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.


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.

Discovering Barcelona

Enjoying Barcelona in a few days can be tiring but it is certainly worthwhile. My accommodation in Martha´s Guesthouse is located in Gothic Quarter near Las Ramblas. After picking up the house key in the early morning, I went to explore the Barcelona nightlife, discovering Pipa Club.

The place is set in a discreet third floor flat in Real Square. Pipa Club is small and has three rooms: a living room to watch live music and socialize; a small room where drinks are served; and a game room with billiards. The flat´s decoration is all about smoking pipes and distinguishes itself through its elegant hardwoods. Pipa Club is cosmopolitan and open until 3 am.

The next day, I return to Las Ramblas and hop on a tourist bus. I get off at Pedrera (Paseo de Gracia) building known as Milà House. The three facades with 33 wrought iron balconies representing seaweed capture my attention. However, the most stunning part of this building designed by Antonio Gaudí is the roof, where 30 chimneys represent an abstract garden. From here, you can enjoy the most stunning views of Barcelona´s streets

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

In the same street, you will find Batlló House, another building that Dalí turned into an architectonic masterpiece of forms, colours and lights. Walking every corner of the house transports you to a new world with impossible creations and designs that are still modern at present day. The interior patios with different shades of blue create a set of spectacular lights with daylight. The roof features chimneys with dragon form and the water fountain room.

Back at the bus, I enjoy visiting Barcelona port, the beach and its sports complex from the Olympic Games in 1992. I stop at Park Güell, where I explore this park that can take you a few hours to cover its main points of interest. At the entrance you notice long step stairs with a dragon in the middle symbolizing Barcelona. The stair takes you to the Hipólita room which contains 84 Doric columns and displays mosaics in its ceiling.

In the center of the park, there is a large esplanade with a large long bench at the front that includes figures of animals. There, tourist can observe all the street layout of Barcelona and look out over the sea. On the East side of the park, do not miss Pórtico de la Lavandera, an original iron door with a wave form over inclined columns. After walking this path I go back to the large esplanade to view Barcelona´s sunset from this iconic park designed by Gaudí.

The following day, I explore the Labyrinth Park of Horta on the North side of the city. The park has nine hectares including the Romantic Garden and the Neoclassic Garden. Labyrinth Park is quiet and peaceful as there are not many tourists due to its remote location. At the center, there is a labyrinth where you can get lost trying to find the exit (it can take 30 minutes easily). Sculptures, ponds and columns are the main themes of this beautiful park.

Augustus Temple

Augustus Temple

In the afternoon, I stroll around from Cataluña square to Las Ramblas. At the back, I find San Felipe Neri, a very small square with a lot of charm and tragedy because its church was bombed during the Spanish civil war and shrapnel can be seen at its facade. In the center of the square is an octagonal fountain. Passing Bisbe Street there is a Gothic small bridge facade with a Gargola. If you carry on your way, you reach the Augustus Temple, which displays in its patio four Romans columns.

During the night I choose to check out the Magic Fountain, a show of mixed colours, music and lights that is placed near España Square. There you see a lot of tourists enjoying this unique and amazing spectacle that overwhelms your feelings and emotions.

In my last day I enjoy a ride in a hot air balloon outside of Barcelona. The experience is incredible, as from the balloon you can see as far as Barcelona, the Pyrenees, Motmeló GP and all the nature at your feet. Back in Barcelona, I hop on a cable way to reach fortress Montjuic and avoid a long walk through the hill. The fortress dates from 1640 and what I find more interesting are its sea views and gardens at the entrance.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

My trip ends at Sagrada Familia which is still being renovated until 2026. Gaudí had the idea that this building shall be seen from any point in Barcelona. That explains its 18 towers with a 100 meter average in height. The 3 facades of this architectural gem focus on the topics of birth, glory and passion. On the inside, Sagrada Familia features a Latin cross form, 36 columns and many religious motives. In the crypt, you can visit Antonio Gaudí´s tomb. It is worth to sit in the park at the front of the port of Sagrada Familia and watch the pond reflect its shape.