Early one morning we left Córdova, the richly complex and cultured capital of Moorish Spain from the seventh to the eleventh centuries (see my post on Córdova). We drove our little Eurocar rental about 2.5 hours to Jerez in the southern province of Cádiz, visited Jerez then went on to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in one, hectic day in April, 2011.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is a city on the Atlantic at the mouth of the Wadi Kabir, as the Moors called it – the Great River – which the Spanish spell Guadalquivir. It is one corner of the “sherry triangle” and here a pale, dry sherry with a faint salty taste is made. It is called Manzanilla wine.
But first, Jerez:
We arrived in Jerez from Córdoba just in time for the 10:30 AM Sandeman Bodega tour. We were told about Sanlúcar’s unique drink by Velia, a semi-retired Melbourne, Australia teacher whom we met with her husband Ron while tasting several of the famous Sandeman sherries. She and her husband travel (backpack only) from Feb ’til July every year. We then attended, with our Aussies-well-met, the incredible Royal Andalusian School of Horsemanship show in Jerez.
The world-renowned Horse Show put on by La Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Equestre featured Andalusian horses doing what seemed like dozens of dance steps in time with Spanish music. The costumes, braided manes and tails and ornate halters and saddlery were varied and beautiful. this is not the best show of horsemanship in the world it certainly must be as good as it gets: absolutely stunning – visually, musically and emotionally. After the show, at which photos and video were forbidden, we ate Chinese with them and exchanged emails.
Velia promised to send us her ultra-small packing list in return for some info on Cuba travel. They take public transport everywhere – bus, mostly. We have become friends. They have visited us here in Canada and their advice played an important part in our preparation for our Camino Santiago walk in 2013.
After our delicious and cheap lunch, we drove the 36 minutes to Sanlúcar. Then we drove for two more hours in the confusing, one-way puzzle that is Sanlúcar to find our pre-arranged secure parking a short walk from the lovely Hotel Barrameda, situated on a pedestrian plaza in the heart of Sanlúcar. We found our parking space two floors down. The up elevator didn’t work. We should have begun our day with the following beautiful Arabic phrase/prayer:
Bismillah il-Rahman il-Rahim
Our harrowing arrival experience was soon a distant (for Bob) memory – all but erased by the charm, generosity and warmth of the people of this working class, seafaring city. In the early evening, families would hit the streets for their paseo. The kids would be treated with ice cream or a ride on a coin-operated animal. Lots of simple charm. Welcoming to tourists.
We stayed two delightful nights in Sanlúcar because we wanted to visit the huge, wild Donaña sanctuary by boat. No cars permitted. The Donaña wildlife park, a huge UNESCO wetland that was once a hunting ground of Spanish nobility. Deer, boar, lynx and water birds like storks migrate through here every spring. We saw lots of flamingos who breed in Malaga on Spain’s Mediterranean Costa del Sol. Some remain to look after the young and the rest fly 200 km to Donaña to gather food and 200 km back every day!
Our tour of the Coto Donaña in a boat – with two walks in the Park – took over three hours. Unlike Magellan, who sailed from here in 1519 never to return – we did! On the way out and back we passed the distinctive lighthouse of Bonanza, a few kilometres upriver, from where Columbus sailed in 1498.
Our boat tour of the Sanctuary was in the afternoon and Sanlúcar is small. We walked down a broad avenida to the riverside and turned right to buy our Donaña tickets at the Sanlúcar’s museum that explains the town’s history beautifully and houses a large model of the Victoria, one of the 5 boats under Magellan that left from Seville and sailed down the Guadalquivir River past Sanlúcar in 1519. Only one boat, the Victoria, made it back in 1522. Magellan was killed in the Phillipines during this trip.
Made (thankfully) only one mistake leaving Sanlúcar . The night before we walked the short, but confusing, route from the parking to the main road out! Then we drove 2 hours on a Saturday to the most naturally picturesque place we’ve ever seen in Spain – the spectacular cliff-side white pueblo, Zahara, complete with Castellito on top which we walked to and climbed its stairs. Ate very salty local dishes at a Mesón overlooking the valley below. We used two toilets in Zahara; both clean but so small you had to hold your breath just to move.
Then about 40 minutes to Ronda and the Husa Reina Victoria hotel that Hemingway loved. See my post, Ronda the Beautiful, for more information on our visit to that gorgeous, picturesque city – another favorite of Hemingway, the famous aficionado of la corrida de toros – the bullfight.