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Travel

72 Hours in Dreamy Spain

The interior of the monastery of La Rabida in
The interior of the monastery of La Rabida in Spain where where Columbus stayed while awaiting his funding from the catholic monarchs. PHOTO | DOREEN WAINIANA | NMG 

Cristobal Colon … or should I say Christopher Columbus began his journey on the Atlantic from a Spanish monastery of La Rabida.

Similar to any start-up in the modern day, Columbus had an outlandish idea that there was life on the other end of the sea. What he needed was cash to get him a fleet and crew to sail in search of India.

“We’re here at La Rabida, an ancient Franciscan monastery. So let’s go back in time, 533 years ago and imagine the scene … there’s a 35-year-old from Genoa, Italy, and he has a very big idea but needs a venture capitalist to make it come true,” says Dr Christian Göke, CEO Messe Berlin, during a tour of Spain.

Dr Göke, a techie at heart, compares the journey of the famed explorer to that of a tech start-up seeking funding for an out-of-the-box idea.

“Now his pitch was clearly not an elevator pitch. Actually, it took him three years of pitching and I have it on good authority that there were no PowerPoint presentations involved,” says Dr Göke.

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Spain is rich with history and the Catholic Church has been a huge part of its history. It is at the monastery at La Rabida where Columbus stayed while awaiting his funding from the Catholic monarchs.

A lot of the history has been preserved as you walk through the narrow stairwell and sparsely decorated rooms that were used by the monks centuries ago. An earthquake in 1755 damaged La Rabida, but it was restored and reopened when it was declared a national monument.

What is truly striking are the works of arts that hang along the

walls of the courtyard. The play on light, colour and canvas creates a 3D illusion. The medium used by the artist truly distinct.

Outside the old monastery is the steps in the garden that lead down to the museum that hosts the three replicas of the boats Columbus used on his voyage. In this day of cruise ships that can carry thousands on board, they seem small, yet they are a key part of the rich history in Europe.

Santa Maria’s replica, the ship Columbus sailed in, stands tall in the centre with Pinta and Nina on either side, just as they would have taken the sea. During the IFA Global Press Conference (GPC) 2019 excursion, the three boats provided the backdrop for Spanish tapas, Spanish wine, beer and Spanish desserts as the sun set over the Atlantic. If you are a scenic photography buff or want to capture that selfie in the perfect light condition, or even capture I light flare, then the sunset at this spot is magnificent.

Visiting in the spring meant waiting well until 9pm for the sun to show signs of descending into the horizon. La Rabida is in the province of Huelva in Andalusia, Spain. It is an hour and a half drive from the airport in Seville. From the sky, every homestead in Seville seems to have a swimming pool. The afternoon sunlight dances off the surface of the water, making them look like giant sapphires on the ground.

The drive from Seville to Huelva showcases the vegetation cover that seems to spread across the better part of Spain. The colourful houses that line the streets look exactly as you would envision homes in Spain … mini versions of Haciendas style homes.

Promising adventure

Our four-day stay in Huelva for the GPC was at Villa IFA in Punta Umbria Beach Resort, which spans several hundred metres with building connected by glass panel bridges to provide the view as one crosses from one end to another. The hotel sits next to a nature trail leading to the shores of the Atlantic. Unlike the white sandy beaches of Mombasa, the sand here is a golden shade and the shoreline dotted with seashells of all sizes, colours and designs. It is nature’s art project, one can say.

An old couple strolls down the beach for their afternoon walk, three men sitting on loungers have fishing lines set up, joggers and their dogs are doing laps, Kite surfers are taking advantage of the winds to enjoy a ride on the water, yet, somehow it is still soothing and calm to listen to the waves crashing against each other on the shore.

The ocean seems to stretch from one side to another, with no end in sight, promising adventure each time one returns to its sandy embrace.

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