Tag Archives: flamenco

Spain – a week in Tenerife and La Gomera

Having visited four of the Canary Islands earlier this year on my cruise – and enjoying them much more than I expected – I wasn’t planning to go back to soon; but my old friends Michael and Florence (one of my first former bosses and someone who was a role model as a senior woman in business early in my career) have an apartment in Tenerife where they head for a few months a year to escape the UK Winter – and who can blame them. They kindly invited me over for week.

Arriving in Tenerife by air – rather than via ship – gives a bird’s eye view of Mount Teide which dominates the island and was the place I spent my day on my last visit. There was a tiny smattering of snow on the top but that was all gone within 24 hours!

Mount Teide from the plane

I had to blink twice to make sure I hadn’t stumbled into Sydney Harbour by mistake when we visited the exterior of this extraordinary but nevertheless familiar looking building. It is the Audtorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz and the local symphony orchestra is housed here. It’s very popular with locals and tourists alike and even Bill Clinton has visited. No Surpise that Santa Cruz is often referred to as “the Sydney of the Atlantic”.

Auditorio de Tenerife

In the village of Candelaria is a well known Basilica – created long ago when a wood carved Madonna and child was washed up on the shore in the 1300s. The local Guanches and then the catholics took ownership of it. No-one could trace where it came from but it was seen as a sign so the Catholics subsequently built a basilica. In the 1800s a tsunami hit the basilica which is right by the sea and the carving was washed away and never seen since. Spooky or what?

Next to the church are 9 magnificent statues of the Guanches (the indigenous race on the islands before the Spanish came in) which represent the kings from that dynasty. They look really good in that setting and each one has different things in their hands to denote their area of expertise.

Statues of Los Guanches

It’s not Spain if you don’t head off to a flamenco show. I’ve seen a few but this was very good because it was non traditional – very cool costumes and choreography. After the first three photos I got told not to take any more. Oh well.

A bit of flamenco

Michael and Florence organised for us to take the ferry from Los Christianos to La Gomera (one of the lesser known of the 7 (now 8 they have a new one now) Canary Islands so I was pleased to visit one I hadn’t seen before.

La Gomera is very pretty and far less developed than many of the other islands – a great place for hiking (and no of course I was not hiking!) but others do apparently. Christopher Columbus also landed here enroute to his discoveries – a man I admire for his tenacity in exploring uncharted parts of the world (and in far less comfort than I do!)

Around and about the island of La Gomera

An overview of La Gomera with its colourful houses and the local church

Street scenes from San Sebastián the capital of La Gomera

We also stayed in a parador – the historical hotels owned by the Spanish Government which are always really well designed and in exceptional spots.

Views and grounds of the parador in La Gomera

The white building perched top left is the parador

We ended our trip with another good meal at the parador – preceded by a drink at the bar!

Florence, Michael and me!

Back in Tenerife we stopped by Los Gigantes – the name of the town and the enormous cliffs at its edge that just fall into the ocean. Majestic.

Los Gigantes – the town and the cliffs

And so after a week of sunshine and warmth – just four hours flight from cold and rainy London it was time to leave again. And here are my last views as I flew off (I do so love flying and seeing the world from above)

Up above the sky so high….

Spain, Seville – doing some usual and not so usual touristy things – River Cruise, Convent, Cadiz and St Nicholas Night and a little flamenco in the street.

The nice thing about staying in a place for a month is that you get time to visit the less obvious places in and around the city – so that’s what I’ve been doing a bit of while in Seville.

Still beautiful weather so decided to do the tourist one hour boat on the Guadalquivir River and see the sights from a different angle.

This shows the theatre and bull ring and also the rather odd and singular skyscraper in Seville. Nothing is supposed to be taller than the Giralda Tower but somehow this one got through a few years ago – very controversial. I assume some money changed hands somewhere along the way?

Until relatively recently there was only one bridge across the river – so the boat men made a killing – but now there are 7 of them. Top right was designed in the Eiffel school style – the others were build for the 1992 Expo.

The Golden Tower by the river seems to have many myths attached to it including that it once actually housed gold. I don’t think so. As you can see it is certainly not made of or covered in gold. I think the second pic has the answer as when it is reflected in the river it looks like liquid gold.

Thanks to my friend Sue I found a tucked away monastery – which actually is full of nuns – but anyway it was a delightful place that I nearly missed. It is called the Monasterio Santa Paula and has a church, museum, peaceful garden and the nuns sell their cookies and jam – very common in Spain and much prized. Yet another nice quiet corner in Seville

Also took the bus – yes really I am becoming very good at them – to Cadiz – 1.45 minutes from Seville. At last I got to see the sea -seems strange to be in Spain for this long and not to see it. It has a nice cathedral (simpler than most but no pics allowed) and it was pleasant to stroll along the beachside waterfront. It also has the remains of a Roman amphitheatre. I ate some great tapas but other than that – not the most exciting spot.

