A Travellerspoint blog

Coincidentally Cabra

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We spent one night in Cabra, a small agricultural town of about 20,000 en route to Granada by way of the Via Verde del Aceite or Olive Oil Route, the repurposed train track. In preparing to write this next blog post, I googled Cabra to find out a bit more about where we had stayed. On Wikipedia, I was amazed to see these two photos and the caption:

Almudena Alcalá-Galiano presents flag of Cabra to Galiano Island at AGM of the Museum Society. Cabra was the home of Capt. Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano (1775-1805).

So by the oddest of coincidences, we ended up staying in the town where Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, a Spanish naval officer, cartographer, and explorer after whom the island we live on, was named. Dionesio is the name of the northern-most tip of Galiano, now a gorgeous BC Park. From Wikipedia: “Galiano mapped various coastlines in Europe and the Americas with unprecedented accuracy using new technology such as chronometers. He commanded an expedition that explored and mapped the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia, and made the first European circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. He reached the rank of brigadier and died during the Battle of Trafalgar.” However, long before Galiano arrived on our shores, the various Coast Salish tribes (up to 37) occupied Galiano at certain times of the year and rather than there being just one First Nations’ name for the island, there were many names for the different parts of the island.

Galiano Conservancy Association, “One Island One Earth: An Ecological Footprint and Fingerprint for Galiano”

In 1992, there was some kind of ceremony on Galiano where the flag of Cabra was presented to the Galiano Museum, clearly not by the same explorer as the caption seems to state but perhaps a relative with the same name? I need to find out more.

Cabra appeared to be a very prosperous little town. A bike path had taken us from the Via Verde right into the centre of this town that is located in a valley.


Cobra’s main economy is based on olives, olive oil and wine as well as being a source of red polished limestone and it is surrounded by agricultural land and rolling hills. We arrived on a a Sunday and the restaurant and bar of our little hotel, the Villa Maria was hopping. Our very nice room overlooked a lovely park which seemed to function as an outdoor dining terrace for the hotel. There was a window from the hotel kitchen where servers would pick up the dishes. In keeping with the agricultural focus of the town, several big tractors with trailers rumbled past our hotel in the late afternoon.


Again according to Wikipedia, Cabra has been settled since Paleolithic times. The Turdetani, the Andalusian descendants of Tartessos, lived in the area. As part of the Tartessoian kingdom and during Carthaginian and Roman times, Cabra was a market town. Cabra’s earliest name, Aigagros, means "mountain goat", in Greek. The Romans built temples and an 8 km aqueduct here. The church of San Juan Bautista del Cerro is thought to have been constructed on a Roman temple. Many battles were apparently fought here - the Romans, the Christians, the Visigoths, the Moors(when the town become known as Qabra), the Christians again, the Moors again, the Christians again, then fighting among the feudal lords with various imprisonments in the Cabra castle. Then there was the Spanish Civil War when on November 7, 1938, Cabra was bombed by Republican planes, even though Cabra was not a strategic objective or near the front lines. The official figures were 101 dead and over 200 injured in this little town. And on it goes in our world of continuous conflict…Thankfully, Cabra was very peaceful however during our stay - except for all the socializing going on in our hotel bar and restaurant.

We spent the evening exploring the town. It had a long pedestrian shopping street, filled as usual with people walking, shopping in some open stores and hanging out in the bars and restaurants. We walked to the end of town past the bull ring where there was an old church overlooking the town’s beautiful main square with its majestic palm trees.


We enjoyed walking in Cabra as dusk turned to night. Though we did not go in, we saw the Church of the Asuncion, a Baroque church at the hill top square with a rococo south door and inside 42 marble columns (possibly from an Islamic mosque), the Church of San Juan Bautista, a Visigoth church of 590 A.D. and the elegant city hall, all beautifully lit.


It appeared that considerable funds had recently been put into restoring the city walls, and the highlight of our walk was along a beautiful promenade with a panoramic view over the countryside.


The Sunday socializing was as still going on at Villa Maria when we returned from our stroll. It’s tough to keep up with the Spanish! But as we went to bed that night in Cabra, far from home, and though we didn’t know it at the time, there was in fact a surprising connection between this small Spanish town and our small island on the west coast of BC.

