• Limon

    A beautiful family room which opens onto the main patio area overlooking our gorgeous citrus trees and access to our pool area.

  • Aceituna

    A beautiful family room which opens onto the main patio area overlooking our gorgeous citrus trees and access to our pool area.

  • Naranja

    A fantastic couples room which opens onto the main patio area overlooking our gorgeous citrus trees and access to our pool area.

News Area


22 Apr

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For most of my guests a visit to Ronda is a must. Only an hour or so from here along beautiful mountain roads it is worth the spectacular drops you see along the way. Some guests find it scary but most enjoy the ride!

Main sights

There are three bridges:

Puente Romano (“Roman Bridge”, also known as the Puente San Miguel).                Puente Viejo (“Old Bridge”, also known as the Puente Árabe or “Arab Bridge”) and    Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”).                                                                                              All the bridges span the spectacular canyon you see in the photo. The term “nuevo” is a bit of a misnomer as the building of this bridge commenced in 1751 and took until 1793 to complete. The Puente Nuevo is the tallest of the bridges, towering 120 metres (390 ft) above the canyon floor. All three serve as some of the city’s most impressive features.

The ‘Corrida Goyesca’ is a unique and historical bullfight that takes place once a year in NeoclassicalRonda in the Plaza de toros. This is the oldest bullring in Spain. It was built in 1784 by the architect Jose Martin de Aldehuela who also designed the Puente Nuevo.

The partially intact Baños árabes (“Arab baths”) are found below the city and date back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

The former town hall, which sits next to the Puente Nuevo, is the site of a parador (Government owned top class hotel chain), and has a view of the Tajo canyon to die for. I always sit there with a coffee on the terrace looking out over all that history and amazing landscape.

Cultural influence

American artists Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent many summers in Ronda as part-time residents of Ronda’s old town quarter called La Ciudad. Both wrote about Ronda’s beauty and famous bull-fighting traditions. Their collective accounts have contributed to Ronda’s popularity over time.

In the first decades of the 20th century the famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke spent extended periods in Ronda. There he kept a permanent room at the Hotel Reina Victoria (built in 1906) where his room remains to this day as he left it, a mini-museum of Rilkeana. According to the hotel’s publicity, Rilke wrote (though probably not in Spanish) “He buscado por todas partes la ciudad soñada, y al fin la he encontrado en Ronda” and “No hay nada más inesperado en España que esta ciudad salvaje y montañera” (“I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda” and “There is nothing that is more startling in Spain than this wild and mountainous city.”)

Hemingway’s novel ‘For whom the bell tolls’ describes the execution of Nationalist sympathizers early in the Spanish Civil War. The Republicans murder the Nationalists by throwing them from cliffs in an Andalusian village, and Hemingway allegedly based the account on killings that took place in Ronda at the cliffs of El Tajo.

Orson Welles said he was inspired by his frequent trips to Spain and Ronda (e.g. his unfinished film about Don Quixote). After he died in 1985, his ashes were buried in a well located on the rural property of his friend, the retired bullfighter Antonio Ordoñez.

English writer George Eliot’s book Daniel Deronda (“Daniel of Ronda”) tells the story of a Spanish Jew brought up as an Englishman. There has been some speculation that Eliot’s ancestors may have lived in Ronda prior to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

In the fashion world, Italian designer Giorgio Armani specially designed the bullfighting costume called ‘Goyesco’ for famed bullfighter Cayetano Rivera Ordonez on the occasion of the ‘Corrida Goyesca’ that took place on September 6, 2009, in Ronda. Cayetano’s suit of lights was in the Goyaesque style, comprising a jacket, trousers and cloak in techno-satin. The three pieces are embroidered with sequins, small glitter stones and thread, all matching the colour of the background fabric.

As you can tell there is a huge literary influence in Ronda and there are many beautiful buildings to see. Try and park in the square by the Tourist Information Centre and get details of houses which open to the public for an insight into how the rich and famous lived here in a bygone era. A day is not quite enough but you can see all the highlights.

Tapas- the little dishes of Spain

18 Apr

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One of the main attractions for my guests visiting Spain is the gastronomy. For those ‘foodies’ amongst you there is nothing more interesting than trying the food of a country. I often cater for large groups and will do a ‘Spanish night’ with tapas to start followed by paella (the National dish of Spain) all washed down with sangria or as is more common in these parts- tinto de verano. This is a headier version of sangria with red wine, gaseosa (this is like a lemonade/tonic fizzy drink), sweet martini and a tot of Spanish brandy. Yes, a good night is generally had by all!

I thought you might appreciate a potted explanation of tapas and their origin.

Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chipirones, which are griddled baby squid cooked with sea salt, garlic and olive oil). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into a sophisticated cuisine.  Patrons of tapas can order many different ones and combine them to make a full meal.


Tapas bar and restaurant 

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”.

The original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo,, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

Tapas have evolved through Spanish history by incorporating ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. When Spain was invaded by the Romans they introduced the olive and irrigation methods. The invasion of the North African Moors in the 8th century brought almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The influence of their 700-year presence remains today, especially in Andalucia. The discovery of the New World brought the introduction oftomatoes, peppers, corn and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain’s beautiful climate.

There are many tapas competitions throughout Spain. There is only one National Tapas competiton, which is celebrated every year in November. Since 2008, the City of Valladolid and the International School of Culinary Arts have celebrated the International Tapas Competition for Culinary Schools. Various schools from around the world come to Spain annually to compete for the best tapa concept.

