Sunray in front of the haunted castle of Almodóvar del Río (Cordova, Andalusia) — and Longfellow’s Castles in Spain poem.

Hi folks! I hope you this finds you well…

I just wanted to share this sunrise photo with you. In the background you can see the impressive, haunted, Christian-cum-Moorish castle of Almodóvar del Río, stage set for various films and ads. These include:

  • 1967, Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero
  • 1972, the famous Martini advert
  • 1986, Harem / Dardanelos with Ava Gadner, Nancy Traver, Omar Sharif and Silvia Marsó
  • 2002 the children’s Dutch series Pippo
  • 2015, the Russian singer’s Tiger Cave video clip
  • 2019 a Budweiser advert
  • And more recently, HBO’s Game of Thrones, and chapter 3 of Netflix’s Warrior Nun, as well as various documentaries that took place in between.

For the history of the castle, its enchanted legend and photos, click on this link.

The castle, its surrounding villages of Almodóvar del Río, Posadas and Hornachuelos that lie in the Guadalquivir Valley close to the historic town of Cordova, are really well-worth a visit! They are steeped in a rich history and culture, and are replete with traditions. The landscape is beautiful too, varying from flat valleys that rise to the imposing Sierra Morena in the north. (You can find a description of these places in my earlier blogs.)  

Well, before leaving I would also like to close with a classic poem about Spanish castles, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) American poet, educator and the first American to translate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. (Wiki)

Castles in Spain

How much of my young heart, O Spain,

Went out to thee in days of yore!
What dreams romantic filled my brain,
And summoned back to life again
The Paladins of Charlemagne,
The Cid Campeador

And shapes more shadowy than these,
  In the dim twilight half revealed;
Phoenician galleys on the seas,
The Roman camps like hives of bees,
The Goth uplifting from his knees
  Pelayo on his shield. 

It was these memories perchance,
  From annals of remotest eld,
That lent the colors of romance
To every trivial circumstance,
And changed the form and countenance
  Of all that I beheld. 


Old towns, whose history lies hid
  In monkish chronicle or rhyme,–
Burgos, the birthplace of the Cid,
Zamora and Valladolid,
Toledo, built and walled amid
  The wars of Wamba’s time; 


The long, straight line of the highway,
  The distant town that seems so near,
The peasants in the fields, that stay
Their toil to cross themselves and pray,
When from the belfry at midday
  The Angelus they hear; 


White crosses in the mountain pass,
  Mules gay with tassels, the loud din
Of muleteers, the tethered ass
That crops the dusty wayside grass,
And cavaliers with spurs of brass
  Alighting at the inn; 

White hamlets hidden in fields of wheat,
   White cities slumbering by the sea,
White sunshine flooding square and street,
Dark mountain ranges, at whose feet
The river beds are dry with heat,–
  All was a dream to me. 


Yet something sombre and severe
  O’er the enchanted landscape reigned;
A terror in the atmosphere
As if King Philip listened near,
Or Torquemada, the austere,
  His ghostly sway maintained. 


The softer Andalusian skies
  Dispelled the sadness and the gloom;
There Cadiz by the seaside lies,
And Seville’s orange-orchards rise,
Making the land a paradise
  Of beauty and of bloom. 

There Cordova is hidden among
  The palm, the olive, and the vine;
Gem of the South, by poets sung,
And in whose Mosque Ahmanzor hung
As lamps the bells that once had rung
  At Compostella’s shrine. 

But over all the rest supreme,
  The star of stars, the cynosure,
The artist’s and the poet’s theme,
The young man’s vision, the old man’s dream,–
Granada by its winding stream,
  The city of the Moor! 

And there the Alhambra still recalls
  Aladdin’s palace of delight;
Allah il Allah! through its halls
Whispers the fountain as it falls,
The Darro darts beneath its walls,
  The hills with snow are white. 

Ah yes, the hills are white with snow,
  And cold with blasts that bite and freeze;
But in the happy vale below
The orange and pomegranate grow,
And wafts of air toss to and fro
  The blossoming almond trees. 

