This weekend I’ve been amazed yet again at the history, culture and beauty of Andalucia. Since moving to Jaen province in the north of Andalucia in 1996 I love nothing more than exploring the region, and the rest of Spain, it is always diverse and fascinating.
My destination was a lovely ancient Cortijo or farmstead, once known as the Casablanca, now it’s called Cortijo del Arte . Arte or art as each bedroom is named after a different Spanish artist. The new owners are going to be changing the name of the rooms. They will be holding art exhibitions (in the onsite municipal museum), then room will be named after the exhibiting artist and host one of their paintings too.
On Saturday we spent the day with a local guide, Carolina, on part of her Ruta Sensorial de Valle de Azahar – Sensory Route of Orange Blossom Valley, with other additions, I left the planning completely up to her. It was all fun. This valley, also known as the Valle del Guadalhorce, is covered with citrus plantations. Orange, lemon, kumquat, graperuit, if it’s citrus it grows here, this is a fairly mild climate with not too cold winters (like I get further north) nor too hot (like I get too!)
Carolina at Arkeolife can design and plan your bespoke visit, their passion is archaeology and preservation while integrating culture with small enterprises. We visited three local businesses. The first a citrus farm with more varieties of oranges and lemons than I knew existed. The owner, known as Juanito Orange, made it an amusing and incredibly informative visit, even my husband who is no gardener was enthralled.
Then it was to a very small winery with a wide range of wines. We sampled several of Lascas de Pedernal‘s wines before the creme de la creme a wine made from Pomegrantes and one made form strawberries. I wouldn’t have guessed what the pomegrante one was, but the strawberry one was very obvious, a pure strawberry aroma, and so strong. The flavour was just as delicious. I could imagine pairing it with a delicately flavoured ice cream or even better pouring it over the top.
We left a table of empty, used glasses and with a goody bag to bring home, a bottle, 50cl, of Lemon wine and a Pomegranate wine. Such a joy seeing tiny, family businesses producing innovative wines and pretty bottles too!
After several glasses and a long time since breakfast we had a brief, yet again fascinating stop at Aceites Esenciales de Eva. Eva greeted us, guess where? Yep, on her citrus farm. Which is where and how her story began. A necessity to make the most of her father’s struggling citrus farm has seen her build her own success story producing and selling essential oils, shampoo, deodorant, body creams, sunscreens and if she doesn’t already produce what you want she will work with you to produce it. If you can’t visit her farm and buy them first hand she now has a shop – Aceites Esenciales de Eva.
After a fairly speedy lunch Alora was our destination. As quite often happens here in Spain – the castle was closed on Saturday afternoon. But the viewpoint looking down the valley held us spellbound and Carolina furnished us with plenty of anecdotes and historical facts and to be honest we really didn’t have time, we’ve saved that for next time.
We then headed to see an ancient washroom that Carolina had heard of but not yet visited. We were the first. Such history and culture rolled up in the outdoor natural spring fed washing troughs. The place to meet, gossip, sing and commiserate, all women together while doing the chores – sounds like more fun than loading the washing machine. Some still use it today, hence the buckets!
Our very last stop was another balcony with a view to rival Ronda’s, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Flores
A busy, fun and informative visit. I have no hesitation recommending Carolina and look forward to doing more of her routes.