There are several explanations for why “tapa” has come to denote a type of food:

  • As mentioned above, a commonly cited explanation is that an item, be it bread or a flat card, etc., would often be placed on top of a drink to protect it from fruit flies; at some point it became a habit to top this “cover” with a snack.
  • It is also commonly said that since one would be standing while eating a tapa in traditional Spanish bars, they would need to place their plates on top of their drinks to eat, making it a top.
  • Some believe the name originated sometime around the 16th century when tavern owners from Castile la Mancha found out that the strong taste and smell of mature cheese could help disguise that of bad wine, thus “covering” it, and started offering free cheese when serving cheap wine.
  • Others believe the tapas tradition began when king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health, the king ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine to customers unless it was accompanied by a small snack or “tapa”.
  • Another popular explanation says that King Alfonso XIII stopped by a famous tavern in Cadiz where he ordered a cup of wine. The waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king, to protect the wine from the beach sand, as Cádiz is a windy place. The king, after drinking the wine and eating the tapa, ordered another wine “with the cover”.
  • A final possibility surrounds Felipe III who passed a law in an effort to curb rowdy drunken behaviour, particularly among soldiers and sailors. The law stated that when one purchased a drink, the bartender was to place over the mouth of the mug or goblet a cover or lid containing some small quantity of food as part of the purchase of the beverage. The hope being that the food would slow the effects of the alcohol, and fill the stomach to prevent over imbibing.

Tapas and jamon hanging from the ceiling

In Spain dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 p.m.. (sometimes as late as midnight), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often go “bar hopping” and eat tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. Since lunch is usually served between 2 and 4 p.m., another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before proper lunch at home.

It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have 8 t to 12 different kinds of tapas in warming trays with glass partitions covering the food. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in plentiful amounts of olive oil. Often, one or more of the choices is seafood (mariscos), often including anchovies, sardines or mackerel in olive oil. squid or others in a tomato-based sauce, sometimes with the addition of red or green peppers. It is rare to see a tapas selection that does not include one or more types of olives, such as Manzanillo or Arbequina olives. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.

In some parts of Andalucia a tapa will be served free with wine, sherry or beer. In several cities, entire zones are dedicated to tapas bars, each one serving its own unique dish.

Sometimes you may see pinchos tapas. These have a pincho (toothpick) through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the slice of bread and to keep track of the number of tapas the customer has eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shapes or have toothpicks of different sizes. The price of a single tapa ranges from one to two euros. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera “flag”), in part because some of them resemble the colourfulspears used in bullfighting.

Tapas can be “upgraded” to bigger portions, equivalent to half a dish (media ración) or a whole one (ración). This is generally more economical when tapas are being ordered by more than one person. The portions are usually shared by diners, and a meal made up of raciones resembles a Chinese dim sum or Middle Eastern mezze.


  • Aceitunas: olives,sometimes with a filling of anchovies or red pepper
  • Albóndigas: meatballs with sauce
  • Allioli “garlic and oil or garlic mayonnaise”. Served on bread or with boiled or grilled potatoes, fish, meat or vegetables.
  • Bacalao: salted cod loin sliced very thinly, usually served with bread and tomatoes
  • Banderillas, or pinchos de encurtidos, are cold tapas made from small food items pickled in vinegar and skewered together. They are also known as gildas or piparras and consist of pickled items, like olives, baby onions, baby cucumbers, chilles (guindilla) with pieces of pepper and other vegetables. Sometimes they include an anchovy.
  • Boquerones: white anchovies served in vinegar or deep fried
  • Calamares or rabas: rings of battered squid
  • Carne mechada: slow-cooked, tender beef
  • Chipirones: battered and fried tiny squid, also known as puntillitas
  • Chorizo al vino: chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine
  • Chorizo a la sidra: chorizo sausage slowly cooked in cider
  • Croquetas: various varieties of breaded croquette with a filling of ham, cheese, fish and potato
  • Empanadas: large or small pastries filled with meats and vegetables
  • Ensaladilla rusa: “(little) Russian salad”, made with mixed boiled vegetables with tuna, boiled egg, olives and mayonnaise
  • Gambas: sauted prawns in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers)
  • Mejillones rellenos: stuffed mussels
  • Patatas bravas or papas bravas: fried potato dices served with salsa brava- a spicy tomato sauce and allioli
  • Pulpo alla Gallego : Octopus pieces seasoned with substantial amounts of paprika giving it its recognisable red color, and sea salt for texture and flavour.
  • Pincho moruno (Moorish spike): a stick with spicy meat, made of pork, lamb or chicken
  • Queso con anchoas: The World famous Spanish Manchego cured cheese (like a mature cheddar )with anchovies on top
  • Setas al Ajillo: fresh mushrooms sauteed with olive oil and garlic.
  • Solomillo al whisky: fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky (obviously!) and olive oil
  • Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omlette, not the Mexican meaning of bread!): a type of omelette containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion
  • Tortillitas de camarones: battered prawn fritters

Just a small selection of these delicious mouthfuls. Try as many as you can. They are cheap and delicious. I rarely have a meal in a restaurant. I prefer a selection of these little dishes and for friends and family it is a delight to be able to taste a variety of flavours of the Mediterranean.

El Rocio- the pilgramage in the heart of the Donana National Park

14 Apr

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The pilgrimage to El Rocio is spectacular, it feels like you have been transported to a bygone age. © Michelle Chaplow

If you are looking for something different to do you really must go to El Rocio.

The El Rocío pilgrimage is the most famous in this region, attracting nearly a million people from across Andalucia and the entire country, and beyond. Every Andalucian city, town and village has its own pilgramage for its patron saint, virgin or other much-loved local figure. But the El Rocio has cult status, and is the most important and most colourful. It follows on from Easter, Semana Santa, in March/April and the various spring ferias, of which Seville’s April Festival is the largest.


This event dates back to the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Villamanrique (or Almonte, depending on which version of the story you follow) discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in theDonana National Park. A chapel was built where the tree stood, and it became a place of pilgrimage. Devotion to this particular version of the Virgin was initially a local affair. Then, by the 17th century,hermandades (brotherhoods) were making the trip from nearby towns at Pentecost. By the 19th century, they came from all over Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, on a journey taking up to four days. Over the next century, the cult of the Virgin del Rocio became more and more widespread, and these days participants come from as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands – not to mention tourists who travel from abroad, around Europe and even further afield.


The object of the pilgrimage is the13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew). El Rocio is in Huelva province, in the heart of the Doñana park, between Almonte and the coast so a visit to the Nature Reserve can be enhanced with a stopover in this very interesting village. Most pilgrims, known as rocieros, approach the town through the park itself.

