I’m here !
Over the next few days and weeks I will be posting from Southern Spain with a few impressions of my journey, from the cold, rainy bustling mid-UK city of Nottingham to wintery Southern Spanish city of Malaga and then on to a village that has dramatically changed over the last 50 years, especially in the recent life time of many of its residents, Mojacar the village by the sea that was once a prime-vantage point for advancing moors and defenders alike. Now a three hour train ride round the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the last bastion of the Moors; Granada and the Alhambra Palace this was always a prime sea and inland route……..
Now though, it is Sunday evening in the old quarter of Malaga, and elderly ladies are taking a window-shop stroll through the pedestrianized streets.
Late Sunday afternoon Malaga
And I am looking for a Tapas bar, having just ventured out into the now dark lamp lit streets after spending 4 hours-plus in the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo (in an effort not to miss the opportunity of seeing the three exhibitions here with my ever so short stop over) before getting the bus out tomorrow.
Part of three exhibitions on this month ; Juliao Sarmento
It was well worth the (free) visit; a separate post is coming later complete with Spanish artists…Juliao Sarmento and Fernando Sanchez Castillo who were the reasons I spent so long in there. Despite the well-heeled main exhibition Apocalypsis, furnished with artists like Louise Bourgeois, Basquiat and Warhol.
This is my down time though; leaving the cities behind and all their vibrancy and culture, places like London, my home city and now Malaga. And I start my journey to a place that I have seen change after my first visit in the late eighties from a small village on a hill, with its rough and ready road running along the sea front and a few chiringuitos on the beach, to a developed paseo by the sea with bars, restaurants and all the paraphernalia that goes with increased seasonal popularity.
Mojacar Old Style
Always visited by the Spanish for the village and its quaint timeless beauty. Only getting electricity in the late fifties, a bus route for the locals in the sixties and early seventies and a nod to increasing visitors with Angela’s gift shop in the Plaza Mayor (the shop is still there albeit with more restaurants and shops alongside, and still selling the same things). This area with its semi desert flora, mountainous and geological phenomena, attracted bohemian 60’s and 70’s artists and musicians on the back of its famous sons and daughters like the artist Juan Antonio Guirado, the bull fighter Antonio Bienvenida (who’s house I will be staying next to) the English bull fighter Henry Higgins, (one of Brian Epstein’s prodigies) who lived in the village. The legacy of film crews and musicians from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns that were filmed here. And also a never-quite-proved link to Disney’s birth place (well if you’re a small village climbing out of the 20th century you have to max it don’t you).
I am now though in search of tapas and I am acutely aware I am still in a big city albeit in the centro of the old quarter, which is served by many bars, shops for tourists along with quite a few well-heeled residents and bankers (especially during the day as this is the banking area). Night-time is here now, but it is a Spanish night, so the old ladies take their constitution, and small cute dogs have a wander before heading back to their centro appartmentos and their (probably) elderly lady owners. I walk and hear a man call behind me; Senora!, I turn and see a young-ish man, he asks me something, I reply lo siento no habla, taking a guess at one of the many reasons to be stopped by a stranger. Quickly he turns and disappears. The old town has police visible in the main squares, also, I’m guessing not without reason.
Malaga old quarter
I find a tapas with a heater outside, order habaneros con Serrano (haricot beans and dry cured iberico ham) and vino tinto. Noticing a family short of seats around the heater I give mine and move along – still within striking distance of the heater so no problem!. A man appears at the tables selling his wears (sort of Christmas themed toys though now it is February and even for Spain is well past the festivities). He is explaining over and over how poor he is (and I don’t doubt it). One table says No, the family buys one for their little boy, some girls spend quite some time looking and then say no. I say lo siento pero no gracias, he persists, I say the same until he gives up, but he looks at my meal and wine with disgust (maybe I shouldn’t have pre-empted with I’m sorry and just said plain No).
The Spanish have money in this area, the tourists respond to sellers with a mix of confusion and savvy. And the locals, I imagine prefer them not to be encouraged. It’s the same scenario in a lot of cities, a mix of vulnerable people finding ways of making money and how people respond. I do buy sometimes and even had a Romano tell me I would have many babies, once, after accepting the touristy offer of lavender. This particular style of gift giving from Romanos is though something some Spanish seem particularly adverse to. Any way this time I didn’t give to the man selling Christmas toys in February and in exchange received a contemptuous glare. But karma played out as the family thanked me for offering my seat when they left.
This area of Spain has always had a mix of attitudes; a different scenario from the north in as much as it is very rural has always been relatively poor. Survival being the main order of the day and, although it is known as the vegetable garden of the south farmer’s hands worked hard for their patatas a lo pobre (poor mans potatoes). The area of Southern Spain was also the birth place of Franco and has in contrast a lot of wealth, many of the farms have grown into global exporters of, you name it! oranges, tomatoes, melons, olives and anything that grows well in this hot Mediterranean climate. Conservative attitudes in general have and do rule. With Bohemian styles pocketed in between, an attraction of the areas natural beauty rural-ity, temperate climate and subsequently manana\siesta type pace of life.
I bed down in my hotel room and thank that I am lucky to be here…..
more in a couple……