Postscript - more info about the Cabra/Galiano Island connection from my neighbour, Allan Forget:

In the early 1990s Andrew Loveridge was one of the Directors of the Galiano Club. He was also President of the Gulf Islands Branch of the BC Historical Society. In 1991 when the island acquired the Mt Galiano lands & responsibility for them was transferred to the Galiano Club, Andrew had the idea to name the hiking trail to be built there after Admiral Galiano. When the trail was completed in Oct. 1993, a ceremony of dedication was held & the Spanish Consul General from Vancouver was invited (this included an event at the Community Hall --- there is a YouTube video (see link below). It was then & there that the discussions began to 'twin' our island with Dionisio Galiano's home town of Cabra. Andrew was eventually sent on a journey to Cabra itself sponsored by the Club & by the Historical Society. There in Cabra he was feted & dined, met the local Historical Society reps & some Galiano family descendents. (The 1st photo you posted is from that trip.) Andrew returned to the island with many souvenirs from that journey, most of which are displayed in his home Museum. A couple ceramic display plates however, produced in Cabra, hang on the kitchen wall in the Community Hall. Some years later (I forget which year though I was in attendance), several Galiano family members came from Cabra to our island & attended a meeting of the Galiano Museum Society. At this mtg they presented Andrew with a flag of the town of Cabra (the 2nd photo you posted). This too I believed is on display in Andrew's home Museum.

Opening of Mt Galiano Trail — 1991
April 2nd, 2021|Categories: Club Parks
In 1991, following an energetic & creative fundraising campaign by the island, the Mt Galiano lands were purchased & title was given to the Galiano Club. The following summer a group of volunteers created the hiking trail — from the Active Pass Dr entrance to the summit — which exists today. Coincidentally, 1992 was the 200th anniversary of the historic meeting of the Spanish Naval Officer, Dionisio Alcala Galiano and the English Naval Capt. George Vancouver (each Captain was charting the western NA coastline for their respective nation) just off the coast of what is now called Galiano Island. It was decided to commemorate this event by naming the hiking trail after Dionisio Galiano, by inviting the Vancouver-based Consul General of Spain, His Excellency Jose Ayala & his wife Ceridad (seen here arriving in Ken Allen’s 1932 Roll Royce), to attend the trail dedication ceremony held on Oct.8th, Dionisio Galiano’s birthdate. Afterwards, a La Zarzuela — a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes — was held at the Community Hall MC’d by Galiano Club Director, Debbie Holmes &, Club Historian, Andrew Loveridge. As part of the ceremony, held during the Club’s annual Blackberry Festival, a portrait of Officer Galiano, completed by Galiano artist, William Beddels, was presented to the Consul as a gift for HM King Juan Carlos of Spain. Later, 232 daffodil bulbs were planted in the Hall grounds (232 being the number of years since Officer Galiano’s birth).


Posted by Jenniferklm 13:19 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Bliss on the Vía Verde del Aceite

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At breakfast the next morning in the guesthouse of the hilltop village of Baena, we were surprised to see other guests. They were two young women from Lithuania. They spoke excellent English, were colleagues - bank analysts in fact, and we had a nice breakfast together. They were walking part of the Camino, in the opposite direction from us - from Granada to Santa Cruz. One had convinced the other to go and they acknowledged that they had not prepared all that thoroughly for their adventure. But they were young, mid to late 20s and seemed pretty positive about everything. They told us they slept on the pews in a church one night. We took photos before we all went our separate ways that morning and decided to keep in touch via What’s App. They were quite surprised about what we were doing (especially when they learned our ages!) and we were pretty impressed by the distances they were walking each day as they had limited time before heading back to work.


We managed to load up our bikes outside the door of the guesthouse by using someone else’s stoop on this incredibly steep street. We said at au revoir to our host, Marie Chantel and braked our way all the way down to the bottom of the village.


It was a bit of a climb up from the lower town onto the greenway. As we left Baena behind, we would see the long winding road and hills we had cycled down the day before.


