Contrasts of Andalucia, España
The run for the sun may have slowed recently, but no matter... here are some of the contrasts of Andalucia.
Many will tell you that it only takes a single visit to fall in love with Granada and want to live there, implying that Granada – the jewel of Andalucia – is a place for which to renounce everything that you knew before and move there to live the ideal life. True? Granada: city that never leaves you or city you'll never leave? For me it's not quite either. Go there and see for yourselves – be seduced by guitar music echoing through the cobbled streets! The message I'm getting is that if Granada hits your tastes square-on then you'll know about it. This is the key to its popularity: it hits a lot of people's tastes. White houses, church bells, palm trees, mountainous vista and long history are, after all, just some of the things Granada has going for it.
But, but, but, there's more to Andalucia than this big player. And here are some ideas, in the inexpensive province of Almeria, to indulge those attracted to the idea of making a new home near the beach somewhere across the water from Africa (or you might just be curious....)
A very popular spot with a reputation that sparked off in the early 1960s, when the town authorities offered FREE houses to passing bohemians (both with and without jobs, perish the thought!) – including a number of foreigners – who opportunistically agreed to renovate the unused old homes in exchange for the free property, searching as they were for place to live freely. This move had the desired effect of revivifying a Mojácar that had suffered an exodus of local people who went to seek out a city-based wealth.
Fifty years later and the town is renowned as a hotbed of foreigners, it being blessed with year-long sunshine, and there isn't a complimentary house in sight. Nowadays you're looking at upwards from €75k for a piece of edificio charm in the hillside Mojácar pueblo (perhaps with a Moorish style roof terrace thrown in, if the apartment's upstairs). It's a slow pace of life here, certainly, but it's not all restaurants filled with the staring eyes of bored expats limping across the wall. As ever, it's a question of taste; but Mojácar pueblo, with its freshly cal-coated old houses, beckons you into narrow alleys that reveal arches, richly coloured rocks, painted tiles and the odd orange tree. And all this is within view of the nearby newer constructions of beach-to-residence area, Mojácar playa, which is a good steep downhill walk away.
Too pricey? Then check out apartments from €40k in nearby beach town Garrucha, where some outlying houses by the river were hit in the recent floods that ran just short of the nudist residential zone. Street markets full of fresh fruit your thing? You might just like it here.
Alternatively, head inland very slightly to Vera pueblo where, like Garrucha, a modest piece of inmobiliaria is available from €40k, or even less for a fixer-upper at the less desirable end of town. And there's more for the sharp-eyed, cheaper still! – such as this cheeky little place if you load up on the compromises and have €350 in ready-to-go gift vouchers gathered.... (certain to be a mirage from the past)
In Vera, as well as the working bullring, quaint town square, and tropical lookout point known as “La Glorieta”, you may also run into the brightly-lit parallel universe of the ironic 'Iceland' supermarket of UK fame – it's a curious place on one edge of the pueblo. But beware of the familiar brands in this exported food embassy, otherwise hefty prices may befall you! The priciest examples of popular British brands on sale in the capsule include: 80 tea bags €5, tin of soup €2, 500g box of branded cereal €5. Hmmmm. It's no big deal since these expenses can be sidestepped – visit other local supermarkets, such as Dia, where some sense returns and the prices of those items reduces by two-thirds if you opt for own-brand equivalents, and where bottles of Spanish wine sell for €1, and cheap fruit and vegetables grown locally are abundant. Sound better? Yet Iceland's living museum of nostalgia does serve a purpose if you happen to uncontrollably miss the sight of the pound sign, since products such as cheese and frozen pizzas are stamped with big red price labels in pounds sterling (outdated exchange rate).
And finally, let's shift down and contrast all this with a place that could be perfect if escaping the world is your style.
An almost completely forgotten mountain village that's hidden up in the clouds at 1000m above the beaches of Vera, Garrucha and Mojácar. It has a small library and the essential yellow beacon of the Correos box; plus there's even an old chap wandering around the quiet streets trying to sell his house to passers-by in a long monologue – here estate agents are truly redundant in favour of the entirely personal approach.
Furthermore, in Senés' centre you'll find a touching grey stone monument that's made up of a crouching woman with a suitcase by her side who rests her palm on the top of a stone globe, engraved upon which is an accurate map of the world. Next to the woman stands a man with his arm around her, and a colourful plaque dedicates the monument to those who have previously left Senés in search of 'a better life' in the cities. The plaque goes on to remind that the village will never forget these people, and that the people who have left will never forget the village, special and unique as it is. Senés is a place of steep, twisting streets, decorative street signs and slate roofs, with olive and fig trees scattered around. It offers its rare visitors open arid views in the panorama of countless ridged and rocky peaks. Villages like Senés and neighbouring Tahal are in Indiana Jones country after all, with 'The Last Crusade' having been filmed on the desert plains beneath the mountains, as well as classics such as 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' and 'Lawrence of Arabia'.
So the Costa Almeria and surrounding area could well be the place for film and sun lovers combined. Want a one-way ticket to the desert? Think it over. But remember that it's not he only option for a new life.... there are plenty more of those! Keep following the Peanut Society of Lucubrators for more world insights.
[Note 1: This article was written in November, when the heat is gentle and the crowds are away]
[Note 2: If renting an apartment in winter, there's plenty of choice for €250/mth]