The town is a sprawling, pretty Wild-West-style place (you tie your horse to a wooden rail with a sign saying “Reservado Caballos” – reserved for horses – while you have a drink or a meal), with sandy, unpaved roads (easier on the hooves). For a few days in late May or early June, Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and countless others flock to pay tribute to the Virgin del Roció, housed in her own church in the town.

Until the 1950s the town had only a few houses, and everyone camped in their wagons. Now, each of the 90 or so brotherhoods has its own house with stables, as well as its own chapel, with its name displayed at the front. Its members and their friends and families, and their horses, eat and sleep here during the pilgrimage weekend. People bring mattresses and bed down anywhere they can. There are impromptu parties, open-air masses, horse races and competitions between the hermandades. There is lots of singing and dancing, at all hours of the day and night. These brotherhoods also stay at their houses at weekends throughout the year, with their families in tow, making each visit into a big fiesta.

The pilgrimage takes place over the weekend before Pentecost Monday, the seventh weekend after Easter. Ask me for the dates if you are interested. People start arriving on the Friday before, and leave again on Tuesday. Beware of heavy traffic going to El Rocio (on the Seville-Huelva motorway, and the minor roads in the area) the week before, and leaving again the week after. The actual pilgrims don’t travel on the motorway itself, but follow a route which sometimes goes alongside it – the queue of horses and wagons, surrounded by clouds of dust snakes back for miles.


Every late May, or early June, in villages and cities across Andalucia (especially the western part), you can see the locals gear up their covered wagons and don traditional Andalucian clothing – broad-brimmed hats and traje corto for men (grey, brown or black trousers, often with Western-style leather chaps, and boots), and flamenco dresses for women – a slightly different style, with a fuller skirt than the fitted Feria dresses – to head off to the El Roció shrine, accompanied by their own virgin on her simpecado (float).

Some still make the journey the traditional way, on horseback, or in picturesque gypsy-style covered wagons (reminiscent of the Wild West), adorned with flowers (either real or imitation), with curtains tied back, offering a glimpse of the interior. These are pulled by pairs of oxen, whose yokes have decorated leather headpieces, and bells hanging round their necks. It is a spectacular sight – one not to be missed if you are in the area (especially Western Andalucia) that week. In Seville, for example, groups of horse-riders (men are called jinetes, women amazonas) and processions of gypsy caravans from the Seville brotherhoods, gather by the cathedral on the Wednesday morning before, as they prepare to set off on their pilgrimage to El Rocio. They return the following Wednesday. Other hermandades leave from all over Andalucia, earlier in the week.

There are three main, traditional routes, and most hermandades, wherever they are arriving from, eventually join one of these. These depart from Triana (Sevilla, to the north-east), Sanlucar de Barrameda (south), and Huelva (west).

People also travel in big trailers pulled by tractors, ideally with shade as it can get very hot, as well as lots of food and drink. The rocieros sit on benches along the sides of the trailers, including many children who go on the pilgrimage every year. The more practical and comfortable, though less attractive, option is a big white caravan, with the same curved roof as the traditional models, complete with air-con and running water. This is pulled by a 4×4, as the route takes rocieros through the Doñana park, including several river crossings, so a tough vehicle is essential.

Along my road every year I can watch the beautifully decorated traditional gypsy caravans, some pulled by horses, others by tractor and the more wealthy by 4×4 luxury cars! The town itself is virtually a ghost town out of season.

Everyone sings rocieras (flamenco-style songs about the pilgrimage) as they travel, and again at night around the campfire when the hermandades have stopped to eat, drink and dance and make merry, accompanied by plenty of wine. It is alleged by some that the annual baby boom which happens nine months after El Rocio always includes offspring produced as a result of extra-marital dalliances!!!

To reach the shrine, pilgrims must cross part of the Doñana park, which is a protected area full of rare wildlife, including the famous lynx wild boar, horses, and many water birds on the marisma (wetlands) such as flamingos, herons, storks and egrets. Law enforcement is well organised, with Guardia Civil and others working hard not only to keep order, but also to protect the environment. Fire is a special concern, as this event is one long party involving copious amounts of drinking and smoking. Information campaigns combine with round-the-clock surveillance in order to keep both participants and Doñana safe every year. Volunteers follow the rocieros to collect the thousands of kilos of rubbish left behind!


In the early hours of Pentecost Monday, the Virgin is brought out of her church by the Almonte hermandad, who claim her as their own. A tussle ensues between the various other brotherhoods for the honour of carrying her to the next chapel, and so she journeys around the town, visiting all the hermandades‘ chapels, for the rest of the day. Popularly known as La Paloma Blanca (the White Dove), she is an object of massive veneration in Andalucia, and huge crowds push and shove just to get the chance to touch the glass case in which the Virgin sits, as she sways dangerously from side to side. People even lift small babies up to touch her. This remarkable, chaotic event is always televised by Canal Sur, the Andalucian regional TV station.


If you are not able to go on the El Rocio pilgrimage, the town of El Rocio itself is worth a visit at any time of the year. The modern church of Nuestra Señora del Rocio, dating from the 1960s, is a stunning sight when viewed from across the water (stop off at the restaurant by the entrance to the town), where the dazzling white sanctuary stand out like a beacon against the verdant green of the marisma, inhabited by wild horses, and the deep blue of the sky.

Equestrians will find plenty of shops offering riding gear, from (Western-style) tack, to all kinds of hats and boots, leather bags and woollen shawls, as well as flamenco dresses. If the wooden houses with verandas looks familiar, it’s because the Spanish pioneers took their style of architecture with them from Andalucia when they sailed to North America. All my American visitors take note. It will be great to tell ‘kinfolk’ about your visit to the Wild West.


Setenil de las Bodegas in Cadiz region of Andalucia, Spain

10 Apr

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On my Facebook page today a friend posted about this amazing town. I had to investigate for you and the following is what I found out. I lived in the Granada region for many years in the Sierra Nevada mountains about 3 hours drive from my place in Seville and there is a town there called Guadix which has an extensive cave dwelling history. But I didn’t realise there was a similar one so close to me here.