The Vega cleft by the Xenil,
  The fascination and allure
Of the sweet landscape chains the will;
The traveller lingers on the hill,
His parted lips are breathing still
  The last sigh of the Moor


How like a ruin overgrown
  With flowers that hide the rents of time,
Stands now the Past that I have known;
Castles in Spain, not built of stone
But of white summer clouds, and blown
  Into this little mist of rhyme!

A very beautiful poem, encompassing many parts of Spain and touching on its history.

Well, that’s all for now. Thank you for visiting!

Your comments are always welcome.

Take care! xxx

Another beautiful sunrise!

Hello all! I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times…

As you can see, this morning I was met with a beautiful sunrise!

An impressive daybreak looking eastwards beyond the haunted castle of Almodóvar del Río towards Cordova

I would also like to take this opportunity of introducing to you one of my favourite blogs that I follow, written by a talented lady who lives in beautiful Yorkshire: https://lisafeatherstone.co.uk/ .

The posts are very articulate, well-written and enlightening, with topics ranging from hand-knit designs, birds, books, plants and thoughts (wellbeing, drawing and accessibility). There’s also a quiz on Fridays which not only serves as a mental gymnasium but is sure to test and increase your general knowledge too.  In short, there is something there for everyone!

Oh — and if you wish to view Lisa’s hand-crafted delights on Etsy, you can see them here: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/LisaFeatherDesign.  You can also follow Lisa on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/lisa.featherstone

Happy interesting reading!

But to finish with, I’d like to include a poem that celebrates the early morning:

DAWN by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919, Wisconsin, America)

Day’s sweetest moments are at dawn;
Refreshed by his long sleep, the Light
Kisses the languid lips of Night,
Ere she can rise and hasten on.
All glowing from his dreamless rest
He holds her closely to his breast,
Warm lip to lip and limb to limb,
Until she dies for love of him.

Thank you for visiting — stay well! xxx

The legend of the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río (province of Cordova, Andalusia)

Sunrise over the castle of Almódovar del Río, looking east towards Cordova

Not only is this enchanted, medieval castle one of the best restored in Andalusia, but it is also known for having staged the seventh season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and now more recently, chapter 3 of Netflix’s Warrior Nun(https://cordopolis.es/2020/07/08/el-castillo-de-almodovar-vuelve-a-las-pantallas-netflix-ya-ha-estrenado-warrior-nun/).

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In 1967, Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero was filmed there, as well as the famous Martini advert (1972). Fourteen years later, in 1986, the castle was again the stage set for another film, Harem / Dardanelos with Ava Gadner, Nancy Traver, Omar Sharif and Silvia Marsó, as well as the children’s Dutch series Pippo in 2002, the Russian singer’s Tiger Cave video clip in 2015, and later, in 2019, for a Budweiser advert, among various documentaries that took place in between.

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However, the castle is wrapped in history and legend.

An indigo sunset over the castle
Looking east towards Córdoba as the sun rises

The legend of the castle dates back to the 11th century when Andalusia was part of the Moorish caliphate, under the rule of Berber Almohad tribe (from The Atlas Mountains). The caliph of Cordova (‘Qurṭuba’, in Arabic) at that time was Prince Abu Nasir al-Fatah al-Mamum; his beloved wife was Princess Zaida, now referred to as ‘La Encantá’ (‘The Enchanted’).

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However in 1091 (or round about then), the Almoravids launched a brutal attack on Cordova, wanting to claim this prosperous city for themselves. Princess Zaida was whisked off to Almodóvar castle where it was thought that she would be secure, and where she would await the safe return of her prince. Soon after, however, the fortress at Cordova fell, and with it, the prince. His assassination marked the end of the Almohad rule.

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The enchanted castle at night, illuminated by a golden aura and seranaded by ghostly medieval music

It is said that the princess woke up at the exact time of his death and wandered out to the Homage Tower dressed only in a white tunic. She searched long and hard into the horizon looking for her husband. Her eyes though, were met only with the sight of his white stallion galloping riderless towards the castle. She was filled by despair and fell into a state of depression. 

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Princess Zaida continued living within the confines of the castle as if a prisoner, accepting the attention only of her handmaids. Every night she would wander to the Homage Tower where she would look out across the Guadalquivir Valley in the direction of Cordova, anxiously awaiting the return of her beloved.

