‘The Manolo Experience’

Sweet seller

Picture taken by Alison Fearn

Manolo is a very common Spanish name that can also be used as a noun. The term ‘Manolos or Manolas’ started being used back in the early 19th century referring to low class Madrid citizens who distinguish themselves by their elaborate outfits and sense of style in dress and manners, as well as by their cheeky behaviour. The style stood in strong contrast to the French styles affected by many of the Spanish elite under the influence of the Enlightenment.

Also known as Majos and Majas, it was a recurrent subject for many artists. Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya, depicted both, standing out his ‘La Maja Vestida’ and ‘La Maja desnuda’. This second version of the model completely nude is renowned for the straightforward and unashamed gaze of the model towards the viewer.

Nowadays, the term is mainly used for those Spaniards who perpetuate a saucy attitude but not necessarily well dressed neither elegant in their manners.


Picture taken by Alison Fearn

This time around, Manolo, wasn’t a 19th century character, but a man that we bumped into on our way to San Sebastian Castle while on a one-to-one tuition photography course. He was taking a nap in the mayhem of beach supplies. Chairs, ‘gargaillos’ (gaditanian word for rubber shoes use for fishing), portable fridges, toys and so on, framed him and the contrast with the calmness he showed caught my eye. I stopped to take a picture and the shutter woke him up. To my surprise, instead of being annoyed he was kind and mellow. I explained him what we were doing and he immediately offered us a slice of the Tortilla (Spanish Omelette) he had prepared at 7 o’ clock am and a glass of ‘tinto de verano’ (the national summer drink- not Sangria).




Under the sun umbrella, Alison Fearn and I enjoyed what, from now on, I’ll call ’The Manolo Experience’. It is not uncommon to find such nice people on a common basis. Here in Cadiz, people are sweet and kind to foreigners. They are willing to enjoy and have a laugh. Due to their witty and loose attitude, every time you turn a corner, expect the unexpected. Incredible experiences may happen. Taking the time and following the mood makes the difference between visiting a city or experiencing the culture and the people of that city. When Manolos family arrived from their dip in the sea, laughter surrounded us as he joked about us being part of an international TV crew doing a reportage on him.



Thank you Manolo!!

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Budha Madre


As the road unravels through palm trees and ‘chumberas’ (a very common cacti around this area), you get the feeling you’ve taken the wrong turn and that you’re heading directly into the bulls barn; but then, you see colourful lights in the distance and your heart starts pumping in excitement… we’re here!

In the middle of the country side, between El Palmar beach and Vejer de la Frontera, there is a group of friends who have set a whole stage inside a truck, to perform every wednesday Music Jam Sessions.

Budha Madre, is this Music Association’s name. A playful expression in reference to a common spanish slang way of saying AMAZING!


It is certainly amazing how, once you manage to get there (there aren’t any signs on the way), you can listen to many different kinds of music, from Rock ’n Roll to Reggae, Jazz, Brazilian or even Metal, depending on who’s on stage…

As if they were waiting for Cinderella to arrive from her dance in a pumping, the Jam Sessions start at 12 o’clock, and as long as the night lasts, everyone is free to join in and perform what they’re best at or simply enjoy the show with a beer.




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… and the night life is easy…


Tightrope walker practices at La Caleta beach

Holidays, relaxation, stress free days to enjoy beautiful beaches, like La Caleta (the one in the picture) and up to other 27 blue flag beaches in the region (more info on this link Blue flag beaches in Andalucia). Planning the long days ahead of us to seize the Cadiz summer takes little effort. It’s easy and always fun!


A group of friends enjoy the sun set with beer and toasted sunflower seeds.

It is time for hanging out with friends and the company of the loved ones. Staying till the sun sets at the beach and then taking a shower and heading out and about on the streets. Going for some ‘tapas’ at any of the lively squares like ‘Plaza del Tío de la Tiza’.


Plaza del Tío de la Tiza, bursts in activity at dinner time.


Last years Jazz Music Festival.

Later you might want to listen to some life music in one of the many venues arranged for the summer (Summer concerts programme), and to top it all, I suggest you have a long drink at one of my favourite bars, ‘La Colonial’.


‘La Colonial’ bar at The Alameda also has a wonderful open air terrace to enjoy cocktails till late at night.

More info on the 2015 Jazz Music Festival starting July 20 (click here- Jazz Festival web site).


