Experience 3 Time Travels in Carmona

Experience 3 Time Travels in Carmona

From Paco Vago, 1st Time Travel 1926-2015 : the universe of « ultramarinos » to Bella, 3rd Time Travel 1920-2015 : Churros’ tradition, strolling by Manolo , 2nd Time Travel 1926-2015 : the tobacco shops’ evolution, you can experience three Time Travels over 300 yards from Puerta de Sevilla to Paseo de los Estatutos following the route shown in the feature picture. Follow me.

1st Time Travel 1926-2015 : the universe of « ultramarinos » Paco Vago has been operating for almost one century and counts among the oldest existing grocery shop called ultramarinos  in Spain. Though the shop itself seems small, it actually covers three floors of  store rooms concealed under a great part of this 5,000 years old  fortress of Carmona.


Any visitor, after having visited the tourist office inside the Puerta de Sevilla and this fortress might think this shop is just one additional tourist shop. They would be wrong as three generations have fiercely maintained the tradition of Andalusian village shops called “ultramarino” where you could find absolutely anything you wanted meaning they kept three generation of clients and cumulated three generation of stocks. Carmonenses  can call to place their order and goods can be delivered, as in the “old times”.

archive document

archive document


During 40 years, from 1922 till 1963, as shown in this side drawing Paco Vago was faced by other shops among which one textile shop  held by the family Fernando Fernández. It was dismantled in 1963 to leave the walls as they now look .

Bought in 1924 by Pago Vago, they remained though they accepted abandon part his many store rooms demolished to expand the road.

three_dimensional-shopInstalled and working for so many years , Paco Vago does not need publicity in Carmona. On the contrary should you ask for a special item to Carmonenses, most of the time the reply will be “try Paco Vago”. His fame made me wish to discover who was and what was Paco Vago.

If a commercial centre always seems rational, well aligned,  homogenous and spacious , entering there is like sneaking in be the back stage of a theatre with decors, costume and props!


However throughout the years, Paco Vago became a generational shop in Carmona. This photo shows clients from Carmona…  Four people work in this three-dimensional shop from the fortress high vaulted ceiling to the floor. The grand son of Paco Vago called… Paco Vago III, his brother in law Manuel Rojas and the new generation not from the family yet two brothers who will probably follow the tradition speak English and the older brother French too!

All four are extremely amiable, attentive, very patient and eager to satisfy you… a fading virtue in our modern time and probably the secret of the longevity of this family trade.

Let’s thus see what else tourists today might put in their suitcase beside the small fridge magnets or postcards trying to decipher this very special place

Option one: hand-made bags you see hanging front left of the photo. They are palm tree leaves dried then cut and hand made… It’s strong, organic and makes a very original and convenient purse, an original genuine gift.


Option two: sweets by weight. as seen behind in this picture of  smiling Paco Vago III. If you want more gourmet souvenir you can chose also to buy by weight delicatessen such as this delicious sweet: blueberries and raspberries coated with white chocolate!


Finally you can also opt for an assortment of famous turones (almond nugats) or delicious little boxes full of typical Andalusian sweets like in the lower photo.


Option two: bags of dry fruit including dried figs or roasted or fresh almonds! a nice snak while travelling that might make an exotic gift as well!


Option three: even if it is not the season, you may wish to acquire a cheap and original ball or carnival costumes: just ask for it, wait a few minutes that they pick it up in the maze of back store rooms and for less than 20 euros you’ll no doubt get what you want. I could see them hanging on the lower photo.


Option four: if you wish to make a special gift to try, the neat shaving difference existing between the electric shaver and the old fashioned razor you can buy the whole set brush and shaving soap included. I was told some ancient clients  still use them (below the best soap wit a gorgeous smell)!



Option Five: For Spanish or South American collectors, Paco Vago also keeps in stock the old cocoa cans sold prior to the arrival of the giant cocoa powder supplier Cola Cao. The brand was Toddy. There is much more. With patience, Paco made me tour the shop and its back store room three times bigger than the shop itself full of itemized boxes labelled with calligraphic hand writing. Shoes, laces, paint scrapers, dye boxes. Emotion was there. I was so impressed I did not dare to make photos. I asked if there was other store room: “plenty” he replied and promised me I would visit them all with one of the two boys… exactly what I wanted.

Option Six:  Back to the shop  I cannot resist showing the famous  Pata Negra Hams and Iberic sausages hanging on the high vaulted ceiling. An opportunity for you to do this once-in-a-life time experience! Nor do I resist showing you the appetizing herrings in round boxes a tradition and specialty of Paco Vago, a true delicatesse when fish transport was slmost non existant. Once empty, these round herring boxes are still piled up in the fortress patio to offer to clients to make a garden plant or vegetable pot!





Smiling behind-the-counter Jose is left and his brother  Fran my future guide in the amazing visit of the store rooms in the bowels of the fortress. The vault is entrance to the back store room and a small counter show the “grocery” side. Front right is part of the still operational seventy years old scale!


Opposite, just entering by the Puerta de Sevilla you see winter hats. In summer it would be a pile of the typical feria Andalusia hats or straw hats. Here for example they were attending a customer from Seville invited at a business dinner who had forgotten his belt. On this photo you see Paco and Fran behind a pile of belt boxes….. and below the satisfied customer.


Last options : You can appreciate that there is not an inch lost. Behind the hand of this customer you can see a bottle of olive oil called Molino de Carmona with Puerta de Sevilla on its label, spices, bottled olives, toys and Christmas adornments, under the show case of next photo offering you the possibility to bring back in your suitcase, if you wish,  a complete Spanish nativity scene and figures.

nativity figures


I was invited to end my visit walking up the steep stairs to a patio distributing upper and lower floors.


