It was three quarters of a century ago that Laurie Lee's epic journey across Spain ended, guided by little more than a sense of adventure and a desire to broaden his horizons. Traveling on foot, he walked from Galicia to Andalusia, through town and country, dessert and mountains, immersing himself deep into what he so evocatively describes as "the firey heart of Spain".
His vivid, captivating account of the journey, As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning, has been a great companion to me on my own Spanish adventure... Rolling into two-horse towns in the middle nowhere, knowing no-one, and having no idea what my time there would bring. Many times I sought reassurance in Lee's beautifully poetic prose as I've virtually re-traced his steps, immortalised in ink on the pages in front of me.
In the passed five months, I've seen this huge and diverse country in many a new light. The gastro-paradise of the Basque Country; the hard, rugged mountains of Asturias; The steep valleys and rolling hills of Galicia; the best of city life, all hip barrios, fancy architecture, and urban beaches; I've found hotbeds of life in some of the country's most out of the way regions; Learnt Spanish by the beach, and walked alone in hectare upon hectare of open farm land, with only the odd cow as company.
I chose Spain for many reasons, but in reality, my over-riding motivation was the Spaniard's national adoration of all things pig, and their production of what in my opinion is the greatest food product in the entire world, jamón iberico.
If I was looking for pigs, well I certainly found them, getting much closer than expected at times. But it's not only the pork products that stand out in the memories of my trip. Repeatedly I've been welcomed into people's lives, treated as family, and experienced first-hand the pursuit of a lifestyle that is so different to what I had been used to, yet so utterly inspiring. The pursuit of a life based on personal interests and passions, following what you believe in, and a commitment to knowing that it is possible to make a difference, even if only your little corner of the world.
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...
Hasta luego España. Te echaré de menos.