I don’t know what to say. Today was amazing-, spectacular-, marvelous-, “perfecto” day number three. Wow.

Our first stop was to see the enormous carriage collection of Mr. Aranda. He’s putting the finishing touches on his new (huge!) carriage museum. Because the museum’s not finished, it’s not actually open yet and so it was a treat to be invited to see it.

I’ve been told that the entire collection numbers more than 200 carriages, and just looking at the size of the museum building, I would believe the claim. There were all sorts of vehicles, although as one of our group said, they are not necessarily representative of everyday life of the time. These were unique and high-end vehicles, most of which had been restored in an on-site restoration shop. The carriages were displayed with a lot of space around each one, which made it easy to walk all the way around and look closely at them. The ubiquitous water (usually a bucket of water under each axle to help with the humidity level) was here a whole series of spouting fountains, with one big landscaped fountain in the center of the building.

After a long look through this building, we walked into the beautifully landscaped garden (to the sound of even more fountains) and, surprisingly, into another building with even more carriages. Most of these were large and ornate, and one was being cleaned and polished to be driven in the feria later in the week.

one of the unusual coaches in Mr. Aranda's huge collection

one of the unusual coaches in Mr. Aranda’s huge collection

After exploring this hidden museum building, we were led deeper into the garden and given a view of a paddock with horses. Mr. Aranda also breeds Andalusian horses, but he specializes in black ones, as opposed to the ubiquitous grays. From here, we strolled down a shady lane at the far end of the garden and into a delightful courtyard, which is surrounded by what appear to be the oldest buildings on the farm. Around a corner into another yard, and we were introduced, one by one, to several of the farm’s stallions. Back into the first courtyard, through a doorway and in we went to the harness room. There was yet another courtyard to see, and even a small chapel. And there was a very friendly barn cat who demanded ear scratches and then followed us around for quite a while.

the first of the lovely courtyards in the oldest section of Mr. Aranda's farm

the first of the lovely courtyards in the oldest section of Mr. Aranda’s farm

On the way back to the bus, I heard the story (from Mr. Aranda’s son) of the three-month-old orphaned filly who was bottle-fed (in the house) and now thinks she’s a person. She plays with the family, lies down with them in the grass when they sunbathe, watches TV and, if they’re sitting on the sofa, hangs her head over the back until they scratch her. I would’ve thought he was pulling my leg unless I’d seen the photos of it all on his iPhone.

Our final stop in this marathon of carriage collections was the smallest, but in no way the least. To get there, we drove to the lovely-looking town of Alcala, which stretches up a hillside to the base of an old castle. On the other side of town, we turned and headed out past fields of tall grasses, daisies, red poppies, and more horses. When we arrived at the Olivera farm, we were introduced to “Pepin,” the owner (the original owner’s nephew), and his wife. They and their driver, grooms, and family (even their granddaughter, a toddler) welcomed us with a spread of bread, olives, several kinds of ham, Spanish “tortilla” (potato and egg “pie,” served cold), and more. They were even grilling delicious ham and ribs and sausages in the fireplace/grill corner of the old wash-rack room. They had a table and chairs set out for us in the small courtyard surrounded by the wash-rack room on one side, their house on one side, and the harness/carriage room on a third side. Out the other side of the wash-rack room was yet another courtyard, this one a little larger, with a barn of horse boxes off to the left.

After most of the food was gone, out came a bowl of strawberries. Then, a little later, a pot of coffee, a carafe of hot milk, and a tray of cups and saucers. Needless to say, we were very well taken care of!

When everyone had eaten and visited and relaxed, Pepin and Raimundo gave a tour of the harness/carriage room, which houses several sets of traditional Andalusian harness and both old and new sets of English-style harness. Displayed on chairs are several styles of Andalusian livery from various time periods. And arrayed across the tops of the harness cases, on the walls, and on the tables are the many trophies, ribbons, and awards the family has won for their horses, their carriages, and their driving. On the other side of the room are six carriages: five antiques that have been expertly restored and one 25-year-old reproduction. All are painted in the family’s colors of red and black.

the gorgeous finish on one of the Olivera farm's carriages

the gorgeous finish on one of the Olivera farm’s carriages

After this tour and a close look at the carriages, we met some of the horses and watched a five-in-hand do some work in preparation for driving in the feria tomorrow.

the three leaders in the five-in-hand team

the three leaders in the five-in-hand team

And then, as a final treat, we walked out the back of the yard to a large field, where we went with Pepin to see a herd of his Andalusians. There were 25 or more mares, a number of new foals, and one stallion. When we headed slowly into the field, the older mares went around to arouse the sleeping foals and get everyone moving away from us. So the group of us stopped about mid-way in and waited while Pepin walked slowly toward the herd, talking to the mares. In the end, the mares were mostly curious about us and what we were doing there, and the foals didn’t seem to take any notice at all. The stallion, however, chased any overly curious mares back to the herd. Pepin made his way around to the back while the stallion wasn’t looking and managed to move the lot toward us before the stallion realized what was going on and moved them away again. Watching the interactions among the herd was fascinating. And the horses … well, it goes without saying that they’re beautiful.

curious mares and nonchalant foals

curious mares and nonchalant foals