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Our Village

November 03, 2006

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It is a breathtakingly beautiful, quintessential white village dating back to the 15th century with the obvious Moor and Catholic influence that epitomizes the rural heart of Andalusia. Southern Spain is renowned for its rich legacy of historic, picture postcard white villages. I have never been to Greece, but they remind me of the pictures I have seen of white villages there and indeed there is a link between the Moors and the Greeks and both were very sophisticated societies. They are called “Pueblo Blanco’s” here and are characterized by neat sugar-cube houses precariously stacked one above the other looking like
they are defying gravity on steep, serpentine cobbled streets with terra cotta colored tiled roofs and
black wrought iron railings adorned with colorful flowers in pots.

The village is surrounded by olive and grape vine covered slopes with weathered boulders and plunging ravines that reveal delicious views of the sparkling Mediterranean sea that is just four miles away. The residents are rightly proud of its reputation of being one of the most beautiful white hill villages in Spain.
In many ways it is like taking a step back in time.

We have never seen cobble stone streets like they have here and it is one of the many things that  we love. All the streets in the old village are cobble stone with many interesting black and white patterns. After walking on some pretty rough cobble stone streets in other parts of Europe I was a tad worried about how we would manage on cobble stones here, but they are actually quite nice, not too “cobbley” and beautiful to look at.

I do see why people fall instantly in love with the historic charm and prettiness here and how white villages are spectacularly photogenic. It would be a great place to have a top of the line camera. We have already met people who have lived here for years who bought homes here on the the very first day of visiting this village. Much of the authentic Spanish life remains here providing a soothing contrast to the pressure of modern urban living. Many things are still done the old way, donkeys are still used some as efficient means of transportation clomping up the steep, narrow, winding streets, and people live here much as they have for centuries. We saw a man riding in a cart pulled by two oxen and no one seemed to bat an eye, but us. Yet it is also endowed with small shops, bars, tasting rooms and some of the best restaurants we have eaten at in Europe. It has the best internet cafe that we have seen in Europe thus far and surprisingly at the best price. We hear the tapas here are scrumptious, but we have yet to try them.

It is blessed with a particularly agreeable climate and the warmest winters in all of Europe which is one
of the reasons we picked it. I know too many people who told me they froze during a winter in Madrid, Salamanca, or Barcelona and I did not appreciate the cold, dark, rainy winter I spent in northern Italy. We are too spoiled by California winters, so knew the south was for us. They say the heat is not as bad as inland Spain in high summer though I am assuming it is too hot for me. The centuries old village homes were built by the Moors to suit the weather and high on hills for protection. We wanted to experience what it was like living in one of these structures from antiquity. Something about this particular village  called to us, sight unseen, even more so than other white villages.

We live in the old and central part of the village. We are country living type folks,so if we lived here permanently, we would most likely live in a home with land in the nearby countryside, but we felt it was important to live inside the village at this point. There are only about two thousand people who live here permanently and ninety percent are Spanish, the rest are many different nationalities which appealed to us. There are enclaves in Spain where there are all Brits so it it more like “little England” and as much as we enjoy our British friends, we wanted to experience a greater variety of expats and strongly dominant Spaniards. The town has bowed to the pressure to expand, but thus far they have tried to achieve that with sensitivity in the new section of town. Nevertheless we prefer the old part of town as that is where the greatest beauty is and we enjoy its quirks and uniqueness.

Like all the beautiful white villages in Andalusia it is a popular tourist spot and that has increased in the last few years once they made the road here a paved one. I might not like it in the heat of summer when the tourist are most thick, but thought I could handle the slower pace of winter as we come from a tourist town as well in California so are use to that to a certain extent. Beautiful  places always have tourists and we love beauty, so the trade off seemed worth it to us. Off season is usually the best time to enjoy a touristy place in my experience.

A Swedish lady at one of the fine restaurants told us that they close the restaurant between late November and February as there are not enough tourists then to stay open and there seems to be less every day. I hear it is warm enough to swim or lay in the sun in late February and March, so then the tourist start to return. Only five years ago there were less than twenty foreigners living in this village,but the world wide housing boom and paved road changed things dramatically. There are still villages that are like that and we will explore them and other areas later to decide whether we will return here next winter or somewhere else.