Setenil de las Bodegas is a town (pueblo) in the province of Cadiz, famous for its dwellings built into rock overhangs above the Rio (river) Trejo. The town  has a population of only 3,016 inhabitants. It has an exact antipodal city: Auckland, New Zealand

This small town (pueblo) is located 157 kilometres (98 miles) northeast of Cadiz. It has a distinctive setting along a narrow river gorge. The town extends along the course of the Rio Trejo with some houses being built into the rock walls of the gorge itself, created by enlarging natural caves or overhangs and adding an external wall.

Street in Setenil

Modern Setenil evolved from a fortified Moorish town that occupied a bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the Rio Trejo northwest of Ronda. The castle dates from at least the Almohad period in the 12th century. However, the site was certainly occupied during the Roman invasion of the region in the 1st century AD. Setenil was once believed to be the successor of the Roman town of Laccipo, but it was subsequently proved that Laccipo became the town of Casares in Malaga.

Given the evidence of other nearby cave-dwelling societies, such as those at the Cueva de la Pileta west of Ronda, where habitation has been tracked back more than 25,000 years, it is possible that Setenil was occupied much much earlier. Most evidence of this would have been erased by continuous habitation.

Tradition holds that the town’s Castilian name came from the Roman Latin phrase septem nihil (‘seven times nothing’). This is said to refer to the Moorish town’s resistance to Christian assault, allegedly being captured only after seven sieges. This took place in the final years of the Christian reconquest. Besieged unsuccessfully in 1407, Setenil finally fell in 1484 when Christian forces expelled the Moorish occupants. Using gunpowder artillery, the Christians took fifteen days to capture the castle whose ruins dominate the town today.

Due to the strategic importance of Setenil, the victory was celebrated widely in Castile and was the source of several legends in local folklore. Isabella I of Castile is said to have aborted during the siege with the ermita (chapel) of San Sebastian being built as a tribute to the dead child, who was named Sebastian. However, there appears to be no historical basis to this story.

The full name of Setenil de las Bodegas dates from the 15th century, when new Christian settlers, in addition to maintaining the Arab olive and almond groves, introduced vineyards. The first two crops still flourish in the district but the once flourishing wineries—bodegas— were wiped out by the phylloxera insect infestation, which effectively destroyed most European vine stocks.

Over the intervening centuries, Setenil also gained a reputation for its meat products, particularly chorizo sausage and cerdo (pork) from pigs bred in the surrounding hills. As well as meat, it has a reputation for producing fine pasteles (pastries), and its bars and restaurants are among the best in the region. Its outlying farms also provide Ronda and other local towns with much of their fruit and vegetables.

So now you know all about it, when you visit the more famous towns of Ronda or Cadiz or Jerez de la Frontera why don’t you do a slight detour and obtain some fascinating photos to wow your friends with! Enjoy.

Moron de la Frontera- the little USA in the heart of Andalucia

7 Apr

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Only 12km. from my Bed and Breakfast lies a very interesting little town which is certainly worth passing through on your way to Ronda, Cadiz or any of the more well known tourist venues. The shops are good, there are lovely coffee shops and bars and plenty of historic sites.

This whitewashed hilltop town rises above the rolling patchwork plain of La Campiña like a mirage. This was once an important centre of a Moorish taifa (state). It is dominated by its ruined Medieval castle, with several impressive churches dotted around its narrow pretty streets.

On the border of Cadiz and Seville provinces, Morón de la Frontera was in an important defensive position and its castle was one of the most important in the area. Later it became home to the nobility, when the duchy of Osuna made it a residence and adorned it with marble fittings and artesanado coffered ceilings. The castle was almost destroyed by the French in 1812. Visit the nearby Paseo del Gallo, a small square with great views over the town.

Declared a site of cultural interest, the Iglesia (church) de San Miguel has an ornate Baroque portal designed by Diego Antonio Díaz and a 17th-century bell tower, built on the site of a Moorish minaret, modelled along the lines of Seville cathedral’s Giralda. San Ignacio church dates from the early 18th century and has an impressive Baroque portal, carved from sandstone. Inside is a collection of large oil religious paintings by the Flemish painter Peter van Lint.

This is one of the sculptures on a traffic island in the town. There are a few of these whimsical structures so look out for them.

The American influence comes from the placement on the outskirts of town of the largest American USAF base in Europe. Once in a while a fighter jet used to pass my place overhead but they must have changed the path as I no longer see them. Shame. I quite liked to see these amazing planes hitting the sound barrier and gone in a flash. Morón’s massive flight line, in-ground aircraft refuelling system, long runway and prime location on the Iberian peninsuls close to the Mediterranean and the Middle East means the base is a vital link in any operation moving east from the USA.

In 1984, Morón became a NASA Space Shuttle Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site in support of the space shuttle program. Special navigation and landing aids are in place, and personnel are highly trained to recover landing of the orbiter vehicle. In addition, launch periods during the 1980s saw U.S. Air Force personnel deployed to Morón to provide on-site weather support, coordinating efforts with local Spanish weather personnel. My online weather forecast comes from there and is very reliable.

Visit the town in July when its annual flamenco festival is in full swing, one of the best known of its kind and known as Gazpacho Andaluz. Established in 1963, it features flamenco baile (dance) and cante (song) and serves gazpacho, the typical Andalucian chilled tomato soup. For those who think chilled soup is ‘yuk’ don’t knock it until you try it. Think of it more as liquidised salad! Very refreshing on a boiling hot Andalucian day.

Sherry production in Jerez de la Frontera- how the DO (Denomination of origin) was established

4 Apr

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Spanish Wine - Wine Tours Bodegas Insulares Tenerife

I know that sherry has been out of favour for many years but has recently started to make a comeback and is no longer associated with older ladies who only have a small sherry once a year at Christmas! I thought readers might be interested in how sherry came to be and a little about it’s qualities. I hope you find this as interesting as I did when I started to research it.

