate and haggling, mostly with Cody, and the sales person just cut down the price to get us to leave. And now Cody has actually let me back into this city knowing these expensive paintings are only sold at this one store. But he’s being sweet because this is my mother’s day gift from him on behalf of Jamesy.


Finally after much deliberation, poring through tens of similar scenes of window panes, I’ve chosen my one. I know they’re just a higher scale of tourist art, but man, the details carry me away.

4:45 pm. Getting ready to call it a day and head back to the car. Not a lot of patios seen on this trip, but that’s ok, we still got to see plenty of beautiful floras.


5:20 pm. We stop at a little convenience store for sustenance. I grab a fruit cup, leche sin lactose para James, water, and order a perrito caliente for the road.
“Sauce? Everything?” The shop owner’s father asks.
“No!” I reply, adamant. That-which-shall-not-be-named poised ready in his hands.
“Nothing!” I’m firm.
“Simple?” the man confirms, wide-eyed.
“Sí! Perfecto,” I say.
He gives me a horrified look. Pulls out a bun.

5:30 pm. In my favorite park we pause for a bite to eat. I unwrap the foil from the hot dog. I discover the reason for the man’s horror.

Gray on the outside (which doesn’t initially bother me), pink in the middle (a little concerning), cool as though uncooked (definitely not a caliente perrito). But the kicker? This hot dog could be the physical manifestation of what the absence of taste would be like biting into.

Blegh, into the trash can.

Nice park, though.

6:00 pm. Back at the parking garage, oh what fun, 10% battery left and Cody’s data isn’t working. No car charger. James is gettin’ fussy. Time for a nap and chance to stretch out… if we ever make it back to the hotel.

6:05 pm. 8% battery. “Just take a left!” “Not that one, right?” “NO, that one!” Aghhhh 8% left and we’re not even out of the city.

6:16 pm. We’re on the Autovia in the right direction. 63 km to turn off, phone says before it goes dark.


6:30 pm. Been riding for a while in the back seat trying to keep sun out of James’s eyes. He’s had it with the road trip. I’ve had it with that sun in my eyes.

6:40 pm. A gas station!  Cody’s initial survey of the place doesn’t reveal any phone chargers so I have a look. I walk in, beaming desperation like a Bat Signal.
“Digame,” the gas station attendant says at my expression, not unkindly.
“Necesito una cosa para mi..” I hold up my phone, finger tapping the charging port.
“Una crrjhhrdjj?” She asks.
“Sí” I respond, trusting the transparency of the situation.
She goes behind the counter, points to a few packages. Cargador they read. She raises her eyebrows in question.
“Sí!” I respond, much more enthusiastically this time.
“Para el coche?” She asks.
“Sí, perfecto!” I rejoice.

6:34 pm. Plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter and back online, we see the next two or three turns and know our way back to the hotel. The route is direct, and the road signs familiar enough by now, we probably would have made it ok without the navigation, but this way we got our little S.O.L. thrill + the comfort and security of getting back to the hotel no problem.

7:00 pm. Oh what divine providence we left the hotel that morning when we did. Driving around the lake to get to the hotel, we pass many pedestrians, dragging coolers or carrying lawn chairs backpack style.

We turn the narrow corner and bam! People and horses and cars everywhere. An all day traditional festival of horses, food, and choirs hosted on the little isthmus of our hotel. They’re just finishing but Cody is irritated from the day’s driving adventures and VRRrrooms his way around the people, sidling triumphantly into the only available spot.

8:05 pm. After we’ve stretched out a bit, washed our hands of the dust and grime of our day’ purchases and someone has had a much needed diaper change, we go down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Again, la comida está deliciosa at this particular establishment. And James agrees. He has his first taste of fish, a.k.a., most of my dinner.


11:30 pm. Officially conked out and in bed ready for some Zzzzzz’s. Plague aside, we’re all sleeping comfortably tonight. Rattling windows? What rattling windows? Poof, erased. Buenos noches.



8:30 am. Breakfast again. Delicious café con leche. The BEST I’ve had in Spain. Not exaggerating. And that’s saying something.

9:30 am. Packing up the room so we have time for a walk and visit to Iznájar

10:00 am.  Staying here means we get wonderful vista after wonderful vista. The roads and walkways are well established around the reservoir, making for simple and accessible walking around a gorgeous view that must still be relatively recent.

view of Iznajar

10:10 am. It’s popular with other walkers at this time in the morning. Lots of friendly “Buenas” and head nods. Also lots of helpful signage in Spanish/English/French. Dream education nature walk


10:30 am. As we cross the river, it’s odd to look up and see the 8th century Moorish castle overlooking the water, knowing that the lake aspect of Iznájar was only recently carved out. What ghosts are looking down on it now, going, ¿agua? ¿Quéeeee?


We still can’t get over the gorgeousness of this place. The morning air is soft, the flowers are blooming, the fishers are out, and the water is rippling below us… a perfect spring morning.

10:45 am. Quite by accident, our trip coincided with Iznájar’s own flower festival, the Festival de los Balcones y Rincones,

20180513_103132so we are afforded many views of said balconies and corners dressed up very prettily with flower pots.


Push the stroller up up up steep narrow sidewalks. Have pleasant interactions with old men about the baby in our stroller. James is still being a mite tímido today. 20180513_104800


in Iznajar

11:15 am. Handy stairs for quick descent through the hill top town.


11:35 am. On our walk back around the lake, we notice this charming Ode to Olive Oil by Pablo Narudo. It is the life blood of the region, after all.


12:00 pm. Check-out. Overall a nice stay at this hotel. Good food, friendly staff, exquisite views, and they gave me a pair of earrings as token for one night of no hot water. I’ll take it.

The scene of the party.

12:15 pm. On the road again. Now we’re in daylight, this niggling two-day thought finally brings fruition. The Oda al Aceite back at the reservoir, the brown green clumps dotting the hills… we’re driving through olive country. Oh! these repetitive looking bushes are olive trees, miles and miles, hill after hill of carefully planned and planted olive trees. Years of cultivation and staging. Years. Awe. struck.


12:30 pm. James is asleep! He’ll be sleeping for the next 2 hours. Good nap for Jamesy!

Road trip gesturing

12:45 pm. What a transformation seeing the landscape by sunlight. Large mysterious shapes in the dark on Friday are revealed to be meadows, rock formations, lush trees, green slopes, and red poppies this Sunday afternoon…absolute perfection. Snapping pictures wildly/trying to remain ‘in the moment’, creating a capsule or memory or something to take us back to this road trip when we aren’t able to travel this way in the future.


1:20 pm. Catch sight of Olvera by day. Adding this pueblo blanco growing from a rocky stoop to our future travels.

Olvera from the road

3:30 pm. Home and time to relax. Pizza for everyone!


The Details:

Mode To and from Overnights Accommodation
Car El Puerto to Iznájar, La Rambla, Córdoba, and back Iznájar (2) Caserio de Iznájar
Transportation Useful phrases on this trip
English                                        =
Car How much is that plate?  ¿Cuánto cuesta ese plato?
on foot How much is the plate with the flowers?  ¿Cuánto cuesta el plato con las flores?
How much for them all?  ¿Cuánto por todos?
I like this bowl.  Me gusta este cuenco.

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