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A streetwise guide to enjoying the Cadiz Carnival


I have experienced many times The Cadiz Carnival, in fact, the first time I arrived in Cadiz, back in 2000, was to enjoy this magnificent event. It is mainly an open air party, so prepare to hang out in the streets. An incredible experience for the senses, but also for the soul. The humour involved in the lyrics and attitude are contagious. It takes place 40 days before lent, normally around February, so it is still a little bit cold even for South of Spain, although a good costume will provide enough warmth until you get the heat from the crowd. This would be the first and most important tip if you want to fully enjoy the Carnival:


It doesn’t have to be an expensive or very elaborate costume. Actually, this is a party where creativity beats high budgets. If you don’t have time or can’t be bothered, simply paint a couple of red dots on your cheeks, that will do. Once you get dressed you will be part of the FIESTA and will be considered by others as part of the ‘gang’. If you’re part of a group, consider the possibility of themed costumes. They are great!



That first year I visited Cadiz I still lived in Madrid. A couple of friends joined me last minute and we drove for 8 hours (normally it would take 6, but my van was an old one) on a Friday afternoon. We arrived at 3 o’clock in the morning just in time to finish our costumes and join in the party for the whole weekend!


Trains work very well and there are many. Consider this option instead of driving. Parking is absolutely a nightmare.


Some manage to park and spare the hotel room. This is quite a common view around town, specially on the opening night or should I say day?



It is not the end of the world but act like if it was! Once you go on the streets you may find yourself stuck in the middle of a crowd and unable to walk to the nearest bar to ask for a ‘manzanilla’ (dry sherry). It is a real shame to run out of supplies the exact moment a ‘Chirigota’ starts its performance. At the Central Market you can get really tasty ‘bocadillos’ (sandwiches) with all kinds of different ‘sausages’. The famous ham or chorizo, but I would also recommend the ‘chicharrones’ with a pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice.

Michael Ferullo, an Amercican visitor, decided to buy his pack at the neighbour supermarket.

Another convenient option is to buy sea food from the many open air stores set around the busy areas. Sea urchins are a fantastic delicacy, freshly caught in the nearby sea at La Caleta Beach.


This is a marathon more than a sprint. The party lasts for a whole week, so don’t go all crazy the opening night. The real thing is about to come and it would be a shame to miss it due to a terrible hangover.



As simple as that. The Cadiz Carnival is about getting together and listening to the witty lyrics a bunch of friends have put together during the past year and are now performing with more or less success, but always with tons of impudence.


There are four different kind of groups. Choirs, Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos. Some sing more serious themed lyrics than others. Some participate in the official contest and others just like performing in the streets (‘illegal’). All of them get together and take over the whole town. The carousel of Choirs are programmed during the weekends so you can’t miss them. The ‘illegal’ chirigotas, which are the most funny ones, simply stroll around and perform whenever they feel like it.



As crazy as it may seem there is also time and space for kids to enjoy the Cadiz Carnival.


Sneaking into private parties shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve followed hint number one and you’re kind to those you bump into. Gaditanians are such relaxed people all year round that during the Carnival this can only multiply.


Sneaking into the official contest that takes place at The Falla theatre demands other kind of skills.


Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.
The official contest starts a month before the whole street mayhem. Try getting your tickets online, but I tell you, it is very complicated. If you can’t manage, then, you’ll always have the street!


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Official Vs Illegal

Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.

Selu’s Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.



Jose Luis García Cossío, aka ‘El Selu’ is a central character of the Cadiz Carnival. He started his own group back in 1992 and has  been involved ever since, winning the Official Contest four times. Known for his sharpness, Selu, creates satire based on typical Gaditanian stereotypes, with lyrics as if they were written by the characters.

Getting dressed before their life performance in a 'peña' near by the Falla.

Getting dressed before their live performance in a ‘peña’ near by The Falla.

This year he participated with a ‘Chirigota’ named ‘Ahora es cuando se está bien aquí’ – Now is when it’s good here – in reference to the Spanish housewives who hang out at the beach during the summer from early morning to late afternoon, when most people have already gone home. These ladies arrive at ‘La Caleta’ beach, equipped with everything but the kitchen sink, including fridges of food, chairs and sun umbrellas, and dedicate themselves to gossip, Bingo and sunbathing. This year they made it to the semifinals.

The 'Pasacalles' is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.

