Friday, 16 April 2021

A little walk around the finca

 Any suggestions to identify this tiny butterfly? There were many of them in the lavender as well as hundreds of bees.

A rich cluster of Serapias Strictiflora

Viper's Bugloss is just coming out, expecting the usual purple haze soon

Friday, 2 April 2021

Visit to Sotofermoso Palace of ABADÍA, Ambroz Valley, Extremadura

Abadía is on the river Ambroz, located in the middle of pastures on the upper side of the Ambroz valley with breath taking views of the surrounding mountains.

 It is a village with a rich cultural variety; A medieval bridge, the Sotofermoso Palace (also called the Palace of the Dukes of Alba) and the Bien Parada Convent. 

The Sotofermoso Palace was declared a Historic Artistic Site in 1931.

Originally built as a stronghold during the 12th century, after the triumph of the Christians against the Moors it was given to the Templar order. 

In the 16th century the palace was remodelled by the third Duke of Alba, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, to include a splendid Mudejar style cloister and  Italianate renaissance gardens including a replica of the principle piazza of Naples no less.

The Alba family were some of the principle members of the Spanish royal court and would entertain various monarchs here throughout the following centuries. Also celebrated writers and artists would be invited to stay e.g. Garcilaso de la Vega and Lope de Vega both great writers during the golden age of Spanish baroque literature. 

 The fabulous cloister in the Mudejar style in an excellent state of conservation.

The elaborate garden is now unfortunately in a state of neglect. 

Six beautiful portals overlooked the Ambroz River, originally with wooden doors that could be opened to enjoy the panorama, they are now cracked and strangled by vegetation, a great pity. 

There are some original statues now moved into the cloisters

Visits on Tuesdays only 10.00 - 14.00

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Another visit to the molinos near Botija, one of our favourite walks, Spectacular after the spring rains

One of the most wonderful walks from Finca al-manzil. Totally emblemic of the Extremadura dehesa and the meandering Tamuja river with an original molino as an historical architectural attraction. Bird watching is amazing in this totally untouched environment. If you walk beyond the molino there is a celtic-iberic site Villaviejas, super interesting, see the blog post here:

Sunday, 22 November 2020

A trip to Las Hurdes and the waterfall of Chorro de la Meancera at El Gasto

We left  the finca early as it's a 2 1/2 hour journey to the tiny pueblo of El Gasto, literally the end of the road, a very winding and steep road.

Our aim was to do the hike between El Gasto and the powerful waterfall known as Chorro de la Meancera.

We were impressed by the effort spent on making the walk along the river accessible and safe, much easier than we imagined to reach such a remote site. We particularly enjoyed the well constructed
boarded walks suspended around the rocks of the river valley.


The views down the valley and up to the amazing crags were exciting before getting to the main attraction, the waterfall itself. The water seems to irrupt from a narrow crack in the crag and falls with mighty force for over 100 metres crashing into a pool before tumbling down the river over smooth rocks and ledges.

The day was sunny and warm, a wonderful place to linger and breathe in the surrounding nature but I would love to come back on a gloomy day with rain and possibly some thunder and lightening for a really gothic romance experience.

We walked back on the same route with fresh perspectives. 

On re-entering the village Manfred and Lucy headed off for a drink while I wanted to find some original primitive dwellings built of dark slate giving these Hurdes villages the name "pueblos negros" notoriously featured in Buñuel's  film "Tierra sin pan". Also wanted to find some natural honey, Las Hurdes has always been famed for its honey, one of the few products the inhabitants could sell for cash.

 When roads were built covering the original mule tracks over Las Hurdes it was possible to bring building materials and modern life invaded these remote villages, buildings were thrown up with hideous results, no reference to the nature of the terrain or natural building materials. But who can blame them?  They had been driven out of their hovels in these wild mountains by the deprivations of extreme poverty and hunger to work in big cities or further afield in France and Germany in the 60s and 70s. They returned with money to improve the dire living conditions but unfortunately they chose to build in an urban style with several floors using cheap materials which have not aged well, a pity. I was hoping to find at least some vestige of old dwellings, an important part of the history of Extremadura when life had been so diverse with traditions, cultural differences, costume and even dialects depending on the area. There were more old houses than I expected, all huddled together at the extreme end of the village next to the river. The alleyways between the ruins filled with weeds and rubble, a mule observed me from a stable that had no doubt once been inhabited by a family.

In the past it was recorded  that not only were the people here were so restricted that they could not make bread but also they built with no chimneys, letting the smoke from cooking fires escape where it could through the rafters and roof of slate slabs. I saw that none of the old houses had chimneys or even windows, just one primitive wooden door. A vision from the past appeared,  a woman sitting at her door with smoke billowing through her roof, she might have been 80 and probably remembers the time before roads, electricity and piped water when the only food was foraged in the woods or from tiny patches of cultivation by the river which were regularly ruined and flooded every winter, when the village was just this collection of old houses with no modern conveniences at all. 

She sat there quietly with memories of a life lived through amazing changes, it was as recent as  her parents generation that the bizarre and mysterious life of the people here inspired real horror stories of disease, incest, mental and physical afflictions and incredible superstitions..... See this post  

P.S. Found the honey, bought 500 g of the most wonderful tasting honey for €7.00, no label but straight from the bee keeper.


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