life in Spain

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Jumilla is renowned for its wine – tipped by the American wine guru Robert Parker to be one of the stars of the wine world by 2015, outselling both Rioja and Ribera del Duero – so stock up now!

However Jumilla is also becoming well-known locally for its gastronomy, which is why, during last year’s Semana Gastronómica, so many people travelled from places like Murcia, Orihuela and Alicante to enjoy a gastronomic feast in Jumilla’s restaurants.

This year the 6th  Semana Gastronómica takes place from Saturday 5th November until Sunday 13th November, giving you plenty of opportunities to visit Jumilla for a special meal in one of the nine participating restaurants for an inflation-proofed 30€ (the same as last year), which you will be pleased to hear includes your drinks.  You can also enter the prize draw to win a weekend for two in the Balneario Vichy Catalan near Girona: I have my fingers firmly crossed!

Many of the restaurants will be featuring local specialities, which tend to be meat-based, so you might want to check out the menus before making your reservation if you are a pescatarian like me.  Click on the link below to see the leaflet, which includes all the menus at the individual restaurants, as well as a list of establishments on the tapas route.


We plan to go to Restaurante Monasterio as six of their seven starters include fish or vegetables, and the good news is that you share the seven starters between you.  I just hope that I have enough room for my main course and dessert!

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a meal out, why not come along and take part in the Ruta de las Tapas?  You can try a tapa and a glass of Jumilla wine for just 2€, and there are eleven different bars and restaurants to visit, though preferably not on the same day – especially if you are the driver!  If you go to four different venues, make sure that you get your leaflet stamped at each one so that you can participate in a prize draw to win a meal in one of Jumilla’s  fine restaurants.  We are hoping to visit at least eight of them – obviously on different days – which will give us two entries.

Other activities that will be happening during the Gastronomic Week are as follows:

For early risers who drive a 4×4, there is a guided route around the area on Sunday 6th November, leaving Bodegas BSI at 8 a.m. and finishing in Bodegas Viña Elena.  Not having a 4×4, I won’t be there – at least, that’s my excuse! For more information, please contact:  693758933 (movil).

The tourist office is offering guided walks around Jumilla on Sunday 6th and Sunday 13th November.  Contact them for further details at:  Please note that the guided walk will be in Spanish, though there are information boards in both Spanish and English outside the main sites.  However, if you would like a personalised tour in English, you can contact John and me via the Walkers Tours of Jumilla page on this website.

Sunday 13th is the European Day of Wine Tourism, and where better to celebrate it than Jumilla?  All of the bodegas on the Ruta del Vino will be open. Click on the links for each bodega on the Ruta del Vino website to get more information.

Finally, also on Sunday 13th November, there will be an artisans’ market in Plaza de Arriba, which sadly we will have to miss as we are running the Race for Life (Carrera de la Vida) in Los Alcazares on the same day.  If you don’t know Jumilla, there is a street plan on the Jumilla official website to help you find your way to the Plaza, as well as all the bars and restaurants.  However don’t worry if you do get lost – there will be plenty to see and do in Jumilla during the Semana Gastronómica and you are guaranteed a warm welcome in any bar or restaurant that you stumble upon.

Restaurante San Agustín, where you can enjoy a gastronomic meal as well as tapas y vino!

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Vineyards at Bodegas Martínez Verdu

The Vendimia is in full swing in Jumilla – we can tell as soon as we leave the house and sniff the air!  There is no mistaking the heady aroma of fermenting grapes, which will no doubt end up in a bottle of wine in a supermarket near you.  We are lucky, as we can walk down the road to buy our wine from the local bodegas, which saves us a bit of money as well as being very convenient.

In some parts of Spain they are celebrating the Fiesta de la Vendimia right now, however we think Jumilla has made a wise decision in celebrating its Fiesta in August before the hard work begins, especially as the beginning of the harvest is a moveable date, rather like the Fall in New England.

Jumillanos always enjoy a good party,  so I am sure they will find another excuse to celebrate once the Vendimia is over for another year.  After all, where else do you find people celebrating their saint’s day as well as their actual birthday?

