Andalusia: Famous for Bulls, Sherry and Flamenco

    Fontanilla Beach, Cadiz Province - Spanish Office of Tourism

Fontanilla Beach, Cadiz Province – Spanish Office of Tourism

Spanish people think of Andalusia as “The Cradle of the Discovery”, the discovery being the finding of the New World. From here Columbus sailed to America.

Where does Andalusia Start?

For me, it was when I saw a sign shaped like a black bull loom on the horizon, then Pida un Domecq (under a rampaging bull) flashed by as we drove on and finally when I saw Feria emblazoned in bright red over the word Sevilla, then two posters with Corridas de Toros, I knew we had arrived in Andalusia – the land of bulls, sherry, sunshine, fiestas and flamenco.

Columbus Sailed Three Times from Andalusia

It was from ports on the beautiful Costa de la Luz in Andalusia that Columbus sailed on his voyages of discovery. The first time he set forth with three small ships from Palos de Frontera, near Huelva; the second sail was from Cadiz, the oldest inhabited city in the western world; the third time the intrepid explorer left from Sanlucar de Barrameda.

Today, the shoreline of Huelva, with its rich stands of pine, is a scene of intense activity because Huelva is an important harbor on the Costa de la Luz. Palos de la Frontera is still a fairly simple fishing village and the area extending to Cadiz has sandy beaches so glorious that only a fool would forget to pack at least two swimsuits. Sanlucar de Barrameda is a sherry-producing town famous for Manzanilla, a type of sherry aged by the sea with a distinctive taste due, they say, to the salt spray from the Atlantic. Since my return, I have found that Tio Pepe and Domecq “Fino”, two Manzanilla sherries are easier to find in Canada than in Spain.

Towns One Dreams of Visiting

There are towns one dreams for a lifetime of visiting such as Rome, Athens, Avignon, Cadiz and Seville – yet when one actually arrives the romantic illusion often disappears. It is possible that neither Athens nor Cadiz would live up to expectations, but nearby Carmona, a forgotten little agricultural town once more important than Seville itself, should be on that list of dream places.

Carmona Tops my Andalusian List

The town of Carmona is on a hill commanding a fine view of the Betis Valley. Centuries ago the covetous Moors swooped across the sea to claim Carmona for their own, building a great wall around the town and erecting three splendid fortresses to stand guard over the plains. In time the Spaniards won the town back – Ferdinand III of Castile took Carmona from the Moors in 1247. The richest treasures in Carmona, however, are those from Moorish times.

The Fortresses

One of the fortresses is built on lower ground – the Alcazar de la Puerta de Sevilla. It has a Romanesque gate and a fortified precinct, unique in Spain. The two on higher ground are called the Alcazar de la Puerta de Cordoba and the Alcazar de la Puerta de Marchena. All are officially protected as national monuments. In fact, the town as a whole inside its ancient walls and some of the monuments outside are protected as an artistic and historic monument.

There are some intriguing Roman ruins inside and outside the walls, including a necropolis (city of the dead) discovered in 1881, an amphitheater and a complete Roman mosaic which is in the patio of what is now the town hall.

UNESCO Listed Flamenco in 2010

Spain’s dance and music of the gypsies, a major attraction in Andalusia, is now on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. In fact, I caught more than a hint of flamenco in a church concert on a fiesta day in Carmona. The guitar sounded its opening chords, castanets began to click and one woman broke into that monotone of song you hear everywhere in Spain. One of the girls began a swaying movement in unison with the choir and although there was no actual dancing, some of the singers seemed carried away by the emotional quality of their performance. Soon most of the audience was swaying too.

Two long-established places to hear flamenco are in nearby Seville. One is Los Gallos at 11 Plaza de Santa Cruz, another is El Patio Sevillano at 11a Paseo Cristobal Colon. Reservations are necessary.,

Sources: Personal visit, Spanish National Tourist Office, The Random House Encyclopedia

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