It augured well for the day as 40 members and guests set of eastwards on the Autovia del Mediterraneo driving towards the most fantastic deep red sunrise over the Cerro Gordo.
Our first stop at the Hotel Puerta Nazir for the usual round of multi-named coffees etc was hectic and a bit slower than Helen would have liked. Then onwards and upwards to our first workshop of the day, the ceramist Angel Vera At this point we wondered whether Ruth's tales of her time in education may have been a little exaggerated as she seemed to make a fantastic lollipop lady shepherding us all across the main road. Helen organised us into 2 groups A & B and the intrepid B group set off the negotiate their way down perilous steps which looked as if they had just been laid (badly) in our honour of our visit by Angel The latter climbers and the A group took the safer, longer way down!
In his workshop Angel explained in Spanish how he mixed ceramic art and wood to produce many of his works and showed us examples of his commissions. His kiln had to be seen to be believed, it was old with no proper chimney or extraction and the safety valves were all clamped so as not to blow! (We were most pleased that it was not working during our visit and that there were no H & S executive among us). There was also the visit to our first of many shops there where he displayed his works from jewellery through thrown pottery to inlaid wooden items.
It was here that we met up with Hiam Odds who had worked so closely with Helen on the organisation for the day trip. Hiam pointed out the best crafts people in the area and general tips on The Alpujarra which went into making this such a great day out and our thanks must go to Helen (organising her first "solo" trip for Nadfas) and Hiam.
Back on the bus and again onwards and upwards to Pampaneira where the groups went to see two textile workshops with hand weaving on old looms and the production of Textil Artisenas in La Rueca, Ernestina Guardia and Tapice & Telas in the Mayor of Pampaneira premises, Mercedes Martin. The town atmosphere prompted a few wandering minstrels to partake of some beverages & tapas whilst their other halves watched with interest the ladies at work.
Back to join Miguel, our excellent driver from Verano Azul who throughout the trip drove incredibly skilfully and safely, on and up again to Pitres to see the "Two Fatimas". Fatima One in charge of the whole affair worked from her Gazalia Studio weaving and combing mainly in leather with some silk and she showed us her experimenting with paper!
Our final journey took us to Trevelez the highest village in Spain at a staggering 1476 metres above sea level (Ben Nevis the highest point in the UK at a mere 1344 metres ASL!) where we visited the Gonzalez empire which owned the Curador, Shop and of course our Restaurant for lunch. As far as the eye could see around the town the name Jamones Gonzalez kept appearing on buildings. After a cold look round the Curador where the hams can hang for years (they still use normal string and knots for hanging) with a brief explanation of the process of air drying and the different types of ham ( Serrano from this area) we tried a liquid (claimed to be the local wine!) and some of the cured ham from downstairs.
I mentioned earlier shops. At each of our stops participants were regularly seen returning to the coach with plastic bags containing samples of the various wares of our hosts but Trevelez was the prize winner with almost everybody carrying a bag from the compulsory "Disney World" type shop. I think that at one point Miguel considered charging some of the travellers excess baggage.
Lunch was a local affair set on the upper level of the Gonzalez Restaurant which it appeared could cope with 4 coach loads at a time! Everything had ham even the fish (but not of course the local speciality Almond Meringue) but it was a great traditional Alpujarra meal and a super way to finish our day in their beautiful area.
A weary band of travellers with their plastic bags full and full of new found knowledge of several local trades wound their way back down the mountain into a magnificent bright red sunset over the western mountains of the Sierra de Los Guajares mirroring our morning sunrise. Memories of the magnificent scenery with the amazing views from the coach as it wound its way around the area during the day and the skills of the local artisans were topics of discussion all the way home. Despite an enforced detour into Motril we were safely delivered back to Supersol (hopefully with just enough time for many of the participants to get a quick turnaround to the Old Time Musical at the Cultural Centre)
Another great day out, superbly organised and run by Helen and her ever-willing assistant Wim.