Posts Tagged ‘andalucia’

La Magia

In Practice, Presentation on March 4, 2014 at 10:06 am

La Magia

I have written about Benarrabá before and about the spell it holds over us. Even by pueblo blanco standards, it is tiny, hidden from view at the end of a series of hairpin turns, a kilometre or so from the road that threads along the eastern side of the Genal Valley and ends up in Ronda. A succession of larger pueblos, with names from the days when this was Berber high ground, adorn the road like a string of gleaming worry beads.

Unlike them, it is hard to imagine Benarrabá expanding or modernising. Expansion, in fact, is impossible – the town is draped across a narrow ridge that offers no more space – and any modernisation going on around here is going on in Gaucín, a few kilometres down the road, so this little pueblo of six hundred souls sparkles alone in the green velvet of the valley, isolated on its summit but connected by sight – and the ineffables of culture and history – with other tiny towns, visible in the distance on the other side of the river.

We come in February every time, the Andalucian winter just beginning to lift and the skies wet with heavy raincloud. The topography always seems to punch a few holes in the grey blanket, though, and vertical shafts of sunlight play across the slopes as if painted there by a master; the brilliant sun shines through the murk like a miracle, even as mist envelops the hills above the slanted little settlement that has never failed to enchant. More

Thirds, and Firsts.

In Presentation on April 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

Thirds, and Firsts

Half an hour ago I didn’t know there was such a thing as manzanilla amontillada; now I’m tipsy on it. I asked for an amontillado but the bartender poured me a glass of this unusual and similarly named manzanilla and, realising his mistake, let me have it as well. Between the amontillado, the amontillada and the manzanilla pasada (which I just had to try) I’m feeling decidedly warm on this hot day in Sanlucar de Barrameda – it’s the third day of a glorious spell of weather in Andalucia and I’m on my third sherry in the third town, after Jerez and El Puerto de Santa Maria, of the famous ‘sherry triangle’. The town, incidentally, from which Christopher Columbus set out on his third voyage to the New World.

Not that they call it sherry  – in Sanlucar, it’s manzanilla: a dry wine that tastes a little saltier than finos from elsewhere. The subtle difference is the product of terroir – yeast and soil and all the rest of it – but it’s more romantic to believe (which is probably why people have been told as much for centuries) that the saltiness is added by the marine breezes that blow through the bodegas here, up on the hill that overlooks the town.

It isn’t difficult to see why the place has given rise to a little romance. Wine towns always have a certain something and Sanlucar has the added boon of the water. It occupies the river mouth of the Guadalquivir where it flows into the Atlantic. Sea breezes do indeed blow over the bodegas and the Plaza del Cabildo, lined with wine-from-the-barrel bars More

El Pueblo Blanco

In Practice, Presentation on March 4, 2013 at 9:18 pm

El Pueblo Blanco

The lane leads down to the lower part of the town, which comes into view once we take a bend – the tall church against a backdrop of dark green mountainside, laden with low-lying cloud on this misty, wet morning. An elderly man is on his way up and about to pass us by, all flat cap and whiskers. We know he’s going to say hello because everybody in this place says hello.

“You’re in the hotel, are you?”, he asks. There’s only one twelve-room hotel in town and he hasn’t seen our faces before.

“Yes. You’re from here?” I reply.

He might not have understood me properly.

“I’m from here,” he announces.

“It’s very quiet,” I point out to him.

“It’s too quiet,” he says. “Out for a bit of a walk, are you?”


“Down to the river, is it?”

We have no intention of going all the way down to the river; we just want to stroll around the tiny town up here on its height and freshen up a little after last night’s wine. He takes his leave of us with a cheerful declaration in incomprehensible andaluz and we continue on our way. More


In Plenary, Production on August 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

It’s Sunday August 7th. We have stayed with friends who were celebrating their engagement and are on our way back to Tarifa – a little the worse for wear but looking forward to a dip in the Atlantic and pleasantly cowed into submission by the glory of the day.

