I had the absolute pleasure yesterday of driving my nephew and his charming new wife back to Córdoba train station for their night train to Barcelona.
I don't normally look forward to the drive so very much as it is mostly motorway, but we decided to leave in plenty of time and take in a few of the local villages "off the beaten track".
We drove through Cabra without stopping ... Cabra means Goat in Spanish, and this particular town is one where I have determined to spend more time - the architecture is lovely - there are big open parks with pergolas under which you'll often find outdoor performances going on - and the road that winds down to it competes with a ski resort's access ....
But we went to have sangria and tapas in one of my fairytale destinations here - Zuheros.
About 40 minutes' easy drive away, skirting around the western side of the Sierra Subbética mountains, and absolutely accessible in a small car without wheel insurance (!), this village is a treasure. It is perched in a plunging ravine which splits through the Sierra and would have originally been the basis of inhabitation - an obvious water supply.
The swallows were swooping and chittering, and the crows (my personal favourites), cruising around chattering as the sun made it's way to the horizon and the castle lights came on, throwing everything into the most romantic lighting relief imaginable.
It has views stretching up to the Sierra Norte north of Cordoba with Baena in the middle ground, and the sunset from the castle is out of a fairy story, especially when enjoyed with a jug of freshly made sangria and local cured ham.
After wowing our socks off and taking lots of photos, we left shortly after 8.30pm to take the back road into Cordoba itself and the AVE / Renfe station which took us through several gorgeous villages - but the one that really stunned us was Espejo - Spanish for Mirror - because the light had become that late evening rich royal blue with smatterings of the darkest red as we rounded a corner to find the crescent moon hovering just to the right of a beautifully lit up castle, with a carpet of white houses spreading out at the castle's feet. It was, to quote my nephew's gorgeous Australian wife, "totally awesome".
The train station in Cordoba was a dream to find and had me driving through the "new" area - something I haven't done before and something I am determined to do again - wonderful wide open spaces and some of the most striking fountains I have seen in rural Spain ....
For another time I think.....