It is different to come to a place to stay for months and actually live in an area. You just look at things different than a days visit or a weeks visit. I hear the tourists gush over the village as they visit for an hour or two, snapping away with their cameras. I see myself in them and yet feel different now. I see villagers living there lives walking down the road, endlessly sweeping, hanging up laundry, shopping, buying bread from the bread man, chatting with one another and yet I am not them either. I am somewhere in between, just starting to find my place.

It does look like its pictures and yet different too. I can not say it was love at first sight as many have with this town. I am glad to be here and like much of it, but it is not exactly as I imagined it either. So slowly I am coming to terms with my fantasy compared to the reality. It is not like I am coming back to a place I fell in love with as a tourist, but committed to a place sight unseen. I only had pictures and words from the internet to lead me here and there is no way that they can tell the whole story. So I find myself in the first days sorting out my infatuation through pictures and the true reality at hand for a long stay. I think I imagined a place more like it was five to eight years ago, yet I am also glad for the conveniences here too.

There are more tourists and there is more construction than I imagined. No one shows you pictures of the cranes in Spain and I have seen more already in our quick ride thru Spain than I have seen in my whole life.
I wonder if we even use cranes as much as they seem to be used here. It is not unusual to see 12 in a row in a fairly compact area. Perhaps I have lived in an area with an overly protected coast for so long that I have lost all perspective. Building on much of the California coast in our area is all but impossible and sometimes absolutely impossible. There are several cranes in this small town, not that cranes are bad, just not what I expected and glad that I do not have to look at them all the time. There is a lot of construction going on, bigger and smaller projects, altho I am glad that the construction closest to me is building a large public garden so not as loud as some construction can be.

My landlord and all I talked to about rentals (TONS of people) didn’t bother to mention all the construction going on here and yet I know some of it has been going on full tilt since last March. It does not mar the village completely of course as there are many areas where you can not see it, but I can not say that it was
not a disappointment and adjustment. I was thinking quiet little village, not construction zone. That said, it is not too bad and one does adjust as it is part of life. I do think it is a shame that one can not say that it has not changed one bit in 35 years like that man said about that village in Provence. I hope they do not completely destroy what is precious here with the building. I hear that is the intention, but time will tell. Thankfully the old part of the village remains the same.

Parking is also a problem here since it is more suited for donkeys than cars (which is one of the reasons for one of the construction projects). No one mentioned the problem with parking here either and in fact I was told the opposite. Unbeknownst to us we arrived on a holiday (All Saints Day) so it was busier than usual, thus it was quite a shock when we arrived thinking it was just an ordinary Wednesday in November. We are still a little unsure of ever moving the camper as we are afraid we might never find a parking place again where it will fit. By chance we lucked out and found a place that we can see from our terraces down by the road to the school.

The village does grow on me more each day as we walk about and discover new parts of it and enchanting crannies and views. I think we will enjoy village life and it is quite different than anything we have ever experienced. We are smack in the middle of town, so it is fun to view what is going on when we wake up and during the day, even at night. The front of our home faces the main street so we can watch the activity by looking down from our second floor windows unseen and watch village life like the bread man come, women sweeping and mopping, tourist gaping,kids playing chase etc. Our back terraces face the mountains and the ocean views and the road far below where the school is located. Yet, it is still surprisingly quiet and private because of the way the houses are built and that
is a pleasant surprise as we are noise sensitive.

Mozart loves it that we have three little grocery stores less than a half block away and there are superb restaurants everywhere at very good prices. We have had some of the best food of the trip so far here in restaurants owned and run by Swedes, Netherlanders, English and Spanish. So far we have not liked the local wine which tasted more like sherry than wine, but we only tried the one glass and have not stopped at the many tasting places around. Mozart has already made friends with many shop and restaurant owners and sometimes runs in to tell or show them something or is happy when she sees them on the street.

