Scribbler in Seville

Sunday in the countryside: lakes and mountains, toros bravos and pata negra cochinos

This is what I like to see on a Sunday: noone, just trees and mountains and water.

Yesterday we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and head off into the Sierra Norte, to see the lakes near Guillena. This area is about 40 minutes’ drive from Seville.

As usual, we had no idea where we were going, and we went down some bumpy, rutted  tracks and into some Coto de Cazas (hunting areas) before coming upon a place that couldn’t have been more perfect if I’d dreamed it up.

La Cantina - in the middle of nowhere, exactly where I like my Sunday lunch to be.

One of the many resident animals.

It had a restaurant built in rural style of stone, with an outside area – well, various: a chiringuito, a verandah and a patio; animals (most of which, I reckon, were destined for the pot – I didn’t share this suspicion with my daughter, who became very attached to the bunny rabbits and was inconsolable when we had to leave); a grassy picnic area with table-and-benches; wonderful views of a lake surrounded by tree-covered mountains; and, that day, the sort of blue sky you only ever see here in Andalucia. Oxygen for the soul.

Map of Ruta del Agua, north of Sevilla ciudad: cars can only take the yellow route, so the cyclists and hikers can follow the course of the lakes (that route is red). La Cantina is number 12.

The restaurant, La Cantina, is located on the Ruta del Agua, a route which runs from Camas, a town just outside Seville, northwards to the Lagos del Serrano, ending up in El Ronquillo. We joined the 64km road near Guillena. Popular with cyclists, it is well maintained and picturesque, but

for the best views, you need to take the (bikes and pedestrians only) Ruta de la Cruz de la Mujer, which wiggles along the side of the lakes.

Next to the restaurant was a little river, small but fast-flowing, fed by the recent heavy rains. We found alcornoques (cork oaks) and encinas (holm-oaks, which produce the bellotas, acorns, which pigs love – and makes your pata negra jamon serrano so delicious).

Bellotas (acorns) on an encina (oak tree).

The menu was meaty, with rabbit (sorry, Lola), partridge and goat; the clientele was mixed: as well as cyclists and large family groups (every table inside the restaurant was reserved), there were some hunters too.

After lunch, we drove up past the lake, with the afternoon sun bouncing off its waters. The road crossed the lake, over a dam, passed some idyllic lakeside picnic spots, and wound up from the lake along long looping curves, into rolling hills dotted with trees.

We were lucky enough to come upon a ganaderia (bull-breeding farm), with some magnificent specimens. I hate bullfighting, but I could appreciate these fine beasts – especially since, as a veggie, I will never eat one.

Then we found some pata negra (black foot) pigs, the ones which love the acorns we collected earlier.

They’re a very odd, unpig-like shape – sort of flat, rather than round and piggy.

And they’re good at standing on their hind legs, as I discovered.

A very unpiggy pig - pata negra, usually seen as just a leg hanging in a bar.

Our last stop was some horses in a field – very friendly, they came over to see us, and enjoyed having their noses stroked by the kids.

We also saw a deer, with antlers, which crossed the road in front of us. I fumbled with my camera, desperate to capture this magical beast, but it was too quick for me and disappeared into the woods next to the road. We reckoned it might have been escaping from the cazadores. In which case, we hope it survived.

Here is the full rollcall of animals we saw on our day in the country, one of the reasons why we’ll definitely be back:

chickens, turkeys, peacocks, mules, sheep (under the chicken shed), rabbits, dogs, toros bravos (fighting bulls), pata negra pigs, horses, and a deer.

6 thoughts on “Sunday in the countryside: lakes and mountains, toros bravos and pata negra cochinos

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