Month: April 2012

Cruces de mayo- The festival season commences!

From the moment I set foot in Córdoba all I´ve heard about, from both natives and expats alike, is the Month of May. May is the month when Córdoba comes to life with festivals, dance and culture. It is the month where the locals come out of their winter-long hibernation and in their droves take to the streets of Córdoba in celebration. It has to be said that between La Cata (the wine-tasting festival), Las Cruces( the crosses), Los Patios( the courtyards) and La Fería (the fair) Córdoba certainly has something to offer everyone.

Las Cruces

Now that May is finally upon us, I have to admit, I´m like a child at christmas – unaware of what to expect and completely unable to contain my excitement! On Friday evening, once another week of work came to an end (can´t believe how quickly the weeks are flying by!), I embraced this excitement and took to the streets of Córdoba in search of Las Cruces and the vivacious atmosphere which comes with them!

San Andrés

Las Cruces, or Crosses, is a popular competition of crosses in which, every year, each barrio dedicates time and money in order to create these beautifully artistic floral crosses. Each cross is a representation of the pride and spirit in the barrio and are typically surrounded by potted plants and flowers in colours that complement the unique attributes of each zone. The crosses bring the community out in force in order to honour the work that has gone into making these elaborate and colourful crosses while also delighting in the possibility that their cross could earn them the much sought after title of Best Cross! As well as this sacred title, there are several monetary prizes up for grabs in this competition, these prizes range from  €665 to €1165, making  this competition a very profitable one for each winning community!

Now, you may be wondering – especially in these financially tought times – how each community can afford to enter this competition year after year – with the cost of the crosses and the uncertainty of winning a monetary prize – well it´s simple really! Located beside each cross is a marquee which offers food and drink typical to this region in order to raise money for the following year. What better way to raise money than through the consumption of food and alcohol?!

However, while they´re really just a fund-raising tactic, these marquees are key to the success of this festival. These marquees, which, in reality, are a fusion of everything typically Andalusian – tapas, fino, traditional music and dance, are the best place to go to soak up the atmosphere of the barrio. Like La Cata (the wine-tasting festival), the locals, once they´ve had their fill of food and drink, dance the night away – Sevillanas style – to the traditional beats of the region! With each bars combination of traditional food, drink, music, religion and dance, you would be hard pressed to find a more authentic experience. It´s such a fun-filled, high-spirited event, which couldn´t even be dampened by the unfortunate torrential rain we have been experiencing since Friday. ( Typical, the one time there is an outdoor event you want to go to in Spain, it rains!!)

las cruces

While I really enjoyed Las Cruces, due to the rain, I didn´t get to see all of them. This, to me, is a shame. However, being optimistic as I am, I´m hoping that the weather will pick up before Tuesday which will bless me with the opportunity to visit the ones that, up to this point, I have missed out on! In saying that, despite the weather, Las Cruces is definitely a festival I would recommend going to; with its unique merging of religion, food, drink and dance, this festival is unparalleled to any other I have witnessed! And who knows, next year the weather might be better!

Hope you enjoyed reading about Las Cruces, and if I am lucky enough to see them in the sun, I shall post a photo blog to share the beauty with you!

(Las Cruces in the sunshine: click here, you shall not be disappointed!)

Would you be interested in going to Las Cruces?

Giana xoxo

Castillo de Almodóvar del Río- Córdoba.

This astonishing castle, built on a hill of stone that is roughly 820ft high, was built by the Arabs in 720. The castle provides an authentic insight into the history and culture that is key to the region of Córdoba. In it´s history it has been in the possession of Iberians, Romans, Muslims and Christians, each of them having left their own individual stamp on this extravagant castle. Castillo de Almodóvar, to me, serves as a reminder of this regions unique culture and highlights how it has been heavily influenced by other cultures throughout the centuries.

The journey up to the castle is most certainly a breathtaking one. It took me over half an hour to get from the foot of the hill up to the castle, not due to the distance but rather the sheer beauty there is to behold on the way up. The setting truly is picturesque. With the tone of the upward trek being set by the charming whitewashed houses of Almodóvar del Río contrasted against the spectacularly rich spring colours of the mountainous countryside and the ruggedness of the various pathways meandering their way up the hillside; it´s hard not to be blown away by what the area has to offer.

 

By the time I reached the castle I felt exhilarated and quiet excited to see what awaited me behind the enticing castle walls. I am delighted to say that I wasn´t disappointed in the slightest! Once at the entrance I happily paid the €5 entrance fee and followed the well laid out arrows around the castle. I must say I was impressed at how well maintained this ancient building was and also how true to it´s history it had remained.  It´s authenticisity added to it´s character and made it amazing to watch it´s story unfold before my eyes with such beauty and charm. While walking up to the castle I honestly thought that the views that unfolded before me couldn´t be topped. However, once I reached the highest point in the castle, the towers, I was proven wrong and completely blown away by what lay before me. The colours that spread out across the landscape were so rich and glorious that I couldn´t take my gaze away from them.