The Vendimia in Jumilla started a couple of weeks earlier than it did in 2010.  We soon spotted the tractors and trailers heading down the road beside our house, and we also read about it on Facebook.  I am a Facebook friend of many of Jumilla’s best bodegas, including Viña Campanero, Hacienda del Carche, Silvano Garcia, Martínez Verdu and BSI: it helps to keep in touch!

Which way to the bodega?

This year we have noticed lots of lorries carrying grapes, as well as tractors and trailers of varying sizes.  We have also spotted several cars pulling smaller trailers full of grapes.

We were worried when we had some heavy rain recently, but fortunately it did not damage the crops as we had feared and it actually helped in the process of maturing the grapes.

You can tell that I am no wine expert when it comes to the technical details, in spite of having had several tours around local bodegas – but I do know a good wine when I taste it!  We are lucky to be living in Jumilla, with so many excellent bodegas around us.  The American wine guru Robert Parker consistently rates Jumilla’s wines highly, with many wines achieving over 90 points, and in particular for their excellent price to quality ratio.

Initial reports for 2011 sound very promising.  The volume of grapes is down 20% but we have heard from several sources that the quality of the grapes is good and expectations are high that this will be another very good vintage.

We will report back once we have tried this year’s wines, although sadly the Tinto Joven 2011 won’t be available until 2012, so we will have to make do with the rosados and blancos until then. On the whole we didn’t find last year’s wines as good as those from 2009, however – from what we’ve heard on the grapevine – 2011 should be a winner.  ¡Salud!

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If you enjoy meeting friends for a few drinks but don’t have unlimited funds, Spain is definitely the place to be.  I have been horrified by prices in London recently – even when meeting friends for a coffee – never mind the cost of a glass of wine!  No wonder so many fellow Brits have decided to retire to Spain, where they can still afford to have an active social life.

The best value for money is having a menú del día in a Spanish bar or restaurant, but sometimes you want to go out in the evening just for a change.  Spain again has to be the winner, especially as many places give you a free tapa with your glass of wine or beer.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the best bars in Jumilla if you fancy going out for some tapas with your friends.  Although free tapas are rare here, prices are so low that we don’t mind paying a bit extra: two euros for a drink and tapa isn’t exactly going to break the bank!

1.  Cervecería Borneo Avenida de la Libertad

Our dog Lisa recommends this bar.  There are tables outside, so she can sit with us while we enjoy our coffees, or a glass of wine in the evening.  The owner always makes a fuss of her too, so it is no 1 on Lisa’s list. Although they don’t do a menú del día here, the food is very good and reasonably priced.  We tried their hamburgers (in my case it was a fishburger) and can confirm that it made a very tasty and filling snack for less than 3€, and they always have a good selection of tapas on display, which we all enjoy sampling.

Borneo – recommended by Lisa

2.  Bar La Casa Avenida de Reyes Católicos 13

If you want to bump into lots of expats come here on Tuesday mornings at around 12 noon, and especially on the first Tuesday of the month when we have our English book swap from 11.00 to 13.00.  If you want to avoid your fellow Brits, then give it a miss on Tuesdays!

Although the bar is tiny, there is a dining area behind where you can sit if the bar is full and – even better – a lovely walled patio at the back where we sit in the summer months, though sadly Lisa isn’t allowed in there.  Cristina and her parents always give us a warm welcome – and in the winter months, when the wood fire is burning, it is lovely and warm in the dining area too!

Bar La Casa

3.  Bar Central Plaza Alcoholero de Menor

This is a recent addition, situated in the Roque Baños Centre, although we understand that there was a Bar Central on Calle Canovas during the 60s.  Their tapas are very good and their prices are very cheap, so not surprisingly it has become a favourite haunt, especially after our Spanish lessons in the nearby Adult Education Centre twice a week. Lisa also enjoys sitting outside this bar, watching the world go by, though she doesn’t find it quite as relaxing as Borneo.

