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Arcos de la Frontera: Nuns’ Cupcakes and Donkeys in the Bell Tower

by Rick Steves, April 2, 2021

As we have experienced to postpone our travels due to the fact of the pandemic, I consider a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be very good medication. This is a reminder of the entertaining that awaits us in Europe at the other end of this disaster.

I’m in the small hill city of Arcos de la Frontera, just south of Sevilla. Nowadays, my aim is to join with the culture of small-city Spain.

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Arcos smothers its hilltop, tumbling down all sides like the prepare of a wedding dress. The labyrinthine old heart is a photographer’s feast. I can feel the breeze funnel through the slim streets as drivers pull in car or truck mirrors to squeeze by.

Residents brag that they only see the backs of the birds as they fly. To see what they signify, I climb to the viewpoint at the most important square, large in the old city. Bellying up to the railing — the town’s suicide leaping-off place — I search down and ponder the fancy cliffside hotel’s erosion worries, orderly orange groves, flower-stuffed greenhouses, high-quality sights toward Morocco…and the backs of the birds as they fly.

Discovering the town, I learn that a brief stroll from Arcos’ church of Santa María to the church of San Pedro (St. Peter) is littered with subtle but enjoyment glimpses into the town’s earlier.

The church of Santa María faces the principal square. Following Arcos was retaken from the Moors in the 13th century, the church was built — atop a mosque. In the pavement is a 15th-century magic circle: 12 pink and 12 white stones — the white kinds represent many constellations. When a boy or girl arrived to the church to be baptized, the moms and dads would stop below to start with for a great Christian exorcism. The exorcist would stand within the protecting circle and cleanse the child of any evil spirits. This was also a holy area again in Muslim periods. Whilst Christian citizens no longer use it, Islamic Sufis however occur in this article on pilgrimage just about every November.

In 1699, an earthquake cracked the church’s foundation. Now, arches reach over the slim lane — additional to prop the church versus neighboring properties. Thanks to these braces, the church survived the more substantial earthquake of 1755. All in excess of town, related arches assist earthquake-ruined constructions.

Nowadays, the town rumbles only when the bulls run. Señor González Oca’s little barbershop is plastered with posters of bulls running Pamplona-design and style via the streets of Arcos in the course of Holy Week. Locals even now recall an American from the nearby Navy base at Rota, who was killed by a bull in 1994.

Strolling on toward St. Peter’s, Arcos’ second church, I go Roman columns trapped on to avenue corners — protection from reckless donkey carts. St. Peter’s was, till not long ago, dwelling to a resident bellman who lived in the spire. He was a basket maker and a colorful character — renowned for bringing his donkey up into the tower. The donkey grew far too large to get back out. Ultimately, the bellman had no alternative but to eliminate the donkey — and try to eat it.

The tiny sq. in front of the church — about the only flat piece of pavement around — serves as the old-city soccer industry for neighborhood children.

At a nearby convent, the home windows are striped with heavy bars and spikes. Popping into the dimly lit lobby, I push the buzzer and the creaky lazy Susan spins, revealing a bag of freshly baked cookies for sale. When I spin back the cookies with a “no, gracias,” she surprises me with a couple of words of English — countering, in a Monty Python-esque voice, “We have cupcakes as effectively.” I obtain a bag of cupcakes to support the mission work of the convent. I glimpse — via the not-pretty one-way mirror — the not-intended-to-be-seen sister in her flowing gown and practice momentarily show up and disappear.

Conserving my appetite for dinner, I dole out my cupcakes to kids as I wander on. My town walk culminates at one more convent — which now houses the best restaurant in town, Restaurante El Convento. María Moreno Moreno, the happy owner, points out the menu. (Spanish kids just take the identify of both mom and dad — who in María’s case need to have been distant cousins.) As church bells clang, she pours me a glass of vino tinto con mucho cuerpo (total-bodied pink wine) from the Rioja area.

As I sip the wine, María asks how my go to is heading. I convey to her that the full city is a mucho cuerpo experience…creating memories that will be a treasured memento.

This post was adapted from Rick’s new guide, For the Appreciate of Europe.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts journey reveals on general public Tv set and radio, and organizes European excursions. You can electronic mail Rick at [email protected] and stick to his blog site on Facebook.

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