SPAIN DAY 3: Salamanca to Cordoba

After a night in Salamanca it was time to plan my day’s ride. I had two more days before I had to be in Gibraltar (where I work). I thought it would be wise to pick a place a few hours away from Gibraltar, so I picked Córdoba.

I had heard many good things about this place and it was only three hours away from my final destination. But there was something else that attracted me to this route. Ever since I read Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes I have wanted to visit the famous windmills of La Mancha. There’s not much at all in La Macha bar the windmills, so riding through on my bike would be the perfect opportunity to tick it off my list. I punched La Mancha in my Google Maps and set off for the day.

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The sun was shining, the sky was a deep blue and the roads were delightfully flat. It was perfect for riding. I cruised blissfully without a thought in my head. I felt happy, I was enjoying every second. This is why I had got the bike in the first place. This is the feeling that every rider wants to feel all the time.  I was the only one on the road. You’d be surprised how desolate the roads are once you pass south of Madrid.  Córdoba was about a 6-hour drive from Salamanca, I wasn’t sure I’d make it so I didn’t book any hotel. All I knew is that I had to see La Mancha as it would be the only chance I’d ever get. I decided to take the highway for the bulk of the journey. It turned out to be a good decision. I had the road to myself and all I could see was vast greenery against the beautifully blue sky. I embraced the ride.

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I hit a toll road in La Mancha; it was dead, nobody in sight, no cars in either direction. I was struggling to find change for the toll and in frustration I just weaved around the barrier and continued without paying the toll. I drove past huge apartment complexes that were inhabited. I realised I was near to where they filmed the Top Gear Spain Special. Jeremy Clarkson and co had raced around the apartment blocks and a nearby airport that had closed down before ever opening. Seeing those empty apartment blocks in the middle of Spain was bizarre, it was a reminder of how hard the recession had hit Spain.

I continued on and to my delight I finally saw some windmills. I couldn’t believe it. I took the turning and drove right up to the windmills. Three windmills together overlooking the stunning landscape. Right on top of a hill, away from everything, it was perfect. I got off my bike and took off my leather jacket and sat down and enjoyed the moment. I got some brilliant photos while I was there. It was the perfect rest stop. I had spent months reading that 900+ page book and now I was in the very place it was set, many, many years later of course. After I had satisfied my desire to see the famous windmills of La Mancha, I hit the open road again. After a 30-minute rest I was even looking forward to getting back on the bike, that’s how much I was enjoying the ride. A far cry from yesterday’s torrid weather.

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These flat, open roads took me through a stunning national park. I wanted to stop and see more but I was on the clock. There are a lot of hidden gems around Spain. I felt like I was riding over a bridge through Jurassic Park, the bridge then turned into a tunnel that went through the mountains, it was spectacular. I ploughed on for another hour and then filled up the tank. My helmet was covered in splattered bugs so I gave that a wipe. I also booked a room in Córdoba since I now knew that I would make it. I was about an hour from Córdoba at this point, I would make it there around 8pm. I had been on and off the road since 9am. It had been a long day’s ride – one I’d finish off with a beer in Córdoba. You can check out a video I made of the ride below.

Córdoba is a city in the province of Andalusia. It was an important Roman city and an Islamic cultural centre in the Middle Ages. Cordoba was founded by the Romans and due to its strategic importance as the highest navigable point of the Guadalquivir River, it became a port city of great importance, used for shipping Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Ancient Rome. The Romans built the mighty bridge crossing the river, now called “El Puente Romano”.

It’s best known for La Mezquita, an immense mosque dating back to 600 C.E. featuring a columned prayer hall and Byzantine mosaics. When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers of the city were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns, and creating the extraordinary church-mosque that stands there today.

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Where I stayed

I only booked this hotel about an hour before I checked in so I had to pay a little more than I wanted. I picked the Hotel Córdoba Center for the night. I paid about £77 and as far as rooms go it was one of the best I’ve stayed in. However, they do try and charge for hotel parking. I managed to get away without paying. It was about a 10 minute walk from the old town. It was a lovely hotel and if I returned on a romantic trip, then I’d probably stay there again.