4. Cafetería de Estacion de Autobuses Avenida de la Libertad

This is another venue with the Lisa seal of approval, especially during fiestas.  We sat outside with friends, plus Lisa, after watching one of the processions during the Fiesta de la Vendimia and had the best sepia y champiñones ever. We realised that Lisa liked this bar when we tried to walk past it last week, and she pulled on her lead until we walked over to one of the tables and sat down to order coffee!

5. Nuestro Bar Los Milanos

Incredible food at incredible prices: if we only lived closer to Nuestro Bar it would be our regular haunt.  Faustino had a well-deserved excellent write-up onTripAdvisor, after two American visitors had eaten there a couple of times.  Having shared the paella with Cathy and Ed on their second visit to Nuestro Bar, we can wholeheartedly agree with her comments!

Whenever we are near Nuestro Bar we pop in for coffee or wine and tapas, and always receive a warm welcome and very good service: the one time we thought they were being a teeny bit slow, we discovered when we left that dozens of people were sitting outside enjoying drinks and tapas as well!

Faustino joined us for the photo call in Nuestro Bar

6. Bar La Tapa “Rincon de Pedro” Calle Marchante, 8

A typical Spanish bar: small, always busy, usually noisy and with a good selection of tapas as befits its name.  It used to be a regular haunt when we first moved here and were renting a flat in the centre of Jumilla.  The biggest smile we have ever seen on Pedro’s face was reserved for John’s grandsons when they came to visit us: Pedro presented them with Kinder eggs and bags of crisps.  Pedro enjoys good music and has been known to increase the volume when his favourite tracks are playing, drowning out all conversation.

7.  Bar California Calle Canovas de Castillo

This is the exception to the unwritten rule that the floors of the best bars are always covered in litter.  Whenever we go into Bar California it is busy, however the floor is always spotless, and it is renowned for being the cleanest bar in Jumilla.  Their tapas are good and it is very popular with the locals – presumably because of the tapas rather than its clean floors!

8. Bar Canarias C/Jesús Sánchez Carrillo, 4

In our neighbourhood, and near the local market, Bar Canarias is one of our favourites.  Lisa enjoys visiting it during the summer when tables are outside, and is always made to feel welcome.  The owner speaks good English, though we always try to speak to him in Spanish.  Depending on his mood, he will greet us in English, Spanish or a mixture of both!  We took friends here for wine and tapas after going to a carol concert last year and they were impressed by both the food and the prices.

Bar Canarias

9.  Bar Chaparral Avenida de Yecla, 75

A good place to go to with friends when you are very hungry but don’t want to spend a fortune: its tapas are excellent and unbelievably cheap, so you can afford to buy loads.  Our best Christmas party ever was upstairs in Bar Chaparral, which the Adult Education Centre had booked for its students.  The amount of dishes they produced was amazing, and all of them were delicious.  Fingers crossed that we go there again this year!

10. Bar Gatico Negro Calle San Roque

Apparently the original bar wasn’t very salubrious, however it had closed down before we moved to Jumilla.  After being completely renovated, it re-opened under new management about six months ago.  It is a small, friendly bar with good tapas, plus they have a room upstairs for larger groups.

11.  Cafetería Los Angeles Plaza Pablo Picasso

Recently opened and conveniently close to home, so we often stop here with Lisa for a coffee on the way back from the shops.  She has her favourite table and looks very annoyed if somebody else is sitting there!  Although they don’t do tapas here, if we stop for a glass of wine in the evening we ask for olives or almonds with our drinks.  I don’t think I have ever seen local people have an alcoholic drink without something to nibble on, which is a healthy habit we have adopted since moving to Spain.

Cafetería Los Angeles

12.  Heladería Cinema C/ Canovas del Castillo, 67

I know that strictly speaking ice-cream doesn’t come under the heading of tapas, but on a hot summer’s day, when you really fancy an ice-cream, this is the best place to go for one in Jumilla.  All their ice-cream is home-made, there is a huge selection to choose from, and they are all absolutely delicious.  Sadly they don’t sell ice-cream during the winter months, so John’s daughter-in-law Katy was bitterly disappointed when she visited us in February and couldn’t sample their ice-creams!

