Rachel´s Wanderings in Spain 13 Guadix, Renaissance Cathedral, Amphitheatre and Cave Dwellers
Usually I ignore the emails I get with special offers, but this particular hotel just kept popping up. What could I do? Cheap night away, spa circuit included in a city I really like. It had to be done. I paid, kept watching the weeks pass by and eventually on the last night before expiry we popped off to Guadix.
Livelier than previous visits, it was Halloween, we booked in Hotel Palacio de Oñate, were warmed, cooled, battered and steamed for an hour in the spa then put on our glad rags for a wonder about town (read . look for a bar). We circled the cathedral which took from the 16th to 18th century to finish and covers three styles Gothic, Barroque and Renaissance.
On entering Guadix from any direction you arrive at the main roundabout and see the rather staid frontage, then turn the corner and the animated Renaissance frontage divided into friezes is stunning. You wouldn´t imagine it was the same building.
Just passed the cathedral excavation work, which I don´t remember seeing before, reveals a Roman amphitheatre coming back to life and very close to there is a tiny bar which I wanted to take hubby to having told him about the great tapas I´d had on a singles trip a few year´s before.
Outside the bar door was a huge hotplate, inside, two tables the bar and little standing room. We ordered two vino tintos de la zona and were given a choice of tapas – pork loin, tortilla, sardines or chorizo. We both choose the pork, saw the barman hand a plate with two pork fillets to a man we had thought was a customer, he took them outside with two hunks of bread, cooked them.
Suddenly there we were standing with a glass of wine in one hand and a plate thrust into the other. Looking at each other while trying to figure how to eat, a man got up from his table told us he was leaving, ushered us to sit down, then sat at the only spare chair on the other table. Spanish hospitality.
Being good local wine, we had to make sure so another glass and another large tapas and we were done, full. It´s wasn´t the dining experience we´d imagined but an experience which wasn´t over. A chap from the bar jumped up, put his hand on my arm and said ´listen´, dragged his stool about 2 paces into the centre of the bar and sat. When he had everyone´s attention he began to recite some poetry. Emotion flowed, all ears attentive, we struggled to keep up but understood most.
From being strangers we´d walked into a group of regulars. Honoured to have witnessed the performance we noted down the poets name to read some more of his work – Pepe de Rosa – and left before being bought yet another glass of wine.
If I hadn´t been there before we wouldn´t have given that bar the time of day but carried on to a somewhat more respectable looking establishment. I learnt a lot that evening.
The following day we took a Tourist Train. I know, I know. I always poo pooed them too! We were the only foreigners on it, the commentary was fascinating and well worth the 6€ each we paid. There was also a wine and tapas tasting at the end, which made it even more worth the dosh.
The train took us through interesting parts of the city and up to the cave district where it left us for half an hour or so. White painted chimney pots stuck up from hillocks, front doors in hillsides. It´s an amazing landscape with a thriving population of troglodytes who live there permanently.
A man was waving from the entrance to his cave house at us as we got off the train, so splitting more or less in half one group headed underground. Then it was our turn. The front wall gleamed- ´limewash´ white in the sunshine we went inside his house/shop/museum to see how they live.
Usually the kitchen extends outside, I don´t know whether that is for ventilation or because they are a newish thing. Originally all cooking would have been done over the open fire, summer or winter, so a kitchen would be a later extension. Living without natural light and windows, especially in the days before electricity must have been difficult. On the other hand, need a new room? Dig a bit deeper into the hillside. Also an all year round temperature of around 15 – 18ºc must help with fuel bills! No air con needed underground.
I know that is not my choice of lifestyle, but Guadix holds a firm fascination for me.