Brought to you from the heights of the Sierra…
I didn’t think that today when my day started before the sun (had to take the husband to work before 7am) that I would have SUCH an adventure.
I had signed up several weeks ago for an Olive Oil tasting and tour at a local producer here in Spain in a tiny town I had to Google where it was five different times. Last night I was looking to see what else was in the town of Zahara (one of the Pueblos Blancos or White Villages) to see since I knew we would be up early and could do some exploring before the tour because after the tour there is a good chance my little one would be melting down (as 2-year-olds do) with the early rising and lack of a nap. The problem was that last night through my internet research and my handful of books about Spain and specifically “Seville and Andalusia” book I have that I have turned to many times since moving here.
I couldn’t find anything about this city, all I knew is where we were going on the map the next day and from there we would find an adventure! That is exactly what happened…
Starting your day early does have it’s benefits like you can leave on a road trip that much earlier in the day so you have that much more time to explore. So, with our day bag packed we loaded up in the car and set off!
Zahara de la Sierra is about an hour and forty-five minutes away from Chipiona, a fantastic drive! The first part of the drive started across flat farming lands, about forty minutes into our drive the road began to incline. Soon the hills began to peak and now COVERED in beautiful olive trees.
As we came around one of the hair pined turns the landscape suddenly opened up, a man-made damed lake with a beautiful whitewashed village sitting below a castle built into the mountainside.
When we finally got close enough to start climbing into the town you could tell that this town does not see many travelers and when they do the demographic is probably made up of backpackers and the nomad types.
A small town where everyone knows everyone and outsiders are looked at with confusion and curiosity. After attempting to navigate around the narrow cobblestone roads we finally found parking close to the church and the base of the castle, you can drive up to the castle and the hotel just below it but at the time they had it blocked off from drivers.
Off on foot!
It took us a few short moments to find both of the renowned churches that are in the town of Zahara, Church of Santa María de la Mesa and Chapel of San Juan de Letran
In a sleepy little town where family, friends, and God are the main focuses outside of wine and food you can feel the reverence in the church walls as soon as you walk in, sweet worshipful songs filled the church walls.
From the church, we started our climb up the hillside to the castle!
Since this town was originally a Moorish outpost, I was excited to see the view from the castle that overlooks the valley. Due to its position between Ronda and Seville, it was a perfect site for a castle to be built to serve as a fortress in case of attack.
It was ruled by Arabs until 1407. It was recaptured by the Emirate of Granada in 1481. This capture gave a pretext to Castile’s war against Granada. It was finally captured by Castilian troops under command of Rodrigo Ponce de León, Duke of Cádiz in 1483.
Climbing up to the castle you could see parts of the remains embedded into the rock as you ascend the cliff. It is amazing to see the history literally built upon the earth.
From the top of the tower, you can see almost a 280-degree view stretching out in front of you, rolling hills covered in olive trees and a beautiful man-made reservoir reaching to the Sierra along the horizon.
We couldn’t spend a lot of time at the top, we had 45 minutes before we had to be at a local olive oil producer for a tour, Oleum Viride.
This producer gave us a tour of how the process of olive oil is made from the tree to the bottle. The owner talked about how they use a process that removes the chance of waste in the entire production process. NOTHING is wasted! Even the leaves are used for compost and sold to local farmers for the orchards and vineyards, the pits are sold as crushed pieces of gravel!
He explained the difference between his larger competitors and producers like himself who are smaller and focus more on the quality rather than the quantity of their products, he also explained about how cold pressing the olives changes the taste of the oil and enhances the presence health factors like antioxidants in the final product. It was absolutely fascinating! I related much of their process to what happens to grapes when making wine and how similar the process is for these similar yet totally different products.
At the end of the tour we were served a “tapas” lunch but it felt more like a family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner.
I can’t say enough good things about my experience both with the tour and with our adventure to Zahara…the land of olive oil.
More adventures to come,
Traveling Photograph Out!