13.  Restaurante San Agustín Avenida de la Asunción, 64

A long-term favourite of ours for their menú del día, we also enjoy going to San Agustín for tapas in the bar, though unfortunately they don’t have tables outside so Lisa has to stay at home.  Popular with the locals, which isn’t surprising considering how good the food is, and there is always a lively atmosphere.

14.  Bar las Delicias C/Lope de Vega-C/Hernando de Nuño

This is a comparatively new bar in our local barrio of San Juan.  In recent years, sadly, we have seen many businesses close down or change hands, however we are confident that Bar las Delicias will be here to stay because of their good tapas and cheap prices.  I am always on the look out for special offers on the facebook page of the manager, Ester Delgado Rodríguez.

Of course these aren’t the only places in Jumilla where you can find tasty tapas, and the following bars and restaurants are also good places to visit on your tapas trail:   Restaurante Reyes Católicos; Bar Paraíso; Restaurante Monasterio; Duque de Lerma; Meson Jumillano; Bar Ave: Cervecería Castillo; Cervecería Levante.  Plus many, many more!

Before you visit Jumilla, why not print out the street map to help you find the recommended places?  Otherwise, just pop into any bar that takes your fancy: you are sure to have a good time.  ¡Aproveche!

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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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Wow!  That was the first word to come to mind when we entered the Jardín Botánico last night: José María of Los Chilines had surpassed even his high standards.

This was the third Gran Cata that we have attended since moving to Jumilla.  We thought the first one in Jardín de Los Caños was great – lots of good food and lots of good wine - even though we were sitting on stone seats.  We encouraged our friends Lesley and John to join us for last year’s Gran Cata, which proved to be even better, with live music from a local group, plus chairs had been provided for us all to sit on. 

We all reserved our tickets for this year’s Gran Cata as soon as details appeared, which was lucky as they sold out almost immediately, such is José María’s reputation for organising excellent wine tasting events.

La Gran Cata 2009

La Gran Cata mark III was held in the beautiful surroundings of the Jardín Botánico however the first thing we noticed on arrival was a red carpet!  We walked along the red carpet, stopped to have our photos taken by Fotocool and then headed for the lounge area.  I was wearing flat shoes, suspecting that we might have to stand up all evening as it was a far bigger event than before, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that tables and chairs had been set out.

We were soon joined by a group of young people, one of whom introduced herself and said she was keen to practise her English on us.  She was called Victoria, and we realised that she was the singer who would be providing the evening’s entertainment later on.

The whole evening was exceptionally well organised, especially considering there were two hundred and fifty people present.  Bar Paraiso were in charge of catering again, so we knew that the food would be very tasty.  The wine waiters timed things to perfection, so we all had the right wine to taste as the wine makers from the 10 participating bodegas introduced their individual wines. 

Waiting with Lesley and John for the food and wine to appear

I think the four British pensioners were the only people present to appreciate the irony of one wine being named Crápula, though we tried to explain it to the chicos and chicas at our table.  Our favourite wines were Divus, Gemina Cuvee, Calzas and Juan Gil 18 meses.  Wine tasting is all about individual taste though as, in spite of us not rating Crápula, the wine guru Robert Parker gave it 90 points!

While we were tasting the first five wines, plates of delicious food kept arriving.  Our Spanish companions were eagerly waiting for the jamón, which the champion Maestro Cortador de Jamón was carving, so I kindly helped them out with the seafood tapas and cheeses. 

Victoria disappeared with Paco her guitarist just after we had tasted the fourth wine (she was being abstemious though, only drinking water and coke) and she then appeared on stage to perform her first set.  Victoria had already told us that only three of her twenty five songs would be sung in Spanish, so not surprisingly we knew most of the words.

After tasting the final five wines we listened to Victoria’s second set, while more bottles of wine were being brought round, giving us a chance to taste our favourites again.  By now several people were up dancing and, once I had twisted John’s arm, we joined them for a couple of lively numbers.  After that Lesley and I discovered the Dulce Zone, where tiny desserts and chocolate truffles had been laid out, so we headed eagerly in that direction.  Yummy!

