De La Tierra

Chipiona Travel Blog

 › entry 26 of 47 › view all entries
Another whole week has flown by and I realise how much has happened in my ‘fast moving world’ here in Spain. I settled in to my new home easily and started to find my way around the neighbourhood.

Emails trickled in from couchsurfers (if you are not sure what this means, google couchsurfing!) in Sevilla to welcome me. I arranged to meet up with Pepe, who lives across the river in the barrio (suburb) of Triana. I was interested to learn that although only a bridge away from ‘here’ the Trianos say that when they cross the bridge, they are ‘going to Sevilla’ as if it is another city!! Very strange. They have a culture all of their own, stemming back from the days when Tirana was indeed another village, separate from Sevilla.
Pepe walked me around Triana showing me the highlights and explaining how the architecture differs and the people are more ‘tranquilo’ (relaxed) than in Sevilla. This night neighbours were leaning across upper level balconies and chatting to friends across the narrow roads. I liked it.
We visited one of the oldest bars in Triana and it reminded me a little of the old pubs in England with low ceilings and lodgings upstairs. The carved wooden ceiling was spectacular and the interior patio bar/restaurant would be heaven on a balmy evening. Unfortunately we had arrived too early and it was closed until the rush hour (9.30pm).

The next stop was further away from the river which is lined with lively bars (many frequented by tourists and young students for the flamenco and the view). The plaza we stopped at was decidedly local with the tell-tale fluorescent lights. Pepe had been explaining to me that the bar is famous for it’s ‘small birds’ which I deciphered as quail. The excitement had to be delayed though as it was closed. Later in the week we caught up again and I did get to eat the ‘pajaritos’ which are fried quail - really delicious and even more so when pulled apart by hand at tables set up under the orange trees, and washed down with a super cold Tinto de Verano.

A highlight of the week was getting a call from one of the language schools on Thursday night to attend an interview on the Friday night at 7.00pm . . . . and would I mind preparing a mini class to teach! So Friday was spent in a mild panic as I reviewed all my notes, scanned the internet and prepared a 10 minute session to present to the Director of Studies. I needn’t have worried so much. Although the interview went well, it was clear that the school is not one of those who are prepared to help non-EU teachers get a work visa or employ casually for cash. NEXT!

Saturday was on me in a flash and I had an email message from Victor to meet for a coffee. We had met the previous week in Cafe Europa as I spied him using a the same MAC as mine. I grilled him about wifi cafes. After a long conversation, I discovered him to be a great wealth of history and interesting facts about Sevilla. We swapped email addresses as he is also in the ‘teaching’ field and prepares Spanish teachers to teach English in the Spanish school system. His English is perfect.

So on Saturday, I met Victor again. We got to talking about movies and decided to go to a movie at Avenida 5, the only theatre here showing VO (original version) movies. The movie was directed by a famous Spanish director but shot in Japan in both Japanese and English. There was a slight problem because the English subtitles (for the Japanese bits) had been replaced by Spanish subtitles. It made for a lot of guessing on my part, until I could ask Victor later.

Before the movie, we had time to kill and Victor introduced me to a really lovely ‘modern’ Spanish tapa bar. I was so impressed with the food - almost a modern Asian feel but the flavors decidedly Spanish.
And after the movie, we continued the Spanish tradition of tapa and bebida (drink) as Victor introduced me to yet another Andalusian favourite - Manzanilla (a dry white sherry, made locally - de la tierra). It was a huge day and did not finish until 1.00am, a normal time to finish dinner. Instead of staying at one place, the custom is to have a small tapa at one place and then move on to another, and another. In this way, I experienced 3 more bars that night, including the wonderful Rinconcillo, the oldest in Sevilla.

I mentioned in the previous blog that I was thinking of travelling to the small coastal village of Chipiona and these plans grew into a two-day visit on Monday and Tuesday. My new friend Amparo (from the information office) helped me organise a small pension and advised on bus timetables.
As the bus pulled in to Chipiona early on Monday, I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with sea air. It had been a while. It was only a ten minute walk to the little pension and although not the prettiest one I have ever stayed in, it was very clean and the lady was really helpful.