The Andalucian Jerez (sherry) is produced mainly in areas of Cadiz and Seville, in what is called “El Marco de Jerez” (the Sherry Mark). The DO (denomination of origin) Jerez was established in 1933 . The production of Jerez in these parts is so deeply rooted that it has become an indelible part of Spain’s culture and many an evening can be whiled away with a cool glass of fino sherry and a heated discussion of football. In Seville, there’s nothing more typical than having a mid-morning appetizer with a cold serving of Fino.

The story behind the creation of Jerez is intertwined with the history of Spanish wine making. Jerez is one of the oldest wines in the world and today’s product is as a consequence of the influence of many civilizations: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, Spanish and British, who all contributed to create the well known and loved drink.

Cadiz, the home of Jerez wine, was founded somewhere around the 9th century by the Phoenecians, and its main function was as a trading post. The great climate and the love of the Phoenicians for wine pushed them to plant vines in their new settlement, as did the Greeks when they arrived. Little did they know that Spanish wine would become an intrinsic part of Spanish culture even in cities as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands. In 206 b.C., when the Romans got there after three centuries of Carthage ruling, Cadiz was positively overflowing with vines. Romans liked their wine very much, and thus they began to exploit the vineyards and to export them to the whole of the Roman Empire, where it became known as “Wine from Ceret”.

Spanish Wine - DO Jerez

Roman rule was superseded by the Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula (which around this time was known as Hispania) where they stayed until the Reconquest. The rules of the Koran prohibit Muslims to drink any kind of alcoholic beverage, but production continued for medicinal and trading purposes with non-Muslim neighbours. The Muslims also changed the name of the city from Ceret to Sherish, which later, when Alfonso X reconquered Cadiz in 1264, becameJerez de la Frontera (Jerez of the Border) as it was on the frontier between the Christian and the Muslim domains.

Jerez and Cadiz became the starting point for many of the exploration voyages to the New World and the East Indies, and wine was the star export aboard the ships It was used for trading and for personal consumption during the long voyages. During the 16th and 17th centuries, English piracy was pretty common and the Jerez cellars in Cadiz were sacked multiple times. Although not very god for the merchants, this proved to be the key to the spreading of Jerez wines in England, where it was a very coveted product.

During the 19th century fakes started appearing. The wine makers of the Jerez region wanted regulations imposed so only they could produce it. Thus in 1891 the “Convenio de Madrid” (Agreement of Madrid) issued a series of protection decrees that specified the geographic origin of Jerez. This was the first step towards the creation of the DO which was officially established in 1933.

Modern day Jerez

“El Marco de Jerez” is divided in two different areas: the production area (Jerez, Sanlúcar, El Puerto de Santa María, Trebujena, Chiclana, Puerto Real, Rota, Chipiona and Lebrija) and the ageing area (Jerez, Sanlúcar and El Puerto de Santa María). The only grapes allowed for the production of the wines of the DO Jerez are those that come from the production area. The most popular varieties of grape in the DO Jerez wines are: Palomino Fino (95% of production), Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. Spanish classes of grape have a very distinctive flavour, which is why Jerez wines are still produced with them instead of integrating new ones.

Spanish Wine - DO Jerez

The ageing of sherry is a very unique process. The wines under this designation of origin have very strict guidelines: The juice extracted from the carefully selected grapes (which are harvested in September) is poured into stainless steel deposits, where it goes through the fermentation process. When this is done (around December), the grape juice has turned into white wine with an alcohol content of around 12 degrees. On top of this wine, a layer of yeast has formed, called flor, while the sediments of the juice have fallen to the bottom.

Once this is done, the sommeliers decide the next course for each wine depending on the characteristics they show at this stage. This is the fortification stage where they raise the alcohol content in the wines to make them ready for ageing in oak barrels.

The ageing process of the wines from the DO Jerez that takes place in oak barrels is called criaderas y soleras. The oak barrels containing the wine are organized by their age (oldest at the bottom, youngest at the top), and small quantities of the older wines are poured into the younger wines and vice versa. This unifies all the wines, and specially helps the youngest wines achieve the quality expected of the wines from the DO Jerez, which have to be aged for a minimum of three years to be considered part of this designation of origin. It is a very arduous process, but the taste, evocative of Spanish summers, is so worth it!

There are several types of wines under the Jerez designation of origin, and the most popular ones are:

  • Fino: Dry wine with a pale yellow colour and an almond flavour, between 15%-18% of alcohol content.
  • Manzanilla: Dry wine with a paler colour than the Fino variety. The main difference between them is that the Manzanilla is exclusive to Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla has between 15%-19% of alcohol content.
  • Amontillado: Dry wine with a deep amber colour, hazelnut flavour and an alcohol content of between 16%-22%.
  • Oloroso: Dry, with a full body, deep mahogany colour and a hazelnut flavour. Alcohol content: 17%-22%.
  • Palo cortado: Dry, full bodied, hazelnut flavour and brilliant mahogany in colour. This kind is hard to come by because the grapes used for its production died out due to a plague in 1894. Alcohol content: 17%-22%.
  • Pedro Ximénez: Sweet and soft, tastes like raisins and dark mahogany in colour.
  • Moscatel: Very sweet, deep mahogany colour.


1 Apr

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You may find it odd that there is a Youtube link at the head of this page but bear with me!

Cadiz is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in all south western Europe. It has been a principal home port of the Spanish Armada (NAVY) since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century. The city is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network and is also the site of the University of Cadiz.

Despite its unique site — on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea — Cadiz is, in most respects, a typically Andalucian city with a wealth of attractive vistas and well preserved historical landmarks. The older part of Cadiz, within the remnants of thecity walls is commonly referred to as the Old Town (Casco Antiguo). It is characterised by the antiquity of its various quarters (barrios), among them El PópuloLa Viña, and Santa María, which present a marked contrast to the newer areas of town. While the Old City’s street plan consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas, newer areas of Cadiz typically have wide avenues and more modern buildings. In addition, the city is dotted with numerous parks where exotic plants flourish, including giant trees supposedly brought to Spain by Colombus from the New World.