There is no haze. Even before we reach San Roque or Algeciras we can see both Pillars of Hercules aligned in front of us, the dirty industrial sweep of the bay dwarfed by the more enduring features of the Rock and Jebel Musa.

At Algeciras we run into some traffic which clears a little on the other side, but as soon as we have ascended the mountain road to Pelayo we find ourselves back in it; at a standstill in fact – a first for us on this road. K doesn’t suppose the police would be running checks on a Sunday, so we assume there has been an accident and that a lane has been closed off somewhere ahead.

We’re feeling cheerful – and therefore patient – so we sit and chat, untroubled by the delay; perhaps just a little apprehensive that we will see something awful at the site of the crash. More


In Plenary on September 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

It’s all I can do not to leave my mouth open as I sit here and grin at the cinema. I order a beer and some fried fish, if only to justify my behaviour. This is my favourite place. It may not always be, and just a couple of weeks ago I had neither seen nor heard of it but this little plaza right here, right now, is my favourite place.

It’s one of a number of little squares in this part of town, laid out like a coiled string of beads. As with the others it would appear to have multiple names. The names are displayed on multiple ceramic plaques placed one above the other on a wall in the corner, as if the vested interests that come along and rename things have here lacked the ruthlessness required to erase the past; so this square which is called San Hiscio is also, apparently, called Plaza De Perulero. More

Hola Tarifa

In Practice on September 3, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Hola Tarifa

We’ve spoken about to-do lists already here at There are worse places to work your way through one than Tarifa in the province of Cadiz. The more attentive amongst you will have had a glimpse of our new home town by now at the photoblog. The rest of you, and you know who you are, may want to take a look now and update yourselves.

Updated? Ok.

The first week has been one long to-do list. I’m talking bureaucracy. More

Slán go fóill

In Plenary on August 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm

If there was something missing from this blog so far, with its focus on our move to Spain, life in  Andalucia and the little town of Tarifa, it was a post about County Donegal in North West Ireland. Did you spot that? Consider the issue addressed.

We had always wanted to go to Donegal – K had never been and I only had the dimmest childhood memories. With our move imminent we finally got out there a couple of weekends ago. It would be our last chance to do it for a while – and I’m all about last chances – so off we went. More


In Presentation on August 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I’ll admit it; I am one. I didn’t used to be – I held out for as long as I could. I held out, not for reasons of principle, but because I hadn’t grasped the nature of the thing. I didn’t get it.

Now…well ok, I still don’t get it, but I’ve succumbed; I’ve familiarised myself with the compulsion to follow, and attract followers. They call us tweeters, most likely because they felt they ought to avoid dubbing us twits, but believe me; if you’re doing it in the same clueless, hopelessly hopeful way that I am doing it, twit is the appropriate term. More

Estamos Aprendiendo

In Practice on August 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

Spanish lessons. I knew there was something I’d forgotten to put on the “to do” list. In time honoured fashion I’ve left it late, but I’m finally grappling with the realisation that “Dos cervezas, por favor” isn’t going to cut it.

Nor is “¿Habla usted Ingles?, but I imagine I’ll be deploying it all the same.

K has organised lessons for us and we’re taking them together; an arrangement that has made her superior grasp of the grammar abundantly clear.

Not that I have failed to prepare – cultural orientation is well underway; a history of Moorish Spain and a good translation of Don Quixote. I tackle both with a bottle of Spanish red, and I’m getting better at tortilla con patata, so it isn’t as if I’m not making an effort. More

The Lake Of Death

In Plenary on July 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I can’t swim.

A good reason, it could be argued, for not moving to Tarifa, a coastal town we’ve never set foot in, its population swollen each summer with swarms of surfing water-babies. Or should that be shoals of water-babies?

Pods of water-babies?

I say I can’t swim- it might be more accurate to say that I can, but only over (very) short distances. For example, if I found myself in some kind of trouble at the tap end of a bathtub, I’m fairly sure I could get myself to the (relative) safety of the other, slightly shallower end. You might almost say that I’m pretty smug about my ability to cope with such an emergency. More