Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Aracena with caves and Distillery visit

A small update, all over Spain we gather on our balconies and clap to support all necessary workers especially the medical community doing their very best. It happens every night at 8 pm and I am participating with gusto! 

An update on the coronavirus or COVID-19 from me. Spain is now in lockdown until April 12th, four weeks total. I am doing fine, grateful for what I have, but missing my walks and interaction with friends. Oh how innocent we were when we went on this trip, or how the situation changed so rapidly, we went on a Tuesday, Saturday they announced the lockdown. 

Our next visit on another road trip is to Aracena about an hour and half drive from Sevilla. On the way is a distillery called Destilerias Martes Santo with a museum to showcase their history from 1870.  
Exterior of the factory
I found it really interesting seeing the previous processes showcased in the museum. 

Now they only do one process in house, the other ones are done in a nearby large factory. 
Lots of products using creams, fruits and even coffee!
In Sevilla I was walking past a relatively new cafe and shop named Viandas Romero, the following day to find them selling the whole offering of Martes Santo, checking prices, about 2 Euros more.

At Aracena we bought tickets for the caves, the castle and the Jamon museum (which we didn’t go to but I have been to one with Ivan). 

We booked our tour through the caves named Gruta de las Maravillas open to tourists in 1914. http://www.aracena.es/es/

We had a few minutes for a beer with fantastic large olives at La Serrana, a family run restaurant which was obvious with Mom at the helm and her daughter and son as wait staff. 

The caves = WOW = but physically challenging for me and others. No cameras were allowed which we didn’t know and got chastised by the guide. Here are the couple Ryan and Angela took.

That was one of the things we weren’t told before going in, the other was the length and diverse levels of the caves themselves, many people on our tour had trouble with the multitudes of stairs going through, there were hand rails along much of it. Terrain was rough in places so for me the experience was both fascinating and scary at a couple of points, I got through a couple of them with Angela or Ryan's steady hand. The caves were extraordinary, all the splendour of hundreds of years of developed nature of simply minerals and water. It was well lit but the lights were motion sensitive so as the group left, the lights went out, more protection for the stalactites (hanging from the wall or ceilings) and stalagmites (pointing up from the floor). 

Went back to La Serrano for lunch which was excellent! 

The squares in Aracena have statues, here are two depicting activities of the town.

Then drove through the narrow windy streets up to the castle which was built by Portuguese located on top of the town with sweeping views of the countryside below.

We didn’t stay long, just enough to get pictures, it was coffee time, so back downtown to a restaurant with children’s playground in the middle of the square.
Very large, ornate casino next to the square with playground.
That was our trip to Aracena, sadly it will be our last day trip for at least a couple of weeks due to the lockdown in all of Spain.
My hope for other trips in the future!
Cheers, Bev and Lexi Cat. Thanks to Ryan and Angela for the photos, especially the purloined ones in the caves! and...


Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Virus

Hello Friends, 

You may be reading about the coronavirus in Spain. Tomorrow, Monday, the entire country is on lockdown. That means restaurants and all shops except food and pharmacy are closed. Semana Santa and April Fair are cancelled which is a big deal here. This has happened rapidly due to a spike in cases in Madrid. I am thinking of the economic impact.

Here is a link that explains what's happening (with poor spelling). 


Last Tuesday we went to Aracena and a distillery so I've got a post coming for that visit which was great and I'm grateful we got it in before lockdown.

Cheers, Bev and Lexi Cat

Friday, March 13, 2020

Day Trip to Gibraltar

First glimpse of the Rock seen from the Spanish side
This week Pepe drove us, Angela, Ryan, and me to Gibraltar, also known as the Rock! The British Colony at the southern end of Spain. 
Working telephone booth
It is a strange mix of Spain and England, for example they use British pounds for currency but accept Euros, they drive on the same side of the road as the rest of Europe, shops are a mix of high end things like diamonds and tourist tat. 
One of the many English gardens
There is a large Jewish community there visible because men and boys were the kippah or yarmulke. Getting across the working airfield and border check, that is the only access, going in was fine, coming out took an hour which is considered about average. It was 2.5 hours each way driving so we were out 12.5 hours. 
The artist is the link, Ryan had read about his work.