This is the view taken from the upper floor, store rooms are distributed up and down up to the battlements.


This photo shows accessory for Feria costume with contemporary hand writings

I was extremely surprised to see many umbrellas hanging in a country where rainy days rarely sum up 28 days a year. Fran explained with a smile that each time it rained they were bringing it down for buses of tourists who bought it by the dozen!



The sympathetic photo of my guide, back to the fortress terrace of Paco Vago’s store room will announce the end od this first Time Travel experience and the departure via Calle San Pedro to share second Time Travel experience of the smallest and oldest family Tobacco shop in Carmona, that of Manolo and Clara almost facing Teatro Cerezo .


So doing, just one photo and one word about the grand-son of the owners of the now demolished textile shop facing that of Paco Vago Puerta de Sevilla  shown in the second photo of this blog  holding the posted drawing . The window reflects the entrance of San Pedro church. He is still selling dresses and paintings from Carmona. Calle San Pedro is full of old shop

 2nd Time Travel 1926-2015 : the tobacco shop evolution  This is Manolo’s “estanco” bearing the sign tobaccos (lower photo)


In 2002, freshly settled, I was looking for cigarettes I had been smoking in Marbella called Royal Crown. I was attracted by this small shop and was warmly welcomed by Clara.


This brand of cigarettes was not for sale in Carmona at that time but with her luminous smile Clara replied she would have them next morning. I stopped smoking since then, however it is always a pleasure to stop by her and have a chat as her dynamism, open mindedness and efficiency made us become friends. That’s how I could convince her husband Manuel Ojeda Barrera to tell me the incredible story of this other small shop by the  photos of his grand-parents, the founder as well as the original license and rental agreements.

Dolores Montero

In 1926  Manuel Ojeda Eslava, his grand-father and the handsome man next photo  worked at the tax department of the Town Hall of Carmona-

Manuel succeeded to convince the Administrator  for Andalusia of the Tobacco agency to grant a license to his handome spouse   Dolores Montero Lopéz, Manolo’s grand-mother.



Below is official 1926 document granting the license to sell tobacco to Dolores.



This same small shop was rented in 1930 to the widow of a pharmacist , owner of the whole house. Their present neighbour is still a pharmacy. Below is the original document. Address is the same though in 1930, Paseo de los Estatutos was Paseo  del Principe de Vergara.

1930_lease_agreementTobacco shops (estancos) are subject to a strict legislation  whereby tobacco sale is controlled by governmental authorities. It seems these shop are among the oldest existing in the world. For over four centuries they have regularly raised taxes on tobacco. They offer common services such as transportation tickets and refilling mobile telephones. Below, a few cigarette packs collected by manolo.


This pack called Cardo de Gallina cost 0.75 Ptas e.g. 0.05 euro.

Spanish cigarrette at 0.75Ptas _pack


This tiny rented shop represents the Zaguán (double entrance), of a house rented by the widow of a pharmacist. It is the  Arabic name – and concept –  to describe most of Carmona’s  Entrance Halls with a double protection from the street by a street door and by a second door either wrought iron or a decorated entrance door. It can either lead on a central patio with the “apartments” on two floors sometimes shared among various families or to a staircase.

I introduce you to Manolo and Clara at a tobacco shop owners’ convention during which they acknowledged that Andalusia was the  Spanish region most affected by tobacco smuggling.

This year only, after centuries of exclusivity. the government has authorised tobacco shops to sell other products than tobacco.





The shiny hole below is a lost  bullet hole during the 1936 civil war, meaning nothing has changed since then, so far.



Furniture was kept unchanged since late thirties. On this photo the bullet hole is located under the chin of Clara. Lower photo shows it will be the grey curtain, right after Dani’s pizza ten meters up. By January 2015 it will move from nº 45 to next number nº 47 with a refurbishment adapted to the extansion of this trade.


thanks to the new legislation, even if you are a non smoker you’ll be able to buy any potential line of products offered for sale. So far it would include home processed honey and home pressed olive oil. Target is also small souvenirs for tourist they would hardly find elsewhere. This will be a new reason to stop by this familial shop.

3rd Time Travel 1920-2015 : Churros’ tradition,

churros_ kiosk

We end by “Bella” the churro (fritter) confectioner walking just another few yards up same kerb. On this photo you can see the kiosk of the last grand-child holding same family business. You can’t bring churros back in your suitcase but you  can eat them either on site or comfortably sitting at the terrace or inside one of the three coffee shops along this promenade because it is a sacred tradition to bring your paper cone of churros and order a warm drink to eat them! She opens every day from 7am-12 noon..


Around 1920, Bella I, was her great grand-mother. Bella II  her grand-mother started working on a stall made with “four wooden boards and an awning”  a bit further down by Teatro Cerezo. Each time the wind blew, she used the services of a famous and strong municipal employee to hold the beams. Bella III, her mother asked for her collaboration when she was a teenager bequeathing the “family secret” of good Curro making to Bella IV who accepted to share it with me.


You just need the right proportion of water and flower, a bit of sodium sulfate, a pinch of salt and the most important ingredient is… LOVE! No wonder Bella is always good humoured and happy after so many years ‘. “The quality of the paper to form the cone is also important to keep them hot she added”


She prepares her dough in the afternoon leave it for the night and in the morning she fills steel syringes. Bella III wished to specify that elderly people in Andalusia did not call it “churros” but jeringos (syringes handler)

2_churrosWithout this sophisticated tool you cannot get the proper cracking and lightness of this slightly salted fritter

That’s why people are still buying it, queuing up very quietly in the morning while Bella prepares one, two or three portion each time, no more!

It’s worth trying. It’s just delicious!

It being my the last post in 2014. Carmona children walking down Calle Real wish you nice festivities and a happy new year!