Navarra is one of the oldest of the kingdoms that make up Spain. It has a wonderful mix of history and nature, not to forget the food. Just before New Year, BLC spent a few cold days in a foggy Navarra to inspect the area and scout out the Bodegas.
Foz Arbayun is the biggest gorge in Navarra. A great introduction to the Spanish Pyrenees, it will stay on the itinerary, with some spectacular scenery and “buitres Leonado”.
The area is home to a number of monasteries and classic Romanic churches. Having looked at a number of these, a trip to the foothills of the Pyrenees led to a combination of the two. A night in the monastery of Leyre, known for its services with Gregorian chants. This will give the opportunity to listen to these in both an evening and a morning service.
The area also has unspoilt medieval hilltop towns such as Ujue with its beautiful church and views of the Pyrenees.
The plan is also to fit in a visit to Pamplona, famous for its bull running. Here you can follow the route the bulls take, or have a coffee in the cafe frequented by Hemingway. As always there is more, such as the fortifications and the bars with the typical pintxos.
And so to Olite. This was the main residence of the kings of Navarra. The palace is notable for the several towers. Apparently there are views. In December the fog hid these! With its small unspoilt medieval centre Olite is a pleasant place to pass the time. We investigated some Bodegas to find one for a tasting but even the losers in this competition have wines that are worth trying and can be found both in the town’s bars and restaurants as well as in the bodegas and their associated shops.
We don’t only think about wine! The nearby area of the Roncal Valley is famous for its cheese, Ujue is known for its caramelized almonds and we also found a seller of local honeys.
A visit to the Bardenas Reales, one of Spain’s deserts, showed it to be interesting but we will leave it for another trip as this won’t be the best time of year to visit.
Just back from Cadiz, Spain, the
area where sherry is produced. What a privilege to take some of our Spanish students
on this cultural immersion. A joy for the wine lovers, history lovers and
Sherry, we called it Jerez in
Spain is a fortified wine only produced in this part of Spain, the Sherry triangle,
and covers the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de SantaMaria & Sanlucar
This time we stayed in a lovely converted convent,
Monasterio de San Miguel in Puerto de Santa Maria. A place full history, this
is an excellent base to explore the area.
To learn more about sherry visiting a couple of bodegas is a
must. To really appreciate it, one has to taste the different wines, fino,
oloroso, Pedro Ximenez just to mention a few, as well as my favourite one, Palo
This area of Spain is well known for their Andalusian horses.
A horse riding performance is only possible to watch in Jerez and Vienna. We
did not only go to a performance but went on a “calesa” (carriage) ride.
Cadiz, claimed to be the oldest city in Western Europe, was reached
by ferry from El Puerto.
A culture pot, Founded by the Phoenicians, every other civilisation
helped to shape this city full of character, light, sun and welcoming people.
In Sevilla with our fantastic guides Emma and Aidan we moved
to the times of Jews and Moors living together. At Los Reales Alcazares palace Christian
traditions and Moorish architecture get put together. This mixture of cultures
could be found in a lot of aspects of Spanish life, and a good example is in
the Spanish cuisine that we sampled on numerous occasions.
What a fantastic experience! Thank you everyone for making
this trip so special!!
The Bedford Language Centre organised a Double Presentation and Social to mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, on 26th April 1937. This merciless destruction of the Basque town of Guernica by the Luftwaffe, at the behest of Franco, was also an attack on the symbolic home of Spanish democracy, and inspired Pablo Picasso to paint his famous anti-war masterpiece.
The opening presentation by Frank Livesey gave a fascinating exploration of the historic background to the Spanish Civil War, and after a Spanish buffet, the audience were treated to a detailed interpretation by Victor Sanchez of the meaning of Picasso’s work of art. Both talks included a question and answer session, and during the interval the mixed Spanish and English audience enjoyed a lively discussion.
“What a fascinating pair of presentations, which opened my eyes to so many aspects of Spanish culture. It was also a very social evening, and I enjoyed talking to several very interesting people.” Teresa Moon
BLC has run trips to Madrid where the emphasis has been to learn about Spanish everyday life & speak Spanish while living with Spanish families. We think that now is the time to try something a bit different, to show the culture of a different area. With this idea BLC went on an arduous exploration of some of the places around Jerez to see if this could be a popular destination.
Jerez de la Frontera:
Jerez is the centre of production of Sherry. With this in mind we felt it was necessary to investigate. One of the most famous producers is Gonzalez Byas, producer of, among other types, Tio Pepe Fino. The tour of the Bodega gives information about the history of the company and some information about the production.
We tried to remember that there is more to Jerez than sherry and visited the Alcázar, the Moorish palace. Not so well preserved as the Alhambra of Granada or Los Alcázares of Seville, it is still interesting, with information about olive oil pressing and the moorish baths.
Sanlúcar de Barrameda:
Another stopping point was Sanlúcar, the starting point for Columbus and Magallanes. San Lúcar is the D.O. for Manzanilla (not the tea!). Thus we needed to visit the Barbadillo Bodega to learn the difference.
Sanlúcar is also the start point for safaris to the Doñana National park.
This National park was created in 1969 and it is one of Europe’s most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. It is an immense area; the parque itself and surrounding parque natural or Entorno de Doñana. The trip involves a crossing of the Guadarquivir river. There is the chance to see animals on the river’s edge as the boat travels upstream to the landing point.The tour shows the different ecosystems. The driver gave a good commentary with interesting anecdotes and history.
Arcos de la Frontera:
The region is also famous for its “pueblos blancos”. We visited one to see how these are. Arcos de La Frontera, like Jerez was a border town at the time of the expulsion of the Moorish empire. This is a town of narrow streets, cobbles and steep roads. With picturesque houses and magnificent views.
An important Spanish Naval city from the days of sail, Cádiz is on a promontery with the old town filling the end.
There is so much History in this area! Definitely we have to go back to find out more about the History and wine!
Everything started a year ago…While we were in one of our enrichment activities in Spain our group of students asked for flamenco lessons back in Bedford!
Back home we contacted Claire, La Fresa Flamenca, and since then two groups of students have learnt this type of Spanish dance.
Last Saturday night, as a grand finale we offered a “ palma”workshop with tapas and paella. In this workshop we learnt different Spanish rhythms and after that we all danced sevillanas, that is a dance from Seville, in the South of Spain.
We had Timothy Pearson, our guitarist, and Claire Astbury, our flamenco teacher. Everyone had a fantastic time!
There were 25 of us who went to the talk about Katharine of Aragon given by Alison Weir.
I was not sure what to expect as Katharine has always seen the cause of religious separation from the Catholic world in England. Having heard a lot about Alison Weir but having never read her books, nor followed her on the media, I knew only that she was a well-known English historian.
What a talk!
Alison’s narration and story-telling techniques, as well as her deep knowledge about the early Tudor times transported us to the times of Kathari ne of Aragon. We learnt how tough this Spanish lady was and how ruthless Henry VIII was to her. She did not manage to meet her only living child, Mary, for the last years of her life.
Alison is very erudite on the subject of Henry VIII and her way of presenting the topic made me realise how much more I would like to learn about Katharine of Aragon. We are thinking of organising a tour where Alison can tell us more. Thank you to everyone who came on the trip and shared this experience with us.