However, we knew that our climbing legs were about to get a reprieve as we would finally be on the Vía Verde del Aceite, the repurposed 19th C rail route that delights walkers and cyclists alike, running from Jaén to Puenta-Genil. We were picking it up near Baena and over several days, would cycle it as far as Puenta-Genil, a distance of about 72 km, on our way to Granada without having to be on any busy roads. Here are several links with more info about this amazing route, that would become one of the most beautiful experiences of our entire trip. If you want to be immersed in the stunning Spanish countryside surrounded by olive groves via a stroll or cycle on a lovely flat track, this is it!



It was a gorgeous morning with a faint drift of mist below the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance. We were soon shedding our extra layers of clothing. Along the route, the almond trees were in full pale pink bloom and we cycled through the most painterly landscape of olive groves with the occasional small white building tucked into the cleft of the hills. As we rode, I thought this is the highest state of bliss I can imagine.


It was a Saturday and there were mostly local walkers enjoying the perfect spring day. As we carried on, we crossed a bridge over a dry gully and shortly thereafter arrived at the old train station of Luque, now a restaurant and store, right on the Vía Verde. We would see more of these old train stations along the route, with their typical design and old water tanks now converted into public washrooms.


It was perfect timing for a coffee and a second tostada breakfast at a table right beside a cosily burning wood stove - not really needed on such a warm day but nice all the same. The restaurant also include a store full of local products and we bought several small cans of good olive oil to take home.


The little town of Luque was actually along the path a little way and high up on the side of a huge uplift of rock. It was a very dramatic sight and it would have been an interesting place to visit.


But on we went through another little town and then through a tunnel and into an area where the path is cut between steep rocky slopes on either side. There were lots of wildfiowers growing along the path verges and up the sides in the crevices.


We had cycled a beaucolic 30.5 km that day and were almost reluctant to reach our destination for the night, the town of Cabra. It was just below the path, where we found another old railway station, a watchful horse and a big flock of sheep heading back along the Via Verde, intent on their own destination.


Exiting off the Via Verde, we immediately found a paved bike path that swooped us down into the town and to our very sweet hotel, the Villa Maria. A cold beer and a glass of wine, followed by a late lunch/ early dinner was in our immediate future. All in all, a perfectly delightful day on the Via Verde del Aciete. It really doesn’t get much better than that!


Posted by Jenniferklm 04:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Drumbeats in Baena

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We said a fond farewell to Esperjo, fueled by a lovely breakfast at Casa Amara and equipped with more certainty about our route courtesy of our very knowledgeable host, Ivan. We were eagerly anticipating our eventual cycle along part of the Olive Oil Route that Ivan told us about but before reaching it we would have one more stopover in another small hilltop village, Baena.


The early morning mist was soon pierced by warm sun as we cycled across the main town plaza, down the steep street and back out into the countryside. As we exited the town, we were observed by several cats sitting atop a pile of olive wood and and we admired the extensive potted-up garden of one villager. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can surround your home with plants!


Our ride to Baena would be 32.5 km on a lovely Andalusian spring day with temps of 28C. It would be hilly resulting in a total elevation climb of 617 meters. But the scenery more than made the effort worthwhile.

As we were in the heart of olive oil production, Ivan had suggested we might be able to tour the processing plant of his neighbours on the town outskirts but when he inquired, they told him they were finished for the season. We stopped to take a picture of the plant as we headed up the quiet Co-4204 road, leaving Espejo behind us with its hilltop castle and brilliant white houses.

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The road wound its way through a gorgeous landscape of rolling hills perfectly planted with olives. It was pruning season and we waved to a few people in the groves working with hand and gas power tools, lopping off branches to promote production for the coming season.

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We stopped to investigate a large abandoned house along the road, with its crumbling stone walls, broken tile roof and broken doors and shutters. What lives were lived here and what led to its demise?


We had a break in a very old olive grove on the top of a hill after a climb. I love the twisted split shapes of these old trees. We could see Baena below. It was hot now - 28C. Winter in the hills of Andalucia.


What lay ahead was the most amazing descent down the road we were on into Baena, a series of switchbacks of about 4 km down to the valley floor. There was no traffic on this very good road so the only challenge was to not go too fast! It was so exhilarating - and so nice to be going down and not up! Riding up that descent would have been a whole other experience.


