Spain


Sevilla is rightly famous (and has been for a very, very long time) for the tilework made in the city.

These — a horse, two rabbits, and a bull — are some very old examples I saw in one of the many gardens at Sevilla’s royal palace, the Real Alcázar:

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After our visit to Luis Alba’s carriage-restoration workshop, we boarded the bus and drove the short distance into Lebrija to visit the showroom and workshop of Francisco Dorantes, who — with the help of several fellow craftsmen — makes beautiful handmade harness.

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the staff and craftspeople of Dorantes Saddlery; Francisco is third from the left, and his wife is to his left

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a beautiful new set of russet harness by Dorantes Saddlery

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The shop also restores old / antique harness and has done work for the royal family.

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We were allowed to wander through the showrooms and into the extensive library, which also features several old and exquite pieces of harness in clear cases. Then, we were given a tour of the workshop areas.

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collars in various stages of construction hang on the wall below the straw "loft"

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Francisco demonstrates the use of one of his antique tools for making part of a collar

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... and explains to the group how the tool (above) works and which piece of the collar it makes (I admit that I don't know the specific name, but it's the section of the collar wrapped in leather in this photo; the tool compacts the straw so tightly into that space and shape that it's as strong as wood)

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the shop is able to do its own casting of harness hardware; these molds were made from the hardware of a set of harness that was restored here

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all of the leather embossing is done by hand

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After our wanderings and tours and questions and answers, we enjoyed pastries and coffee in the main showroom, surrounded by more lovely examples of the harness makers’ art.

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One of our group’s visits while in Spain — well, two actually … it was sort of double-header — was at the restoration / conservation shop of Luis Alba Marin and the workshop and showrooms of Francisco Dorantes Caro, both CAA members.

We had already met them, plus their translator and their wives, at Santiago Domecq’s two days earlier.

When it came time for our visit to Carruajes Alba, our bus driver and I called my contact person at the shop, Javier, who met us on the road into the small town of Lebrija and guided us in. It’s a good thing there were no more than twenty-five of us and that we were in a half-sized bus. A full-sized one would never have been able to squeeze through and into (or out of) some of the places we went!

The major project underway at the shop was the restoration of a Gala Berlin owned by the Spanish royal family, a few details of which I’ve included here:

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In another part of the shop (beyond the room with the lovely spread of ham, cheese, olives, and drinks) were several other projects in various states of repair.

This is the interior of a covered wagon of sorts, with two inward-facing bench seats and a rounded canvas top.

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Luis and his wife, Maria Angeles, in front of the body of the Gala Berlin being restored

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the CAA group, with the Carruajes Alba and Dorantes Saddlery folks in the front row

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While Luis is in charge of the vehicle restoration / conservation work, Maria Angeles does all of the fabric / coach lace restoration, and she makes braiding and bridle “pom-poms” like this one:

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… each one of these takes a total of about eight hours to make by hand and you've already seen how many are on each bridle!

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You can read about our visit to Dorantes Saddlery in tomorrow’s post.

As promised, I am continuing to post occasional stories and photos from our recent CAA trip to Spain.

We’ve already gone back over our group’s visits to the Royal School of Andalusian Equestrian Art and the fabulous, sweet-smelling Bodegas Fundador.

Our group’s first visit to a private carriage collection was at the tail end of that same (looong but wonderful) day.

In the late afternoon (or mid-afternoon, Spanish time) we were warmly welcomed into the home of Santiago Domecq and his family.

First, we toured the carriage house and harness room:

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one of Santiago Domecq's carriages

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a grand vehicle in the collection; this was recently restored by Luis Alba Marin, whose shop we visited a couple of days later

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... and a detail on that same vehicle

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our host discussing his collection with members of our CAA group

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hanging in the harness room: a row of traditional bridles, covered in "pom-poms" ... of which there are so many, they're almost all you can see

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the view out the door of the harness room

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Next, we walked around to the stables for a visit with some of the family’s horses.

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... saying hello

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even just standing in a stall, the Spanish horses all look like works of art

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Finally, we were invited to have “a drink” before we left to go back to Sevilla. When we walked inside the house, we were met with an array of drink options and a spread of delicious food laid out on the dining table. After a drink, some snacks, and a lovely relaxed visit, we boarded the bus for the drive back to our hotel and drove away, with our delightful hosts waving goodbye from the courtyard doorway.

Over the next several days, I’ll be (again) posting more stories and photos from last month’s CAA trip to Spain.

To get us all in the mood for our “trip” back to Sevilla, here’s a quintessential image from the area:

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one of the stallions at the Yeguada de la Cartuja, near Jerez de la Frontera

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