Among the many landmarks of historical and scenic interest in Cadiz, a few stand out. The city can boast of an unusual cathedral of various architectural styles, a theatre, an old municipal building, an 18th-century watchtower, a vestige of the ancient city wall, an ancient Roman theatre, and electrical pylons of an eye-catchingly modern design carrying cables across the Bay of Cádiz. The old town is characterised by narrow streets connecting squares (plazas), bordered by the sea and by the city walls. Most of the landmark buildings are situated in the plazas.


The old town of Cadiz is one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe and is packed with narrow streets. The old town benefits though from several striking plazas, which are enjoyed by citizens and tourists alike. These are Plaza de MinaPlaza San AntonioPlaza de CandelariaPlaza de San Juan de Dios and Plaza de España.

Plaza de Mina

Located in the heart of the old town, Plaza de Mina, (the most beautiful of the Cadiz plazas) was developed in the first half of the 19th century. Previously, the land occupied by the plaza was the orchard of the convent of San Francisco. The plaza was converted into a plaza in 1838 by the architect Torcuato Benjumeda and (later) Juan Daura, with its trees being planted in 1861. It was then redeveloped again in 1897, and has remained virtually unchanged since that time The Museum is to be found at number 5 Plaza de Mina, and contains many objects from Cádiz’s 3000 year history as well as works by artists such as Rubens. The beautiful neo-classical houses which face the plaza were originally occupied by the Cadiz bourgeoisie.

Plaza de San Antonio and church

Plaza San Antonio in the 19th century

Cadiz Cathedral

The Plaza de la Catedral houses both the Cathedral and the Baroque church of Santiago, built in 1635.

Plaza de San Francisco and San Francisco Church and Convent

Located next to Plaza de Mina, this smaller square houses the San Francisco church and convent. Originally built in 1566, it was substantially renovated in the 17th century, when its cloisters were added. Originally, the Plaza de Mina formed the convent’s orchard.

Plaza San Antonio

In the 19th century Plaza San Antonio was considered to be Cadiz’s main square. Surrounded by a number of neo-classical mansions  San Antonio church, originally built in 1669, is also situated in the plaza.

The plaza was built in the 18th century, and on 19 March 1812 the Spanish Constitution of 1812 was proclaimed here, leading to it beng named Plaza de la Constitución, and then later Plaza San Antonio, after the hermit San Antonio.

In 1954 the city’s mayor proclaimed the location a historic site. All construction is prohibited.

Plaza de Candelaria

The Plaza de Candelaria is named after the Candelaria convent, situated in the square until it was demolished in 1873, when its grounds were redeveloped as a plaza. The plaza is notable for a statue in its centre of Emilio Castelar, president of the first Spanish republic, who was born in a house facing the square. A plaque situated on another house, states that Bernardo O’Higgins, an Irish-Chilean adventurer and former dictator of Chile also, lived in the square.

Plaza de la Catedral and the Cathedral

One of Cadiz’s most famous landmarks is its cathedral. It sits on the site of an older cathedral, completed in 1260, which burned down in 1596. The reconstruction, which was not started until 1776, was supervised by the architect Vicente Acero, who had also built Granada Catedral. Acero left the project and was succeeded by several other architects. As a result, this largely Baroque-style cathedral was built over a period of 116 years, and, due to this drawn-out period of construction, the cathedral underwent several major changes to its original design. Though the cathedral was originally intended to be a baroque edifice, it contains rococo elements, and was completed in the neoclassical style. Its chapels have many paintings and relics from the old cathedral and monasteries from throughout Spain.

Plaza de San Juan de Dios and the Old Town Hall

Construction of this plaza began in the 15th century on lands reclaimed from the sea. With the demolition of the City walls in 1906 the plaza increased in size and a statue of the Cadiz politician Segismundo Moret was unveiled. Overlooking the plaza is the town hall of Cadiz’s Old City. Here, in 1936, the flag of Andalucia was hoisted for the first time.

Plaza de España and the monument to the constitution of 1812

The Plaza de España is a large square close to the port. It is dominated by the Monument to the Constitution of 1812 which came into being as a consequence of the demolition of a portion of the old city wall.

The goal of this demolition was to create a grand new city square to mark the hundredth anniversary of the liberal constitution, which was proclaimed in this city in 1812, and provide a setting for a suitable memorial. The work began in 1912 and finished in 1929.

The lower level of the monument represents a chamber and an empty presidential armchair. The upper level has various inscriptions surmounting the chamber. On each side are bronze figures representing peace and war. In the centre, a pilaster rises to symbolize, in allegorical terms, the principals expressed in the 1812 constitution. At the foot of this pilaster, there is a female figure representing Spain, and, to either side, sculptural groupings representing agriculture and citizenship.

Plaza de Falla and the Gran Teatro Falla (Falla Grand Theatre)

The original Gran Teatro was constructed in 1871 but was destroyed by a fire in August 1881. The current theatre was built between 1884 and 1905 over the remains of the previous Gran Teatro. The outside was covered in red bricks in a Moorish style. Following renovations in the 1920s, the theatre was renamed the Gran Teatro Falla, in honor of composer Manuel de Falla who is buried in the crypt of the cathedral. After a period of disrepair in the 1980s, the theatre has since undergone extensive renovation.

So as you can see there is lots of history in this city which is also the holiday capital for the Spanish of the area. Fourteen kilometres of white sand with a strong sea breeze makes it ideal to escape the summer heat and indulge in sea sports such as windsurfing. There are abundant hotels, bars and restaurants but it is not spoiled. Although you may want to avoid the height of the season in August!

Back to that Youtube reference if you haven’t lost interest yet. My French guests love to visit Cadiz as it has romantic undertones for them much as we English think of Paris. This song sums it up for them. It is a comic operatic song which once heard ‘sticks’ in your mind. It always makes me smile when i hear it and reminds me of my many adorable French guests.

