On Friday November 16, we arrived in Sanlύcar de Barrameda. I forgot to mention in the previous post that as soon as the train went over some hills and into the valley of Seville, we started going through orange groves. The main trees planted along the streets of Sanlύcar are oranges, all beginning to look ripe. I have picked one so far, but I am letting it ripen a little more. There are also palm trees and Norfolk Island pines. Oddly, we have not found any orange marmalade in the stores. The hotel offers apricot jam, and that is the main thing found in the stores. I guess all the marmalade is for the overseas markets.
|Hotel los Helechos|
We came to this town because of a book we read last year called Spanish Recognitions, by Mary Lee Settle. It is a very quirky tale of her travels through Spain at age 82, and her thoughts on Spanish history and character. She ended her travels in Sanlucar, and made it sound very appealing. I just googled her, and she died in 2005 at the age of 86.
|View of river mouth and sea|
We have been in Medieval Spain and in Roman Spain; now we are in modern Spain. This town is about the same size as Rockville, and only a couple of degrees further south, but its climate is moderated by its coastal location on the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. There are, in fact, old buildings here –churches, a castle and a palacio up on the hill above the main town. 500 years ago the river ran quite close to the hill, but what used to be the Marine drive is now a half mile inland. We enjoy walking down to the river and along the beach. During the high season of July and August, the town must be filled with tourists, but right now it is quiet and mostly the natives. The main industry here is sherry. There are dozens of large complexes devoted to creating Manzanilla, which is what you order in the restaurants – una copita de Manzanilla – and not sherry. The sea breeze is supposed to give the wine its local flavor.
|Rooftops and steeples|
We stayed through the weekend at a pleasant hotel with a lovely central courtyard, and then on Wednesday we moved into an apartment where we will stay for 2 weeks. It still amazes me that traveling and staying in apartments has worked out so well on this trip. The ability to cook for ourselves has certainly made the trip more affordable, and an apartment is more pleasant than a hotel for a longer stay. It is also true that Spain, unfortunately, is a really difficult country to eat out in for a vegetarian. I don’t know what they eat at home, but the Spanish certainly seem to expect meat or seafood when they eat out. We have to be careful that there isn’t tuna in the salads. We have eaten a couple of times at a Chinese restaurant.
|Castillo de Santiago|
To begin with, our days were filled with walking around the town squares and down to the beach and wondering where our next meal was coming from. Now that we are settled in, we have gone to some of the highlights. The Castillo de Santiago dates from the 15th century. It is almost completely intact (probably with some reconstruction) and it has to be among the plainest castles I have seen. It was built to withstand artillery, so there is a double wall, and the interior walls are at least 3 feet thick. The keep tower is hexagonal. Queen Isabella is said to have first seen the Atlantic Ocean from its window in 1477.
|Palacio de Orleans-Bourbon|
The other most notable building in the upper, old town is the Orleans-Bourbon Summer Palace from the 19th century, now the town hall. It is a very striking orange and red building with beautiful doors and windows in the neo-mudejar, or Moorish, style. The tour was in Spanish – even if it had been in English, I don’t think I would be clear about what branch of the French royal family lived here and why, but it is a lovely house with very nice gardens.
|Entrance to Palacio|
There will be more to post about the Doñana National Park across the Guadalquivir River and the sherry wine industry. We have decided to return to the US on December 12 for a month or so. On the way to Madrid we will also stop at Granada, so stay tuned!