Lunch at a rather swanky place called The Lounge at the marina was fish and chips with mushy peas that were great and enjoyed. 
War cemetery
Gibraltar is a tax haven place so we bought cigarettes and booze for about 90% of what we would pay in Spain.  It was weird about the language difference, everyone there knew both English and Spanish and it didn’t seem to matter which we spoke, we were understood. Ryan asked me if the town looked like something typical from England but as with the language it is half and half in my opinion. 

The Tour: there is a cable car that goes to the top of the Rock but it was closed due to wind, when we reached the top it was really windy, which must happen quite often. We took a taxi tour service that stopped at a war memorial, then caves that were a hospital and are now used as a large concert function space then on to a couple of different view points. 
The former hospital now used as a function space and lit spectacularly or gaudily depending on opinion.
Of course, the Barbary apes are the stars of the trip, there are 250 of them there in 6 family clans, well regulated and looked after. 
Peanut packet, they get lots of peanuts in the shell which help keep them under minimal control.
Poor Ryan got ape bombed!
Video of one eating off the fellow's back.

Now for some views, they were breathtaking and may include another ape or two.

The working runway we crossed from Spain to Gibraltar and a plane took off while we watched from this vantage point.
That land behind the rock is Africa.
Bruce and I visited Gibraltar in about 2005, on our first trip to Europe together. The major differences were, we drove to the top, and I remember the apes seemed wilder and there was a bigger population of them. 

It was a great trip and again it astounds me (la-di-da) that in parts of Europe you can drive to another country and back in a day.

Cheers, Bev and Lexi Cat who was miffed with me coming back after dark.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Palacio de La Dueñas

Pure opulence!

Last week we walked to Palacio de la Dueñas the former residence of Duchess of Alba, renown for her love of all traditional Sevillano culture such as flamenco, Semana Santa, April Fair, bullfighting and horses. You can see her passion for these pastimes in her palace and gardens. It is said that you can walk from one end of Spain to the other and never step foot off one of her properties. She was the most titled noble in the world, more than Queen Elizabeth II.
Cleanest stables I've ever seen, not a speck of straw.
One of many entries to the garden, look at the carving around the arch.
After she passed away, her family opened the home as a tourist destination in 2016. Entry fee was €10 which is higher than most museums because this one is not run by the city. Both Angela and I have wanted to see it and today we did. The gardens are in full bud, perhaps we should have waited a week to see them in flower never mind it/they were beautiful! 

Posters of Semana Santa and April Fair

One of many statues in the garden.
Live "statues" in the garden
It is said she would dance flamenco at any occasion.
Detail on a door, not your ordinary door, it is a palace...
Extensive gardens with water features, each had a name, this was the Lemon Garden (I think).
Around the garden and in the house there were large beautiful pots, the green thing above is a huge cacti. 

Afterward we had lunch at the restaurant Catalina which was great. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been there and it didn’t disappoint. Waitress was from Argentina and had a good sense of humour.

Next post will be about our day trip to Gibraltar.

Cheers, Bev

Monday, February 24, 2020

Santiponce, Part 1 of 2, The Monastery

Our visit this week was to Santiponce which is about a 10 minute drive from Sevilla centre, we took a cab this time, Pepe and his car were not available. We took an Uber back, I’d never been in an Uber before, this was a nicer, cleaner car that made you feel like a friend was driving, no visible signage or meter. 

We were dropped off at the Montasterio de San Isidoro del Campo - a very, very large former monastery. The chapels were huge and had gold laden alters. The ceilings were beautifully and delicately painted with patterns and images. Everything was big and ornate, beautiful and with no cost to enter I wondered how it was financed. They are also restoring further wings of it, Ryan and Angela said we saw only about half the entire building, driving past it later it certainly looked to be very much more property than what we saw inside.

Now for the pictures from Ryan and Angela, my camera is not producing the same quality, of course that could be just me...

It is difficult to portray in pictures or describe the size of this Monastery and the grandeur of it!

Part 2 next to Itálica