Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Love Puerto

Todd playing the Air Jamón, instrument of his own invention.

This blog entry is an ode to Puerto, our adopted city-town, "Ciudad de Cien Palacios." Not quite big enough to call a city per se (funny, coming from us, inhabitants of the “City” of Imperial Beach, population roughly 14,000), Puerto has a delightful small-town feel despite a population of nearly 90,000.  El centro where we live has closer to a third that amount, making it really more town than city.   So here’s some of what I love, accompanied by photos as I enter the wonderful world of photography.  A note to visitors:  Summer 2013 is filling up fast, put in your bid now!

El Castillo de San Marcos:  One of the best things about Puerto is the beautiful little castle nestled into the city center.  Privately owned by the same family that owns the Caballero bodega, Castillo San Marcos was renovated in the 1940s, where they found an entire mihrab (muslim prayer nook) behind the Catholic altar.  The castle was originally built over an old mosque and Roman ruins in 1264 by King Alfonso X El Sabio (“The Wise,” due to his great interest in mathematics and science).  King Alfonso X swept most of the Moors out of Spain, leaving only Granada as a final stronghold.  Christopher Columbus spent more than a year living in the castle tower.  We get to walk past it every day on our way to school, and our terrace overlooks its walls.

On the way to school...

La Iglesia Mayor Prioral:  As you walk down Calle Palacios, past both crumbling and renovated palaces, a golden sight awaits you:  the central plaza of Puerto, with its very own mini-cathedral (really a large church).  The square is medium-sized, not huge, and the church dominates, its weathered façade with gargoyles and saints looming over the small fountain.  Storks have set up shop, probably for decades now, on the upper perches of the spires; their strange clack-clacking bills announce their presence (I counted no fewer than 8 nesting pairs when taking these photos).  Inside the church, dramatically decorated with incongruous crystal chandeliers, the gilded and ornate altars compete for your attention.  Tia and Sasha are fascinated by the realistic depictions of saints and suffering and the elaborately dressed statues (“Did they really dress like that back then??”).  

(church slideshow link)

El Resbaladero:  We have a love-hate (or maybe a love-annoyance) relationship with this beautiful old building.  Built in the 18th century on the banks of the Rio Guadalete, it served as the local fishmarket until the change in river flow and reclamation of land moved the riverbank several blocks south.  Right across the street from us, and next door to the castle, El Resbaladero now houses a number of clubs and discotecas, along with a notorious after-hours club that OPENS at 4 am, closing down at noon when it finally shoves the last party-hardiers out its doors, blinking drunkenly in the bright sunlight.  Todd is thoroughly amused, me not so much.  Though it IS an easy walk home at four in the morning!
Oh, La Penultima Locura de Lola!  (Locura = Craziness)

La Puntilla, Our Little Beach:  a 14-minute walk to the west lands you at our own city beach, complete with industrial skyline and absolutely empty during the winter.  Todd is tackling the art of kite-surfing in his ample spare time; despite my exhortations to buy good equipment, he insists on repairing and improving the 15-year-old gear we hauled over from IB, cheerfully repeating to himself that “figuring it out is half the fun.”  The kids love to walk to the end of the jetty to look out across the Bay to the city of Cádiz.  

El Mercado:  The kids hate it, but I love it.  Inundated by the pungent smell of fresh-caught fish, the Mercado de la Concepción is a round building that houses stall upon stall of every imaginable type of sea creature.  Butchers also carry your requisite chicken, pork, and beef, along with rabbit, quail, and pheasant.  Sausages and hams of every variety hang from the rafters, and vegetables are sold upstairs (although I prefer my little fruteria right around the corner).  Snails of all sorts can be found just outside the Mercado, along with olives, asparagus, and tiny ghost-like shrimp still flipping around the bucket. 

El Horno de las Cañas: Right around the corner, too, is our own bakery/panaderia.  What a treat to run outside and buy fresh chapatas, long loaves of bread, croissants, even eggs and milk when I need them!  This panaderia turns out to be quite famous in Puerto; its mixers (chugging away at low decibles) and ovens (oh! the smell of fresh bread every day when we wake up!) churn out hundreds of loaves overnight, and you can hear them loading up the small delivery trucks in the wee hours of the morning

La Casa Rosa: When we first came to Puerto, we rented a flat in a tiny Palacio, La Casa Rosa.  The owners, Luis and Conchi, are now fast friends, and continue to provide us with insider’s knowledge about Puerto and Spain.  We walk past La Casa Rosa at least once a week, as it is a mere three blocks from our house, and drop in to visit with Conchi and her two boys, Guillermo and Jaime, on a regular basis.  This wonderful spot can be found on the homeaway site:

Nuestra Señora de la Merced: We have fallen completely in love with our tiny school.  A Catholic school turned public (known as a concertada), “La Merced” provides a basic education, including lessons in music and art.  While it is very “old-school,” with lots of textbook-copying involved, and while there is little that is high-tech or fancy (they still have chalk blackboards and wooden chairs), Tia and Sasha are happy, happy, happy here.  Their teachers are caring and considerate, and the school is so tiny (one class of each grade, 15-20 kids per class, grades 1-6) that everyone knows everyone else and there is lots of cross-grade playing that goes on at recess. 

Walking to school; the school is on the right where all the people are congregated!

Our Palacio Conde de Osborne:  Finally, our house is so incredible, so perfectly situated, so brimming with everything we need (and want!) that I feel pride and embarrassment in turns when I show friends around.  Not only is it in an 18th-century renovated palace, with conserved Sevillana tiles, an archway, very high beamed ceilings, and a courtyard with pool to boot, but it is new, with a beautiful modern kitchen, in-floor heating, wood floors with balconies looking out from every bedroom, and then there’s the attic, our guest quarters!  Here’s a slideshow to enjoy:

(slideshow link coming!)

Playing in the pool with cousin Sophie

Up next in the June blog:
El Centro Ecuestre Las Marias:  Our horse-riding place. We love Puerto because of this place, too. It is worthy of its own blog entry, along with a paen to the Andalusian horse.  Coming up in June!

1 comment:

  1. So fabulous. We are coming soon!! Hold our spots!! You are getting good with that camera--and I feel honored to have been there when 'Air Jamon" was invented. Todd has obviously been practicing!
    Love you all.
    Aunt Suzi


Feel free to add your comments here!