Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ayamonte and Isla Cristina tour by our guide Ivan

Start off with a correction to Ivan's name, previous post I said it is pronounced Yvon; in fact it's closer to Yvan.

This is Ivan, if you ever come to Sevilla you will want him to help you learn Spanish, tour around and learn the culture.
Ivan Sanchis Pedregosa, read Ivan's post on our trip to Ayamonte.

A bit more on the Metropol Parasol, I asked Ivan why the locals don’t like it and it is really a matter of where it was built, not the sculpture itself. It’s in the middle of the old town and certainly doesn’t fit in with the architecture of old, elegant buildings surrounding it. We have seen a mix of old and new architectures in other cities done gracefully, not this one.  It was also built over top of ruins and people here thought they should have been identified as a cultural bit of education as part of the City. Enough said.

Ivan drove us out to Isla Cristina about an hour and a half from Sevilla. So many olive trees and around Lepe miles of strawberries under long slim arched white tarps. They looked like giant white worms over the fields. Strawberry season is just about here and we can’t wait to try some! 

Isla Cristina is a mix of fishing village and condos for retirees. We met up with Pepe, was good to see him again. He was going to show us a flat there but that didn’t work, his key wouldn’t unlock the door (later we heard they had to get a locksmith to change the lock), so we abandoned the poor fellow, carried on to Ayamonte. 

There we toured around the town of white washed buildings and views to the river.

Ivan's pic of the sloped street and view to the river

Ivan's picture of the Theatre
It is a hilly town and the best viewpoint to the ocean was unavailable to see because of closed gates at both a fortress and a Parador/hotel at the top of the hill. 
Lovely garden view with the white walls, yes, those are lemons and a poinsettia.

We did see the bridge to Portugal which is minutes away. 

There is, or was, a ferry prior to the bridge being built that serviced the area. It wasn’t in operation but will likely start again in the summer. Ivan said there is little difference in the villages on both side of the river, their lifestyles and ways of thinking are the same, just different languages spoken.

Us, and no, I'm not holding him back, just a good hug! Bridge to Portugal in the background
Walked around the old town with the fish and vegetable market and to the large square in the middle with beautiful tile work. There is a festival coming soon, hence the masks everywhere.  Locals will dress in flamenco style, parade in the streets and generally have a great time having fun and celebrating their culture.

In the market there was this fellow who was selling a type of cured tuna called mojama de atun. We had a taste and bought some. He was drinking wine from a skin and asked Bruce to try, Bruce got it down just fine, However I washed my face with it! Anyway he was there to promote the product so we took pictures.

Ivan, Bruce and fellow with wine skin we all took a turn at, some, I less successfully.
Enjoyed a tapas lunch in a bodega, trying new (to us) seafood, can’t get any fresher than straight off the dock cooked, or not, and onto the plate. The word bodega means storage place as well as wine cellar and tavern. The downtown of Ayamonte has many bodegas where they sort and sell the fresh fish caught  off the boats and the port is a busy one since it services Sevilla and points between.

Drove out further to two villages, one where the fishermen live, enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine and watched the boats come into the estuary.  We were visited by a lovely chocolate brown lab who put her head on my knee for a pat, then on to Ivan, then Bruce before she sacked out on the warm tarmac of the road. 

Ivan's picture of Bruce petting our new friend the chocolate lab

Ivan's picture of the harbour

Heaven! Warm sun, good coffee, view of the ocean and an affectionate dog, what more can you ask for!

Then drove around large fancy apartment blocks in a newly built area called Isla Canela. Many are for sale now because they were purchased just before the Euro crisis. There is a golf course there catering to those that can still afford it. There is a small grocery store but you would really need a car because it is quite a way from downtown Ayamonte.

Both Isla Cristina and Ayamonte are a mix of fishing industry and holiday get aways, or retirees who wish to live on the coast. They seem to co-exist just fine despite the variance in life styles. Much like everywhere I suppose but more evident here I think.

On the way back we stopped at Franciscan monestary with the hope to have a wine tasting but it was closed. Beautiful old building and drove through Benacazon with it’s mix of lemon and orange trees along the streets, and back to the flat in Sevilla.

Sevilla is coming up to the season when the orange trees are in flower. Ivan said there is a lovely aroma that wafts through the streets at that time. Crews have pretty much gathered most of the oranges off the trees now, not all, in preparation for flowering I suppose.

What a wonderful day! Ivan was the perfect host, we learned much about Spanish culture and saw some beautiful countryside. I think Ivan was a bit disappointed that a few things were closed, like a couple of friends restaurants, as mentioned. But we weren’t disappointed in the day one bit! Thank you Ivan for the day and your pictures of it.

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