Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.
- Just north west of Sevilla lies Itálica, a city which once rivalled Sevilla in importance for the Romans. Or rather the remains of it. These are actually within the township of Santiponce. If you're looking for it, be warned that the signs are small and so weathered as to be, at times, illegible. In fact, we stopped on Saturday morning for breakfast in Santiponce without realising we were within a few hundred metres of Itálica. And so had to return on Sunday, when – of course – everything was closed.
- Another place which once rivalled Sevilla is the town of Niebla, about 65km west, off the road to Huelva. This is a delightful walled town with some interesting ruins – the (ex-mosque) church of San Martín and the ex-Moors' Alcázar. It also has a lovely Gothic-Mudejar (ex-mosque) church - Sta María La Granada - in which, wrote H V Morton, there are some fine examples of Mozarabic art. Naturally, it was closed. So we decided to return in the evening, when it would be open for the Mass. About this we were told:-
- By a woman in the Turismo office (which is not where the town map says it is): The Mass starts at 8pm.
- By a woman sitting in front of the church at 8pm: It starts at 8.30.
- By the barman in a bar right behind the church at 8.30: Dunno. Didn't know there was a Mass there.
Need I say, there was no sign of a Mass taking place and so we left a 8.40.
By the way, don't bother trying to download the QR map of Niebla from the information board outside the main (Socorro) gate; all you'll get is an HTML document about a Ruta de Vinos.
Writing in 1956, Morton described Niebla as a very run-down place of peasant cottages, with old men sitting on their haunches in doorways, and donkeys and ox-carts in the narrow streets. But Spain has moved on and tourism has arrived in a big way. None of these feature in today's Niebla. Now, everything is tarted up and there's a nice exhibition in the old hospital in the main square. There's one bar and one shop, though no café. But there are 3 bank branches within spitting distance of each other. Which says a lot about modern Spain, I guess.
- Closer to Huelva is Palos de la Frontera, whence Columbus sailed on his world-altering voyage westwards. Or westwards/eastwards, as he thought. Morton writes of the fountain from which water was drawn for the 3 caravelles and of 3 rings in the ground at which these were moored. The fountain is still there but the rings are gone. As indeed are the dock and the water in which the ships sat. All recovered land now. In fact, you can't even see the river or sea from the spot. As for the rings, I imagine they're in some museum now and that there are at least 10 copies of them in other museums around the world, all claiming to be authentic.
- Near Palos is the beautiful Monastery of La Rábida, where Columbus got some help with the implementation of his crazy scheme to sail westwards to India.
- And just north of Palos is another lovely white town, Moguer. This has a monumental church and convent – Santa Clara - but, of course, this was closed on a Monday afternoon, albeit it had been open earlier in the day. It also has a stunning church – Nuestra Señora de la Granada - which comes close in size to a cathedral. It boasts a small version of Sevilla's Giralda tower and 5 naves. Which is more than I recall ever seeing in church – or even a cathedral – before.
- Fotos of all these tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'll just mention that my GPS sometimes gives me instructions on roundabouts seven times in quick succession. And is unaware that the A4 between Sevilla and Cadiz is now the AP4 and, thus, a toll road.
- But still on travelling . . . Here are 2 relevant lists:-
SOME SERIOUS ODDS AND SODS