A perfect day in the Sierra Norte of Seville
Having to provisionally walk with crutches, this year, I have been unable to take photos of the Holy Week in Carmona. To entertain a visitor from Paris I asked a young Carmonense friend, Pablo Ojeda Delia to “surprise us” with a visit to the central northern part of the Sierra Norte of Seville.
We left Carmona at 10 am to take the scenic road direction Guadajoz with its green wheat fields. We crossed the Guadalquivir River at Alcolea del Rio direction the original small town of Villanueva del Rio, our first stop.
No signs beside hat of the village to indicate that beside an impressive Mudejar style parish called Santiago el Mayor there was an old manor in ruin, former fief of the Dukes of Alba with a dominant view on the Guadalquivir River.
Pablo wanted to show us how thick the rests of the walls of this old landlord manor were.
The place was empty and quiet.
We experienced this unique feeling to be off-track from tourist route, the specific mission entrusted to Pablo.
Student in permanent beekeeping farming, Pablo showed us “non social bees” (bees not producing honey)!
Exceptionally, the church was open enabling us to get the only glimpse reminding us it was the Good Friday preceding Easter. In the parish, we saw la Virgen de los Dolores, ready to get out at the night fall procession. I was surprised to see she was clad like the same Virgin in Carmona I photographed last year (see: http://livingincarmonaseville.com/blog/2014/05/01/semana-santa-in-carmona-wednesday-17-april-2014/
Pablo made a detour to Villanueva del Rio Minas, an extension of the original town, two km up in the hill, built during the mid XIX century exploitation of mines.
It was a pleasure to pass by the former Mudejar architectural style school and town hall.
Another enjoyment was to greet springtime with a view on blooming wisterias.
We could thus take a photo of the still imposing former cement factory that stopped operating 43 years ago! Then up to our first destination in Sierra Norte de Sevilla: Cazalla (see map below).
Having studied two years in Cazalla, Pablo had had plenty of time to explore the surroundings he wanted to share with us.
The paved secondary road was gently climbing up the Sierra Norte full of rockroses called “jara” in Spanish. Pablo explained their colours could be either white or rose. He also taught us how green oaks, cork trees or oaks wereexpressing themselves: “when you see them slightly brown, the tree tells us it is sick and starts to get dry. It means that the soil under it is missing essential nutrients”.
We stopped to touch this sticky fragrant Mediterranean mountain flower unveiling such a lovely design.
To drive up hills called “Cerro” and down small valleys called “Dehesa” was a pure sensorial and soothing pleasure. The Sierra Norte is forming part of the range of mountains called Sierra Morena (the brown mountain range). It is also known since ancient Celts, Romans and Moorish occupants as the “Ruta de la Plata” (silver route), nowadays, it is appreciated by Seville’s inhabitants wishing to quickly escape to these natural spots.
Promptly arrived at Cazalla, 1,800 feet high, at 89 km. from Seville, Pablo made a short sightseeing to show us the former mansion refurbished into in a rural lodging.
We also passed by the Cazalla anisette factory named Carnation. Its specificity is that it is red because it has been mixed with cherries. This small factory is a pale reminder of the fact that in ancient times,this was a wine producing region. He then pointed out a sign he liked:
“Be careful with stork droppings” just below the storks, permanent settlers despite the fact that in Cazalla winters can be chilly, even cold.
I would like to add a photo from October last year when we went there with my Franco American friend Dani to pick up Pablo at his farm school.
Behind her, stands the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación originally built in 1350 composed by three unfinished parts, attempts and style to renovate and extend it. This proves that it was already an important town by the XIV century.
But Pablo’s actual aim was the train station at San Nocolás del Puerto, the word “puerto” in Spanish meaning both a port and a mountain pass, fifteen minutes drive from Cazalla.
To please our French visitor and to avoid the Good Friday crowd escaping from Seville, Pablo suggested to get an early lunch in a hidden picnic place by the main watercourse of this location named the Huesnar.
To eat a Spanish potatoes omelette (tortilla) with a carrot salad listen to the river, hear all sorts of birds while admiring river trees was a long forgotten nice set of warm and pleasant feelings.