The grapes and grape vines are huge here (our neighbor and some of the restaurants use them as cover on their terraces) and the grapes are very sweet. I was amazed when I saw the vine that covers my neighbors terrace as it snakes its way from three floors below and is the size of a very large python. The produce and quality and quantity of food even in the village is really good and we have yet to check out the hypermarket about 15 to 20 minutes away. There is even a very  large grocery store in the next larger town (just 6 km away) which delivers food to the door we hear for very little. You can even order it on the internet for a small fee and have them shop and deliver, tho I am not sure we will do that. It is an interesting combination of ancient and modern.

I was told there were no cars in the village as the streets were too narrow, but that is not true, there
are some cars in the village and that was a disappointment. There are some streets of course that are too narrow and they certainly can not go on the ones with stairs thankfully. I thought we would have to take
our luggage up by donkey, but DaVinci lugged most of it up by himself up endless steps that he and Mozart take with a grain of salt. Imagine the largest set of outdoor stairs that you have seen and then multiply it by about seven and you have an idea how tall these stairs are. Luckily they have some more gradual routes that I sometimes “cheat” on, but I knew the stairs and hills would be good for our health and am grateful for the daily exercise.

We have seen donkeys on the street and that is quite a sight as a worker heads to work side saddle on
a donkey larger than most horses with his tools on the side. But mostly there are some crazy cars and motorbikes from time to time on the main streets and everyone dashes for cover and stands in doorways. Bizarre, but one adjusts and we have already had good training in Europe dodging cars and realizing pedestrians are the lowest on the totem pole here. Still it is odd to see an elderly person shuffling along down the street and a car just zip by at too fast a speed barely missing them. Needless to say, Mozart will not be playing in the streets or walking by herself on the main streets. There are many times where there are no cars  even on the ones where cars are allowed and I like those periods much better.

The abundant gardens in this town add to the charm and smell wonderful as you walk by because of the fragrant herbs like Lavender and Rosemary and the Night Blooming Jasmine. Mozart loves the orange trees and we can not seem to go past them without her picking one to eat just liked she used to do at home. There are avocado trees laden with fruit and lots of bougainvillea and hibiscus flowers. We have extra pots on our terraces so will plant something as we are farmers at heart and like to have more flowers in and around our home. We are familiar with most of the plants as we had them at home in our gardens, but we have discovered a few new things which is always a pleasure since we love Mediterranean gardening.

There are some wonderful hiking trails nearby and a pristine park area that we want to check out. There is a large and great playground area near some public gardens which is great with a kiddo. There are actually a few playgrounds but this is the handiest for our house and the largest. We have heard they have an award winning Flamenco dance troupe too, so that is something else we want to look into as Mozart is quite the dancer and will probably like that. Horseback riding is also popular here and something to look into further.

There are endless steps and hills in this town which is both the good news and the bad news. I am glad to get the extra exercise and the views that come with the hills and steps, but I feel it in my knees. We love the cobble stone streets and steps and the designs they have made with them, tho we hear they can be slippery at times, tho most elderly natives seem to just wear slippers for walking. I am amazed at some
of the elderly walking around with crutches and walkers on these streets.

The cobblestones, the white, white village houses, the bright flowers, beautiful doors, and the azure blue sky all add their magic to this place. It is very different than any place we have been before and that is exactly what we wanted. It may not be the village of my fantasies exactly, but it is close enough to give us the experience we were looking for. We are excited to be here!

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Stacey

so can you say what village it is? I'm dying to know!

Jeanne @soultravelers3

So sorry Stacey, we never say the name of "our" village online. There are tons of beautiful white villages in Andalusia and ours was between Granada and Malaga. If you knew the area well, you would probably be able to guess it.

We still visit there regularly, so just to be on the safe side for our child, we don't say.

I wrote about how to find a village in spain here:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2009/11/lifestyle-design-a-winter-in-spain-extendedtravel-digitalnomad-miniretirement-4hww-travel.html

And more info about finding a winter rental in spain here

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2009/11/whats-a-spain-winter-rental-like-extended-travel-digital-nomad-4hww-vacation-.html

Includes a resource of all white villages in Andalusia that helped us choose ours.

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