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The legend holds that on the 28th of March, one can spot the princess attired in her white gown, forlornly roaming the tower in search of her loved one.

The story is remembered every year when, during the 28th and 31st of March a play is acted out on a stage that forms part of the Medieval market named in Princess Zaida’s honour. The market is called ‘Zoco de la Encantá’ (The Enchanted’s Souk) and takes place upon the slopes of the castle’s Cerro de la Floresta hill.

If you would like to read other similar stories or know more about me and this neck of the woods where I live (the province of Córdoba, the Sierra Morena and the Guadalquivir Valley), you can find out more from my fully-illustrated, humorous book, An English Lady in Cordova — the ‘Alternative’ Guide available at https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog – thank you for reading!

A walk along my country path (Posadas, Córdoba, Andalusia)

The other day I braved the 37° C temperatures (= 98,6 F) to go for a short stroll along the country track that leads out of my home and wends its way past other fincas…

The stony track passes land populated by cork oak trees. They have been stripped of their bark — a process which occurs every seven years. (When the trucks do take the chunks of cork away, some inevitably fall onto the path, so I pick some of them up and use them for painting:-)

The fresh bark underneath is a lovely red oxide.

Flowers of the carrot family and other cousins of these umbelliferous plants stand proud above the baby blue and pale purple scabious.

The dark seed in the centre contrasts with the white flower, almost seeming as if there is an insect poised there.

The grasses that were bluish-green only a couple of weeks ago have already gone to seed as they are now dry and bristly. (Best to wear trousers and not shorts like I did!)

The fragrant myrtle is also in flower. Reminds me of William Blake’s poem In a Myrtle Shade:

Why should I be bound to thee,
O my lovely Myrtle-tree?
Love, free Love, cannot be bound
To any tree that grows on ground…

Some trees have died, but make beautiful, natural sculptures with their twisted, distorted branches and outstretched gnarled fingers.

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Cows gaze mutely at me as I pass by…

…simply turning their heads inquiringly.

There is a small, whitewashed cottage where the track bends to the right — it peeps out from behind the majestic cork tree.

Through a clearing between the cork and olive trees and the pistacia bushes, you can just spy the castle of Almodóvar del Río in the distance.

Here it is again, crowning La Floresta hill.

(If you would like to know more about this castle, its history and legend, then please read my earlier blog https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/anenglishladyincordova.home.blog/785)

As I continued further, I was afforded some shade by the lofty pines — but then soon the hot sun started to dip and my shadow led the way along the burnished path.

I hope you have enjoyed coming on this walk with me.

Thank you for your visit!

Sunset over my home

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The huge Breña reservoir — but not even at 40% of its capacity. Desertification of Southern Spain?

It had been an unusually hot day for the last week of March — reaching about 36 degrees, and so my daughter and I waited for the onset of the evening before going for a spin and a short walk by the Breña Reservoir (which lies between Almodovar del Río and Posadas in the province of Córdoba). We were also taking advantage of the Covid restrictions being lifted a little, now being able to go for a walk after 8 p.m.

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By the time we had got there, the fluffy clouds were already taking on a daffodil hue and the celestial blue of the afternoon sky was becoming distinctly indigo. A light breeze picked up and caressed the surface of the mercurial lake.

Then mercury became lead as the buttery sun dipped lower on the western horizon, melting onto the National Park of Hornachuelos…

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Meantime, dusk started to descend from the east, from the direction of Córdoba, enveloping the castle of Almodóvar on its way.

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Then the honeyed sun made its glorious golden exit.

We had been walking for quite some time now and it was getting late, and we hungry, so we got back in my little Peugot and started heading home, driving some 15 minutes in a westerly direction, towards the village of Posadas.

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You can see the castle of Almodóvar del Río just beginning to be lit up, standing proud atop La Floresta hill (top left corner) — and towards the top right, the Moorish atalaya watchtower

We noticed that the sky here hadn’t as yet received its goodnight kiss from the setting sun. So we got out of our car on our country track and waited silently for the show to commence. (I say silently, but it wasn’t really, because the wheateaters, thrushes and sparrows decided to give their full repertoire in accompaniment to the maturing day.)

