Tilting at Windmills and Eau de Poo

Part 1, of this tale? How about Part 5? Believe it or not, this is part 10.

The tour of the bodega wasn’t until 10:30am so we had a leisurely morning although we knew we were going to have to rush back from the tour to make checkout time. The famous Osbourne Bodega was just a block away so we figured we’d have time. So why is Osbourne so famous? The bull. Their corporate symbol is a black bull silhouette that happens to have been declared a national symbol as well. So as you drive around Spain, you’ll see these huge bulls standing on the top of hills advertising both the bullring and the sherry. Talk about a sweet deal for Osbourne though.

Outside the bodega. They have a tower too.


If you mess with the bull, you get the horn.


The plaza inside the bodega. Who photographs the photographer…hmmm?


The tour started off with the showing of a corporate video which describes their various facilities such as vineyards and bodegas. It was a fairly funny one with all the corporate speak in a booming voice, “Osbourne is…the quality…Osbourne is….the excellence…Osbourne is….the tradition…” etc. etc. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before we were off to the actual aging building. If you don’t know how sherry is made, it’s quite an interesting process which I won’t detail here since Wikipedia does such a good job. Enough to say that it was fun to walk around the dark halls with barrels lining the walls, the smell of sherry so thick in the air you could almost get drunk breathing it. Afterwards they took us to a tasting room where they had some olives and potato chips as well as 4 different varieties of sherries from a dry fino to a medium oloroso to a sweet cream. Unlike most tasting tours I’ve done in the past, there was no careful measuring of portions. They just opened up a bunch of bottles, left them on the table and said, “Enjoy.” Very nice. The only downsides were that a) it was only 11:30am and b) I had to drive 400km that day.

Inside. The casks are stacked so each time that bottling happens, some is taken off the bottom and then cascaded down from the ones above with the new wine being added to the top barrel. This is why sherries have no vintage. The are a blend of many years of sherries aged in the barrels over many years.


Another view of the barrels.


Sampling/testing area.


Our tour guide providing a selection of the quality, excellence and passion that is the Osbourne.


We rushed back to our hotel to make checkout and got on the road. We didn’t really have a set plan but as we saw interesting things we made snap decisions on whether to stop or not. The first such thing was a very good example of what they call a “Pueblo Blanco” or “White Town.” These are very old towns where the buildings are generally all painted white, possibly to keep the houses cool in the summer. This town was called Vejer de la Frontera and was a lovely little village up on the top of a hill overlooking the valleys around it. I took way too many pictures here but I couldn’t help myself. Incidentally, white buildings in sunlight = tricky exposure so I was pretty impressed with the job my camera did.

Really steep, narrow and winding road gets you up to the top. The steep hills really showcase how little torque a 1.2 litre engine has. Here’s the view from about 3/4 of the way up.


A view down a street where some workmen we doing repairs.


Walking down the streets. No cars allowed but scooters and motorcycles, no problem.


Nifty plaza with a cool fountain.


Fountain detail.


Isn’t this just the cutest little place?


Church in the center of town.


After that we had to do our traditional beach stop so we went for a dip at Tarifa which is the southernmost tip of continental Europe. This is the point where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet and is the closest that Europe gets to Africa with only about 30km across the straights. It was around this part of the southern coast that we started noticing windmills. I would never have imagined that there could be so many windmills in one area but every ridge of every hill was covered in massive windmills all turning in the constant breeze blowing in off the Atlantic. The same wind that makes this part of Spain so popular with windsurfers and kite boarders also must generate a massive amount of energy.

The beach was nice but very flat and not especially photogenic but this map shows where we were looking down at the island of Tarifa in this photo.


We didn’t stay too long since we still had a lot of miles to cover but on the way up the highway we stopped at a little rest area for some ice cream and a look around. Here you can see some of the windmills. These are just the small, older style ones. The big modern ones are much more common.


From the lookout at the rest stop you can see Africa. The day wasn’t very clear so it barely shows in the haze but that was the closest we got.


The last stop we made on our drive to Benalmadena was Gibraltar. As I said earlier, the customs agent didn’t even look at our passports before waving us into the mayhem. We managed to park near a cemetery where many war dead were interred and take a photo. This was the last parking spot we would ever see before leaving Gibraltar.


A little background first. Sharon needed to go to the bathroom. She had needed to go for quite a while but the place we stopped was very industrial with nothing but warehouses, car dealerships and a graveyard so there was nowhere for her to go. So we got in the car thinking we’d just go park somewhere nearer to the pubs and such so we could have a bite and look around a bit. Ha. Nice plan that was totally naive with regard to the madness that is driving in Gibraltar. First of all, the scooter/motorcycle to car ratio is about 10 to 1 and they drive like they’re immortal, zipping in front of you and between cars and into every space that is available. Second, there is no such thing as a parking space. Sure there are cars parked but it most people probably got a spot sometime in the 80’s and just left their car there so they wouldn’t lose it. We did a couple laps, nearly died several times, nearly ran over a few pedestrians and scooters, all the while with Sharon squirming in her seat desperate for a stop before finally pulling into a gas station. Gas was actually even cheaper in Gibraltar than Spain so this was a good thing and Sharon got a little relief but we still were no closer to having actually seen anything or had anything to eat. I’ll spoil it for you and tell you that we ate at a rest stop a few kilometers back into Spain because we never found a spot to park. We saw no Barbary Apes. We ate no fish and chips and drank no English ale. We took a picture as we were leaving.

Later on we found out that you generally park on the Spanish side and either walk or take the bus across and then use public transit for precisely the reasons outlined above. Live and learn…we didn’t want to see Gibraltar anyway so bleeaah!

So we’ve reached the end of the photo segment of this issue but from the title, I imagine you must be wondering if there is more. I do, in fact, have another anecdote to share. The coast between Gibraltar and Benalmadena is fairly built up and touristy but still quite scenic. At one point along the road we ran into a traffic jam. Not speaking Spanish, there was no help from the radio to figure out why we were at a dead stop on the highway for about 20 minutes so there was nothing to do but wait. The breeze was nice so we could open the windows and relax and eat a few snacks we had brought along. Suddenly the cars started moving so off we went, wondering what it had been that delayed us so long. Up ahead we see some emergency vehicles and workers on the road and, as we drive by, we notice that they are all using hoses to wash off the road. Then the smell hit us. A trailer load of manure, most likely pig, had overturned on the road. Skidding through the slippery poo remnants on the road with our windows open imparted an odor that seemed to cling to the car with a tick-like tenacity and leaving the windows open for the next hundred kilometers did nothing to dispel it. In fact, it was a couple of days before the car didn’t stink, at least on the outside. Works great for appetite control and highly recommended for those who are dieting.

Once again we somehow magically found our hotel in spite of not knowing where we were or where it was supposed to be. We were used to this by then so it was fairly unremarkable as far as navigation goes. If you come back for the next post, we will go spelunking, deep into the caves of Nerja wary for the red eyes of the Balrog. Well, actually the tour guide but he kind of looked like a Balrog.


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