The bed of camomille flowers surrounding us also formed part of all these magic touches enriching this enchanting day. The rest of the day unfolded astonishingly. At the end of the lunch Pablo said: “I would like to introduce you to a special person. Could I?”
We drove a few hundred yards upstream to discover the train station of Nicolás del Puerto once very active to exploit iron and silver mines during the industrial era. Now this train station is almost abandoned though still operating and located in between two towns: Cazalla and Constantina.
You can take the train from Seville up to this place. However there are no buses, nor taxis to enable you to move from there. You can either trek or walk around or… you can hitch hike! yet, the amazing thing is that the station posesses a very peculiar “canteen” managed by an incredible seventyish character called Manuel.
Here is Manuel behind his counter. It looks an antique shop, but is not. It is called “cantina” canteen. Actually, anybody stopping there is introduced to Manuel’s world and to Manuel’s rules.
Should you need any proof, this sign inside announcing “here you can smoke a lot!” is one. I ordered a coffee and Manuel replied smiling: “look lady, caffeine is unhealthy. However a green tea with fresh mint would wake up as well. OK?”
While getting immersed into the colourful setting of Manuel’s world, another unexpected experience got into our ears: “Scheherazade” from Rimsky Korsakov. Our Parisian guest commented that it was the first time he ever heard such a refined classical music in such an improbable place.
“We could have eaten here” said Pablo. But how was it possible for me to imagine that such an enchanting place ever existed. It was true that we could:
Either have tasted local organic products outside under that tree or….. even
We could have tried to comfortably sit in an armchair in what Manuel named…
The VIP Terrace!
I will conclude this very surprising after lunch halt, suggesting you to have a look at the old paint brush hanging on the flush toilet chain.
Leaving the station for another fifteen minutes drive, Pablo commented. “I am now going to share a secret place with you. People around refer to it as “the haunted house”. I don’t know exactly why and I don’t wish to explain where it is… Waow…
The access to the house was as intimidating as this photo suggests.
Men visited the house… We stayed outside wondering how splendid it once had been imagining scripts about the potential whys it had been deserted…
Veranda, palm trees and a pool in the background: a dream like place similar to a feature film decor!
Tired by so much thrills and excitements, I asked Pablo to drop me by a shadowy isolated and quiet place so I could rest on a blanket laid on grass, not far from the Huesnar cascades that I had already visited last year with my friend Dani.
Though this is a photo of the small cascade taken in October, I wanted to highlight the rocks made of limestone and dead wood mixed called travertine. They were used by church builders. I liked the fact that this place had been called “a natural monument”! Back to the car, I thought this was the end of our surprises. But it was only 3.30pm and Pablo offered us the possibility to make another small detour to view two other peculiar sites around. The first was the riverside location of a September-October psychedelic festival playing trance music. (who would have thought a small “Woodstock” had been promoted in Sierra Norte?)
To reach the place we had to cross a waterway: thrilling! No wonder this region is promoted by Andalusian governmental authorities as the “vía verde” (the green route).
“Diego, the owner of the place is a second option to eat well as his son is a super cook!” mentioned Pablo. It showed as the place was literally crammed and to park the car there was too hard!
Pablo also taught us to recognise trees located on a telluric fault characterised by the fact they grew up “tormented”. This is a good example of such an oak.
Our last discovery of this tiny section of Sierra Norte was a former open air iron mine site called the Cerro del Hierro (the Iron Hill). It had formerly been so exploited that a man made landscape was designed. It now became an easy going paradise for trekkers or mountain bikers.
I was unable to walk there but my friends took these colourful photos. Sitting relaxed under a shady tree, I told myself that it was needless to hire a space shuttle to get the opportunity to discover a different world and get a feast of sensorial experiences and experiments. From Carmona we only needed one hour drive and short fifteen minutes leaps without forgetting a good and motivated friendly guide.
Back to Carmona before 6 pm, via Constantina and Lora del Río, I made a last comment to our friendly guide: “Mission accomplished. It indeed was a perfect day. You surprised us beyond our imagination! Congratulations Pablo”.