Spain through my lens

I am a writer not a photographer, however I hope my photos will encourage you to discover Spain and take your own (no doubt much more professional!) photos.

The magnificent Patio de los Arrayanes

I was prepared to be disappointed by Granada, and ready to say that it was over-hyped, but I have a confession to make: I fell in love with Granada and my only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer.  Two nights there is barely enough time to wander around the Alhambra, never mind explore every corner of this fascinating Spanish city.  I should have entitled this post “Glorious Granada – part one” as we intend to return at the first opportunity, to see the many places on my list that we didn’t manage to see this time.

Planning your trip in advance is essential, particularly if you want to see the Alhambra (who doesn’t?!).  If you intend driving there, as we did, you need to research the hotels as well, as the streets of Granada can be very narrow and once you are in the one-way system you may never escape!  We booked two rooms in the Hotel Reino de Granada: partly because it is centrally located and also easily accessible from the ring road; partly because of the reasonable price for travellers on a budget; and partly because of the free WIFI, a bonus for budget travellers.

Our hotel in Granada

My advice would  be to park in the 24 hour car park, even though the hotel is easy to find, because we were unable to park near enough to the hotel to ask them where their parking was.  Shortly after taking the exit to Recogidas we spotted the car park on the left-hand side, and from there it was an easy walk to the hotel.

Another reasonably priced hotel, which is near to the Alhambra and which is also recommended, is Hotel Guadalupe.  Of course you could stay within the grounds of the Alhambra in the Parador, but that is definitely not one for the budget conscious.  The charming Hotel América is also in the grounds of the Alhambra – and slightly cheaper if you want to treat yourself to a night there – especially welcome if you have booked an early morning ticket for the Palace Nazaries.

If you are going to Granada I suspect that you will be planning to visit the Alhambra, but be warned that it is very popular even in November, so make sure that you have booked your tickets well in advance.  Many hotels will be able to reserve your tickets, however our hotel didn’t have any tickets left for the day we had chosen, so we decided to book them on-line on the Servicaixa Alhambra website.  Once I had booked our tickets I went to my local branch of La Caixa, inserted the card I had used to make the payment, and our tickets were printed off.  Easy!

Our hotel informed us that we could get a bus up to the Alhambra, but we decided that we would appreciate it more if we walked up through the woods, apart from saving us the bus fare.

The Alhambra - straight up that hill

Having read about the importance of being there on time, we made sure that we arrived at the entrance to the Palace Nazaries fifteen minutes early. People were being let through, however they had an earlier time slot and it was made clear to us that we would have to wait until 10, so we checked the latest time that we could arrive, which was 10.15.  We had half an hour, which proved to be just enough time for walking around the Alcazabar and admiring the views of the city from there.  As we waited to go through the gates into the Palace on our return, we spotted an unfortunate Japanese woman desperately trying to persuade the staff to let her through but to no avail.  You have been warned!

Words can’t do justice to the ethereal beauty of the Palace Nazaries, and even photos fail to capture the magic of this place.  Every time we turned a corner, I would spot a delicate carving or some colourful tiles that I just had to take a photo of: we spent nearly two hours wandering around and I took over one hundred photos, which has to be a record.  The link below is to a small selection of my favourite shots:

Walking round the Alhambra: Palace Nazaries

The courtyard in Hotel América

By the time we emerged, almost dizzy from experiencing the delights of the Palace, we were more than ready for a cup of tea and a seat in the café in Hotel América!  Suitably refreshed, we then headed to the Generalife, where my overworked camera was soon busy taking yet more photos.  This time I only took 90 photos, however we visited in November, when clearly the gardens weren’t at their best.  Having said that we still thought the gardens were lovely and we would definitely like to return in the Spring when the flowers will be in full bloom.  Even better, I would love to be there for a concert during Granada’s Music and Dance Festival.  Click the link before for a glimpse of the Generalife:

Walking around the Generalife

Generalife

Luckily it was a lot easier walking down from the Alhambra than walking there – we had been on our feet for hours, and our minds were all focused on lunch. We didn’t have too far to walk before we stumbled upon a suitable place. From the outside Barenostrum didn’t look very prepossessing, and to be honest the main reason we went in was their reasonably priced menú del día, however once we were inside we realised it was a fortuitous choice.  The menú del día was an affordable 9.95€, the food was very good, the staff were friendly and we liked the funky interior.  We will definitely return there on our next trip to Granada.

