How the Andalusian Horses Dance

“We must see this” and so we did.  What sealed the deal for Cadiz to be part of our itinerary besides Anton’s family were actually the horses.  And if you too love horses, this you must not pass up.

stable

Jerez de la Frontera, a municipality of Cadiz, lies in a fertile upland region on the southern edge of the Andalusian plains, between sea and mountain.  This fertile land that surrounds the city produced some fine wines and sherry that has given rise to some of the most prominent families in the area.  This wealth enabled them to invest on impressive stud and bull-breeding farms all around the city.

Horse-performance

And for breeding the famous and the beautiful Andalusian Horses, Jerez became the cradle of Spanish horsemanship.   Beautiful, docile, and gentle, the purebred Spanish horse impresses with its sculptured beauty of noble bearing and natural high action.  Extremely elegant, naturally graceful in its rhythmic pace, and extraordinarily beautiful, the PRE (Pura Raza Española) is a horse breed from the Iberian Peninsula with 3,000 years of history.  It has been known for its deftness as a warhorse and was prized by nobility.

The-Royal-Andalusian-School-of-Equestrian-Art

One of the best places to learn more about these beauties is in the Royal School of Equestrian Art or the Real Escuela Andaluz del Arte Escuetre, a riding school comparable to the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

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A beautiful garden surrounds the premise.  A 19th-century palace, the Palacio de las Cadenas, serves as its headquarters and visitor center.

And whatever else you do, make sure to catch its equestrian ballet show entitled “How the Andalusian Horses Dance.”

Horse-performance-2

To the beat of traditional Spanish music, the horses perform complex and arduous movements with effortless grace and control.

An absolute must.

Useful Info:

Real Escuela Andaluz del Arte Escuetre
Avenida Duque de Abrantes S/N,
Jerez de la Frontera
+34 956 319635

Cadiz

well-preserved

Bounded by the sea on a narrow wedge of land is the province of Cadiz, said to be Europe’s oldest inhabited city.  A typical Andalusian city with a wealth of well-preserved historic landmark in its charming old quarter.

It may not have architectures that shout “look at me!” like Barcelona’s Casa Batllo, Bilbao’s Guggenheim, or Granada’s Alhambra, but the Moorish looking old city offers a taste of the great days of the 17th century.

cobblestone-streets

Walk around its cobblestone narrow, winding alleys and open squares and you will feel like nothing much has changed.

narrow-alleys

This and the easy-going, everyday vibe of Cadiz makes for a pleasant walk around the ancient city, the rain notwithstanding.

open-plaza

Friendly locals would always strike up a conversation, if you speak Spanish that is; otherwise a welcoming smile is always at the ready.

Founded as the Phoenician port of Gades a millennium before Christ, Cadiz has an old and interesting history.

museo-de-cadiz

A worthy place to learn more about it is at the Museo de Cadiz, on Plaza de Mina.

phoenician-sarcophagy

It offers a journey that goes from Phoenician and Roman culture through to the 20th century Spanish paintings.

Just across Cadiz is El Puerto de Santa Maria, our home for a few days.  A lively harbor town and beach resort during the summer.

el-puerto-de-santa-maria

It was quiet, however, when we there in April.  We’d walk around and end up at La Playa de Valdelagrana, the beach closest to where we stayed.

fine-golden-sand

la-playa-de-Valdelagrana-promenade

It is one of the Costa de la Luz beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean.

la-playa-de-valdelagrana

The various cafes, restaurants and pubs dotting the promenade are a telltale sign that this playa can be very busy during summers.

Never on my radar, if truth were told, but thanks to Anton for wanting to visit his roots, I am happy to have made it to Cadiz.  We had the grandest of time chilling as activities get halted every afternoon for siesta.  Nothing beats excellent home cooked meals coupled with fantastic stories shared till the wee hours of the morning.

Useful Info:

Museum of Cadiz (Museo de Cadiz)
Plaza de Mina s/n
11004 Cadiz, Andalusia
+34 8 56105023
+34 8 56105034

Andalusia’s White Town Jaunts

Ruta-de-pueblos-blancos

Between the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz, lodged between the valleys and mountains or clustered high on the hillsides within the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, lies a cornucopia of sleepy white towns and villages.  Traditionally lime-washed but now painted white houses make up these towns.  Known as the Pueblos Blancos, they create a striking contrast amid a backdrop of rugged limestone mountain.

Out of the 6 or 7 noteworthy villages on the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, we managed 3 on a rented Opel.

our-route

After breakfast, from Ronda we headed north via the A428 and found our way to the first village on our route, Setenil de los Bodegas.

Senetil-white-houses

This quaint little village has houses built into rock overhangs above the Rio Trejo, many of which have the rock as its natural roofs and walls.

Setenil structures-built-on-caves

Fetching in an unusual kind of way, this Setenil.

Setenil-narrow-hilly-roads-2

Looking for a place to have a few beers and tapas (as it was nearing lunch time), we discovered that the hilly, winding streets in some parts of town are intimidatingly narrow

Setenil-narrow-hilly-roads

especially if one’s stick shift skills are rusty and the car is rented.

Setenil rocks-make-natural-roof

On Plaza de Andalucia, we found Bar Restaurante Dominguez quietly tucked in a corner of Calle Herreria.

Setenil Restaurante-Dominguez

I don’t remember anymore what drew us there (hunger perhaps) but following the recommendation of the owner, lunch was truly satisfying.

Let me first tell you about this stunning natural park, Sierra de Grazalema.  It was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977 because it has an exceptional variety of flora and fauna.

Grazalema-limestone-mountain-rangesDo you see the eagle perched on the craggy edge of the limestone?

A karstic region set in 51,695 hectares of land that is surrounded by a string of limestone mountain ranges known collectively as… Sierra de Grazalema.  So imagine the spectacular vista of rugged limestone cliffs, and impressive gorges, magnificent forest of rare Spanish firs, and the attractive white towns dotted around the sierra.

Grazalema-from-the-road

The village of Grazalema is located right at the center of its foothills.  A beautiful white town beneath the craggy peak of San Cristobal.

Grazalema-Plaza-Espana

It has its own charm with a simple central square, the Plaza de España, and cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses with wrought ironed railing covered windows.

Grazalema-Iglesia-de-la-Encarnacion-from-afar

The town has two beautiful churches, Iglesia de la Aurora on Plaza de España and Iglesia de la Encarnacion.  It is an ideal base for those who want to hike the sierra.

The last village we managed was the most picturesque among the three and a real must.

Zahara overlooking the lake

At the northern end of the Grazalema Natural Park, this pueblos blanco overlooks the turquoise water of El Embalse, a huge reservoir that dominates the view from the village perched atop a hill.

Zahara-castle-remains

Zahara de la Sierra, once an important Moorish town has the surviving tower of the 12th century Moorish Castle looming over the valley.

Zahara-town-beneath

Scattered below on the slopes are the red-tiled roof whitewashed houses of the village.

This couldn’t be a more outstanding finale to this excursion.  Although we barely scratched the surface, like Ronda, visiting these pueblos blancos gave us a taste of the real Spain, its laid back way of life.

real-spain

Amid such splendor, how can you not stop and smell the flowers?  Cherish its beauty?  Why would you even want to go anywhere?

Useful Info:

Bar Restaurante Dominguez
Plaza de Anadlucia, 11
Setenil de las Bodegas, Cadiz
Contact: +34 956 13 45 31