As we rode into the lower part of Baena, we realized this village had the steepest streets of any hilltop town we had yet been in. It was an effort to even push our bikes up, much less ride. When we arrived at our accommodation, there was nowhere flat outside the door of Guesthouse Jazmines Mozárabes to unload the bikes so we parked them on a cross street above and carried our panniers to the door.


We were warmly greeted by Marie Chantel, the owner who is French but has lived in Spain for many years. She told us she bought this little house for 28,000€ a few years ago and hadn’t planned a bed & breakfast but is gradually renovating her house to provide more rooms. She caters to a lot of people walking the Camino route and asked if we were pilgrims. As it turned out, additional guests who were walking part of the Camino arrived later that evening and we met them at breakfast the next morning.

Our bedroom and adjoining bathroom was at the back of the house through a small inner courtyard where we were able to put the bikes. After a little rest and change of clothing, we headed out to explore this old village of 20,000 residents.


The old town continued to advance up the hill above us to 405 meters and so did we, eventually finding ourselves in the very large Plaza de la Constitución bordered on one side by a very grand public building with a restaurant on the lower level. It was actually the only restaurant we saw in the village though Marie Chantel mentioned several others. There would be more shops and services in the new town area that we did not go to. We managed to have an late lunch/early dinner, sitting on the terrace overlooking the almost emply square. That would change very dramatically later in the evening.


The historic quarter of the village has various churches including Santa María la Mayor, from the 16th century (although some evidence suggests that it dates back to the 13th century), the Madre de Dios church and convent, founded in 1510, and the old castle-citadel, from the 9th century, with several gateways to the walled enclosure.

There is evidence of occupation from the 6th century B.C. after a nearby hilltop town was destroyed in the 1st C. This was perhaps considered a more defendable location. The town was fought over by Iberians, Romans, Moors and Christians and changed hands several times. It was the site of the Roman town known Baniana or Biniana and in the 1800s a subterranean vault was found with twelve cinerary urns with inscriptions commemorating members of the Pompeian family. It was an important stronghold during the Moslem occupation and in the 8th century, the town grew around the castle. Following the demise of the Caliphate of Córdoba, the town was ravaged by Berbers, bringing its prosperity to an end. In the Reconquest, the Catholic monarch, Ferdinand III rapidly acquired a number of towns in the area, including Baena in 1241.

Turmoil continued as in most of Spain. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Baena was the scene of the Baena Massacre, a mass-execution of Spanish republicans where about 700 loyalists were murdered by the orders of rebel Colonel Sáenz de Buruaga.

Though we did not have a chance to visit either place, there is a Museo Histórico Municipal with many archeological finds and a Museo del Olivar y el Aceite, in an old mill with most of the mill machinery dating from the middle of the 19th century, and a collection of over 3,000 olive oli labels.
Grain and olive oil were the principal articles of commerce in the 19th century and Baena is still surrounded by gorgeous farmland with cereal crops and high-quality olive oil being major economic drivers. Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park is located to the south of the town where there would be some great hiking.

Later in the evening, we went out gain to explore further. We heard drumming and saw two men in red jackets standing outside a shop, each beating a deafening rhythm on a drum. As we walked around, we encountered more red coated adults and even children beating drums and walking towards the big plaza. It hurt our ears and we tried to avoid them but they were everywhere, walking slowly towards the square. When we returned from looking at the hilltop citadel, the plaza was full of hundreds of people, all beating drums, just off the terrace where we had eaten a few hours before.

We watched for awhile but finally retreated as we were seriously worried about our hearing. We figured it was some kind of rehearsal for Holy Week and Marie Chantel confirmed this. The drums are manufactured in Baena from goat skins and pig intestine membranes which give them a distinctive sound. Uh huh!

We learned that the tamboradas are part of the Catholic Holy Week celebrations and are a big cultural ritual in Baena. We just happened to catch a practice for what was to come on the eve of St Joseph’s Day, this year on March 19 during Lent, that celebrates the father of Jesus, followed by Holy Week. During Holy Week, as I understand it, people will drum all day and night throughout the town, dressed in the red, embroidered jackets that we saw, but also wearing elaborate, plumed brass headdresses from which long swathes of black or white horsehair hangs. These costumes denote the Coliblancos (white-tailed) and the Colinegros (black-tailed) Jews.

