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Archive for September, 2008

Thanks to a local young man with a lot of nerve and a great deal of experience, Casa La Celada is now thrilled to offer

SNOW BOARDING DAYS !

In the Sierra Nevada mountains, you’ll be taken through your paces by our guide and mentor Steve.

The package includes all rental equipment, transport to and from Casa La Celada’s front door, ski passes and any necessary coaching on the mountainside.

Why not couple it with a pamper day the next day to ease out any aching muscles?

It’s all available here – all you have to do is ask : 0034 957534939 or visit http://www.casa-la-celada.com for further information.

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Barefooted, on knees, candles in hand ….

On Monday night, with a huge group of friends and acquaintances, I joined the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of devotees to watch Iznájar’s annual spectacle celebrating the day of the Virgen Piedad – literally translates to “Piety”, and is one of the most popular Saint Days encompassed every year by our Feria Real (Festival de la Virgen de la Piedad) from 7th – 11th September.

The streets are coated in sand.

The houses adorned with brightly coloured scarves and banners.

The people dress in their absolute finery.

The bouncy castle owners set up their stalls.

And at 9.30pm, the immense procession begins…..

Iznájar’s band lead the devotees – drumming rhythmically, hypnotically, dressed in their military style uniform, looking sombre and focussed. The crowd all sway together awaiting the passing of the immense effigy of the Virgen, supported on the shoulders of more than forty men, many walking with tears pouring down their faces at the honour of being selected as one of the chosen few to steady this immense weight.

Down the steep and narrow winding streets of Iznájar the Virgen passes, some twenty feet above our heads. She is cradled in a golden cage, her face beatific, her robes exquisitely bright – red and gold, fringed with white, cascading out behind her and surrounded by an immense quantity of the sweetest smelling white flowers.

“Viva …. Viva ….. Viva” comes the chant from the people behind the Effigy. It’s almost as if they are in another world of the deepest reverance. Some of the devotees can be seen barefooted now, and you will still see some of the oldest villagers following on their knees – a promise made to the Virgen in prayer to save the life of a dying friend, for crops to flourish, for a grandson to pass through school … And if the plea is answered, the devotee follows the procession as promised to the Virgen.

To say it is moving would be a gross understatement. It makes the hairs on your body stand up all over and your mouth go dry. The pure adoration, the effort made, and the incredible quantity of people who fill the streets, spilling out of every balcony, travelling from all over Spain to spend these few days here ….

It’s my second year watching, and I will definitely be back again next year. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It is humbling.

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Thanks to a local young man with a lot of nerve and a great deal of experience, Casa La Celada is now thrilled to offer

SNOW BOARDING DAYS !

In the Sierra Nevada mountains, you’ll be taken through your paces by our guide and mentor Steve.

The package includes all rental equipment, transport to and from Casa La Celada’s front door, ski passes and any necessary coaching on the mountainside.

Why not couple it with a pamper day the next day to ease out any aching muscles?

It’s all available here – all you have to do is ask : 0034 957534939 or visit http://www.casa-la-celada.com for further information.

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I had the absolute pleasure yesterday of driving my nephew and his charming new wife back to Córdoba train station for their night train to Barcelona.

I don’t normally look forward to the drive so very much as it is mostly motorway, but we decided to leave in plenty of time and take in a few of the local villages “off the beaten track”.

We drove through Cabra without stopping … Cabra means Goat in Spanish, and this particular town is one where I have determined to spend more time – the architecture is lovely – there are big open parks with pergolas under which you’ll often find outdoor performances going on – and the road that winds down to it competes with a ski resort’s access ….

But we went to have sangria and tapas in one of my fairytale destinations here – Zuheros.

About 40 minutes’ easy drive away from our Guest House, skirting around the western side of the Sierra Subbética mountains, and absolutely accessible in a small car without wheel insurance (!), this village is a treasure. It is perched in a plunging ravine which splits through the Sierra and would have originally been the basis of inhabitation – an obvious water supply.

The swallows were swooping and chittering, and the crows (my personal favourites), cruising around chattering as the sun made it’s way to the horizon and the castle lights came on, throwing everything into the most romantic lighting relief imaginable.

It has views stretching up to the Sierra Norte north of Cordoba with Baena in the middle ground, and the sunset from the castle is out of a fairy story, especially when enjoyed with a jug of freshly made sangria and local cured ham.

After wowing our socks off and taking lots of photos, we left shortly after 8.30pm to take the back road into Cordoba itself and the AVE / Renfe station which took us through several gorgeous villages – but the one that really stunned us was Espejo – Spanish for Mirror – because the light had become that late evening rich royal blue with smatterings of the darkest red as we rounded a corner to find the crescent moon hovering just to the right of a beautifully lit up castle, with a carpet of white houses spreading out at the castle’s feet. It was, to quote my nephew’s gorgeous Australian wife, “totally awesome”.

The train station in Cordoba was a dream to find and had me driving through the “new” area – something I haven’t done before and something I am determined to do again – wonderful wide open spaces and some of the most striking fountains I have seen in rural Spain ….

For another time I think…..

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Yesterday, having some time on our hands, we explored Malaga in ways I have never done before. We found a truly spit and sawdust sherry bodega – in fact the owner’s contempt at the very suggestion that it was “Sherry” made me feel like I’d frozen over … MALAGA WINES he bellowed at us, causing us to shrink back in fear.

Row upon row of vast wooden kegs lined the rear wall, each with a name chalked or taped onto the front of the keg.

As you bought, so your bill price was chalked onto the ancient wooden bar in front of you – scrubbed out with a gnarled hand each time the clientelle changed.

The atmosphere is magical, surreal – the Malaga wines warm, rich, evocative of Christmas while being completely in place in the warmth of a Spanish Summer.

We supplemented our large schooners, priced at a mighty 1€ per glass, with a plate of the freshest prawns – whose shells, heads, legs and tails were traditionally discarded roughly into the bins that appear along the length of the bar.

An absolutely unforgettable experience and a total must for all guests from now on – and I haven’t mentioned the gorgeous tapas or our grilled sardines on the beach yet …..

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