As we ventured through the castle we discovered an area with a sword in a stone, for me, this was one of the best parts of the trip. While we were there a beautiful yellow and black butterfly fluttered around us and then kindly, as if it knew all about my obsession with butterflies, rested by my foot for a good five minutes allowing me to take some beautiful pictures of it.

I found myself completely lost in the splendour that surrounded me, and the hours that we spent up there only felt like minutes. We had so much fun between taking in all the history and the beauty, and finding our own fun with wooden swords, fake spiders and bones ( at least I hope they were fake!) we didn’t have a single dull moment on our spontaneous journey through the castle walls!

If you haven´t ventured to Castillo de Almodóvar yet, then I really recommend a visit. With history, views, dramatisations ( I didn´t get to see any) restaurants and taverns it definitely has something to offer everyone! Just remember to check the bus timetables throughly before you embark on your journey!

Would you like to visit Castillo de Almodóvar?

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it!

To find out more about Almodóvar del Río and the Zoco that took place there read my other post here!

While all the photos above are my own, the last three, obviously enough, weren´t taken by me! Their credit goes to my dear friend, and talented blogger Carly! Just click on her name to check out her amazing blog filled with breathtaking photos!

Giana xoxo

Zoco de la Encantá- Almodóvar del Río

Located about 40 minutes outside of the city of Córdoba is the breathtakingly beautiful “Castillo de Almodóvar”. Like every grand castle, “Castillo de Almodóvar” has it´s own legend…the legend of Princess Ziada.

According to the legend of Zaida -“La Encantá”, every year, on the 28th of March, the spirit of this princess can be seen wandering through the grounds of this spectacular castle in search of her beloved prince Al Mamum, who was killed on that very day fighting against los almorávides in the Alcázar de Córdoba.

For the third year running, in commemoration of that day, Almodóvar del Río held a Medieval Market on the grounds of the castle. Here you could soak up the medieval atmosphere while wandering through the stalls filled with arts and crafts, bows and arrows, wooden shields, herbs and spices, traditional tea, Arabic food and traditional breads and cheeses. There were marching bands, belly dancers, face-painters and concerts to marvel at and later that night there was a re-enactment of the legend of Ziada, unfortunately, due to transport problems, I didn´t get a chance to see it.

The atmosphere was fun-loving and lively with everyone in high spirits and keen to make the event as successful as possible. It was a good event, while the “Zoco” itself was not as big or as varied as others I have been lucky enough to attend, the location, the people and the atmosphere made up for it!

The only snag on the day was the transport. As Almodóvar del Río is a small rural area, they have a limited bus service. We got the bus there at 13:30 on Saturday 21st of April, the bus journey was quick and pleasant. It even dropped us right at the entrance of the castle grounds. However, it was when it was time to come home that the lack of a transport service became a problem.

We arrived at the bus stop at 18:55, giving us plenty of time to catch the next bus at 19:10. However, come 19:40, and still no sign of a bus, we became slightly concerned. We decided to ring the bus company, their number was on the timetable, only to be told that they had no record of a bus at that time for our route. Sadly that wasn´t the only bad news they had for us, they then went on to tell us that the last bus back to Córdoba had been at 17:45.

At a lost for an affordable solution we decided to go to the information booth at the entrance of the Zoco and tell them our problem. They were incredibly sympathic and helpful and gave us a number for a taxi service, explaining that at this time on a Saturday it was our only option. Two friendly policemen were beside the information stand while we were there and became aware of our situation, they rang the taxi service for us and negotiated a deal in order for ten stranded foreigners to return to Córdoba!

All in all it was a fantastic day, the event was fun, the people were fantastic and we got to see the spectacular castle, which I talk about in another blog(just click on another blog to read!), on a wonderfully sunny day. I would definitely recommend a trip to Almodóvar del Río to anyone who loves beautiful scenery, medieval settings and re-enactments all wrapped up in a friendly package. Just make sure to check the bus times at the station before you venture on your journey!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience!

Have you ever been to Almodóvar del Río? What was your experience like?

Giana xoxo

Montilla-Moriles Wine-tasting Festival – Córdoba

“What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile.” William Sokolin.

Every year Córdoba hosts the Montilla-Moriles Wine-tasting Festival. This is an incredible tasting event in which over 20 bodegas from the south of Córdoba take part. This year, the 29th year, I was lucky enough to receive a ticket to this sampling festival.

While I am by no means a wine connoisseur, in fact I know relatively little about wine, especially this type, I found the event itself to be quiet impressive. The locals flocked to the event in order to sample the wines, consume some of the typical tapas from the region and soak up the glamorous atmosphere.

In true Córdobese style the women were decked out in the latest fashion. Accessorised to the hilt with colourful scarfs carefully placed around their necks, arms tastefully covered in bangles, statement earrings, over sized clutches and the highest stilettos you could possibly find. It really is remarkable how they manage to walk so gracefully in such extreme shoes. The males were equally as stylish with their fitted shirts and trousers, designer watches and their staple red sweaters resting on their shoulders, just a simple touch to finish the look off!

It has to be noted that the atmosphere at this festival was delightful. Groups of people gathered around the various oak wine barrels that were dotted around the place to eat, drink and be merry. It really was an authentic experience made even better by men and women spontaneously dancing sevillanas, an exciting flamenco style dance from the region, whenever the mood struck them.