Fortified by our lunch, and feeling the need for more exercise after our filling meal, we decided to see more of the sights of Granada.  We had a long list of recommended sights, but we soon ran out of time.  We enjoyed looking round the Cathedral, which had a lovely light interior, but unfortunately there were large signs forbidding the use of cameras so I couldn’t take any photos to share with you, apart from exterior shots.

Exterior of Granada Cathedral

We enjoyed wandering around the back streets and eventually stumbled on the Jardín Botánico, so strolled around the tranquil gardens before continuing our walk.  If you like gardens, our friend Penny recommends Parque Carmen de Los Martires as well as San Jeronimo Cloisters: read her blog for more information about Granada generally.  On our next trip we also plan to  see the Alhambra at night from the Mirador de San Nicolas, to experience Los Baños Arabes, and visit the Lorca family’s summer house in Parque Garcia Lorca. We will of course eat a tapa or two as well: Granada is a great city for those who like to go out for tapas  – “ir de tapeo”.

Botanical Garden

If you are on a budget, our hottest tip for eating out in Granada is to have a menú del día at lunchtime and go out for a drink in the evening: just order a glass of wine and you will be given a tapa with each drink.  We even found a lovely restaurant near our hotel where we could choose which tapa we wanted from their menu to go with our drinks : Restaurante Duque de Medinaceli on Calle Cristo De Medinaceli.  We all enjoyed our tapas, prices were reasonable, our waitress was lovely, and so we will definitely be heading there on our next trip.

The most expensive bar that we went into was the trendy Puerta del Carmen, where John and I were horrified by the price of the wine (3.60 € for a glass of wine, with a tiny bit of jamón) though John’s niece Fiona, being used to UK prices, thought it was very reasonable.

One of Granada's many lovely plazas

We then decided to find a bar that had been recommended on several websites: Antigua Bodegas Castaneda.  This was a bit cheaper, plus we had generous portions  of typical Spanish tapas.  I never eat meat and the first tapas were meat-based, so I ordered cheese for myself (3€ for a large plate of cheese plus bread), explaining that I don’t like meat. When we ordered another glass of wine the waiter brought us ensaladilla rusa, which I was able to enjoy too, so full marks to him for being attentive to my needs.

Finally we went for a nightcap in Mesón La Cueva, on Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, which was a ham-lovers paradise. Not the best recommendation in my view, however I had to admit that it was atmospheric.  Luckily it was close enough to our hotel to be able to stagger back quite quickly, as by now it was after midnight and temperatures had dropped dramatically.

We wandered into many other bars while exploring the city and we weren’t disappointed by any of them.  If you have any recommendations for your own favourite budget eating and drinking places in Granada, please leave the details here for others to read and so that we can investigate them on our next visit.  Hasta pronto Granada!

Essential viewing in Granada!

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Official launch of La Fiesta de la Vendimia, with the Niño de las Uvas

 August is an exhausting month for those of us who live in Jumilla, even if we are only spectating.  We met a couple of people last week who live near Pinoso, who said they were “all fiesta-ed out” after their own fiestas, and we knew exactly what they meant.

The programme for the Feria y Fiestas de Agosto shows 10 days of celebrations: at the time of starting this post we were only into day 7 and I was already flagging a bit and seriously considering having a siesta, which may have been the only sane way to survive all the partying.

Although there are activities throughout the day, most of the main events are held at an hour when many of our compatriots would be considering retiring for the night. Not only that, but you usually have to add at least thirty minutes to the official start time.  The Noche de las Antorchas was held in the castle, and with such an atmospheric setting we weren’t worried about the lateness of the hour.