Amparo met me and offered to meet me again later at the little information office for maps etc. The afternoon was spent at the beach sitting under her blue and yellow striped umbrella in the shade. The weather still has not abated and every day issues forth the same scorching temperatures around the mid-thirties.

I observed that I seemed to be the only foreigner in Chipiona, it is a holiday destination for locals and many Sevillanos spend the summer here in whitewashed apartments, hotels or small friendly pensions. It really was no different than any other seaside resort except that it is the home to Moscatel sherry (de la Tierra) - a luscious sweet wine made from Muscatel grapes, a famous black Virgin and the tallest lighthouse in Spain (third tallest in the world), as if all that isn’t enough!

Rather than the religious festival I had come to Chipiona especially to experience, I had an entirely different religious experience trying the local food and wine with Amparo and some of her friends.

It all started with fat local sardines grilled on the BBQ right on the beach in a little open air ‘restaurant’. The only option is to peel off the crunchy skin with your fingers and delicately separate the juicy flesh from the pesky bones. Mucky but appropriate, given the searing sun beating down outside the shade of the fluttering ‘roof’ and the lapping of the blue Atlantic ocean, only 20 meters away.

The next tapa meal was later in the evening after wandering through the fiesta casitas, African vendors and typical sideshow stalls. There were five of us women in the group and we each chose a different tapa although the size was more like raciones (small sized meals). I chose a tortilla de camarones (tiny tiny prawn-like creatures about one to two centimeters in length) and was surprised when fritters showed up. They were delicious, doused in lemon and not unlike the whitebait fritter of my youth in New Zealand. This was also my first experience with Muscatel (pronounced mo-ka-tel) and the beginning of my appreciation for all things a la tierra. I like this place called Chipiona!

Yesterday, Tuesday, was the day of La Velada de Nuestra Senora de Regla. The main town church nestles at the end of the boardwalk fronting the sea and the Virgin sits in pride of place on the typically Catholic gold encrusted altar. She is known for healing and protecting ships and is unusual in that she is black and her baby Jesus is white. The Sanctuary attached to the Church used to be a health spa in times gone by (who made up that expression, it sounds naff but seemed to fit) and invalids came from all over to take the air in Chipiona, known for the high iodine content.

Every September 8th, the Virgin de Regla, is brought out of the church, carried on the shoulders of 14 burly costaleros and shuffled at snails pace around several blocks. They wear all white and wear strange scarves on their heads with an enormous amount of padding to cushion the weight. I tried to imagine how much the entire carriage must weigh: including the virgin herself, the golden altar, silver double candlesticks, meters of draped velvet to the ground and the structure itself. It is designed to house fourteen huge men who can only respond to voices from those outside as they are completely encapsulated under the cloth.

This grand parade begins at 6.00pm and ends at around 10.00pm but not before she stops and is turned to view the sea amid loud cheers from the thousands crammed along the boardwalk, leaning out of apartments and packed into the Church forecourt.

It was a long evening and my feet were seriously burning by 10.00pm with all the standing around and shuffling. It was time for a tapa and drink.

My lovely friends Amparo and Lola took me to one of the oldest wine bars in Chipiona, Bodeguita de Castillito where we had a glass of Muscatel (dark) and shared some tapas: queso de oveja (sheep’s cheese), camarones (the little prawn things) and my favourite, mohama (air cured bacalau, salt cod). The walk back to the sea was via one of the dozens of ice cream shops. We quickly polished off our cones as it was still warm and a little breezy. Reaching the seashore just on midnight, we settled down to watch the fuegos artificiales (fireworks) signifying the end of the festival.

Ahhhh - a great two days and many memories of life in this small seaside town. Perhaps I will return again to sample the Muscatel once more - apparently even though you can buy it is Sevilla, it always tastes better ‘de la Tierra’ !

I agree.
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Chipiona
photo by: spanishrosie