Listen to Victoria singing “Mrs Robinson”

We left at one o’clock, having had more than enough food and wine, however we noticed on the way out that Chaplin Bar was serving drinks to those with more stamina than us.

Many congratulations to José María and his team for organising such an amazing event – we are already looking forward to next year’s Gran Cata!

PS What do you think we had to pay for this great evening?  Please leave your guesses in the comments box below, and I will post the answer next week.

La Gran Cata 2011

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There is usually so much happening in Jumilla that we rarely go away for the day.  However our friends Lesley and John had decided to visit Villajoyosa (also known as La Vila Joiosa) for the Moors and Christians fiestas and asked us if we would like to go along.  Living inland we don’t see much of the sea, so we happily accepted their offer.

I think it was more by luck than good planning (sorry John!) that we managed to find a parking spot fairly close to the sea and, as we found out later on, very close to the processional route.  The festivities were due to start at 1815 however, although we didn’t park the car until after that, we saw a whole load of pirates having a drink so knew we hadn’t missed anything. 

Traditionally the assorted pirates, smugglers, fishermen and sailors arrive by boat, however on Wednesday the red flag was flying.  I suspect that in past times this wouldn’t have mattered, but Spain is gradually becoming health and safety conscious, so a group of them gathered at the edge of the sea instead and then ran towards the castle. 

We were slightly disappointed that there wasn’t any hand to hand fighting or swordplay, however there were lots of loud bangs, followed by even more loud bangs, and groups of people in various costumes running backwards and forwards.  Eventually the Christians were evicted from the castle (though we heard a rumour that they were going to re-capture it the following night) and once all the ammunition had been used up by the victorious pirates and smugglers, people started leaving the Playa Centro. 

We assumed that this was the end of the evening’s entertainment so headed back  towards the car.  The two men had decided that they needed a glass of wine until their ears recovered from the onslaught, so we were walking up the road to find a suitable bar when suddenly we heard music playing.  We had somehow stumbled on a large, colourful procession.   We managed to grab a table outside the bar on the corner and settled down with our wine and a plate of nuts to watch the Moors and Christians parade.  We enjoyed the amazing costumes and the music provided by several bands that were marching in the procession.

Four hours later, having had a free night’s entertainment, we headed home.  We had spent eighteen euros between the four of us for several large plates of delicious tapas plus drinks down at the seafront.  At the bar where we watched the procession, a glass of wine cost 1.50€ plus we had free nuts with our drinks.  It was a fantastic and cheap night out for pensioners and other people like us who are on a budget.

I would recommend visiting the town even if there aren’t any fiestas, as it is very picturesque.  Traditionally all the houses facing the sea are painted different colours: this is so that the fishermen can spot their homes when they are out at sea.  We also liked the fact that it wasn’t over-run with tourists and the prices for a bar overlooking the sea, in the middle of a fiesta, were extremely reasonable.  Not only that, but entry to the two chocolate museums is free!

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Of course you should never generalise - and I guess a lot of what I am about to say will be true about Spaniards generally and not just those who live here in Jumilla – however these are my observations about our Spanish friends and neighbours. 

1.  They are direct and blunt, to the point of being almost rude.  They see our dog Lisa and tell us she is gorda.  Our little dog isn’t fat, we tell them, she’s just well-built.  She has big bones.  At least it keeps me on my toes and ensures I don’t over-indulge: I don’t want them turning round and saying that I am gorda the next time they see me!  They also want to know how much money we paid for our house.  No beating about the bush, just a direct request to tell them how much dinero we handed over when we bought it.  John and I don’t mind this, maybe because we are both northerners (I’m from the northeast of England and he is Scottish) so we are used to people speaking their minds.

2.  They are very helpful and caring.  Not long after we moved into our apartment our trastero (storeroom) was broken into and some items were stolen.  One neighbour we hardly knew offered to drive us to the Guardia Civil to report the robbery, and then said she would wait with us there.  Another neighbour whom we had never met before rang our doorbell, said how sorry he was to hear about the break-in, and then said we were welcome to keep our remaining belongings in his trastero until our door had been replaced.

