Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Sunday, 20 June 2010
And now, inevitably, it is time for my journey to come to end. Like Laurie Lee, the final point in my journey is the coast of Andalusia; He left in midsummer 1935, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, departing on a British naval gunship, on express despatch from Gibraltar. Meanwhile I'm catching the 22.05 Ryan Air flight to Leeds Bradford International. But hey, times change...
Friday, 18 June 2010
There are many idiosyncracies of the Spanish language that I've come to love over the passed five months. The very liberal use of obscenities still makes a smirk slide across my face, whilst their use of 'no' as an affirmative is something I've fully bought into. But there's one turn of phrase that never fails to prick my ears up as being so illustrative of the nations attitudes when it comes to adding grandiosity to a statement, the laissez faire attention to detail, and most importantly, the all-inclusive nature of life here, particularly when it comes to socialising.
Todo del mudo – literally all of the world – is the default expression used to describe instances or situations that lots of people take part in. For example, you might say “a las ocho por la tarde, todo del mundo va a pasear y a tomar aperitivos” - “at eight in the afternoon(!), everyone goes for a stroll and to drink pre-dinner drinks”, or “todo del mundo en los hostales son Americanos” - “everyone in the hostels are American”. It's also very effectively used to describe places where a mix of people can be found, for example, un bar de todo del mundo.
For the last two days I've been staying in La Quinta luxury golf resort, just outside Marbella, Malaga. As nice as it is, I think it's pretty safe to say it's not a todo del mundo kind of place. In fact, I'd go as far as saying it's pijo giri (posh foreigner) kind of place. So when Wednesday came around, bringing Spain's first outing in the World Cup, I decided to head out of the resort in search of what's left of real life on the Costa del Sol.
Thankfully, just down the road is San Pedro. A fairly sleepy working class town, who's occupants fill the various service industry jobs that the resorts, hotels, and leisure complexes that stretch the length of the Costa del Sol necessitate.
After having pootled into town along San Pedro's calle principal, I wrestled the battered old Nissan that I'd borrowed for the day into a tight parking spot just outside the first bar I came to – Bar Manolo. As I edged backwards and forwards in the midday sun, all four windows down, and sweat forming on my brow under the heat and pressure, another car slid up behind me, casually double parking, as if the road itself was one long parking bay. I'm still fairly new to driving abroad, and this is a custom I've yet got used to.
Anyway, if La Quinta is a pijo giri kind of place, Manolo's bar is the exact opposite. Inside, silver-haired old men sat sipping glasses of red wine. Men in work boots stood at the bar with cold San Miguels. A drunk with a big red nose and shaky hands shared shared rounds of tinto de verano (red wine and Fanta limon), with a table full of business men who'd knocked off early for the afternoon. Young mothers sat lined up in a row at a table, as their kids ran around the bar in front of them, dressed head to toe in the Spanish strip, complete with red and yellow head scarfs, and national flags painted on either cheek.
Manolo's bar is definitely a todo del mundo kind of place. A cross section of literally the entire town had come together for Spain's first big day. At least three generations, sharing in the pleasure of a national event unfolding on the big TV in front of them.
As the afternoon wore on, and Spain's chances were continually thwarted, there were many a furrowed brow, shaking of heads, and vocal cries of “!joder!” (no translation for that one), but this was all interspersed by the cheerful gossiping at the tables, the wheezy laugh of the drunk to my left, and the energetic activities of the kids, entertaining the families and anyone who cared to pay them any attention, instead of the football match they'd come to watch.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Monday, 14 June 2010
Monday, 7 June 2010
A revitalising beverage for a summer's day in the Sierra. If you don't have oranges growing on trees in your patio, shop bought ones will do the job just fine.
Enough for 4 thirsty farmers
Two largesprigs of mint – a couple of dozen leaves
The juice of six or seven juicy oranges
The juice of one large lemon
In a large jug, 'muddle' half the mint leaves together with roughly a desert spoonful of sugar, as if you were making a mojito. Juice the oranges and lemons into the jug, and add the same volume of water. Add the remainder of the mint leaves and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve in tall glasses over plenty of ice.
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
It was almost like being in time warp. A parallel universe, existing outside of space and time. Every bar, cafe, shop and apartment had shut out the world, hiding any signs of life behind steel shutters. I crept through Plaza De Las Angustias, caught in a daydream where the world was inhabited by me, and me alone.
With my shirt damp against my back, I limped to a table outside the first cafe I came across that hadn't shut it's doors for the afternoon. Shadows softened as the sun's rays were filtered through the thick, sticky clouds that shrouded the city. The atmosphere was hot and damp, carrying the unmistakable musty scent of slowly fermenting grapes...
Clinging to the fringes of the sprawling conurbation that rims the Bay of Cadiz lies Jerez de la Frontera, a city of great historical significance; A bustling trading settlement in the reign of Al Andalus, a strategic outpost during the years of the Reconquista, and an important industrial hub in more modern times.
Influences from it's history both recent and ancient are proudly displayed throughout the city. Grand edifices of bygone colonial times share real estate with raff-and-tangle concrete palaces of the post-industrial age. Old and new sit side by side, decorated with dusty yellows and glistening azure blues that are so typically Andalusian. And amongst it all, in the courtyards, store houses and side streets from the old town to the outskirts are bodegas. For whilst Jerez may seem like little more than a sleepy, if handsome, industrial city, it is of course, the centre of the world when it comes to sherry.
Strolling from street to deserted street, not a single sole crossed my path. The huge wooden doors of the bodega I'd been meandering towards were bolted shut, as if the staff had left town, planning never to return. Still, I knocked.
After a humid few minutes wait, I was just about to turn on my heals when the doors creaked and slowly swung open, to reveal a beautiful vine covered courtyard. At the entrance stood a weary looking employee, Ignacio, who seemed so surprised to see anyone, he invited me for a look around. Ignacio turned out to be El Heffe, and whilst he was well over due for his siesta, he said he had just enough time to show me round.
After a brief look at the owner of the bodega, Joaquin Rivero's private collection Renaissance art – which included two royal portraits by Goya – we reached a private room which is normally used to hold tastings for clients far more esteemed than I. But my luck was obviously in that day, or Ignacio just fancied a night cap, as he began pouring glasses for the both of us, first of their 25 year old V.O.S. Fino, then the V.O.R.S, then an Oloroso, then a 45 year old Gran Reserva brandy. Four glasses of fine vintage liquor at that hour of the day is enough to make anyone sleepy...
Back in the centre of town, as the long afternoon nudged it's way towards the evening, the city finally began to wake up. Old ladies sat huddled around the tables in the cafeterias, gossiping to one another as they snaffled deep-fried churros and dunked them into their mugs of steaming hot chocolate. Young folk gestured wildly to one another as they discussed their plans for the evening over quick cups of cafe con leche. Parents drinking beers on the terraces, as their kids played football in the square in front of them.