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All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Fiestas in Las Nieves and El Paso

Inside Las Nieves Church, La Palma
Inside Las Nieves Church

Today is the fiesta of the patron saint of La Palma, the Virgin of Las Nieves. It's also a public holiday for the whole island.

Las Nieves is about 2 km inland from Santa Cruz de la Palma. When I went this morning, it was impossible to park within a mile of the fiesta. Sorry, I just turned around and went home. I expect it's much like other years - lots of stalls selling food and drink and souvenirs, and a religious procession at some point in the day.

Meanwhile, El Paso has it's once-every-three-years fiesta going on for most of the month. They have things going on all month, but the main event is the romerĂ­a on Sunday 16th. This is a cross between a religious procession and a party, where they take the statue of the Virgin on the Pine from the hermitage of the same name, to the church in the town. RomerĂ­as are usually great fun, with people taking along instruments to sing folk songs on the way, and wagons handing out free food and drink - usually friend pork and wine.

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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

More at Las Nieves

Casa de los Romeros Las Nieves

There are several things to see in the centre of Las Nieves, apart from the church. This house was built for pilgrims in 1653, on the site of an even older building. It's been restored several times since then. There's also a house (on my right as I took this photo) where they sell things like postcards, rosaries and religious medals.

Canons on the hill above Las Nieves

La Palma used to have a serious problem with marauding pirates. Since the church is only a few kilometres from the coast, and contains quite a lot of gold, silver and gemstones, they had to be ready for trouble. If you climb the short path beside the pilgrims' house, you arrive at this hilltop where four cannons have been left. I presume they used to have wooden stands which have long since rotted away. The other thing up there is a pretty good view down towards Santa Cruz and across to Llano Grande. (The path's a bit rough. Don't wear stilettos!)

And on the opposite side of the valley, there's a sentry post. Although to be honest, I don't know if this dates from the time when pirates were a problem, or from the Spanish Civil War.

Sentry post, Las Nieves

If you work up a hunger and thirst seeing with all the sightseeing, there's a bar/restaurant on the main square. The food in the restaurant is what's called typica - mostly grilled meat and salad with either chips or wrinkly potatoes.


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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Las Nieves

Las Nieves church, Santa Cruz de la Palma

I can't believe that I haven't written about Las Nieves church before.

Las Nieves is a pretty hamlet, in the municipality of Santa Cruz, but about 2 km outside it as the crow flies. If you're fairly fit, there's a pretty (but rough and steep) footpath between the two.

Las Nieves church, Santa Cruz de la Palma

More importantly, Las Nieves has the most gorgeous church on the island. It's also the oldest one, dating from at least 1423 (they had missionaries here before the conquest in 1493). I'm sure the current building must be newer, if only because of its size. It's a very popular place to get married.

The fountain outside Las Nieves church, Santa Cruz de la Palma

Our Lady of the Snows (the Virgin Mary) is the patron saint of the island, and statue of the her is painted terracotta, from the 15th century. The throne she stands on is marble covered with silver. (It's not too clear in the photo, but it's the thing behind the altar with all the flowers on it.)

Every five years the island has a massive fiesta where the statue of the Virgin comes down to Santa Cruz for five weeks. First they bring down the throne, which separates into 12 pieces (which are still darned heavy). That isn't so much a religious procession as a party, five miles long. Some people are staggering by the time they reach Santa Cruz. Then, a week later, they bring down the statue of the Virgin, which is a much more solemn ocassion.

Interior of Las Nieves church, Santa Cruz de la Palma

The Calvary statues are from the middle of the 16th century, and really beautiful.

There are also four paintings in the church, given as thanks for miraculous rescues from storms at sea.

Painting in Las Nieves church, Santa Cruz de la Palma

>Visiting hours: Mondays to Sundays from 8 am to 8 pm.

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