“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination. White sierras, goatheards, dungeons of the Inquisition, Moorish palaces, black winding trains of mules, grey olive trees and groves of lemon, girls in black mantillas, cathedrals, cardinals, bullfights, gypsies, serenades – in short, Spain.” – George Orwell
I have seen Roman ruins advertised before and sometimes they can be quite disappointing so I didn’t have high expectations of those in Carmona but they turned out to be a real surprise. It wasn’t the Aqueduct of Segovia or anything of the scale of Segóbriga or Mérida of course but there were extensive excavations and a museum with an informative film about the Romans in Andalusia and the significance of this place.
It was principally an ancient Roman burial site or necropolis near the Seville road that was discovered in 1881 and there was also the site of what had been a rather large amphitheatre. The best part of all was that there was free admission and we spent well over an hour to look around the site.
It seemed that we had underestimated the town of Carmona and there was a great deal more to do here than we had originally thought.
Close to the fortress gate there was a little bodega that we had picked out earlier for lunch. The Abacería L’Antiqua was full to overflowing and heaving with activity and just as we were pondering whether or not to stay a table became available and we elbowed our way through the wall of people and made ourselves comfortable. The food looked good and the bar was doing brisk trade so we selected some items from the tapas menu and waited for our food to arrive.
All around the bar there were barrels of sherry and this is something else that Andalusia is famous for.
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes that are grown near the town of Jerez on the coast. In Spanish, it is called Vino de Jerez and according to Spanish law, sherry must come from the small triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. After fermentation is complete, sherry is fortified with brandy and because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later. In contrast, port wine is fortified halfway through its fermentation, which stops the process so that not all of the sugar is turned into alcohol. So now you know!
The food arrived quickly and it was delicious and we enjoyed it so much that we ordered second plates of those we liked best and more drinks. The bodega was a vibrant and effervescent place with people of all age groups and whole families enjoying their Sunday lunchtime gathering and we enjoyed the garrulous atmosphere and just being a part of it all.
But we couldn’t stay all afternoon because there were still things to see.
At the fortress we fished around in our pockets for the admission fee only to be told that today the entrance was free, so how glad we were that we hadn’t visited yesterday. It wasn’t a big castle but it was a good place to visit with commanding views in all directions across the Andalusian plain. This place had been chosen well as a castle of strategic importance. It had been restored and modernised of course, some time in the 1970s, but that didn’t spoil it one little bit. The sky was blue and it was warmer today so we had a good time climbing the towers and taking in the breathtaking views
I especially wanted to retrace our car journey of the first evening and we found the very narrow street and wondered just how we had managed to negotiate it without adding to the cars dents and scratches.
Practically every car in the town had some form of damage either from scraping past walls or from other cars squeezing past and a very high proportion of them had had their wing mirrors removed and were now only kept in place with sticky tape. This wasn’t the sort of place to live if you are at all fussy about the appearance of your car.
We found Micky in San Fernando Square sitting on a bench in the sunshine with a red nose and flu weary eyes and looking very forlorn. The man from Bar Plaza saw us and told us he had prepared paella for this evening but unfortunately for him we were determined to return to the Abacería L’Antiqua and so he had missed his opportunity.
We went first to the Forum Bar, which was busy and then walked to the Bodega, which was empty. The contrast from the lunchtime bustle made the place almost unrecognisable and although other diners began to drift in the place never achieved the sociable levels of lunchtime. We ordered some repeat dishes and experimented with some different ones and the food was equally as good and we stayed all evening before going back to the hotel for our final night at the San Fernando.