3.  Jumillanos are very friendly and chatty.  Whenever we walk down the road, children will call out Hola or sometimes Hello, and the adults will also greet us and ask us how we are or comment about the weather.   I guess it helps that we have a dog, as we now know all the other dog owners in the area.  Now when they see us without Lisa they ask us where she is.  If they aren’t close enough to speak, for example on the far side of the road, they will call across and wave to us.  If they are in a car they will toot their horn until we see them and wave back.  Sometimes they will stop their car on a crossing so that we can have a conversation.

4.   Jumillanos love to party and don’t need much of an excuse to have a celebration.  In Spain you don’t just celebrate your actual birthday, you also celebrate your saint’s day.  I like that idea, especially since I discovered that August 11th is the feastday of St Susanna, so I don’t have too long to wait.  We had a party with our neighbours for the inauguration of  our apartment block and another one for the anniversary of the inauguration.  We invited them to our apartment for a party to celebrate the launch of my book.  We live in the barrio of San Juan, so obviously we have a good time during the Fiestas de San Juan, with several days’ partying.  August though is one of the best months for fiestas, with the Fiesta de la Vendimia, Fiesta of the patron saint of Jumilla (Our Lady of Assumption), National Folklore Festival plus Moors and Christians festivities.

Spanish friends and neighbours at the fiesta for my book launch

5.  Jumillanos aren’t too worried about punctuality.  Today we showed a group of about fifty people from San Pedro de la Pinatar around Jumilla.  We had arranged with the town hall for the castle to be opened at 11.00, as it is usually only open at weekends.  We waited outside the castle gates in the coach, looking at our watches a bit anxiously, as it was 11.00 and nobody was around.  A couple of minutes later a car stopped beside us and a man got out, brandishing a large bunch of keys.  He noticed the group leader looking at his watch and smiled as he said: “A las once!”  By now it was five past but as far as he was concerned he was there by 11.00.  Personally I was amazed that he had arrived that early, as the majority of events here start at least 30 minutes later than advertised.

6.  Jumillanos are very proud of their city.  When a local wine shop had a wine tasting evening: Rioja vs Jumilla, we weren’t at all surprised that everybody voted for the Jumilla wines.  We like the local wines, and they have won many medals, but a couple of the wines from Rioja were very good as well.  A couple of other people said the same, but when it came to the vote, Jumilla won.  The greatest compliment that we have been paid since moving here is to be called Jumillanos, and to know that we have been accepted as one of the vecinos (neighbours).

So where do you live?  What are your neighbours like?  Please leave your answers below, but nothing too libellous please!

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I don’t know how common it is in other parts of Spain, but we have noticed that many Jumillanos who live in town during the week will retreat to their home in the campo most weekends and especially during the summer months.  Many of our younger friends have parents or grandparents who own a property in the countryside, others will buy (or maybe inherit) an older property and do it up gradually.  Most of these second residences are located only a few kilometres outside Jumilla, some of them in pueblos such as Fuente del Pino or Torre del Rico.

Our good friends Juana María and Salvador share a small country property with Salvador’s sister Belen and her husband Pablo, and have kindly invited us to spend the afternoon there on several occasions.  On Sunday they invited our English friends John and Lesley to come along as well, so Lesley unselfishly offered to be the chauffeuse, allowing her grateful husband John to enjoy a few glasses of vino tinto.   

The bungalow is well off the beaten track - take a right turn off the main road, then left onto a bumpy road, right again onto a dirt track and you will see it just past the peach trees on the right.  Last time we visited we saw the owner of the peach trees, who told us to help ourselves.  Needless to say we didn’t hesitate!

Although the house is tiny, with just one main room and a bathroom, it has all the necessities to enjoy a summer day in the countryside: barbeque, swimming pool and tennis courts.  Lesley and I have vowed to take tennis racquets the next time we get invited there, although on Sunday it would have been too hot for even a gentle game of tennis.

