We joined our local friends Mark and Vicki on an excursion with Tu-Tours to the town of Jumilla, a local wine mecca. The group was larger than I would have liked (54), but the size provided us the advantage of English tour guides at our stops.
We began at Bodega Finca Luzon, a century-old winery that has been modernized but still prides itself on its attention to traditional methods. Our Portuguese tour guide was very knowledgeable and had an excellent command of English, although we had to clarify the distinction between flies and fleas for her. What we didn’t know: they encourage spiders in the vaults because they eat bugs that might attack the wooden barrels. She referred to them as “guards of the wine.” The wines were lovely—and they’re available in the U.S.
Our second stop: the Monastery of Santa Ana del Monte. There was some debate as to whether it was a convent or a monastery. Apparently, Spanish doesn’t necessarily distinguish between the two. In English, a monastery is for monks and a convent is for nuns. But traditionally, a monastery lay outside the walls of a city, while a cloister (or convent) was protected inside the city walls. Makes sense, therefore, that women would be in a convent and men would be in a monastery. In any case, Santa Anna is a monastery, perched atop a mountain with views of the valleys below.
The church, founded by Franciscans in 1573, was small but beautiful. Only five monks are in residence at this time. The monk who talked to us was delightful, with a sense of humor and an ability to share a lot of information in a little time. In the early days, the monks served as priests for the surrounding villages, and they carried large crucifixes with them as they made the rounds. While the largest “only” weighed 90 pounds, it was well over 6 feet tall. Imagine lugging that up and down the mountainside!
One highlight of the visit was a large museum of reliquaries containing objects left by pilgrims who journeyed to the monastery, a good 6 kilometers uphill from the Jumilla town square. Many of the items were archaeological finds, as well as natural history-type items.
Throughout the monastery were over 100 hand-painted signs which provided texts for daily inspiration.
A long day. A lot of walking. A good day.