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And then the show started once more. Aqua-marine to grey-blue streaked with light indigo. The tall wheat in the fields blushed as the grasses on the wayside tickled and nodded in their direction…

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You can see the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río in the background again. (If you want to know about its history and legend, then please see my earlier blog: 11 – ‘The views from my southeasterly-facing porch and the enchanted castle of Almodóvar del Río’.)

…and now a dewy haze wafted up from the nearby Guadalquivir River, affording light refreshment after a stewy day, making all the afore well-defined lines blurry.

But the colours in the sky took on greater definition…

…what with their pastel of subdued blues, rosy orange and peach…

…violets, cobalt and Prussia softened by rouge…

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…toasted pinks licked by silvery tongues…

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…mauve, pewter, coral and powder blue…

…cornflower, salmon and ash…

… a rich kaleidoscope, a true marriage of colours…

where the beauty of nature never ceases to amaze…

Thank you for visiting — I hope this blog finds you in good health and spirits. See you soon!

(For more words and art for sale from this neck of the woods, please visit: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect)

My vegetable patch and the mines of Peñarroya – Pueblonuevo, north of Cordova, Andalusia.

Hello all! I’m back, but this time with a slighter shorter article. It’s about my day out to the lovely mines of Peñarroya and Pueblonuevo in the province of Cordova (just what you really wanted to know!). As usual, the article is accompanied by photos. (I think I remembered to clean the grubby camera lens first, though I am still learning about all the advanced features that this digital camera has. Wish I hadn’t lost the PhD instruction booklet that came with it all those years ago!)

Anyway, before I start my ramblings, I firstly wanted to share a couple of photos with you of my vegetable patch (also an experiment and learning curve) which, the other day I dressed with well-seasoned horse manure. In a fit of over-enthusiasm I then sowed seeds of spinach, Swiss chard, runner beans and peas (which, for all you Spanish language learners, is: espinacas, acelgas, judías y guisantes). The only thing is I’m not sure if I should’ve sowed them straight into the manure or into ordinary earth first…. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. But don’t worry, I shall keep you updated as to the progress of these seeds (that is, if there is any progress…).

As you can see, I was accompanied by my tireless, faithful helpers — Zeus, my dopey but loving mastiff puppy, and Dingo, my adopted, previously-abandoned mongrel. (They are inseparable and share a brightly burning love.)

My helping hands, Zeus and Dingo, hard at work!

The day was cold and windy, but Zeus and Dingo kept themselves warm on their bed of horse manure!

Close by, the almond tree is just coming out in flower. It has a delicate marzipan perfume.

Anyway, to get back to the thread of things — the mines of Peñarroya and Pueblonuevo…

Having studied a joint geology/geography degree in London it is no surprise that I love to hang out at mines, quarries, spoil heaps, slag heaps, chimneys, mills and other places of similar beauty. So this explains why last Monday I was picking my way through piles of mineral debris and traipsing over dangerously-camouflaged grassy hollows. I strolled past leaning, tottering chimneys and ambled by decaying buildings with terracotta bricks dropping out, and where now only jagged splinters of smoky glass marked the remains of the former Victorian windows.

I almost tripped over the rotting wooden sleepers that once guided the locomotives and carts that ferried mineral-rich rocks, wood pulp, jute and chemicals to and fro one building to the other in this old French-Spanish mining complex of Peñarroya.  And I just missed falling down one of the deep, vertical pits… (Nevermind about the distinct lack of warning signs!)

But yes, I was happy: I was in my element! And yes, it’s a long way from the quarries of the Malverns (a place where I hewed out hundreds of rock samples from the granite and diorite quarries to later study them under the microscope; and where I trod miles and miles, come rain come shine, in my tireless attempt to map this area..), but Peñarroya is not so far from Córdoba, which is where I have been living for the last thirty years, as mentioned in my previous blog. (You can find out more about that from my book An English Lady in Cordova – the Alternative Guide, see: https://www.etsy.com/es/shop/GillysWork?ref=search_shop_redirect where apart from describing the local areas, I recount the hows and whys I came to be here, and also describe the embarrassing, painful, humorous and often humiliating experiences that I survived during the initial teething problems of being a freshly-imported, naïve immigrant…)

Anyway, getting back to those lovely mines and spoil heaps… I would just like to share with those of you who are that way inclined (or those contemplating a visit to this location north of Córdoba), a brief description of the Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo area and to show you some photos that I took and did surprisingly manage to download to my computer via the use of the SD card.