Fishing in Seville region

29 Mar

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Fishing is very important in this region. The Rio Guadalquivir which runs through Seville is large enough and deep enough to give Mediterranean cruise ships and cargo vessels easy access into the inner reaches of this beautiful region of Andalucia. As we all know here sturgeon are prevalent. The Phoenicians produced a highly desirable fish sauce  from it’s ‘guts’ and called it garum. This was exported from the region as early as 2000B.C. The first caviar! The celebrated caviar factory at Coria opened in 1932 and processed upwards of 3186 sturgeon until 1954. It’s heritage lives on in the local angling ‘Club el estrurion’ at Coria. The Atlantic species can grow to 3.5 metres and weigh 280 kilos. In Spring it used to migrate up the river to spawn and travel as far as Cordoba, some 230km in distance. Sadly numbers have now dwindled and Cordoba is silted up to such an extent you can barely take a canoe into the town centre river area! The last sturgeon was caught in 1075. There may still be a small population in the Gulf of Cadiz. Overfishing and water quality problems take their toll.


San Juan de Aznalfarche

Free fishing for carp, barbel, alburnum and big eels.Depth of 3-9 metres. Channel width 100 metres. Lots of greenery on the banks.

Darsena de Seville

Free fishing for carp, barbel, eels, tench, bass, perca-sol, boca, albures, lubines, robalos. This is the river basin that diverts a channel from the Guadalquivir through the city centre. over which most of the importanrt bridges span. Depth of 3-12 metres. Water level varies when the sluice opens for boats to reach the port.

Alcala de Guadaira

On the river Guaudaira. Free fishing for carp, algun, pike, eels, barbel. A smaller river in forest with crystalline waters. You can see the fish 3 metres down. Big carp up to 10 kilos. Eels 4.5 kilos

Puebla de Cazalla Embalse

My town but no bias! Free fishing for carp and black bass. Very attractive spot but difficult to get around the perimeter., So fish by the dam, just off the road.. There is little shade so take a brolly and plenty of water.

I have included a map so you can see other places to fish locally. I have a very interesting book with much more information, kindly supplied in English by a leader in this field who many of you  will know from your Angling magazines- Dr. Bruno Broughton (Fellow of the Institute of Fisheries Management). I am proud to call him a friend.

The History of Flamenco

26 Mar

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One of the major attractions of this area of Spain is Flamenco. Who can fail to be enthralled by the DUENDE (magic). The soulful guitar, stunning costumes, castanets, heart wrenching words of the songs, frenetic dance routines……need I say more.

Flamenco is a genre of Spanish music, song, and dance from Andalucia that includes cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance) and palmas (handclaps). First mentioned in literature in 1774, the genre grew out of Andalucian and Romany music and dance styles.

In recent years flamenco has become popular all over the world and is taught in many countries. In Japan, you may be amazed to know, there are more academies than there are in Spain.

There are many assertions as to the use of the name flamenco as a musical term but no solid evidence for any of them. The word was not recorded as a musical and dance term until the late 18th century. Some have referenced the Flemish courtiers of Charles I of Spain from the word, who were known for their florid and exaggerated displays of courtesy at the royal court at a time when the native aristocrats patronised Gitano (Gypsy) players and performers, more really to satirize the despised but powerful incomers than for any other reason. “Flama” in Spanish means flame or fire, and “enco” or “endo”, is a suffix which means a quality-of, or having a-similarity-to, or pertaining-to. It is really lost in the mists of time but that is of no consequence.

Flamenco today

Flamenco performance has evolved during the history of this musical genre. In the beginning (the 18th century at the latest), songs were sung without any guitar accompaniment’ During the 19th century, the guitar was used to accompany songs, and since the second half of the 19th century, the solo guitar is played in flamenco concerts.  From flamenco’s beginning in the 18th century most performers have been professionals. Flamenco as a folk art has remarkably conserved an extraordinary level of conservatism within the caucus of European folk music, with its unmistakable rhythmic patterns and tones that mark its varied form. It has actually been the concern, like speech itself, of non-professionals in the countryside: goatherders, charcoal-burners, miners and fishermen.

Flamenco is recognised by widely respected figures, such as Pepe Arrebola, former President of the Peñas Flamencas de Andalusia. It is the product of competition between ´payos´or non-gypsies, and gypsies or ‘Roma’, each with their own distinctive style. The subject matter of the songs themselves were not much concerned with urban themes, and this in turn should remind us that the land itself is the ‘author’ of the music. Originally it was learned from other performers in the manner of an apprenticeship, not in conservatories or dance schools. This lack of formal training led to interesting harmonic findings, with unusual unresolved dissonances. Today most guitarists undergo rigorous professional training and often can read and play music in other styles; many dancers take courses in ballet and contemporary dance as well as flamenco.

Flamenco occurs in four settings in the main – in the juerga (small-scale cabaret), in concert venues and in the theatre, a ‘zambra’ (spontaneous) and lastly, for the most part ‘Roma’ celebration can occur outside any place a tourist or ‘expert on flamenco’ would be likely to happen upon it.

  • The juerga is an informal, spontaneous gathering, rather like a jazz “jam session”, that can include dancing, singing,palmas (hand clapping), or simply pounding in rhythm on an orange crate or table, adapting to local talent, instrumentation and mood. The cantaores (singers) are the heart and soul of the performance. A meeting place or grouping of Flamenco musicians or artists is called a peña flamenca.
  • There are also tablaos, establishments that developed during the 1960s throughout Spain, replacing the café cantante, that may have their own company of performers for each show. Many internationally renowned artists, like the singer Miguel Poveda, started their careers in tablaos flamencos.
  • The professional concert is more formal. A traditional concert has only a singer and one guitar while a dance concert usually includes two or three guitars, one or more singers singing solo in turn and one or more dancers. One of the singers may play the cajon, a wooden box drum played with the hands or else it may be played by a percussionist, and all performers will clap even if there are dedicated palmeros. The so-called Nuevo Flamenco (New Flamenco) popularized by artists such as Cameron de la Isla may include flutes and saxophones, a piano or other keyboard, even the bass guitar and the electric guitar.
  • Finally, the theatrical presentation of flamenco is now an extended and sophisticated performance in its own right, comparable to a ballet, by such ensembles as the Maria Pages and the famous Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco Company.

