Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Taste of Andalucia - Jaen

Our last stop on our tour of Andalusia took us to Jaen, a city noted for its vast olive groves and Moorish and Renaissance influence. Sitting at the base of the Sierra de Jabalcuz, Jaen is dominated by an impressive fortress, the Castillo de Santa Catalina and has a stunning Catedral. The catedral was built by Andres de Vandelvira, one of the key architects of Spanish Baroque style and dominates the old town. Inside the catedral there is a capilia which reportedly claims to house one of the veils used by Saint Veronica to wipe Christ's face when he died. During our visit, we local workers were dismantling some of the altars in preparation for Semana Santa (Easter Holy week), where the many figures from the catedral would be solemnly paraded through the town on large platforms (carried by groups of 40-50 men each) during Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The amount of work leading up to Semana Santa was quite impressive. Then it was up to the Castillo de Santa Catalina, where part of the castle had been converted to a Parador, a state-run chain of hotels in historic and unusual venues. The parador towered over the city of Jaen and offered fantastic views of the catedral and town below as well as the blue-tinged mountains, with endless rows of olive groves, marking this area as the top producers of olive oil in Spain. Inside, the parador retained the feel of living in a medieval castle, but with all the comforts of the modern world. Unfortunately, I had come down with some sort of gastric illness, but at least my folks had the opportunity to enjoy a fabulous multi-course dinner at the Parador. The next morning, we wrapped things up and made our way back to Javea. Reflecting on this trip, it was definitely a full itinerary, but not overwhelming. It was also great to be able to share this experience with my parents, so that they could see another facet of Spain, particularly that of the Moorish influence. But now it was time to head home, as Suzanne and I had only a day left before we were off to las Fallas in Valencia...

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