The ‘Pasacalles’ is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.


Selu's chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Selu’s chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Four different kind of groups perform in the Official Contest: Coros (Choirs), Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos (Quartets), each one of them with different characteristics, number of participants and instruments. This year the official contest had 125 different groups. However, the main action is in the streets.



In the official week of Carnival the city becomes the biggest open-air theatre in the world as the so-called ‘illegals’ perform on every street corner, and fill the old town with humour and talent.

The ‘illegals’ don’t participate at the official contest, and don’t need to submit their repertoire to any rules. Considering that the Cadiz population is 125.000 inhabitants, the number of artists per square meter is overwhelming. The final result is an incredible census of actors, poets, singers and guitarists, unrivalled by any other city in the world.


‘Las Diógenes’ are an example of these ‘illegal’ chirigotas. They are a group of four friends who have been involved in the Carnival for 6 consecutive years, performing live in the streets. Their ‘tipo’, Gaditanian word for costume, was created by local artist Arsenio Rodríguez, whose amazing work with colourful recycled plastic containers of all shapes and sizes reaches it’s peak with this satirical dresses of Tenerife’s Carnival Queens, and closely referred to the Diogenes syndrome.





The Cadiz Carnival is a feast of wit and satire, unknown to most foreigners, although it is getting more and more well known. This big street party involves getting dressed in costumes and enjoying the outrageous humour and vibrant atmosphere, and often getting involved ourselves. The lyrics can be social, political or religious themed, or simply a way to complain or protest, or make light of current affairs. Officially the feast lasts 11 days, but with the Falla Theatre contest and other gastronomic affairs, the spree lasts almost a month. Not forgetting the ‘Carnaval Chiquito’, The Small Carnival, that takes place on Sunday a week after the official conclusion, for the greatest enthusiasts.



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Spaniards weird time schedules

When first arriving in Spain, foreigners are surprised not only by the goodness of the Mediterranean diet, but also by our strange time schedules.

A set table is ready for lunch in between some trees in the middle of the countryside

One reason for this is that Francisco Franco – Spain’s dictator during World War II – decided to remain on Central European Time as a friendly gesture to his comrade Hitler, never turning the clock back to Greenwhich Mean Time, where Spain belongs geographically alongside Britain and Portugal. His decision put us 60 minutes off our longitude, and ever since, we’ve suffered from ‘jet lag’.

Especially during the summer, when time is changed an hour ahead, setting our ‘midday’ not at 12 o’clock but at 2pm!

Cultural traditions such as families gathering around the table for lunch all together, and a climate that makes it almost impossible to walk on the streets at European midday without the risk of melting, do the rest.


Is that the reason we’re always late? Who knows? Though I do believe we’re getting better at punctuality. Relaxation and improvisation are in the Spanish DNA. Whether they are qualities of our character or not depends on the context, but usually when you go out on the streets, you shouldn’t expect to know what time you’ll be back.


My Norwegian wife still suffers from the ambiguity whenever I refer to midday… Her question is usually, Spanish or European midday?

Spanish midday happens after lunch. It doesn’t matter if it’s three o’clock in the afternoon.

If a meal hasn’t been served yet it is not the middle of the day. I know this might be confusing, but once you get used to it, it makes a lot of sense. Especially when you appreciate the siesta,  yet another cultural pearl of Spanish tradition. The day is literally divided in two. Shops close at 15:00 hrs and open again at around 18:00. THEN you can say it is afternoon. Spanish – mediodía-, the equivalent of the word ‘afternoon’ is hardly ever used and if you’re supposed to meet someone ‘in the afternoon’ expect it to be at around 6 o’clock in the evening. We refer to this period of the day as por la tarde – with a much broader significance since it does not refer to a particular hour.


While in many, if not all, European countries, there is only one main meal per day, Spaniards typically enjoy two hot meals spread out during the day. Lunch at around 14:30 and dinner at 21:00. In between, we normally enjoy ‘snacks,’ a habit with deep roots in Spanish culture, with its aperitivos (before lunch) that normally involve some kind of alcohol, the globally known TAPAS, and merienda (before dinner), which normally consists of coffee with some kind of sweets.

In the following posts, I’ll address the particularities of the Gaditanian cuisine, and other must-know facts about the area, so that you can fully enjoy!

