Travelling from Spain´s South to North, shows its great diversity
|Traditional Traje de Luces (bullfighting attire)|
“Throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover!” Mark Twain once wrote. He could have literally been referring to the ferry trip across the Bay of Biscay from Northern Spain, for it is a fascinating and relaxing alternative to speedy air travel. That is if you want to actually board the departing boat after discovering what Spain has to offer the traveller who makes their way northwards to the port. It is this journey, that Twain celebrates, and one that gives a glimpse to the diversity Spain contains.
|Bullfighting a firm favourite in Andalucia|
Give me a good boat ride any day and this ferry trip makes an especially good alternative to the cramped charter flight scenario that you find going from Spain to other European cities. Thus if you have time and feel a bit adventurous, the 900 km ride (13 hours straight through if you’re a masochist) from the Costa del Sol to the port of Bilbao is just like cracking open a travel guide book for the country, allowing you to experience some of Spain’s finest foods, wines and landscape.
Certainly, after leaving southern Andalusia’s sunny olive groves, strains of Gypsy flamenco guitar, its Moorish towers and snowy Sierra Nevada, an exciting measure of travel is leaving the white washed towns and villages behind and cresting the dividing line of the rocky Sierra Morena and begin to see the creaking windmills of Don Quijote fame dotting Castilla la Mancha’s flattened countryside. Celebrating this fictional character’s 400th birthday in 2005, every shop window featured this windmill chasing romantic and his sidekick Sancho. Cervantes, his creator, would possibly have been shocked to see Quijote’s form on everything from quince jelly to curtains. Despite all this marketing hype, Consuegra makes a fine lunchtime stop to see these 16th century beacons that wind away time.
|Saffron for sale in Granada|
The village also supports thriving saffron plantations and if fortunate you may see the fields abloom and join in the party at their autumn saffron festival. Here, the painstaking work of plucking the fine hairs of the crocus flower’s stigma takes place each year in the area, with 80,000 flowers making only one pound of saffron. A mainstay in the Moorish cuisine (that dominated Spain for 700 years), it has survived in Spanish kitchens and now permeates and brightly colours such favourites as the famous rice dish paella.
There we are already to the centre of the country! Take a breather, one more cold cerveza and enjoy this beautiful area before heading into the northern reaches of the country tomorrow.
|View of the Alhambra Palace in Granada|