Spain: Parties and Processions in Andalucia
Cordoba: Festival of the Crosses
I discovered this recently when I was filming an episode of my public television show in one of my favorite restaurants in
The rabo de toro (bull-tail stew) was as dark as meat can be ... almost inky in flavor. The jamon iberico -- a gift from the restaurant -- is the best ham in
Feeling underdressed for the filming, I called a taxi and zipped back to the hotel between courses. On the way, we passed a square thriving with revelers. On the way back, the same street was blocked by a religious procession; I had to get out and walk. One minute I was thrilled to be in the restaurant filming all that wonderful food; the next I was amazed we were missing parties in the squares and an exotic religious procession in the streets.
Excited, I asked my two-person TV crew to film the procession. Seeing alcohol-fueled partying around a towering red cross -- followed by a somber procession -- was poignant and powerful. Everyone runs to the streets to be a part of the religious ceremony. Trumpets blare a fanfare, children carry a float, and candles jostle in unison as the marchers glide in the dark of the night.
Travel in Andalucia is like this. There's always something going on. We were in
The next day, the parties were basically over. We finally found one square in town that was lively. It was their first year entering the contest and their cross won first prize, and it looked as though they'd been celebrating ever since. It was a scene of exhausted, hung-over happiness -- as if they'd been eating, drinking, and dancing for 24 hours (which they probably had). Now the cross was abandoned -- missing carnations like a bum misses teeth -- and the dancing was over. The last of the revelers gathered around the makeshift bar, which seemed to provide physical support for those determined to carry on. I needed dancing around the cross for our TV show. Our guide said they were finished dancing. But with a simple request, I was able to rouse the gang, and the yard was once again thriving with slinky flamenco.
We'd been in Andalucia for a week, and I realized it's a hair-trigger flamenco society. I like hair-trigger cultures. Just as
On that little plaza in
With enough dancing filmed, I let the fake party die, and everyone resumed his or her positions -- propped up by the bar. They filled a bottle cap with a ritual shot of firewater and gave it to me. As two-dozen onlookers watched, I downed it. With my head thrown back, knowing that the camera was rolling and all Andalusian eyes were on me, I was plunged into what seemed like a long silence. I wanted to say something really clever or meaningful. But I could only come up with a cliche -- "Ole!" No problem. Everyone cheered.
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