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Ruth in Madrid

Ruth in Madrid, originally uploaded by ccgd.

On hippies, cats, Spain and the Alpujarras

I’m writing this, just after lunch, on another baking hot day, in our small holiday house just outside Orgiva south of the Sierra Nevada. Ruth and I are on holiday ourselves, without sons. Spooky but fun. We flew to Madrid last Thursday, had a couple of nights there, and have been in the Alpujrras since then, but head north to Granada and Toledo next week. Our hotel in Granada has wi-fi (part of the reason I chose it – sad eh) so I should be able to post this blog entry, check Flickr and answer some e-mails. Is strange how on-line life does change the way you live in real time, although I must admit I have not missed internet access at all over the past week.

Madrid was fun, seriously fun. Ruth and I were able to do all the Spanish city things that tend not to be possible with sons (or daughters I suspect). Eat late at good restaurants, have boozy lunches at street cafes, drink cava and eat tapas in that magical hour between 8 and 9. And visit great art galleries, spending serious amount of time looking at fantastic art from the 10th to the 19th centuries. The Prado was outstanding, with a great Goya collection, some quite weird painting from Hieronymous Bosch, and an unforgetable wonderful collection of early Visigoth (10th century) paintings. I was quite blown away by them, as their resemblance to Pictish art warrants further serious study.

As some of you know I tend to travel a fair bit with work, so many of these city type activities are not unfamiliar to me, but visiting nice restaurants and cool cities with colleagues (or just yourself) is quite different from doing so with a loved one. For one thing when you are there through work, days tend to long and busy, and when you do get to do something fun you tend to enjoy it, but spend most of the time thinking that it would be so nice if Ruth could be here as well. Well she is and it’s a lot more fun with her than any number of pals from work (sorry guys but you know what I mean….).

Well we have had our week chilling in the sun (that may not sound right, but…) in the Alpujarras, a mountainous region between Granada and the sea, bounded to the North and South by seriously high peaks, and popular with hikers, bikers, and Hippies. British Hippies. It’s a bit like Scoraig (the crofting peninsula south of Ullapool re-colonised by people with alternative lifestyles in the 60’s and 70’s) but with a lot more sun. I always wondered what happened to all those people who were about 5-10 years older than me in the 70’s who did not get into punk, or get their hair cut and drift into Thatcherism and morgages in the 80’s. Now I know – they all live around Orgiva, running little ecologically sound tourist businesses, whole food stores and the sort of alternative book shops last seen in the UK in 1979. We are talking more ancient UK registered vans than you would see at Glastonbury, seriously long hair (often grey and bald on top) very brown legs and sandals. In fact more sandals than you may ever want to see again in your whole life. Apparently its been a drop out location for people from all over Europe for 40 years or so, but was made famous – and mainstream – by Chris Stewart’s whimsical “Good life abroad” books.

His first was called “Driving over lemons”, and wherever you turn in the Alpjujarras there are lemons. Our little holiday house is surrounded by lemon, olive and fig trees, with lemons everywhere. Indeed we “drove over lemons” on the little side road from Orgiva, squashing them under the tyres of our rental car. There are literally lemons dropping from the trees in front of you, as you sip your G&T (ice and lemon sir? Aye right!) There are lines of ants feeding on the mounds of rotting lemons; and there are cats. Our holiday house came with a family of Spanish cats – the smallest and scrawniest cats in a country full of small cats. More on this next post……

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