15.05 – 22.05.2017 Matalascanas, Costa de la Luz

We are on holidays at the endlessly long golden sandy beach of Matalascanas , which is surrounded by the 77,000 ha Doñana National Park. This extends to over 255,000 hectares including buffer zones, where building, agriculture and other economic activities are restricted. This vast wetland system with dunes and the Guadalquivir Delta marshes allow refuge for an amazing amount of wildlife and flora to exist, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do%C3%B1ana_National_Park

Not surprising birds of prey are roaming the air over juicy beach bums and storks are nesting everywhere. On church steeples, pylons, chimneys and specially erected posts.

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We are taking time for running, cycling, swimming, padel playing and letting it all hang out.

Padel is actually a lazier form of tennis, because the court is much smaller and you use the Plexiglas walls also. There are seemingly different rules about where you get points when you hit the wall, but we just went for the fun of it.

We also are now seriously house-hunting and have made friends with Chris, estate agent & all-in-one-solution man and his family. He is bringing us around to look at prospective properties.

We also have lined up some properties for rent picked out of the idealista and habitaclia websites, but with disappointing results. The estate agent in Aracena lets us drive up 2 hours only to tell me the property is no longer available. Well, at least this way we saw the amazing views of the Rio Tinto and the iron ore, copper and silver mines there. These minerals have already been exploited by the Iberians and Tartessians, followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Moors from about 3000 BC. [see http://www.andalucia.com/province/huelva/riotinto/home.htm%5D

We came by a village called ‘Campofrio’ which means Cold Country, which is very true as the temperatures in the Sierra Aracena are at least 10 degrees less then at the coast. Nearby is ‘Montefrio’ , also not a place I want to live.

We looked at another rental property, that is apparently owned by a British lady (lots of places are), but we only get to meet the lodgers on the premises, as it is split in two who warn us off and point out all the bad bits. They even go so far as to phone the son-in-law in London who tells us all this in English. But we already saw that this was a no-runner. But it just shows how the Spanish go out of their way to help you and will not rest until you have made friends and your hands are full of their produce, eggs and blueberries in this case.

Near Matalascanas and in the middle of the Doñana National Park lies El Rocio.

This is a charming wild-west looking town, where the streets are pure sand and horses are the main means of transport, every house has a wooden porch and a wooden rail to tie your horse to. Around the week of Pentecost around one million pilgrims gather with their horse drawn carriages and their traditional costumes to venerate a 13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew).

HISTORY OF EL ROCIO                                                                      

This cult dates back to the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Villamanrique (or Almonte, depending on which version of the story you follow) discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in the Doñana park. A chapel was built where the tree stood, and it became a place of pilgrimage. Devotion to this particular version of the Virgin was initially a local affair. Then, by the 17th century, hermandades (brotherhoods) were making the trip from nearby towns at Pentecost; by the 19th century, they came from all over Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, on a journey taking up to four days. [see http://www.andalucia.com/festival/rocio.htm]

And because the following week is pilgrimage weekend and all hell will break loose, we depart to Portugal, 1 ½ hours west.

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