The night of the torches in Jumilla castle

 We were fortunate to get tickets for the Gran Fiesta de la Exaltacíón del Vino held in the gardens of Salones Pio XII, which kicked off the proceedings for the 40th Fiesta de la Vendimia.  Our first year in Jumilla we had joined the queue outside the Ayuntamiento to buy tickets, but they had sold out before we reached the head of the queue.  The following year we queued outside the Roque Baños centre for several hours and this time we succeeded in getting tickets, presumably because they had limited everyone to a maximum of two tickets.  This year we used our contacts and reserved our two tickets in advance: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know……!!

Apparently there were over 1,000 people at the Gran Exultación, and we soon realised that it was the place to go to and to be seen at.  In our slightly biased view it wasn’t as enjoyable an evening as La Gran Cata, however with all our favourite bodegas being present, allowing us to wander around with wine glass in hand and ask for a taste of their best wines, plus plates of food constantly appearing, it was still a pretty damned good night out.  Being a child at heart, I absolutely loved the firework display at the end!

Entrance of the Christians

The first procession of the August Feria was the Entrada Cristiana on Saturday night, where we saw the first Christians approaching us at about 20.45.  As they were due to start at 20.00, we calculated that they probably left the Plaza del Rollo at 20.30, with the customary half hour delay.  Not that we worried as we were sitting with friends at a table outside Bar California, which was a prime viewing spot, enjoying some Jumilla wine. 

I have to say that I was impressed by the Gran Entrada Mora (the Moors) on Sunday night.  We went to watch the start at a spot conveniently close to Nuestro Bar, where we saw a group of splendidly dressed Moros enjoying tapas and drinks outside, while two of the bands had congregated inside the bar, with only ten minutes to go before the scheduled start time.  We decided to have some of the aptly named delicias de bacalao and a cold drink, as it didn’t looks as if the participants were about to go anywhere soon.  Much to our amazement, the Gran Entrada Mora set off barely ten minutes late. 

Although there are separate processions for the Moors and Christians, it’s all very civilised (apart from the fighting, that is) so lots of Moros appeared in the Cristianos procession and vice versa.  I do think that it is a bit unfair that the Moors have the most sumptous costumes, though the Christians looked impressive too.

Entrance of the Moors

If one fiesta wasn’t enough, we also enjoyed the National Folklore Festival last weekend.  The inaugural event was on Saturday night after the Entrada Cristiana, starting at 22.00.  The Jardín de la Glorieta was packed as we witnessed Los Armaos marching onto the stage for the traditional “el Caracol” before we watched several folk groups playing music, singing and dancing.

Impressive though it was, I think we preferred the more intimate atmosphere on Monday in the barrio of San Antón.  After performing several lively dances, the Grupo de Folklore Caramancho de Badajoz responded to the cries of “Otras” by persuading several onlookers to join in.  Luckily John and I were hiding in the shadows!

The neighbours joined in the dancing

If we had had the stamina there were dozens of events that we could have enjoyed, however we decided to limit ourselves as we were due to go away the following weekend – and we needed to conserve our energy for that.  We still managed to enjoy several folk dancing events, the Artisans´Market, the Solemn Procession in honour of la Patrona, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the Children’s Cabalgata and the finale of the Moros y Cristianos Fiesta.  The dramatic re-enactment of the Ambassadors and Parliament took place on the Paseo.  This event involved lots of fighting and bodies falling to the ground, the clashing of heavy swords with sparks flying and a large horse charging towards the Moros.  Spendid stuff!

Waiting to charge at the Moors

Of course most people associate August in Jumilla with the Fiesta de la Vendimia, and so we had two groups of British visitors on Thursday who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  We showed them around Jumilla in the morning, stopping only to enjoy the Feria de Día (a glass of wine and special tapa for 2€) in a couple of good bars.  We had also booked a visit to Bodegas Silvano Garcia to keep them occupied in the afternoon. 

