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On the Road Again - to Espejo

sunny 23 °C
View Andalusia Spain on Jenniferklm's travel map.

We left Córdoba the day after Jim’s birthday. I had just mentioned to our host, Delphine that we were going to have a birthday lunch at the market for his birthday as well as attend the Andalusian Horse and Flamenco Show at the Royal Stables. We were told not to take photos during the performance so this is all I have of that event but I will just say it was not nearly as informative or professional as the training we watched in Jerez, as well as the tour of the stables there. This was much more focused on tourist entertainment.


When we got home from that evening event, there was a little package for Jim tied to one of our bikes in the courtyard. The note said that when her 3 kids learned it was his birthday, they wanted to do some drawings for him and there were two packages of flower seeds as well. So sweet…

Though were leaving earlyish in the morning, we were able to have a goodbye with Delphine and the kids. Such lovely people. She told us that sadly they are planning to move back to France after 23 years in Cordoba because of the heat in the summer. She says they don’t want to leave but it is has become intolerable in Córdoba - 50 C last summer - especially when you have kids and can’t siesta inside all day. Fond farewells were said and
and off we went en route to our next destination, Espejo.


We were excited to be moving on but loved Córdoba and here are a few more random photos of this really special place. Córdoba is also known for the patio gardens of private homes , especially in the San Basilio neighbourhood right near the Royal Stables. Though it was not the season for a lot of them to be open and there is a special tour time, I was able to go into a few that were just full of beautiful plants. We have so many great memories of our time here.


I really got a kick out this woman who in fact is carrying a large Iberian jamon, a the well-loved Spanish leg of a pig complete with the foot. She, her dogs and the jamon are so perfectly colour-coordinated.


It was to be a fairly strenuous ride from Córdoba to the little hilltop town of Espejo where we had a reservation for the night. Quite soon after leaving the outskirts of Córdoba not far from our accommodation, we were hill-climbing on a quiet road, the C0-3204 into the countryside with the town further and further below us. We would ride just over 50 km that day and our total ascent would be 785 meters. Not so bad on an unloaded bike but with four panniers each, we were packing about 40 lbs. per bike. Huff, puff!


It was lovely to be out in the countryside again and it was so open with so few people around that we quickly forgot we had only just an hour ago been wending our way through the narrow cobbled streets of the city. You do really feel like an explorer when out in the vast, empty agricultural landscape in Spain.


There was hardly any traffic - or any people to be seen on this winding country road that climbed up through farms quilted with olive orchards with only the odd cluster of buildings.


We had a picnic lunch at the top of one climb and then stopped for a coffee in the little town of Castro del Rio, really the only town we would go through on our way to Espejo.


We finally began to catch sight of Espejo, with a fortress tower on the peak of the hill and the white town cascading down the slope, and road up into the town. We had arranged to What’s App the host of the little hotel where we were staying and he said he would be there in about 1/2 hour. We found a little bar on the main square and has a restorative beer and coffee.


At the appointed time, we found Casa Amara and were ushered in by our delightful host Ivan. He spoke excellent English and we spent a lot of time talking with him, as he showed us around his lovely small hotel of 8 rooms.


Ivan and his family live in Córdoba with their kids but Espejo is his wife’s hometown. They are professionals in their 40s - he is an optometrist and she is a pharmacist, and they both have businesses in their respective professions. But it was clear that Casa Amara, this small hotel in Espejo is Ivan’s first love and he is very enthusiastic about encouraging tourism to this small town. He was very knowledgeable about cycle tourism and helped us with a lot of questions we had with the route ahead. He was interested in my blog and that I would be happy to promote this lovely little village and his hotel in it, as he says they often get bypassed for more well-known places. So if you are going to any of the bigger places in Andalucia, make time for a visit to Espejo and Casa Amara. You will not be disappointed. Just look at these views.


Ivan completely renovated this building, a huge undertaking and did it in a lovely traditional way. We have seen many dilapidated abandoned farmhouses in the countryside and he told us he was able to reuse many material from one such building near Espejo and showed us the beautiful old doors he reclaimed.


The hotel had several floors of rooms with a beautiful courtyard on the ground floor with the breakfast room and then I think 3 roof terraces as you continued to climb the stairs with the most astounding views over the town below and the countryside beyond. I got up early the next morning and caught the sunrise over the surrounding countryside, from the upper terrace of the hotel.


It was mid-week and Ivan told us he would be going back to Córdoba and we would be the only guests in the hotel that night and to make ourselves at home. His friend would provide us with breakfast in the morning.

There were not too many restaurants open in this small town and Ivan recommended the little bar where we had had coffee earlier. We sat at a table near the door of Bar Casa Mario but when we asked for a menu, the we were motioned to the inner part of the restaurant, and a tablecloth was spread on our little table by a friendly man, Mario perhaps. Mario seemed to do everything - manning the busy bar, conversing with his customers, keeping what seemed to be his small son entertained. After we ordered, he disappeared for awhile in the back and then reappeared with our dinner, presumably having cooked it! It was basic Spanish food, but very tasty and we were very hungry after our hill-climbing day.


After dinner, we explored the town, hiking up the steep street to various terraces with ever more amazing views and then up to the castle and the church on the top. Espejo was founded at the beginning of the 14th century and has its origins in the Iberian settlement of "Ucubi', later modified to the more Latin-sounding "Attubi', to which Caesar granted the status of "immune colony". Under Arab occupation, the village was known as "Al-Calat'. The founding of Espejo in mediaeval times stems from the fact that the area was a private estate which had belonged to the Pay Arias family since 1260, when it was awarded to them in return for their role in the Reconquest.


Today, the fifteenth-century Castillo de Alcalat is completely surrounded by a solid wall and offers amazing views of six surrounding villages of the province. There is the nearby church, the Gothic Mudejar Iglesia de San Bartolomé which was built in 1483 and extended in 1579. This little town of 3300 has a few churches and chapels and the remains of a Roman aqueduct.


We had a blissful sleep in our very quiet “private” hotel. We had an equally blissful breakfast, before departing lovely Espejo, taking with us a lovely olive oil container made for Casa Amara and a jar of their homemade marmalade. We wish we had been able to bring a crate of the marmalade home - it was the best we have ever had.


And if you want to bike even for a day, Esperjo is very near Via Verde del Aceite or Olive Oil Green Route. It was Ivan who told us about this walking/cycling trail that was once a rail line transporting Andalucia’s olives to the coast. It covers 55km between Jaén and Alcaudete to the west, along part of the old Jaén-Puente Genil rail line, part of what is called the Caliphate Way. On Ivan’s advice, we changed our route slightly in order to ride this greenway from the next town and it was one of the most amazing parts of our trip. So you could arrange to rent bikes through no doubt with Ivan’s assistance, or just walk, stay in the very old hilltop village of Espejo in complete comfort and the best hospitality at Casa Amara and have the most dream-like experience along the completely flat Olive Oil Green Route with to-die-for views and scenery. More about that in the next post.


Posted by Jenniferklm 14:27 Archived in Spain

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How funny and interesting to visit Cordoba through your eyes ! We are delighted to have participated in some way in the smooth running of your stay in the city. Let's see these pictures of Granada ; )

Best regards

by Delphine

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