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The decisive moment



At Luzia it happens in the spring-summer season. We’ve captured unrepeatable moments and our eyes are always aware of what surrounds us. As Cartier-Bresson said: “Photography is, for me, a spontaneous impulse coming from an ever attentive eye which captures the moment and its eternity.”


For us it’s an advantage to be able to return again and again to these places where our visitors and students open their eyes with ‘photography-goggles’. Always alert and ready to shoot. We come back to learn and experience the different lighting at different times of year and various times of the day. Coming back to find out about the personalities that inhabit these places, and what they are up to. Coming back to capture those moments where the magic is concentrated.



In this sense our time is cyclic, and filled with precious moments, which could appear as being ‘always the same’ in eternal repetition. But there is always something that makes it unique – the distinctive vision of each and one of our students, and their personal ‘take’ on each scene and locaction. We’ll continue revisiting these wonderful places with the excitement of those who start from scratch. With the innocent eyes of the camera explorer, capturing its essence once again. Maybe there simply isn’t one decisive moment, but many…


A continuous rebirth, just like life itself.


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First ‘Epicurus’ of the 2014 season

We tried ‘really hard’ to follow the philosophers ideals for life enjoyment… here’s a little prove




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What kind of Snapper are you?


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Cadiz Carnival 2014


The Cadiz Carnival or CADIZ CARNAVAL as the local Gaditanos call it, is an amazing spectacle. Many ‘Gaditanians’ totally live for this event, all year round. For a town that inhabits 124,000 people the Carnaval in Cadiz is quite an amazing thing in itself, but if we told you it’s one of the biggest carnivals in the world, second to Rio de Janeiro, it sounds almost impossible. It takes place in the small old town, on the plazas and in the narrow streets, and it goes on for more than 2 weeks! In Cadiz the carnival is a small industry in itself, and for many of the inhabitants it’s a full time obsession. We’re amazed at the talent, flair and wit that exists in this small 3000 year old city.



The Cadiz carnival dates back to 1591. The Religious authorities already forbade students and priests join the feast on the streets. During the golden ages of trade with the Americas, Noblemen and rich merchants didn’t want to join the fun, maybe because the lyrics had already developed into a witty commentary towards the rulers and the powerful. Nowadays it is still famous for its musicality. The satirical Chirigotas take the city, they sing and play with amazing humour and expression, parody and word-plays. Some of them have simple costumes, while others are amazingly detailed. The Coros (choruses) who parade the Plazas on the first Sunday. We started taking pictures in La Viña, along with our student.



Shooting in crowds is difficult, and you have to be fast, because someone’s going to walk into the frame in a millisecond. So that would be the first tip:

1. Always be ready!

2. Eye contact
In crowds you look for compositional patterns (it’s always a question of where to crop) or details, facial expressions, moments of communication between people, and often people relating to you.

3. Get high!
One of the things you should do in a crowd is try to get high up (or sometimes low, if there’s space). Fortunately, one of the Luzia courses tutor – Ignacio Fando – knows people and places, and we were invited to shoot from a friend’s balcony in the most perfect location on Plaza Mina (Gracias Mer!). Shooting tops of heads can be a problem from above, so you don’t want to get too high. First or second floor is perfect. You also want to try to get people to look up, getting a ‘connection’ in a massive crowd. The reward for having flirted and dwelled a bit with the players while they were on the ground came as they recognised us up on the balcony. You don’t want too much waving or recognition, but the guy looking straight at the camera leads you into the image with more engagement.




The official Carnaval contest takes place at Gran Teatro Falla, and we at LUZIA were fortunate enough to follow the Chirigota winners ‘Esto si que es una chirigota’ in their final preparations before the final – which they won!!! This Chirigota perform a satire on politicians and the Spanish authorities, and it’s extremely funny, even if you don’t understand the language. Make no mistake, this is not a performance cobbled together at the last minute. We really recommend having a look at their stage performance on video because it’s a finely honed act and while it’s responsive to the feisty audience, it’s no amateur act, and it really shows the best of the Cadiz spirit and humour. Some of our shots are from the ‘dressing room’ in a local Peña where we were invited to hang out on the big night, and accompany the Chirigota winners to be through the streets to the El Falla theatre.


If this inspires you to come, we run themed photography courses in Cadiz.  Part of what we do is enable people to shoot in great locations and gain access where a visitor would never have a chance. As you can see, this year we backed a winner!

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Copyright © Luzia 2013