After the hustle and bustle of Gibraltar, we headed out in a westerly direction quickly leaving all the built up areas behind and were soon seeing more changes in the landscape. The hills were more undulating and everything was so much greener, we even started to see cattle and sheep which we never saw in eastern Spain. Stretching into the distance the far distant hill looked blue above the fields, now occasionally we saw beautiful brown cattle and small herds of long legged sheep. The Autovia is seldom busy so I have plenty of time to gaze about, the fluffy clouds looked beautiful in the sunshine, we pass weird road signs and at one point, had to stop on a slip road leaving the Autovia for road works. It would never happen in the UK where the traffic backs up onto our motorway while a workman sits on the barriers, no Health & Safety or road cones here, eventually I drove over the rubble and carried on.
Travelling west for 75 miles (120 km) we got to Conil de la Frontera, a well appointed site with large sunny pitches, just a short walk away was miles of wide sandy beaches and the town centre. Pre-dinner drinks were enjoyed with Trudy and David who we had met on a previous site, lots of chatting, swapping notes, hints and tips and a good laugh together, and then Chris and I enjoyed the Quiz Night in the bar and his team came 3rd with a small money prize too!
Using a hire car we visited Jarez about an hour away to see the Foundation of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and the beautiful horses. Entering through the main gates of the Recreo de Las Cadenas Palace, the semi circle entrance has a gatehouse at either side decorated with chains which give the Palace its name, Palace of the Chains. Beautiful gardens with a high fountain, exotic plants and trees stretches up to the front of the Palace.
To the left is the Picadero (indoor arena) built in traditional Andalusian style with the deep yellow colours of the area combined with white similar to the regional houses. Outside are the stables looking out over the exercise with training rings and in one corner is a ‘horse walker’. This is a large circular area with a central pole holding five large gates, surrounded by fencing. Horses are exercised, five at a time with one between each gate, the centre rotates mechanically, keeping the horses walking, changing direction after 5 minutes or so.
The Picadero can seat 1,600 spectators and it was here we watched the white stallions perform their equestrian ballet to classical Spanish music with the riders in 18th century costumes of grey, black and white. A single horse entered first and the rider demonstrated many skills based on cattle herding including pirouettes, changes of rhythm from standing to a gallop in seconds. We also saw very complex movements based on classical dressage where 10 horses and riders showed their skills, control and hours of training while they criss-crossed the arena, weaving in between each other and constantly changing direction. Horses also showed how they could obey commands when being worked ‘in-hand’ with various movements including, trotting on the spot, rearing on command and huge leaps into the air. Carriage driving was also demonstrated with two teams of four horses harnessed to carriages performing twists and tight turns together. It was very good watching the highly trained horses and riders, I just wish we had been allowed to take photographs but sadly not. I did get a few outside the arena before it started while they were training and afterwards while they cooled the carriage horses down.
After watching the horses, we looked at the harness rooms where there were displays of harness and tools used for making it, craftsmen were there to demonstrate their skills.
A few rooms were open at the palace which was designed by the architect Charles Garnier, he also designed the Paris Opera House. The entrance hall had a smart black and white tiled floor and curved marble staircase with ornate wrought iron work balustrade, there were only three rooms being displayed, with high and very detailed painted ceilings, decorative doors and mouldings and fine chandeliers.
Walking through the streets later on, we located Jarez Cathedral up two flights of steps with bricks set in a herringbone pattern. The front was beautifully symmetrical in appearance with two towers positioned close together, the central large main door edged with elaborate carving each side had a four sectioned window edged in blue above. Two round windows on either side above additional doors had stone arches above at roof height with turrets on top of the towers.
Inside was beautiful with lovely feature architecture in the nave and transepts, the feature stonework being slightly darker than the mortar between creating an unusuail and pleasing subtle tone throughout the cathedral. The nave had a lovely circular dome letting in light and there were elaborate columns with much carving and detail beneath, high arches supporting the vaulted ceiling led to the main altar with decorative stained glass window above.
We took a coach trip to Cadiz to see the costumes of people dressing up for the Carnival and experience the buzz of excitement surrounding it. Thousands of people came from a huge area, it was so colourful with whole families and groups enjoying themselves with music and picnics or meals in the bars. Situated next to the sea enabled us to walk along the sea wall where loads of people were soaking up the sun and having a break from the clouds, it was quite picturesque with the sea sparkling below a and the beaches in the distance. We never got to see the main parade but still enjoyed our experience.
Walking back to the coach park, we could admire the long elegant bridge called La Pepa Bridge crosses the Bay of Cadiz from Cadiz to Puerto Real. It has two vertical pylons 180 meters tall and the road is 69 meters from the surface of the water, it carries 40,000 vehicles per day over a distance of 5 km. As the darkness began to fall, so the colours of the sky and waters changed, and lights appearing on the bridge added the finishing touches to a lovely day.