We had time to have a leisurely swim (paddle, in my case) and lounge around before lunch.  Our dog Lisa had been invited, but she gave the swimming pool a wide berth, preferring to roll about in the grass and chase a few flies.

A lazy sunny Sunday afternoon

As I am a difficult guest (I don’t eat any meat plus I won’t touch tomatoes), I always take something suitable for me  to eat, just in case.  However Juana María is a very good friend and she always remembers my dietary fads: the tomatoes were on a separate plate, plus there was plenty of non-meaty food to suit me. 

The table was set out with lots of different dishes as aperitivos: local empanadas (with tuna but without tomato!); nuts and dried fish; cheese on tostados; tomatoes; stuffed peppers; smoked salmon on bread.  The two Spanish men had been busy outside dealing with the barbeque (yes, it’s very much a male thing, even in Spain!), so a huge platter of meat appeared, however they had thoughtfully grilled swordfish separately for me.  We than had the most delicious fresh sardines that I have ever tasted: Lesley and I both had one then grabbed another one before they all went! 

This was followed by fresh melon and watermelon, plus local pastries.  John and I had brought some chocolate truffles from Mercadona, which went down well with the coffee and brandy.  This type of feast isn’t unusual in Spain, as we have experienced it before when invited over to our neighbour’s apartment for lunch.  No wonder the traditional siesta is still observed here!

Another necessity in Spain, even if it’s only a weekend pad, is a TV to watch sport.  John and I had been wondering if it would be bad-mannered to mention the Tour de France and Formula One, however we didn’t have to worry, as Salvador turned the TV on.  We tried not to look too pleased when Mark Cavendish won the green jersey and the Australian Cadel Evans won the Tour, with Spain’s Alberto Contador and Samuel Sanchez down in 5th and 6th places.  However then Lewis Hamilton beat Spain’s Fernando Alonso – all I can say is that it’s lucky that we are all good friends!

That was Sunday lunch Spanish-style – so although we had plenty of food at home, we didn’t need anything else to eat that day.  It makes you wonder why more Spanish señoras aren’t overweight, though that may be down to another Spanish tradition: in the mornings they are all busy sweeping and mopping their floors, then throwing the water into the street, whenever we go out to the shops or for coffee.

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We had such a wonderful evening last night that I don’t know how I can possibly condense it all into one post.  We had two events to attend with our friends Lesley and John (thank you for chauffeuring us Lesley!) both of which were being held outside, so we were grateful that it was another lovely summer’s evening.

Our friend Cristina was getting married under a pergola at Salones Pio XII and we didn’t want to miss seeing her even though we had booked tickets for our final Música entre Vinos, which was due to start at the same time.  The bride was traditionally late, though early by Jumillano standards – however she does come from near Barcelona, which probably explains it.  Cristina looked stunning, in a very elegant understated way, as she arrived in an open-topped sports car. 

Here comes the bride!

The occasion was enhanced by our friend Jaqui singing a couple of songs, and although the civil ceremony was in Spanish we could follow what was happening, more or less: the moment when they both said “Si”, the handing over of the rings, the new husband kissing his bride and finally the signing of the register.  We witnessed the moment when they became husband and wife, before we discreetly slipped away.  We had brought some rice to throw, however when we spotted at least two large boxes of rice sitting on a wall behind the pergola we reckoned there were plenty of other people willing to carry out this duty.

Bodegas Viña Elena were hosting Música entre Vinos for the first time, so we were curious to see how well they coped.  We have visited the bodega before, so we weren’t too worried about missing the tour, and Loles had kindly confirmed that the concert wouldn’t be starting until at least 21.15.

The organisation of the whole evening was superb, starting with the moment when we arrived at 21.15 and were efficiently directed first to the car park and then to the collection point to pick up the all-essential wine glasses.  Background music was being played as we headed towards the bodega, so we knew that Loles had been correct in saying that if we arrived at that time we wouldn’t miss any of the concert. 

