Learning artisanal craft in Vejer

Walking around Vejer de la Frontera (Spain) is travelling back to the past. This white village lies on the top of a hill surrounded by pine trees. White washed houses with its Arab-Andalusian architecture, cobbled streets, and secret corners are the main features of Vejer. You can see in some of the houses the typical Andalusian patio community that is share between the neighbours. Many patios have a disused dwell and a lot of lovely flowerpots.

Andalucia Travel Dreams: Bolonia & Vejer De La Frontera

Patio Andaluz (Foto de http://www.Creativelena.com)

My first creative appointment leads me to Carmen Sánchez´ house. This lady from Madrid has moved to Vejer a long time ago looking for peace and quiet. She has two looms in the ground floor, where there are all the resources she needs to create her artisanal products.

Andalucia Travel Dreams: Bolonia & Vejer De La Frontera

Carmen tensing the loom. (Foto de http://www.creativelena.com)

We start setting up the loom, this process takes time and you need to be patient because you have to insert the warp into each of the slots. Once this process is done, we secure the back beam on the loom with string loops. Using the weaving stick on the loom, you can practise different techniques obtaining the patterns for you design. This is the part where you develop you creativity. Carmen sells her products in a coquette shop El Telar de Vejer, located opposite to the church in Vejer.

Andalucia Travel Dreams: Bolonia & Vejer De La Frontera

Juani Marchán at the back of the basket shop. (Foto de http://www.creativelena.com)

My second meeting takes me to Trafalgar street, where is placed Cesteria Juani Marchán, an artisanal basketry and craft shop owned by Juani. This craft lady works with local palm and wicker like no other. Her shop is small but there are many objects that catch the eye of locals and tourists. At the back shop, Juani keeps working her artisanal products at the same time that she deals with the clients. She shows me basic techniques to make a basket. First you place 5 reeds parallel to each other, then you interweave with the other 5. Juani only uses her hands, wicker or palm and knife to make baskets, hats, bags and brooms.

Here is a video about this trip.

Pampered like a king in Kaiserwinkl (Tyrol)

The Tourism board of Kaiserwinkl invites Austrian journalists to their region and between them I am chosen with my colleague Elena Paschinger www.creativelena.com. The route to Kufstain from Vienna takes less than 4 hours using the high speed train ÖBB. During the trip we meet the other journalists and one of the organizers from Kaiserwinkl, managing director Thomas Schönwälder.

A bus takes us to Hotel Panorama, our deluxe accommodation in the village of Walchsee. There we spend all afternoon enjoying their facilities: Jacuzzi, warm swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, and areas to relax. For dinner we are served a sybarite menu while Thomas talks about the activities of the programme that await us. Almost all of them are about winter sports in the snow, so as an Andalusian that sounds very interesting to me.

Hotel Panorama

Hotel Panorama in the village of Walchsee

After a nutritious breakfast the following day, we go to the cross country skiing school of Franz Schuler. The place offers a track of about five kilometres to learn this discipline. I try cross country skiing with sticks for first time in my life! Going up the slope is not difficult; the trouble is when you go down avoiding falling. I have fallen down three times but the experience is positive for a beginner like me. In the afternoon we visit the family cheese factory Plangger, which produces organic cheese. Their cows only eat herbs from the mountains. After trying a variety of yummy cheeses we return to the hotel in the sauna and swimming pools before dinner.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross Country Skiing Slope

The day after, it is the last day of the programme and I am very excited because I am going to receive my first skiing lessons in the resort of Kössen. My colleagues go up the mountain slopes because most Austrians learn to ski right after walking when they are children. I find myself in a small slope with children and my instructor. After learning basic movements and keeping the balance I use the magic carpet (a small lift) to get to the top of the slope.

Winter im Kaiserwinkl, Tirol

My Colleagues in the slopes for Advance (Photo by Creativelena)

Going down the slope is very funny but the problems are breaking and keeping the skis in the correct position. Near my learning area there is an esplanade where the people who try paragliding and hang gliding are landing. Some of my colleagues are doing paragliding in tandem. I have the choice to try it too, but I rather keep training the turns with my instructor. I love skiing and I think this sport is addictive because you always want more when you are learning.

In the afternoon we go to try snow tubing, one of the fastest winter sports. Snow tubing is great because you do not need lessons; you just pick a large “tubing” and ride the chairlift to the top of the ski slope. Then you ride down about 100 meters until your tubing stops. Snow tubing guarantees you adrenaline and a lot of fun.

Our experience finishes with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage that takes us to a typical Tyrolean restaurant. There we try Austrian dishes like Kasspatzle, a kind of pasta with a lot of cheese. It is delicious.

Here there is my video with the highlights of Kaiserwinkl.

Tarifa and its creative corners

Tarifa offers many tourist alternatives apart from the traditional cliche of sun and beach. Tarifa is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and it also has the Strait of Gibraltar separating two continents: Europe and Africa.

Begin our creative tourism visit at the Tarifeña fish factory. There they elaborate their products in a total artesenal way. In the first stage, the Andalusian mackerel is cleaned and washed until no blood can be seen. Then they are boiled in brine without chemicals to get the optimum temperature (0 y 4ºC).

La Tarifeña Factory

Tarifeña Factory

In the next stage, skilled workers peel the fish only with a knife very fast. It is incredible seeing how they fill the tins wasting almost nothing. Their productivity is amazing. Later the machines fill up the mackerel tins with sunflower or virgin oil. Finally, the products are sterilized and ready to be labeled and distributed.

Fish Factory

Employees peeling very fast the fish. They are so skilled.

Before my cookery creative curse at Sillos 19, I hop on a boat to watch dolphins and whales at the Strait of Gibraltar. Tarifa due to its location is a perfect spot to observe migrations of those aquatic mammals but it is also a place for bird migrations too. I rather watch animals in their habitat instead of a prison such as aquariums or zoos. It is pity, I saw the dolphins but the whales did not show up, may be next time.

Dolphin Tarifa

Dolphin at Tarifa´s Strait

I arrive at restaurant Sillos 19, where Chef José Luis prepares paella and sea bass in salt crust. Cooking paella, I discover few things that I write down: 1) do not use onions, 2) make use of king prawns ´shells for the fumet mixed with vegetables (broth paella). During the curse, I also learn about one pepper from my country I did not know. Its name is ñora, a red and dry pepper which gives sweet flavor. Both meals are delicious and they taste even better because you have cooked them. Yummyyyyy!!

In the hills of Puertollano (30 minutes away from Tarifa) lives the wind miller Juan Gil, famous in the region because of his macho bread (whole meal bread). Finding the place is a little bit difficult as the GPS does not show up the address on the screen. The only way to get there is by asking the locals. Juan shows me the water mill, the wood oven, and the room where he makes with his hands the whole meal bread. He gets up every day at 4am to work its macho bread and delivery it to the region of Tarifa.

Puertollano Valley Tarifa

The post letter signal to get Juan´s address

Back at Tarifa, Daniel Vallejo welcomes me at his workshop. He makes and repairs surfboards and kite surfs. Daniel shows me the mains steps to produce a surfboard: draw the marks on the board, polishing and the design. The process is quite long as the board needs time to dry after painting the design. Daniel is also an instructor of surf and kite surfing.

Here you can watch the video of my creative trip to Tarifa.