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

by Rick Steves, April 2, 2021

As we have experienced to postpone our travels due to the fact of the pandemic, I think a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be very good drugs. Here’s a reminder of the pleasurable that awaits us in Europe at the other close of this crisis.

I am in the minimal hill town of Arcos de la Frontera, just south of Sevilla. These days, my target is to connect with the culture of compact-town Spain.

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Arcos smothers its hilltop, tumbling down all sides like the prepare of a wedding day costume. The labyrinthine outdated heart is a photographer’s feast. I can feel the breeze funnel by the slender streets as drivers pull in automobile mirrors to squeeze through.

Inhabitants brag that they only see the backs of the birds as they fly. To see what they suggest, I climb to the viewpoint at the key square, higher in the outdated city. Bellying up to the railing — the town’s suicide jumping-off point — I glimpse down and ponder the fancy cliffside hotel’s erosion problems, orderly orange groves, flower-crammed greenhouses, wonderful views towards Morocco…and the backs of the birds as they fly.

Discovering the city, I find that a limited walk from Arcos’ church of Santa María to the church of San Pedro (St. Peter) is littered with subtle but fun glimpses into the town’s past.

The church of Santa María faces the major square. Right after Arcos was retaken from the Moors in the 13th century, the church was constructed — atop a mosque. In the pavement is a 15th-century magic circle: 12 red and 12 white stones — the white kinds depict several constellations. When a boy or girl arrived to the church to be baptized, the mom and dad would stop in this article first for a good Christian exorcism. The exorcist would stand inside the protecting circle and cleanse the newborn of any evil spirits. This was also a holy spot back in Muslim situations. Although Christian inhabitants no longer use it, Islamic Sufis nonetheless arrive below on pilgrimage just about every November.

In 1699, an earthquake cracked the church’s foundation. Now, arches achieve above the slim lane — added to prop the church towards neighboring structures. Thanks to these braces, the church survived the even larger earthquake of 1755. All around town, equivalent arches support earthquake-destroyed constructions.

These days, the town rumbles only when the bulls operate. Señor González Oca’s tiny barbershop is plastered with posters of bulls managing Pamplona-type by the streets of Arcos throughout Holy 7 days. Locals nonetheless keep in mind an American from the close by Navy base at Rota, who was killed by a bull in 1994.

Walking on towards St. Peter’s, Arcos’ next church, I pass Roman columns caught on to avenue corners — protection from reckless donkey carts. St. Peter’s was, until eventually lately, dwelling to a resident bellman who lived in the spire. He was a basket maker and a vibrant character — famous for bringing his donkey up into the tower. The donkey grew also significant to get back again out. Ultimately, the bellman experienced no option but to destroy the donkey — and consume it.

The modest sq. in entrance of the church — about the only flat piece of pavement around — serves as the outdated-town soccer field for community young ones.

At a close by convent, the home windows are striped with heavy bars and spikes. Popping into the dimly lit foyer, I press 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 few words of English — countering, in a Monty Python-esque voice, “We have cupcakes as well.” I acquire a bag of cupcakes to guidance the mission perform of the convent. I glimpse — via the not-very 1-way mirror — the not-intended-to-be-found sister in her flowing gown and behavior momentarily appear and vanish.

Preserving my urge for food for meal, I dole out my cupcakes to children as I wander on. My town walk culminates at an additional convent — which now properties the most effective cafe in city, Restaurante El Convento. María Moreno Moreno, the proud owner, describes the menu. (Spanish kids just take the name of the two mother and father — who in María’s situation must have been distant cousins.) As church bells clang, she pours me a glass of vino tinto con mucho cuerpo (entire-bodied crimson wine) from the Rioja region.

As I sip the wine, María asks how my stop by is likely. I explain to her that the entire town is a mucho cuerpo experience…creating reminiscences that will be a treasured souvenir.

This article was tailored from Rick’s new book, For the Appreciate of Europe.

Rick Steves ( writes European guidebooks, hosts journey shows on public Tv set and radio, and organizes European excursions. You can email Rick at [email protected] and comply with his web site on Facebook.

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