It seems as if I’ve spent my long life if not exactly intentionally avoiding Spain but having it never showing up on my radar, then, in the space of six months, I’ve visited the country twice. Prior to this, and not so long ago, we did a Winter city-break weekend to Barcelona; other than these three times, nothing.
Last November, we did another city-break holiday to Seville and I posted about it on this blog. In short, it made a very nice impression on us, not least the Autumn heat.
Now we have recently returned from a week in rural Andalusia, about 90 minutes drive west from Granada. The closest town is Baza (pronounced Bath-a, the first syllable sounding like “bath” is in the North of England, not like it is in the South), though we stayed in a very agrarian area some distance away.
My overwhelming impression is one of peacefulness, tranquility and solitude. There’s an old idea of Spain and the Spanish expressed in their word, Mañana. To a certain extent, there seems some truth in this here; it’s as if their time runs at a slower rate altogether, as if time’s main function is a space in which to relish life and to watch the world go by. The mountains, which appear in every direction you care to look, also seem to encourage this locking down of pace, like sentinels of timelessness.
The second impression is that they don’t have a traffic problem like we obviously do in England. If you’ve ever seen an historical clip of the M1 motorway in its earliest days, this is how it is now in Andalusia; there is so little traffic on the highways, and absolutely no potholes – I wish I’d had my road bike! Maybe next time.
Like most of southern Europe, the fresh food looks and tastes better than ours, though unlike what we’ve become used to, it appears seasonal, probably as it’s local. Frustrating for us if we’re after a certain vegetable but really this is how it ought to be: fresh, seasonal and low miles. Of course, it’s comparatively cheaper, the wine especially, and though I prefer a pint of bitter, I’m happy to recommend the beer there too, not at all like the fizzy lager found on tap in most of England’s pubs.
As for tapas, I really could get used to that tradition: order a drink, and a little time after they bring out a plate of some snack; order another drink, and another, different tapas is brought to you. Three rounds of drinks and you’ve almost had a meal. Depending on the bar, tapas may be as simple as a portion of crisps or a platter of local Serrano ham, cheeses or cooked meat on skewers. Much more palatable than a packet of branded peanuts or pork scratchings usually on offer in England’s bars.
As someone who moved away from busy, overcrowded London to live a relative easier pace in Gloucestershire, rural Andalusia appeared at first to be at least another level slower and quite a culture shock for this. Yet, at the end of our seven days, I could have stayed forever. Thankfully, we have somewhere to stay and, for sure, we’ll be back.