  Now onto the wine itself. The wines from this region are mainly producted from the Pedro Ximénez grape and – although there are some exceptions – are generally not fortified. There are several different types of wine from this region, such as Fino, which is dry and nutty with a light texture,  Amontillado a very sweet wine, Oloroso a rich wine, Pedro Ximénez which, again, is a sweet wine and Blanco Joven (Young White) a dry and fruity wine.

While I found the wines were generally too rich for my liking, I did take a shine to a mixture they called “50/50”. This mixture consisted of fino and Pedro Ximénez, which, for me, provided the perfect balance between dryness and sweetness and proved to have a lighter texture than Pedro Ximénez on it´s own.

All in all, I throughly enjoyed this lively event and am delighted to have had the chance to have experienced it first hand. I also thought that is was fantastic that each person who attended received a glass with the name of the festival as a memento, to me this was a nice touch.

Have you ever tried any of these wines? If you have let me know what you think of them!

Hope you enjoyed reading about it!

Giana xoxo

Passion fashion!

Fashion is most definitely an integral part of the culture in Spain. So much so that I have dedicated an entire section to it. It has to be said that Spain is home to some of the most stylish people I have ever encountered. They take such pride in their clean-cut elegant image and carry themselves with such dignity and composure that it´s hard not to admire them, sometimes even envy them!

Image is everything to Spanish people, not in a conceited egotistical manner, but in a self-respecting one. In Spanish culture, your appearance says a lot about you, people value a person who looks after and respects themselves.

Younger generations, being the trend setters that they are, are quite experimental with their clothes. They often opt for bold colours and prints that are well cut and flattering to their figures, whereas, older generations play it safe with sleek, well-coordinated outfits that accentuate their figures and their poise.

Click on image to go to original website

Accessories are the key to every Spaniards outfit, you will rarely see a unaccessorised Spaniard roaming the streets. Accessories are like a personal stamp on each outfit. The accessories range from scarfs, over-sized statement jewellery and detailed tights, to sunglasses, leather jackets and over-sized bags or clutches. It´s fascinating to see how people utilise these items to enhance their look and make them stand out from the crowd. With their flair for accessories they´re guaranteed not to blend into the crowd, or bump into someone with the same outfit as them!

While it´s true that Spain is home to some of the most acclaimed fashion designers, designers such as Manolo Blahnik, Cristobal Balenciaga and Paco Robanne, Spanish people care more about the quality of clothes than the designer. Brands such as Zara, Mango, Cortefiel, Adolfo Dominguez and Massimo Dutti provide quality at affordable prices and prove to be very popular with this fashion conscious culture.

I can honestly say that, as a fashion lover, I couldn´t have found a country that is more suited to me than Spain. Hopefully, throughout my journey here, I can learn the art of elegance and poise that comes so naturally to these artistic people. In this section I plan to document the Spanish trends from season to season and show how I´ve embraced them and hopefully put my own personal style stamp on them!

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Hope you´ve enjoyed this post!

What do you think? Would you wear Spanish style?

Giana xoxo

*While the images featured in the side-show are my own, I have taken the two photos of the women featured in the centre of the blog from google images and, therefore, cannot take credit for those two, I hope to replace them with my own images once I can!

Holy week- Alicante.

One of the most notable things about Spanish culture is its religion. In order to understand the Spanish culture you need to understand their Catholic environment. So, due to perfect timing, I have chosen Holy Week, or Semana Santa as it´s known in Spain, as the starting point for my Spanish Culture section.

Holy Week in Spain is undeniably a unique event. Being Catholic myself I have celebrated Holy Week before. However, it is safe to say, I have never experienced such a genuine atmosphere of mourning like the one I have witness here. While I´ll admit it truly is a breathtakingly beautiful experience filled with emotion, there were times when I became overwhelmed by the dramatics of the situation, and felt a little uncomfortable.

In the procession I witnessed the marchers, clad out in white robes with blue capes and pointed blue hoods somewhat reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan, carry elaborate sliver candlesticks. These marchers were closely followed by elegant female mourners dressed in black with the most delicate lace veils running from their heads to the ground.

Behind these women was the wooden platform, or anda as it´s know in Spanish, which was carried by 36 men, known as carriers or cucuruchos, from a religious fraternity. On this magnificently ornate platform there was an amazing statue of Magdalena surrounded by flowers and candles. It was astonishing to see the skill, coordination and technique it took to negotiate this platform around sharp turns on narrow little streets. It really was  a mesmerizing sight to see.

The procession was such a huge credit to the community and was carried out with solemnity and grace. To me it really got to the heart of Spanish culture and depicted their passion, their strength, their commitment to religion and their pride in a uniquely artistic way. While I may never fully understand the mourning period, I will always admire and respect it and feel grateful to be an onlooker to such an exceptional event.

What is your opinion on Holy Week in Spain?

Giana xoxo

Food diaries!

A taste of the Spanish food!

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Hope you enjoyed it!

Have you ever had Spanish food? What do you think of it?

Giana xoxo