So, to keep this short (since I have read that the average blog consists of about 300 to 600 words — gulp!), here goes:-

Peñarroya dates back to the 13th century, and in medieval times it was known as Peña Roja (peña meaning crag, geologically-speaking, and ‘roja’, red). This mining town lies at about 79 km north of Córdoba (inland Andalusia, Southern Spain) on a plateau within the Sierra Morena range. The neighbouring mining village, Pueblonuevo, is more recent, dating back to the mining boom. Apparently, in 1860, a rather fierce mastiff named El Terrible discovered coal there when he was having a good dig around, and hence from that day the main mine was christened El Terrible, as was the newer adjacent village ­—  Pueblonuevo del Terrible. (The village was founded after 1778.)

However, dogs apart, the exploitation of anthracite and bituminous coal and other mineral ores such as iron, silver and lead dates back to 1770. Soap, paper, fabrics and chemical fertilisers were also manufactured there. The surrounding land was planted with eucalyptus and pines, and the wood was used for the extensive railway tracks and for making paper and card. (Hence the name of La Papelera for the chimney at the paper-making works. ‘Papel’ means paper.) The fields were also planted with jute and cotton which were used for fabrics and sacks. Some fabric was used in 1928 for the carpets in Madrid’s Prado Museum, and during the Civil War the paper was utilised for newspapers in this Republican area, once the rebels had taken possession of the factories.

Mining reached its peak in the middle of the 19th century and was largely owned by the French Mining and Metallurgical Company, SMMP (Société Minière et Métallurgique de Peñarroya). They were around for about a hundred years (having elbowed out the English), and several of the buildings display French architecture typical of that era, such as the former hospital, built in 1928, or the SMMP headquarters, which is now a geriatric home. (Nothing like that of the English Victorian architecture though, such as can be seen in the old disused mining complex of Los Cinco Amigos in my local area of Posadas, lying about 33 km due west of Córdoba. There are more illustrated descriptions of these mines, as well as the local towns and villages in my book, mentioned above).

Anyway, unfortunately this important large mining, chemical and industrial centre (known as El Cerco) became a focus for bombing during the Civil War of 1936, and because of this, as well as other factors — such as the after-effects of WWI, a reduced market, problems with transportation and the Spanish Royal Decree of 1921 requiring mine ownership to be totally Spanish — the French ceased their mining activities and finally retreated in the 1950s. Today there is little or no mining activity in the area.

Various plans of raising money for the economic reconversion of the area were devised, and included a variety of projects, such as taking tourists on tours of the neighbouring Guadiato Valley using the original 1884 French locomotives, or generally redeveloping the area, constructing industrial/commercial parks, museums, walks and footpaths, revamping the former railroads and even restoring some of the architecturally beautiful mining buildings and chimneys of the Cercado complex etc. However, these plans came to naught and were in fact a further loss of money for the government-backed Miner Plan coffers, despite them having showered millions of euros on Spain’s mining areas as a whole.

Anyway, though economically depressed, Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo is still a lovely, fascinating and historical area lying amongst the cork-oak (‘alcornoque’) hills of the Sierra Morena: it affords some majestic views of the hills and agricultural land of the Guadiato Valley, as well as the rocky outcrop of the Peñon and the castle of Belmez at the other extreme.

Below are some of the photos I took. (The aforementioned castle of Belmez, which sits atop the steep, limestone, rocky outcrop dates back to the 13th and 15th centuries and the Reconquest of Spain. It was also owned by the French from 1810 to 1812 during the Peninsular War.)

If you’d like to know more about the villages of Peñarroya and Pueblonuevo and visit their monuments and sites (such as the geological museum, mining area and former Victorian French and English houses etc.) then you can have a look at the council’s webpages: https://www.penarroyapueblonuevo.es/museos and https://www.penarroyapueblonuevo.es/turismo

The only problem is that you’ll have to have a fairly good command of Spanish (or Google translate!).

Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog — bye for now!