So Jesus was a Jew, crucified by the Romans in 30 BC. I was very confused about the references to Jews in many of the Christian Holy Week descriptions I read in Spain and the role Jews play in these Holy Week rituals. How do Jews feel about these huge Holy Week events that reference them? How does this align with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 by the Catholic monarchs and the following Spanish Inquisition, which targeted those thought to be secretly practicing Jewish religious rituals? I read that the processions that are such an important feature of Catholic culture in Spain are a world-wide custom going back to Catholicism’s Jewish roots, as a form of pilgrimage first undertaken by the Jews to represent important historical events.

From my brief online investigation of this, the problem with Holy Week and the role of “the Jews” in the death of Christ seems to be a basic one we continue to encounter in our modern world - don’t believe everything you read (or hear) and context is everything. In this case, the issue seems to lie in the New Testament Gospel text and the words of Matthew, John, Peter and Paul which ignore the political context for Jesus’ death, at the hands of the Romans but then blame all Jews. Even the Catholic Church repudiated this in 1965 when the Second Vatican Council, in the declaration Nostra Aetate “What happened in His passion,” said Christ’s death, “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” I can’t do justice to the issue here and I don’t know how this is addressed in Spain when it comes to Holy Week but If you are interested, there are many articles about this. But these seem to be ever more important questions in our increasingly divided and violent world. Some links below.


At any rate, we certainly got a sense of how the tamboradas drum-playing rituals create an intense community experience. Fascinating as this was to stumble upon, I would not want to experience the all day, all night cacophony of eardrum-destroying sound of which we got a taste. But wandering the steep narrow streets of Baena at night with the drummers moving inexorably towards te plaza was incredibly atmospheric and other- worldly.


Posted by Jenniferklm 13:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

On the Road Again - to Espejo

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We left Córdoba the day after Jim’s birthday. I had just mentioned to our host, Delphine that we were going to have a birthday lunch at the market for his birthday as well as attend the Andalusian Horse and Flamenco Show at the Royal Stables. We were told not to take photos during the performance so this is all I have of that event but I will just say it was not nearly as informative or professional as the training we watched in Jerez, as well as the tour of the stables there. This was much more focused on tourist entertainment.


When we got home from that evening event, there was a little package for Jim tied to one of our bikes in the courtyard. The note said that when her 3 kids learned it was his birthday, they wanted to do some drawings for him and there were two packages of flower seeds as well. So sweet…

Though were leaving earlyish in the morning, we were able to have a goodbye with Delphine and the kids. Such lovely people. She told us that sadly they are planning to move back to France after 23 years in Cordoba because of the heat in the summer. She says they don’t want to leave but it is has become intolerable in Córdoba - 50 C last summer - especially when you have kids and can’t siesta inside all day. Fond farewells were said and
and off we went en route to our next destination, Espejo.


We were excited to be moving on but loved Córdoba and here are a few more random photos of this really special place. Córdoba is also known for the patio gardens of private homes , especially in the San Basilio neighbourhood right near the Royal Stables. Though it was not the season for a lot of them to be open and there is a special tour time, I was able to go into a few that were just full of beautiful plants. We have so many great memories of our time here.


I really got a kick out this woman who in fact is carrying a large Iberian jamon, a the well-loved Spanish leg of a pig complete with the foot. She, her dogs and the jamon are so perfectly colour-coordinated.


It was to be a fairly strenuous ride from Córdoba to the little hilltop town of Espejo where we had a reservation for the night. Quite soon after leaving the outskirts of Córdoba not far from our accommodation, we were hill-climbing on a quiet road, the C0-3204 into the countryside with the town further and further below us. We would ride just over 50 km that day and our total ascent would be 785 meters. Not so bad on an unloaded bike but with four panniers each, we were packing about 40 lbs. per bike. Huff, puff!


It was lovely to be out in the countryside again and it was so open with so few people around that we quickly forgot we had only just an hour ago been wending our way through the narrow cobbled streets of the city. You do really feel like an explorer when out in the vast, empty agricultural landscape in Spain.


There was hardly any traffic - or any people to be seen on this winding country road that climbed up through farms quilted with olive orchards with only the odd cluster of buildings.