If you want to see flamenco this is the place to be. At all our local fiestas flamenco dress is almost obligatory and like appearing fully dressed in a nudist colony you feel naked attending a Spanish event in this area in ‘Western’ garb! Here I am in my costume. By the way, be prepared to spend a small fortune if you want to buy one. But it is worth it.



Flamenco outside ruin



Semana Santa

23 Mar

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Holy Week in Seville is known as Semana Santa de Sevilla. It is one of the city’s two biggest annual festivals, the other being the Feria de Abril (April Fair), which follows two weeks later. It is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter and features processions of  pasos ( floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion or images of the grieving Virgin Mary). Some of the sculptures are of great antiquity and are considered artistic masterpieces, as well as being culturally and spiritually important to the local Catholic population.

The Processions

There are up to three pasos in each procession. The pasos dedicated to El Cristo, use figures of wood, wax, and wire to depict scenes from the Passion, and are usually covered in gold. The pasos dedicated to La Virgen are usually covered in silver, and depict Mary weeping for her Son and sometimes holding Him in her arms. The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods. Members precede the pasos dressed in penitential robes with capirotes, (tall, pointed hoods with eye-holes).The capirotes were designed so the faithful could repent in anonymity, without being recognised as self-confessed sinners. Nearly 70 cofradias (church brotherhoods) take part, each with their own statues, as well as colourful misterios (tableaux of bible scenes), on elaborately-decorated pasos (floats). They may be accompanied by brass bands. The processions follow a designated route from their home churches and chapels to the Cathedral, usually via a central viewing area and back. The ones from the suburban barrios may take 14 hours to return to their home churches.The processions continue from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday morning. The climax of the week is the night of Holy Thursday, when the processions set out to arrive at the Cathedral on the dawn of Good Friday  known as the madrugá.

The standard structure of a procession is:

  • A great cross (the so-called Cruz de Guía – Guiding Cross) is carried at the beginning of each procession.
  • A number of people (sometimes barefoot) dressed in a habit and with the distinctive pointed hood and holding long wax candles (only lit by night), marching in silence. These are the nazarenos. Colours, forms and details of the habit are distinctive for each brotherhood – and sometimes for different locations within the procession. Usually the Nazarenos march in pairs, and are grouped behind insignia. Moving between the lines are diputados de tramo, guardians who keep the formations organized.
  • A group of altar boys (acolytes) dressed in vestments, with chandeliers and incense and other servants.
  • The Paso.
  • When applicable, the musical group follows (bands) or precedes the paso (chapel music)
  • A number of penitentes, carrying wooden crosses, making public penance. They wear the habit and the hood of the brotherhood, but the hood is not pointed.

This structure repeats itself depending of the number of pasos (up to three). Usually the last paso is not followed by penitentes, and the procession should be closed -presided- by the titular chaplain in full processional vestments known as el preste Although this is the standard structure, depending on the traditions of each brotherhood, details (and even the plan) may vary. A procession can be made up from a few hundred to near 3,000 Nazarenos and last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours, depending how far the home church is from the Cathedral. The largest processions can take over an hour and a half to cross one particular spot

The core events in Semana Santa are the processions of the brotherhoods, known as estación de penitencia (stations of penance), from their home CHURCH TO SEVILLA CATHEDRAL and back. The last section before arriving AT the Cathedral is common to all brotherhoods and is called the Carrera Oficial.

THE PASO At the centre of each procession are the pasos, an image or set of images set atop a moveable float of wood. If a brotherhood has three pasos, the first one would be a sculpted scene of the Passion, or an allegorical scene, known as a misterio (mystery); the second an image of Christ and the third an image of the Virgin Mary known as a dolorosa. The structure of the paso is richly carved and decorated with fabric, flowers and candles. As of 2007, all but one of the dolorosas are covered by an ornate canopy (baldachin) attached to the structure. The sculptures themselves are carved and painted, and often lifesize or larger. The oldest surviving were carved in the 16th century, though new images continue to be added. All of the principal images of the Semana Santa are on display for veneration in their home churches all year round.

Overseer giving orders to the costaleros.

A distinctive feature of Semana Santa in Seville is the style of marching of the pasos. A team of men, the costaleros (literally “sack men”, for their distinctive – and functional – headdress), supporting the beams upon their shoulders and necks, lift, move and lower the paso. As they are all inside the structure and hidden from the external view by a curtain, the paso seems to move by itself. On the outside an overseer (capataz), guides the team by voice, and/or through a ceremonial hammer el llamador(caller) attached to the paso. Depending on weight (most weigh over a metric tonne), a paso requires between twenty-four and fifty-four costaleros to move. Each brotherhood has a distinctive way to raise and move a paso, and even each paso within the procession.

Golden ‘caller’.

The Music

Singing a saeta.

Some processions are silent, with no musical accompaniment, some have a capella, choirs or wind quartets, but many (and especially those historically associated with poorer neighbourhoods) feature a drum andtrumpet band behind the image of Christ and a brass band behind the Virgin playing hymns or marchas from a standard repertoire. Those associated with the images of Christ are often funeral in nature, while those associated with the Virgin are more celebratory. As each procession leaves its home church, (an event known as the salida), at its return (the entrada), and along the march route, improvised flamenco-style songs may be offered by individuals in the crowd or from a balcony. These songs are generically called saetas (arrows). Whenever the images depart or arrive at their home churches or chapels,Marcha Real,  the National Anthem, is played.


The traditional suit worn by women on Thursday (and sometimes on Good Friday) is known as La Mantilla (the mantle). This custom has become revitalised since the 1980s. The outfit consists of the lace mantle, stiffened by shell or another material, and a black dress, usually mid-leg, with black shoes. It is expected for the woman to hold and show a rosary. Jewellery may include, at most, bracelets and earrings.

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