Monday, November 12, 2007

Trip to the Cazorla National Park in Jaen and the route of the Paradors.

Hello again

Well here I am writing from our bedroom on Saturday evening before dinner at the Parador in Cazorla, the biggest natural park in Andalucía and one of the biggest in Europe; some say the biggest. This is really a beautiful place and has some history too. It seems this was where Franco used to hunt and the Parador was built for him to stay at or so rumour has it. It has a heliport which he must have used to come here. The views from the hotel are spectacular. It is about 1.600 m high and is 23 km away from the small town of Cazorla on a winding road overlooking the sheer mountains all the way and takes nearly an hour to drive to. We arrived on Friday night in complete darkness but woke up this morning to see what a paradise we had come to.

Yesterday, Friday, we left Madrid quite early in the morning for us and drove to Jaén first. We have come with our travelling companions Roberto and Mari Carmen. One of the objectives of the trip and the reason we came to this area really, was to see Mari Carmen’s friend’s chemist shop in Jaén to see how the new billing system she had installed worked. It was a great excuse to have lunch with her in Jaén and to visit the castle of Santa Catalina (also a Parador) to see the spectacular views over Jaén. She was a great host too. The best thing about Jaén which is the olive capital of Spain, was the temperature: 24ºC for the middle of November was lovely.

And now I am writing from home on Monday afternoon and trying to remember all the things we did.

Saturday was spent exploring the Cazorla National Park both by car and on foot. Nature was at its Autumn best as you can see from some of the photos. In the morning we took the route to Tranca where we came upon a great hotel called Coto del Valle which is where we ended up having lunch. One of the highlights of the trip was finding a herd of wild boar after lunch. Children were feeding them bits of bread and I had a great time taking as many shots as I could.

In the afternoon we visited the small town of Cazorla which has 8.000 inhabitants and like many towns in Jaen has a castle with amazing views of the omnipresent olive fields.

All too soon it was Sunday and the day of our return but not before visiting Ubeda, a lovely medieval town in the province of Jaen. The second highlight of our trip happened here and it was the horse driven carriage ride around the town by a most cultured local guide who had the most charming Andaluz accent. His pretty white horse was called “Goloso” and very much decorated the already beautiful streets of Ubeda.

Our cultured guide also gave us some succulent figures about olive oil when he showed us what he called the Mirador al Mar de olivos (vantage point of the olive tree sea). The description was perfect as it was like looking out to a sea as the only thing you could see for miles were olive trees. Apparently Jaen produces 20% of the world’s olive oil and 40% of Europe’s olive oil. They even count the trees and Jaen is supposed to have 60 million! It looked like 600 million to me actually!

From Ubeda we drove to Bailén en route to Madrid and here, surprise surprise, we had lunch at the old Parador, Hotel Bailén.

This trip apart from being a visit to the Cazorla National Park has also been a bit like a tour of Paradors as we have been to the ones in Manzanares, Jaen, Cazorla and Ubeda all in one weekend. It has also been a study in local gastronomy too and food, as usual, has been an important part of our trip. The main element of the local gastronomy is what they call in Jaen, golden liquid which is non other than their wonderful olive oil, plenty of which we have brought home with us of course.

Cheers for now and have a great week.

PS If you follow this link (or click on the red cross) you will find the Jaen trip photo album posted in Facebook where you can a pretty big selection of those I took over the weekend.

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