We had a picnic lunch at the top of one climb and then stopped for a coffee in the little town of Castro del Rio, really the only town we would go through on our way to Espejo.


We finally began to catch sight of Espejo, with a fortress tower on the peak of the hill and the white town cascading down the slope, and road up into the town. We had arranged to What’s App the host of the little hotel where we were staying and he said he would be there in about 1/2 hour. We found a little bar on the main square and has a restorative beer and coffee.


At the appointed time, we found Casa Amara and were ushered in by our delightful host Ivan. He spoke excellent English and we spent a lot of time talking with him, as he showed us around his lovely small hotel of 8 rooms.


Ivan and his family live in Córdoba with their kids but Espejo is his wife’s hometown. They are professionals in their 40s - he is an optometrist and she is a pharmacist, and they both have businesses in their respective professions. But it was clear that Casa Amara, this small hotel in Espejo is Ivan’s first love and he is very enthusiastic about encouraging tourism to this small town. He was very knowledgeable about cycle tourism and helped us with a lot of questions we had with the route ahead. He was interested in my blog and that I would be happy to promote this lovely little village and his hotel in it, as he says they often get bypassed for more well-known places. So if you are going to any of the bigger places in Andalucia, make time for a visit to Espejo and Casa Amara. You will not be disappointed. Just look at these views.


Ivan completely renovated this building, a huge undertaking and did it in a lovely traditional way. We have seen many dilapidated abandoned farmhouses in the countryside and he told us he was able to reuse many material from one such building near Espejo and showed us the beautiful old doors he reclaimed.


The hotel had several floors of rooms with a beautiful courtyard on the ground floor with the breakfast room and then I think 3 roof terraces as you continued to climb the stairs with the most astounding views over the town below and the countryside beyond. I got up early the next morning and caught the sunrise over the surrounding countryside, from the upper terrace of the hotel.


It was mid-week and Ivan told us he would be going back to Córdoba and we would be the only guests in the hotel that night and to make ourselves at home. His friend would provide us with breakfast in the morning.

There were not too many restaurants open in this small town and Ivan recommended the little bar where we had had coffee earlier. We sat at a table near the door of Bar Casa Mario but when we asked for a menu, the we were motioned to the inner part of the restaurant, and a tablecloth was spread on our little table by a friendly man, Mario perhaps. Mario seemed to do everything - manning the busy bar, conversing with his customers, keeping what seemed to be his small son entertained. After we ordered, he disappeared for awhile in the back and then reappeared with our dinner, presumably having cooked it! It was basic Spanish food, but very tasty and we were very hungry after our hill-climbing day.


After dinner, we explored the town, hiking up the steep street to various terraces with ever more amazing views and then up to the castle and the church on the top. Espejo was founded at the beginning of the 14th century and has its origins in the Iberian settlement of "Ucubi', later modified to the more Latin-sounding "Attubi', to which Caesar granted the status of "immune colony". Under Arab occupation, the village was known as "Al-Calat'. The founding of Espejo in mediaeval times stems from the fact that the area was a private estate which had belonged to the Pay Arias family since 1260, when it was awarded to them in return for their role in the Reconquest.


Today, the fifteenth-century Castillo de Alcalat is completely surrounded by a solid wall and offers amazing views of six surrounding villages of the province. There is the nearby church, the Gothic Mudejar Iglesia de San Bartolomé which was built in 1483 and extended in 1579. This little town of 3300 has a few churches and chapels and the remains of a Roman aqueduct.


We had a blissful sleep in our very quiet “private” hotel. We had an equally blissful breakfast, before departing lovely Espejo, taking with us a lovely olive oil container made for Casa Amara and a jar of their homemade marmalade. We wish we had been able to bring a crate of the marmalade home - it was the best we have ever had.


And if you want to bike even for a day, Esperjo is very near Via Verde del Aceite or Olive Oil Green Route. It was Ivan who told us about this walking/cycling trail that was once a rail line transporting Andalucia’s olives to the coast. It covers 55km between Jaén and Alcaudete to the west, along part of the old Jaén-Puente Genil rail line, part of what is called the Caliphate Way. On Ivan’s advice, we changed our route slightly in order to ride this greenway from the next town and it was one of the most amazing parts of our trip. So you could arrange to rent bikes through no doubt with Ivan’s assistance, or just walk, stay in the very old hilltop village of Espejo in complete comfort and the best hospitality at Casa Amara and have the most dream-like experience along the completely flat Olive Oil Green Route with to-die-for views and scenery. More about that in the next post.


