Thursday, September 17, 2015

Toro de Osborne - Conil de la Frontera

As I was finding my to Vejer de la Frontera along N-340 through the outskirts of Conil, a pleasant surprise presented itself between the trees as I looked up.  This was my first up close encounter with the famous Osborne bulls!  Once used as methods of advertising the Osborne family's sherry which led to various controversies locally and with EU regulations. Today, these 50 foot silhouettes stand as a symbol of Spain, but some will argue that they are representing Andalusian culture more than Spanish!  There are 91 of these bulls scattered out through most of Spain, and when I say 'most of Spain', do not expect to find them in areas such as Catalonia or the Basque country!   Luckily for me, I the routes I followed along my cycling adventures in Andalusia took me past others of the region, but this one will always be the most memorable one for me.  As I was snapping shots of the bull and the towers of the wind farm nearby, a Dutch couple travelling on motorcycle also veered off N-340 onto the pullout to see this bull for a few moments.  The wife asked me about my biking trek and then they shared some of their grapes with me as we all admired the Cadiz countryside and the sentry watching over the fields and rolling hills.

Reaping the Sun - Chiclana de la Frontera, Spain

As Vittorio and I went to Conil de la Frontera, we passed the hilltop town of Chiclana with a stark white church on the top of the prominence which caught my inquisitive eye.  When it came time for my departure from the city of Cadiz, I made my way along a few dirt service roads to the beacon of Chiclana de la Frontera.  I quickly learned as I saw the hill crested with churches from afar that in the labyrinth of the old city, those churches would not be easily found!  After reaching the white domed church, which was closed for visitation sadly, I enjoyed the ride downhill!  As I crossed from city life to the rural outskirts, a sweet smell came to me as I pedaled southward.  This aroma was something that I had never experienced before but as I kept cycling along, I did recognize the sounds of a combine at work!  I am not too sure what they thought of me on my bicycle with a loaded trailer stopped on the shoulder of the road watching them make their harvest of sunflower seeds, but I was enjoying every second of it!  This was the first time in my life that I was able to watch how sunflowers were harvested and I was quite intrigued judging by the smile I could feel growing especially after the combine driver gave me a wave as he spun around to finish up the field.  I do love exploring the cities of the world, but my heart still yearns to see the life of the countryside where the fields cover the earth like a patchwork quilt of golds, greens and amber at this time of year.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cathedral of the Americas - Cadiz, Spain

Crowning the skyline of the peninsula, the central gilded dome shines bright with her two sentry towers standing watch over breaking waves of the Atlantic and the bustle in the plaza below.  As I rounded the bend from La Caleta on my bicycle, the cathedral rose above the pastel oceanfront houses.  Winding my way there, the towers only rose higher as did the sounds of musicians playing, singers serenading the passing sight-seers, and dancers tapping about the cobblestones as I entered the Cathedral Plaza with my face hurting from my smile brimming across my face.  Before stepping inside what would be my first cathedral visit in Spain, I took a few minutes to take everything in around me while I enjoyed a cup of coffee with a full view of the happenings of the plaza from the flamenco dancers to the children waving down to family from the church tower above! Then after my caffeine dose of the day had been resolved, the true adventure began and I made my way to the entry point.  For a few euro, five if I recall correctly, you can visit the entire interior to include the massive crypt and make the serpentine climb to the top of the Levante Tower. 

Once I passed the queue, my architecture adrenaline was peaking within milliseconds!  Firstly, this cathedral's construction spanned nearly 120 years and over those years were significant changes in design styles and construction.  With all of that, 'Catedral de Santa Cruz de Cadiz' was intended to be styled in the fad of Acerco's time which was baroque.  But, as he passed and other architects came and went, the cathedral has touches of rococo and mostly completed with neoclassical elements.  Although, with that extensive mixture of architectural aspects, the beauty of each of them blends perfectly together to create this celestial cathedral.  I was already in awe as I made my first few steps, but when the choir chamber came into view I was even more excited when the pipes and trumpets of the organ met my eyes!  After making two rounds of the interior (had to make sure I got my money's worth!), I made my way to the base of the Levante Tower.  To my surprise, the tower is not climbed by the traditional winding stairs but a ramp!  As one nears the top of the tower, there is a "fun" sensation in the shins!  But, the trek up the spiraling path is beyond worth the climb!  A full view of the ancient peninsula city along with ocean views and a direct look into the whole harbor!  Best part of the tower tour, you are among all the bells and if you are lucky and the hands pass over to the new hour, you can hear the big ones!  For my first cathedral exploration, I could not have asked for a better day and a better place to do so!