We were playing musical cars again – we had snagged a great one-way deal from Malaga to Madrid and were planning for a northern Portugal and Spain road trip using a different rental company when we won another housesit position back in the south again. Plans were re-jigged, and destinations updated (the joys of free cancellations!) to take in this new assignment. It meant we would still get to Portugal but via a different route and then head south from Porto rather than north.

First, we had two days to reach our changeover point in Madrid so headed to Cordoba. The great thing I’ve found about social media, and particularly Instagram, is that I can see amazing places – the photos often inspire me to go to a place (more than just hearing that a place is a must see) and there are many photos of this amazing city to see. But being there is so much better! The must-see is the Mesquite Cathedral, and we opted for the free early entry to hopefully avoid the crowds that still filled this town.

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Beautiful – Cordoba cathedral!
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Worth the early entry to avoid the crowds
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Long vistas
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Domes and carvings
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crowds starting to appear

Wandering this beautiful city, we spied hidden courtyards and patios still decorated with baskets of flowers. Some patios are open, you just have to find them; others are tourist filled alleyways with selfie sticks causing havoc.

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Decorated patios
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Hidden behind the walls
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Dinner restaurant

Beyond the cathedral lies the river and the lovely gardens of the Alcazar.

To reach Portugal, we stopped over in Salamanca for a couple of nights exploring this ancient university town. The drive from Madrid to Salamanca is not a long one so we stopped in Avila as I had heard that the old city walls were worth looking at – and they were definitely much more than we expected. Avila was a lovely old town and we managed to arrive before the tourist hordes. Spain was in the middle of their summer holidays and many of them were exploring their own country here too.

Driving into Salamanca was again a bit fraught as road works had closed off the suggested route and Google didn’t know how to manage our detour into the old town with its one-way streets. We made it to our apartment and the car was taken to its bed for the next couple of days – a dinky elevator carpark underground. Our apartment was right in the middle of the historical city, walking distance from everything we needed to see.

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Glimpses of grandeur at dinner
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From our apartment

We spent two nights here and it was excellent to be in the centre of the old town and just wander on an evening, soaking in the atmosphere and the vibe – lots of people around with just a smattering of English being spoken around us.

Beautiful town square of Salamanca

Wandering the streets we found old convents and cloisters, hidden views of the cathedral dominating the skyline. We climbed towers and enjoyed views across the town. Salamanca was certainly worth the visit, more than just a launching point towards Portugal for sure.

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Cathedral towers
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Beautiful decorations
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Convent cloisters
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