Posted by Jenniferklm 14:27 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

More Cordoba

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We had a week in Córdoba and enjoyed our daily explorations both near and further from our apartment. Though on a map, the old town of Córdoba looks like a daunting maze of streets and plazas and churches, it was eminently walkable in reality and never seemed to take us very long to get anywhere, perhaps because there was so much to look at along the way.


Although we did not realize it when we booked our Air BNB, only a week or so before we got to Córdoba, it turned out that we were actually in one of the oldest parts of the city near the Plaza de Capuchinos, originally part of the Capuchin convent. It is an austere white-walled square called by the poet Ricardo Molina “nothing more than a rectangle of lime and sky” with the very plain Capuchin church at one end and in the middle, the 18th C sculpture known as Christ of the Lanterns, a large stone crucifix with 8 lanterns around it. Leading up to this square, is a set of long shallow steps called the Cuesta del Bailio that originally connected the upper part of the city with the lower part through a gate. Near the top of the stairs is a baroque black granite fountain and then a 16th C house with a beautiful Reanaissance facade. At the bottom of the steps is this lovely modern sculpture of the woman watering the pots on the wall.

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A short walk away, near the closest grocery store on a mostly pedestriaized street of shops and bars was the remains of a Roman temple. It was discovered in the 1950s during the expansion of the City Hall. Its construction began during the reign of the Emperor Claudius - 41-96 CE and it was built almost completely of marble. What remains of this 32 x 16 meter temple are its foundation, staircase, alter and columns. Unfortunately, the site has been closed since 2018 when, just a few months into a second restoration phase, the construction company went into bankrupcy. But it was still a very dramatic sight right in our little neighbourhood, the high white columns rising up above the street across from the old San Pablo church. You can sit and have a glass of wine on what used to be a Roman circus for chariot races on the edge of ancient Córdoba with a view of a Roman temple. Hard to beat that!


A short walk down those shallow steps I described earlier in this post, brought us to the Palacio Viano, recommended to us by our apartment host Delphine, when she found out we were gardeners. This turned out to be the most enchanting place that we would not have known about otherwise. Though we went on a free day, there were only a few other visitors.


Although it is called a palace now, the Palacio started as a 15th century stately home. Over time, the aristocratic families who came to possess the building transformed it into a Renaissance palace. It was named ‘Palacio de Viana’ after the last family to live in the palace: the Marquises of Viana. The palace houses collections of Renaissance art in various rooms into which you can look, including the stables containing some very old coaches and sets of livery.




But what was really magical about Palacio Viana were its many patios or courtyards, 12 I think. Every major and even minor room seemed to open onto a uniquely designed patio, some very large and some small and you went from one patio into another.


The palace underwent several transformations over the centuries, especially in the 17th century which gave it its current appearance. The palace remained in the possession of the Villaseca family until, in the mid-19th century, it was transferred to the Marquises of Viana by marriage and then was purchased as a museum and cultural centre in 1980.


Over the centuries, the 18 owners from the nobility who lived here added to the house and gardens. While we were not seeing it during its peak bloom period, it was really a lovely experience wandering from one courtyard into another, then into the house and put into yet another beautiful outdoor space. Each courtyard had fountains and pools, water again being such an important feature and we noticed espaliered orange trees on many of the walls.


And as almost always seems to be the case in Spain, just outside the doors to this gorgeous place was a lovely little cafe.


The day we had this little excursion was Jim’s 70th birthday and Valentine’s Day. The previous day, we had discovered the Córdoba gourmet food market which contained, not booths selling produce, fish and meats, but booths selling many different kinds of tapas. It’s in a park and is almost like a club with various seating areas with different decors inside and out.


We decided to have a late birthday lunch there and sampled food from various booths along with appropriate bevies. Happy birthday Jim. Now get back on that bike!


Posted by Jenniferklm 02:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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