 The visitors had opted for the Cabalgata Tradicional (the one that doesn’t involve getting drenched in red wine) so we all met up again at 20.30, having booked a couple of tables across the road from Nuestro Bar.  Everybody ordered drinks and tapas, though once the procession reached us we were being handed tiny plastic glasses of wine and sangria, plus tastings of food, so we weren’t in any danger of becoming thirsty or hungry.

Cabalgata Tradicional - wine anyone?

I nearly forgot to mention the Miniferia del Vino that took place on the first Saturday of the fiestas.  3€ for a wine glass that you can take home, then a stroll through the gardens, where we tasted wine at the many stands representing some of Jumilla’s best bodegas and snacked on cheese, ham, nuts etc.  Not surprisingly we were there - as we have been for the last three years - tasting our favourite wines. 

An honourable mention too for the Ofrenda de Uvas to the Niño de las Uvas, which is one of the most popular processions.  We sat outside the ice-cream parlour enjoying home-made ice-cream (as you do) while watching men, women and children dressed in traditional costumes carrying their baskets of grapes into the Jardín.

Offering of the grapes and first must

 An amazing ten days of celebrations in Jumilla – now we have to catch up the many hours of sleep that we missed!

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Semana Santa Jumilla 1411 – 2011

 

Semana Santa statue

The Dominican missionary St. Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia in 1350 and preached in many different parts of Spain.  In 1411 he visited Jumilla where, after being inspired by his sermons, the town celebrated their first Semana Santa. 

600 years after St. Vincent Ferrer’s visit, Jumilla is preparing for some extraordinary celebrations to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Semana Santa and is hoping that many visitors will join them to share in the passion, colour, music and pageantry of this momentous occasion.

Children’s Semana Santa

Children's Tamborada

The following events are specifically organised for the children, although many children will also take part in the main processions, plus some parents will be seen carrying babies dressed in traditional costumes.

Thursday 14 April

17.00. 3rd Tamborada Infantil at Plaza de Arriba.  Children under the age of 12 will take part in this procession, playing their drums with much enthusiasm – and skill too!  The event is being organised in collaboration with Caritas, who will be accepting donations of non perishable foods and household products. The procession will start in Plaza de Arriba and end outside Teatro Vico.

Sunday 24 April

12.00 Easter Sunday and the traditional meeting between Jesús Resucitado and the Virgen Gloriosa in Plaza del Rollo.  Lots of excited children will be waiting along Calle Cánovas, because after the procession comes the traditional Caramelada, where the children will be scrambling to grab handfuls of sweets.

Children scrambling for sweets

 

Main Semana Santa processions

Friday 15 April

Semana Santa will officially begin on Viernes de Dolores, the Friday before Palm Sunday, with a procession at 21.30 from the Iglesia de Santiago. 

Sunday 17 April

12.00  Procession of the Palms  In this procession, a group representing Jesus riding on a donkey with the Apostles around him will be accompanied by children dressed as Hebrews.  The procession leaves from Iglesia de San Juan and continues to the parish church of Santiago via Plaza del Rollo and Calle Cánovas, with Jesús declaiming his prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday procession

21.00  In previous years the statue of “Christ tied to the column”, made by the renowned Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo, was brought down from the Monastery of Santa Ana in solitary splendour.  This year, as part of the 600th Anniversary, the Franciscans have agreed for the statue of “Abuela Santa Ana” to be brought down to Jumilla at the same time.  The procession through the streets of Jumilla will be from the Ermita de San Agustín to the Iglesia Mayor de Santiago, and I imagine the streets will be lined with both young and old for this historic event.

Cristo Amarrado a la Columna by Francisco Salzillo

Tuesday 19 April

23.30 Celebración Penitencial  This is held in Iglesia de Santiago, followed by the Procession of Silence where the penitents, all dressed in black, and many of them with bare feet and dragging chains behind them, walk through the dark streets of the old town.  All the street lights are switched off during the procession, and the only light comes from bonfires lit in the streets.

