Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Horses and Arcos de la Frontera

Our last day in Andalucia, Spain was a busy one. We were raring to see all that we could before leaving. We squeezed in a trip to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain at the last minute. Jerez is the birthplace of sherry wine and flamenco as well as home to the world famous Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The "de la Frontera" part of the name refers to the cities in this area being "on the frontier" between what used to be the Muslim and the Christian areas. Small Christian towns formed as they pushed into the Moorish/Muslim region.

We happened to hit the Royal Horse school on one of their magic days when the famous Horse Symphony show was taking place. We knew it would be tons of fun for Connor, so how could we resist? The grounds of the school were beyond belief. We watched several training sessions and then went into the arena.
Connor loved all the beautiful Andalusian horses. Yep the horse breed is named after this region!I think this might be a horse face!Inside we waited with baited breath for the show. No photos allowed during the performance, so I can't show you. But it was over the top. The horses and riders were in such melodic synchrony as they sashayed and promenaded around. Equestrian dressage is an unbelievable sport. It seems akin to teaching a hippo how to walk a tightrope to me! Our guidebook reads, "This is an equestrian ballet with choreography, purely Spanish music, and costumes from the 19th century. The stern riders and their talented, obedient steeds prance, jump, hop on their hind legs, and do-si-do in time to the music" (Rick Steves)Clearly this is not my photo (below), but I insert it because honestly this is what the horses did. They would elevate on their back hind legs and with a command would pop up into the air. Just like the horse weighed a couple of pounds. I am still baffled at how they teach this trick without breaking all of the horses legs in practice.Connor thought the show was the best. She couldn't stop talking about the "horses dancing!!!"I bought her 2 postcards of the "horses dancing" as a souvenir. She took those picture cards and stared at and talked to them for the rest of the day in the car. It was very cute!We went to the Sandeman sherry facility. I walked in and had to take deep inhales to breathe in the sweet sherry smell. Fun fact: the name "sherry" comes from English attempts to pronounce "Jerez."We then drove 30 minutes down the road and through more sunflower fields to Arcos de la Frontera. Arcos, as the name suggests, was the main frontier town and the "bulwark of Christianity" after the Moors were expelled. It is hard to imagine setting off in the middle of this nowheresville to spread Christianity. Must have been some dedicated pilgrims!"Arcos smothers its long, narrow hilltop and tumbles down the back of the ridge like the train of a wedding dress...The old center is a labyrinthine wonderland, a photographer's feast. Viewpoint-hop through town. Feel the wind funnel through the narrow streets as cars inch around tight corners. Join the kids' soccer game on the churchyard patio. Enjoy the moonlit view from the main square" (Rick).All of the narrow streets and steep hills helped us feel the burn! Especially poor Kirk who took the lead with pushing around a sleeping Connor in the stroller. Connor napped from the moment we got to Arcos til the moment we left. It was a treat for us...but I guess she missed it entirely! A tight squeeze. Made our decision to park and walk up look like a good one!It was HOT! I mean steamy hot. We walked around the white-washed streets for a while but ended up at the Parador de Arcos de la Frontera hotel for lunch within the air-conditioned parlor. The large picture window overlooking the surrounding farmlands made the perfect backdrop.I had fun looking online at how others photographed this beautiful town. This first shot below of the arched passageway is mine, while the black and white one that follows it is from the internet. Fun to see the similarities and differences of how we chose to capture this scene!Kirk and Connor along the narrow streets of white - no doubt sweating even in the shade! An aerial shot of Arcos de la Frontera. Erosion in an issue for them as pieces and parts of the town have already fallen victim to the perched landscape!Click here for full album photos of our time in Jerez and Arcos de la Frontera

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