Last week I was invited to the Fam Trip “Siente Lebrija. Descubrir un Destino” (Feel Lebrija. Discovering a destination). The city hall is making every effort to promote this small town, completely off the beaten path, as a tourist destination because Lebrija has many charms to offer to visitors, specially its gastronomy. Let’s start with the two elements mentioned in the title of this post.
The bakery El Horno de Vélez has been probably the main character in this fam trip. They gave us to try several kinds of bread: with payoyo cheese and pistachio, brioche style, honey and mango taste… but the ones that really captivated me were the Hispanic-Roman breads and the Andalusi one called hallulla. It was like eating history. More than just gastronomy, it was culinary archaeology.
We stopped at two different wineries. González Palacios is the only winery in the DO Lebrija. and we also could walk along its vineyards. They produce generous wines and also white and red wines. I already knew Overo, the red one, as it is sold in several bars and restaurants in my hometown, so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to try the other wines from González Palacios.
Halcón winery is an extremely beautiful winery and palace in the city center of Lebrija, with a courtyard full of flowers and fruit trees. Like a gate to paradise. The fortified wines produced here are very well balanced, tasty and complex. “Bigotillo”, amontillado style, was my favorite.
The traditional dishes we tried during the wine tastings were Ajo Lebrijano and Puchera Lebrijana, cooked by Ruben, from Venta Luis Rey Both delicacies have a working class origin, as they were originally simple and high caloric recipes prepared by farmers and peasants to recuperate energies after a very long day working in the fields.
By the way, in case you are not in the mood of such a heavy meal, it is always possible to go out for tapas and wines to places like El Chocazo and Casa Anselmo.
Monuments to visit
I highly recommend to talk a walk along the historical area of Lebrija before starting to eat all the wonderful traditional dishes and products mentioned above. Not only to prepare our stomachs for a good digestion but also to discover all the history hidden in the village.
During the fam trip we were splendidly guided by the archaelogist Agustina Quirós and the technician of culture from the local government José María Calderón through the historical highlights. They are very close to each other and it is possible to visit them all in a single morning.
I suggest starting in Casa de la Juventud, where part of the Roman ruins have been excavated. Then continue to the Monastery (Monasterio de la Concepción). This convent is approximately 500 years old and it has one of the most beautiful cloisters I’ve ever seen. Don’t forget to buy some traditional sweets made by the nuns! Next to it, it is the main church of Lebrija (Iglesia Santa María de la Oliva) whose tower is a cultural sign of identity for locals. Its inside is pure syncretism of mudejar and baroque style, including the orange trees courtyard. Last but not least, it is mandatory to walk up the hill to the ermitage (Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Castillo), where in the 12th century there was an Almohad fortress, being parts of its walls still well preserved. From here you’ll get the best views of the valley and the agricultural fields that surround the town.
Lebrija is also an important town in the history of flamenco and I am very glad that I’ve visited the birth location of the flamenco singer Juan Peña El Lebrijano, who recorded, in my opinion, one of the best flamenco albums of all times: Persecución. It is a historical journey about the persecution suffered by the Roma people, with a strong reclaiming feeling of the cultural heritage they left in the Iberian Peninsula.
I finish this post by giving a big thanks to all the people and institutions that were involved in this fam trip and which have not been mentioned yet: Prodetur, the City Hall of Lebrija, Flamencakitchen, Aldara and many more. They managed to gather tour guides, travel agencies, bloggers, cooks, etc…, in total about 40 people, to this great experience. Thanks!