Cádiz Road Trip - Part 1 The Road to Finca Buenvino
As you may have seen in previous posts, we have been enjoying road trips in various parts of Andalucia during our year here; road trips to help us gain a wider understanding of the landscapes, the history and the people of our adopted home.
Writ large in our list of possible destinations has been the Costa de la Luz and, increasingly of late, the city of Cádiz. As long as I can remember, Cádiz was merely the name of a place connected with a few historical events that were drummed into our heads during deadly history lessons at school. I was vaguely aware that this was a maritime city, and that Christopher Columbus sailed from here to the Americas (on his second and fourth voyages). Other than that, my knowledge of the city and the province was woefully scant. So, this past week, Andrew and I set out to fill in some of the gaps.
We decided that we would also use the trip to visit the owners of a beautiful house hidden away in Huelva Province, the area of Spain that lies in the western most corner of Andalucia and a mere stone’s throw from Portugal. I should fill in a little bit of the backstory here: Andrew’s family hails from Scotland, and despite (or perhaps due to!) the fairly low population coverage in rural parts, it appears that everyone knows everyone else, and there is no doubting that Andrew’s family has a huge network of friends around the globe, many with some sort of Scottish connection.
So, it came as no real surprise that, when we initially mentioned that we were going to come and live in Spain, Andrew’s Aunt Jean stated emphatically that we MUST visit Finca Buenvino to see Sam and Jeannie Chesterton. We had absolutely no idea where Finca Buenvino was, and only knew that both Andrew’s Parents and Aunt Jean had, at one time, been to visit the Chestertons in Spain, and they had strong ties through their Scottish heritage (although Sam’s heritage is irish!).
Familial history notwithstanding, we had also been told that Sam and Jeannie had written a cookbook entitled ‘The Finca Buenvino Cookbook’, and they run a Bed & Breakfast business at the house, so we were keen to find out more about the Chesterton Family life in deepest darkest Andalucia.
The week before our scheduled Road Trip, we experienced the most glorious burst of Spring-like weather, with temperatures hitting the high 20s, and warm enough for us to venture to one of our nearby beaches. The actual week of our trip, and the weather clearly decided that Spring had sprung too early, so performed a dramatic volte face and hit us with both barrels. On the Monday, it decided to rain, and didn’t stop. It rained all Monday afternoon, and all Monday night, and helpfully rained on us as we loaded the car to set off for Huelva Province. Our senses of humour were pretty strained as we departed the valley, with no sign of the Sierra Nevada, shrouded as it was by an impenetrable shroud of dismal cloud.
The drive to Aracena, the nearest town to Sam and Jeannie’s home, was estimated to be some 5 hours in duration, so we thought it best to simply crack on and get as much of the journey under our belt as we could.
We had decided that we would probably reach the town of Osuna by lunchtime. We had no idea what Osuna was like, but it lies conveniently south-east of Sevilla and looked, on the map, to be large enough to accommodate a selection of possible lunch venues.
It rained, and rained. We reached Osuna and got out of the car to find a bank and somewhere to have lunch. Now, I am the fortunate owner of several pairs of really lovely shoes bought from a stylish Spanish retailer. The shoes are clearly not designed for wet Spanish weather, as the soles simply adopt all the behaviours of ice skates the minute they come into contact with wet pavements. In Spain, many of the pavements are also made of lovely shiny stone, further enhancing the glide effect. The result being that I tottered around Osuna like a Geisha with bound feet, fearful that every second I was sure to go arse over tit (as my Father would so eloquently have put it).
It transpired, however, that Osuna is a bit of a Game of Thrones landmark, and it makes the most of the connection! Andrew made a beeline for a restaurant that hosted cast and crew at times, and had added a Khaleesi burger to the menu (at least, I am sure that is what he told me).
AW: It's true! One of the grimmest scenes of GOT series 5 was filmed here. The Osuna bull ring is well preserved, pretty much unchanged since 1904 and was perfect as the Great Pit of Daznac. The town went into overdrive, most villagers were extras and the restaurant Casa Churro changed its entire menu to a GOT menu. Sadly... as it is 'winter', the bull ring was closed so we never got to see it, we did have lunch in Casa Churro though. Walls clad with pictures of all the cast. Here is more info about the filming event.
Lunch taken, we skirted Sevilla in post-lunch rush-hour and then whizzed out into open countryside. Eventually, we turned off the motorway and onto the N-433 and the rain gradually dissipated. As the clouds started to break, we found ourselves in countryside that bore little resemblance to anything else we had, thus far, seen in Spain. The rolling verdant hills had a look of the South Downs to them; the English countryside in a bygone age, with dry stone walls, and parkland of which Capability Brown would have been proud. Dotted along the route, grand gates punctuated the borders of fields, and these gates bore the legend ‘Dehesa” - ranches used primarily for grazing livestock such as pig and fighting bulls, but also for the production of mushrooms, honey, cork and wild game. Crystal clear rivers cut their way across stones and through lush pastures in what can only be described as rather ravishing landscapes.
We drove through thick pine forests reminiscent of the densely wooded areas we saw in northern Spain when we first arrived in the country, in our aged hired van. We bypassed the town of Aracena, the largest town in the Parque Natural Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche, and deeper into the countryside, beyond the smaller town of Los Marines before we came to the turn off for Finca Buenvino.
Down a russet-coloured track we drove, through wooded hillsides, until we turned a corner and saw the deep pink-washed walls of the house. Finca Buenvino sits in its grounds like some hybrid of Italianate palazzo and Classical English country house, mellowed with apparent age and settled like some Dowager duchess in stately elegance. It is very hard to believe that this lovely family home was built from scratch only 30 or so years ago by Sam and Jeannie just as their children started to make an appearance! Nothing like throwing oneself in at the deep-end!