We had timed our arrival to perfection.  We were trying the first of four wines - Paco Pacheco Blanco 2010 - and accepting some of the tasty food on offer, when the musicians started tuning up.   The catering had been done by Media Luna, who brought out plate after plate of delicious food: including spoons of scrumptious seafood, chunks of Manchego cheese, plenty of jamón for the carnivores, and cubes of juicy melon.  We were impressed by the Bodega’s Tinto Jóven, which we reckon is one of the best from 2010.

Bodegas Viña Elena

There was a great ambiance and I would say that this was one of the most enjoyable events we have attended during Música entre Vinos this year.   Part of this was due to the fact that so many of our friends were there enjoying themselves, part of this was due to the friendly welcome we received from Paco Pacheco and his family and part of this was due to the music from Cantos  Jazz Fusión, playing classics like “Bye Bye Black Bird” and “Autumn Leaves”.

We mentioned this to our friend Pedro, President of the Ruta del Vino, towards the end of the evening – adding that we preferred it when busloads of fellow Brits weren’t around, especially those who complained about the lack of chairs!  Having said that, after standing up for well over three hours in my high heels, I was grateful when a couple of people left and we were able to grab their chairs to sit down for a while.

Our final verdict is that Música Entre Vinos 2011 was an outstanding success, with a winning combination of good wine and food accompanied by good music, and that each year it seems to get even better.  We can’t wait until Música Entre Vinos 2012 – and promise to publish full details here, as soon as Pedro emails me!

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I have already mentioned that Jumilla is the “Ciudad del Vino”, but is it really a city or is it just a town?  Most British people visiting Jumilla for the first time assume that, with a population of just over 25,000, it is a town.  We expect cities either to have a cathedral, which traditionally was the case,  or to have a significant population - therefore we wouldn’t consider Jumilla to be a city.  However Jumilla was granted city status by King Alfonso XIII on July 17th 1911, and the city has just celebrated its centenary.  At the same time the Town Hall was granted the title of “Excelentísimo”.

Jumilla Town Hall

Jumilla was honoured because of “the increasing development of agriculture, industry and trade and their constant adherence to the constitutional monarchy”.   I don’t know how many citizens are monarchists nowadays, but I do know that the wine industry in particular is always looking for new markets and introducing initiatives such as “Música entre Vinos”, so they are definitely following in the footsteps of their ancestors.

While I am talking about the history of Jumilla, maybe I should mention how many significant dates for the city end with the number 1. 

1241 – Alfonso X conquered Jumilla for the Kingdom of Castile.

1411 – Saint Vicente Ferrer preached in Jumilla and the first Holy Week procession was held.

1461 Juan Pacheco, the Marquis of Villena, restructured the old castle and built the Torre de Homenaje, as seen today.

1911 – King Alfonso XIII granted Jumilla City status.

1931 – The Parish Church of Santiago and El Casón (Roman funeral monument) were declared National Monuments.

1981 – Old town of Jumilla was declared of historical importance.

1991 – HM Queen Sofía visited Jumilla for the inauguration of the Teatro Vico after its restoration.

The first significant date was 600 millions years ago, when a series of mammals left their footprints in the area of La Hoya de la Sima. Another important date was 1,500 BC when the first Bronze Age population settled in the city. 

The Romans arrived in 180 BC, settling in and around the current site of Jumilla, until the troops of Abd-El-Azid conquered Jumilla in 713.  It was the Arab conquerors who named the town Jamila – meaning beautiful - and they ruled until Alfonso X (remember him?) conquered the town in 1241.

When we first visited the local archaeological museum, we were a bit puzzled by the dates.  We use BC to represent the years Before Christ and AD for Anno Domini (Latin for the year of our  Lord) representing the years After Christ.  In Spain AC is used rather than BC, which we eventually worked out meant Antes de Cristo, and DC is used instead of AD, meaning Despúes de Cristo.  Confused?  Yes, so were we!

I don’t want to send everybody to sleep, so I think that is enough for your first history lesson.  The next history lesson will be about the wine industry in Jumilla: just for a taster I will mention the fact that the first vines here were grown by the Romans, which as you know was a long time ago.

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