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

by Rick Steves, April 2, 2021

As we have had to postpone our travels because of the pandemic, I believe that a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be good medication. This is a reminder of the enjoyment that awaits us in Europe at the other conclude of this disaster.

I am in the very little hill town of Arcos de la Frontera, just south of Sevilla. Today, my goal is to hook up with the tradition of modest-town Spain.

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Arcos smothers its hilltop, tumbling down all sides like the educate of a marriage ceremony gown. The labyrinthine old middle is a photographer’s feast. I can feel the breeze funnel by the narrow streets as drivers pull in car or truck mirrors to squeeze by means of.

Citizens brag that they only see the backs of the birds as they fly. To see what they mean, I climb to the viewpoint at the key sq., higher in the aged city. Bellying up to the railing — the town’s suicide leaping-off issue — I look down and ponder the fancy cliffside hotel’s erosion fears, orderly orange groves, flower-stuffed greenhouses, fine views toward Morocco…and the backs of the birds as they fly.

Exploring the town, I discover that a brief stroll from Arcos’ church of Santa María to the church of San Pedro (St. Peter) is littered with refined but enjoyable glimpses into the town’s earlier.

The church of Santa María faces the principal square. Immediately after Arcos was retaken from the Moors in the 13th century, the church was crafted — atop a mosque. In the pavement is a 15th-century magic circle: 12 red and 12 white stones — the white kinds stand for numerous constellations. When a baby came to the church to be baptized, the mothers and fathers would quit right here first for a great Christian exorcism. The exorcist would stand within the protective circle and cleanse the little one of any evil spirits. This was also a holy put back in Muslim situations. Although Christian citizens no more time use it, Islamic Sufis continue to arrive in this article on pilgrimage each November.

In 1699, an earthquake cracked the church’s basis. These days, arches attain in excess of the slim lane — added to prop the church versus neighboring properties. Many thanks to these braces, the church survived the even bigger earthquake of 1755. All in excess of city, similar arches support earthquake-broken constructions.

Nowadays, the town rumbles only when the bulls run. Señor González Oca’s very little barbershop is plastered with posters of bulls running Pamplona-design via the streets of Arcos for the duration of Holy 7 days. Locals however remember an American from the nearby Navy foundation at Rota, who was killed by a bull in 1994.

Walking on toward St. Peter’s, Arcos’ next church, I move Roman columns trapped onto avenue corners — defense from reckless donkey carts. St. Peter’s was, until eventually lately, house 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 also huge to get back again out. Eventually, the bellman experienced no choice but to kill the donkey — and take in it.

The smaller square in entrance of the church — about the only flat piece of pavement all over — serves as the outdated-city soccer subject for community young children.

At a nearby convent, the home windows are striped with large bars and spikes. Popping into the dimly lit lobby, I drive 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 handful of terms of English — countering, in a Monty Python-esque voice, “We have cupcakes as nicely.” I purchase a bag of cupcakes to aid the mission function of the convent. I glimpse — by means of the not-rather a single-way mirror — the not-intended-to-be-observed sister in her flowing robe and pattern momentarily show up and vanish.

Saving my hunger for dinner, I dole out my cupcakes to small children as I wander on. My town stroll culminates at yet another convent — which now homes the most effective restaurant in city, Restaurante El Convento. María Moreno Moreno, the very pleased operator, points out the menu. (Spanish young children acquire the identify of each mom and dad — who in María’s scenario have to have been distant cousins.) As church bells clang, she pours me a glass of vino tinto con mucho cuerpo (full-bodied red wine) from the Rioja area.

As I sip the wine, María asks how my check out is likely. I inform her that the total town is a mucho cuerpo experience…creating memories that will be a treasured souvenir.

This write-up was adapted from Rick’s new e-book, For the Like of Europe.

Rick Steves ( writes European guidebooks, hosts travel exhibits on public Television set and radio, and organizes European tours. You can email Rick at [email protected] and abide by his web site on Facebook.

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