With that in mind, it can be difficult to decide whether to do a frantic dash between as many places as we can, or to spend longer in fewer, getting to know them a bit better. We also have to think hard about whether to return to a place we've been and liked, or to forego that in favour of a new destination that you might prefer, or may not like at all.
In general, we do tend to travel slower, but we try not to return to most places. But we decided to make an exception for Cordoba.
I'll write about what we did in Cordoba in the next post, but for now, what we found interesting, was they way that our two different visits demonstrated how much your experience of a place can vary, depending on how long you spend there.
Last time we were in the city, it was a flying visit. It was the first stop on our Dragoman trip in 2011, and we only spent one day here. In an effort to fit in a few more of the sights, a number of us took one of these sightseeing bus tours, something we rarely do.
We quite liked what we had seen back then, with the grandeur of the old cathedral and the Jesuit buildings, being complemented by the more modern park and sculptures. However, having re-read our blog post from back then, it confirmed our feeling that we didn't really feel we'd had long enough there.
This time around, we weren't so impressed. Yes, the old buildings - of which there are quite a few - were still lovely. And we did enjoy our hotel and some of the restaurants, but we were left a little disappointed with the city centre itself.
It didn't help that Nic had sprained his ankle, meaning that we couldn't walk around as much as we'd have liked to, so we didn't get out to the park to see the Ferris wheel designed by Gustav Eiffel, (he of the Eiffel Tower,) or some of the other less central spots.
But our problem was a bit more fundamental than that. I suppose that we had envisaged a city a bit like Prague; somewhere with some great star pieces, backed up by nice general architecture, a cosmopolitan feel with stylish shopping areas, interesting products, and a few grand cafes. As it turned out, whilst it certainly does have the star pieces, I think that Nic summed it up when he said, as we walked through the main central shopping streets, that it is like being in Croydon.
So this is where Cordoba fell down for us. Once you spend a bit more time in the older area of Cordoba, you discover that they just haven't put in the effort to maintain the 'normal' shops and other buildings. The architecture looks haphazard, with jarring styles, and there are some rather ugly buildings, and bad conversions, that take away what character was there. A lot of it looks unplanned, unloved and a bit dull.
It may well be that they just haven't had the funding available to spend here, which if so, is a shame, but we were left with the impression that if they could just get rid of some of the worst buildings, tidy up the rest, add a bit of colour, and encourage some more interesting shops and cafes, they could have a lovely city centre, that matches up to the promise of the more obvious attractions.
But it isn't all bad. On the plus side, the old bits are lovely, and when we looked beyond the centre, there is an area called New Cordoba, which is where all of the stylish and smarter establishments are setting up, and there is a nice little artisan area, which is also where the good bars are to be found.
We liked these areas, and I suspect that, if we were to spend longer here again, we would probably choose to stay around there, and may well find that we enjoyed the city that much more as a result.
So in this instance, it seems that a flying visit is great, because you just do the best bits of the tourist sights. A slightly longer visit is a bit disappointing, because you have time to visit the less impressive sights and see more of the dull and unattractive bits. But with a little longer still, you can get to know the places where the locals go, which raises the experience back up again.
Oh, and the photos on this post are from last time we were in Cordoba.