On my return from Cadiz, Seville was in mayhem as a million people appeared to have descended on the place – turns out it was St Nicholas Day Night – so lots going on plus this is a holiday weekend for constitution Day so no doubt more to follow but here is a taste.

And finally it is hard to go anywhere without seeing a bit of flamenco. I was especially taken with this lady – her dancing and her dress

Spain, The Sherry Triangle – Sanlúcar de Barremeda, Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria – plus art and flamenco!

Just enjoyed an interesting side trip from Estepona – visiting the three towns of the sherry triangle which is the only official part of the world where the wine made can be called sherry (or in the case of Sanlúcar de Barremeda Manzanilla which is a different version again).

I have learned that sherry is wine that is aged differently and for much longer. There are three main kinds (although actually about nine) all from a white grape – fino (dry and my favourite); amontillado (medium sweet) and ollorosso (sweet) – the darker colours of the latter two come from the aging process and oxidization (fino never sees the air as it is covered by a layer of yeast while it ferments) and most sherries age between 7 years minimum and up to 30 for some.

Anyway enough of the technical stuff – the towns we visited were all interesting to see and also include many bodegas where you can taste all kinds of sherries (plus a few brandies too)

Below is Sanlúcar de Barremeda – downtown and the seaside (a ten minute walk away). Very pretty.

This was our first bodegas visit. You can see the barrels are only partially filled to give room to the yeast to ferment on the top.

Then on to Jerez which is the largest of the three towns and has the most bodegas with names some of you will know – Croft, Timo Pepe and Gonzalez Byas. A visit to the local market was colourful.

The bodegas in Jerez is called Tradicion and that is because everything is done by hand – including the bottling. At this bodega there is an unexpected bonus of being able to see the (obviously wealthy) owner’s art collection. Yes that is a tile by Picasso and paintings by El Greco and Murillo.

In Jerez we also visited a traditional and very authentic flamenco show. Started at 10pm of course! We were just about the only non Spaniards there and it was amazing. Tiny bar, tiny stage and fantastic music and dancing. And as a contrast we visited the world famous Spanish Riding School and training centre – unfortunately no photos of the show allowed but suffice to say those riders and their horses are very well trained. And the last of the jacaranda trees too.

Of course Jerez has a cathedral which is as always in this part of the world impressive and very full of silver and gold!

And also a Small Alcázar in moorish style

We didn’t see much of interest in El Puerto de Santa Maria but we ate an amazing selection of tapas at Bespoke – worth it just for that!

Spain, Seville – sidebars. The Santa Cruz (Jewish Quarter) old town; the Juderia de Sevilla; Flamenco and The “Mushroom”; Marie Louisa Park

Seville is a special place to wander around so this post is some of the places I’ve seen outside and in on my wanderings.

Firstly the old town or Jewish Quarter or Santa Cruz as it is known is the place to hang out day and night for lovely narrow lanes, tapas bars and people watching.

I visited the Museo de Juderia which i stumbled on in this area as my family have Spanish Jewish origins. It is a tiny place and a bit pricy to get in but for those interested in this topic, worth a visit. I especially liked reading about this lady who had a mysterious story as you can see and then they tell you three different versions of what she really did – you will have to visit to find out what they are. She is a very arresting looking woman

I always do an open topped bus tour at the start of a visit to a new place (sorry Emma!) – it helps me get my bearings and figure out where I want to go back to for a closer look. Below is a selection of monuments along the way.

A much more recent monument is the Mushroom for obvious reasons. A bit like Federation Square in Melbourne it violently split opinion when it opened but also like Fed Square people seem to have become used to it. I think it is pretty cool – especially at night.

In Seville the two traditional things to do are visit a bullfight and a flamenco. I restricted my bullfight viewing to the outside of the massive bullring but I did enjoy an evening of flamenco – that is to say the dancing is amazing but I do not like the songs that go with it – too screechlike for me after the nice tones of Fado in Portugal. But to watch those feet move at the speed they do is something that has to be seen to be believed. And yes that is Mozart below – think he must have lived in or liked Seville? Well who wouldn’t?

I am staying near the stunning Maria Louisa Park – and I walk through it every day ato get into town – perfect start to the day. I am also obsessed with jacaranda trees which are in full bloom at the moment.