Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

October Wild Swimming

zaharalakejetty

The Sierra de Cadiz is a veritable lake district. This, at the foot of Zahara, is an embalse, a manmade lake, but – aside from the dam at one end and some trees sticking up at the shoreline – you wouldn’t know it; it’s wild and natural, with just two jetties but plenty of natural beaches along its 30km circumference.

We’re having an Indian summer – or a membrillo (quince) summer as it’s known here. I’ve been the only person in the lake in August, and today – almost November – when I stopped for a swim on the way back from shopping for jamon, cucumbers, and milk, I unsurprisingly had it all to myself again as I swam out and floated on my back enjoying the view of olive fields and beauteous Zahara. The temperature today was around 28, and the water is about as warm as it’s going to be this year.

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GUARDIAN COSTA DE CADIZ

guardian cadiz

See the feature I wrote for The Guardian on Cádiz and the Costa de la Luz: where to stay, eat, drink and more: ‘With sunshine pouring down on golden sands, ancient buildings and the sparkling ocean, Spain’s far south-west lives up to its name, the coast of light’. The idea was to suggest good places to visit in order to take advantage of the late summer sun. It’s currently late October and the temperatures are still around 30 degrees. You can read the full article here.

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Seaside, Sea Salt, Sanlúcar

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Down below all the history, callejónes, bars, singing, and bodega action of Sanlúcar de Barrameda’s barrio alto, Spain ends in sea and sky. Straight roads meet at a point on the horizon in the salt flats beyond down-at-heel Bonanza. You can buy sea salt by the sack here.

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Zahora, Caños de Meca

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They don’t call this the Costa de la Luz for nothing. The daylight is unique, the sunsets all-engulfing. The beaches were packed in August, but in September, even on a Saturday, in prime position in front of Chiringuito de Juan and Sajorami, with temperatures over 30 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, things are just plain civilised.

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Cante por Serranas

DSC01207Had cheap beer, montaditos and crisps at the 39th annual competitive flamenco sing-off in the plaza of Prado del Rey. A rousing event involving high-profile singers – and their supporters – from all over the sierras, the organisers are hoping it becomes a designated national tourism attraction. It currently feels pleasantly neighbourly – well-dressed children, hair slicked flat, rolling across the plaza; teenage girls in platforms texting the boys lolling about by the church wall; old women (hair done specially) discussing someone who’s died; men in striped shirts smoking at the bar talking about bulls, and a succession of suitably overwrought singers punching out the compulsory copla.
It’s what passes as a top night out round these parts.

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Running with . . . Cows

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All through rural Cádiz la cultura taurina is alive and kicking. This is bullfighting country, and August is the peak of the bullfighting season, although the first events begin as early as March, and the season lingers on through September. Village ferias that don’t include a bullfight as part of their summer festivities will at least have a corrida de toros or two. And so it is in Zahara. As part of the Annual August celebrations at the end of August, bulls . . . well, cows, but cows with attitude and enormous horns, are released into the main street to chase the local population up and down the cobbles for several hours before being taken home again in a lorry. Most people sit on, or peer through the wooden barricades erected for the occasion (from the safe side), or watch from balconies with a drink, or in the slither of shade on the church steps; but the village’s youth and those old enough to know better are in with the cows, jumping and calling to attract their attention then running fast when they do, hauling themselves up onto window ledges, or impressively vaulting the fence. Last year, I saw someone run towards a cow ‘bull’, grab hold of its horns, and somersault over its back. Free drinks all round.
Best viewing point is the old men’s bar, Bar Niño, although once in, you’re trapped for the duration – not that anyone’s complaining.
Twice now I’ve put out pink socks, yellow shorts and a red cape for Dave on the morning of the corrida, but so far he has hasn’t been keen to strut his stuff.
This year, like every year, the celebrations included prize-giving for flamenco queens and princesses, paella, dancing until dawn to old standards played on an electronic keyboard, and a very quiet Monday.

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