Procesión del Silencio

Wednesday 20 April 

17.30 Re-enactment of the Capture of Christ, in Plaza de Arriba, with 18 actors taking part.  “Los Armaos”, the Roman soldiers, will also be participating in this act.

21.30 Procession of “Jesús Prendido”, plus other statues representing Peter’s denial, Judas’ Kiss, St John the Apostle – ten in total – from Iglesia de El Salvador.

Thursday 21 April

17.30  Visit to the monuments  This is one of my favourite processions, where the lovely señoras in their mantillas and lace dresses parade with proud señors (also dressed in their finery) as they visit the monuments in Jumilla, accompanied by local bands.

Señoras wearing their best mantillas

 

21.30 Procession of the Virgen de la Amargura  The procession leaves the Iglesia de Santa María, going through the streets of the old town, and finishes in Iglesía del Salvador.

Friday 22 April

09.30 Procession “Antigua” This is the first of two extraordinary processions to commemorate the 600th Anniversary.  Starting at the Iglesía de Santa María, ten of the oldest Semana Santa statues (pre 20th century) will be carried through Jumilla’s old town.

11.00 Procession of the Calvary  One of the largest processions takes place on Good Friday.  Sixteen statues are carried from the Iglesía del Salvador around the steep and winding streets of Jumilla, then along Calle Cánovas and up to Calle Canalejas before returning to the church.

Saturday 23 April

19.00 “Magno Entierro”  The second extraordinary procession for the 600th Semana Santa. If you only watch one procession this year, this is the one to watch, with 35 statues being carried through the streets of Jumilla.  The procession leaves from Iglesia de Santa María and finishes at the Jardín del Rollo, next to the tourist office.

Sunday 24 April

Easter Sunday procession

12.00 Procession of “Jesús Resucitado”.  As mentioned above, this is the final event where the “Risen Jesus” meets the “Glorious Virgin” in the Plaza del Rollo.  After this the procession departs from the Plaza and goes along Calle Cánovas, with sweets being thrown to the eager children, clutching the plastic bags that they hope to fill to the brim with sweets.

Semana Santa Mini-feria del Vino

Many people will know about Jumilla from drinking the wine produced by the many bodegas in and around the town.  There will be the perfect opportunity to sample some of the best Jumilla wines on Saturday 16th April, when the Mini-feria del Vino is being held in Jardín del Rey Don Pedro between 12.00 and 15.00.  Entry will cost 3€, which is a bargain when you consider around 20 bodegas will be offering you the chance to try their wines.  Hope to see you there!

Mini-feria del Vino

 

Vino y Cuaresma

If you are visiting Jumilla on Friday 15 April, why not visit one of the ten bars and restaurants offering a tapa and glass of Carchelo wine for 2€?  On Saturday 16 April, the same establishments will be offering dinner for 15 to 30 euros, which includes a bottle of Carchelo wine between 2 people.  Finally, Sunday lunch on 17 April will cost you from 22 to 30 euros, including a 500ml bottle of Vino Canalizo per person.

Look for the distinctive posters outside participating restaurants!

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The Castillo overlooking Jumilla.

 

They say one picture is worth one thousand words – well I´m a writer not a photographer, but I hope my photos will encourage you to discover more of this fascinating and beautiful country and take your own (no doubt much more professional!) photos.

The photos below are of Jumilla, where John and I now live.

Approaching the Castillo

 

Casa Modernista

 

Teatro Vico

 

El Cason: Roman funerary and National monument

 

Monasterio Santa Ana

 

View of Jumilla from the Monasterio

 

Charco del Zorro

 

Music and wine are both an important part of life here in Jumilla.  Contrary to rumour, John and I do attend many concerts where wine is not involved!

Music in our local Bodega: Silvano Garcia

 

Outdoor concert on the Paseo

 

Christmas carols on the Paseo

New Year´s Eve concert

 

Concert outside Santa María in April

Cuarteto Pedrera playing in Bodegas Viña Campanero