We are thrilled to now be down in Andalucia, southern Spain, where the air is warm. We have stowed our jackets in the slightly-less-accessible hatch under our drawers, and have been sleeping with the windows down and the sunroof open. Luke has even fitted some very profesh mosquito netting so that we don’t re-create the great mosquitapocolypse of three nights ago, in which we woke up every couple hours to turn on the lights and smash mosquitos. I got to hear all of Luke’s best swear words. He really disparaged the character and parentage of those poor mozzies.
At the moment, we are travelling like spoiled sun-starved Brits (Nick and Louise – this is not you). We are staying in beach campgrounds, simply hanging around, taking a dip in the ocean, sunbathing with extensive sun protection so we don’t look 80 when we’re 40 (hi mom!), and just generally not experiencing the culture of the local area at all. I do get pangs of guilt about this, but we have seen Cadiz and Cordoba, and will do some touristing yet. We just really need the rest. We’ve also enjoyed doing some exercise – Luke has unhooked the spare tire and does dead lifts, bench presses, and other manly and masculine exercises with it. I do yoga. No gender stereotypes in this relationship, no sir.
You can take the boy out of the farm…
But he’ll still frequently take note of agricultural practices in Western Europe. This includes, but is not limited to, comments regarding irrigation, ever changing stages of the wheat crops, size of paddocks, type of tractors, and how the hay is baled. This is adorable. Thank you to Ken and Sue for raising an adorable farm boy. I will now give some examples.
- In Spain, oats, barley, and wheat are winter crops harvested in late spring or early summer, whereas further north (e.g. the Netherlands) they are summer crops, harvested around Autumn.
- Further north, there are tiny amounts of livestock in big ol’ paddocks, because those animals have to survive in cramped barns and be fed hay over winter. Down here in Spain, they are out eating the (albeit sparse) vegetation all year, so there are much larder herds.
- Irrigation – there is hardly any up north. There is some in the south, a centre pivot here or there but still not as much as in Australia. Here in Spain they sometimes have raised v-channels – like tiny baby raised aqueducts – which do flood irrigation.
- Yes, Luke did dictate these items to me. I do not know these words.
Swarms on the beach
Our first beach campground in Southern Spain had lovely access to the beach. However, we decided to find another, even more secluded beach on which to relax. We drove 15 minutes, and clambered up and down a huge hill. We even had to duck under some bent barbed-wire fence. (Don’t worry, we found a Spanish couple who trekked with us and validated our stupidity.) We reached our beach and were indeed rewarded by an almost empty beach, not a building in site, sheltered from the wind, with beautiful silky white sand. Until a hiking group came over the ridge, at least two dozen people, then 3 dozen, 4, 5, they just kept coming. Only it wasn’t a hiking group. It was all men. All men in uniform. The f***ing Spanish Army chose our tiny quiet beach for their excursion afternoon. They set up their soccer goals and volleyball net, and proceeding to shout, run, and just generally be as loudly male as possible. The women on the beach almost immediately put on their clothes, packed up their umbrellas, and left. What’s a pleasant beach day without a horde of soldiers to keep you company?
Life in the campground part 2
In the last “life on the campground” segment, I got carried away with anecdotes and didn’t give you any actual information about what the campgrounds are like here. (I realised when talking to my mom- she has very specific questions, which I love.) The campgrounds all have the same basic convenient elements:
- Reception with friendly staff who give you a map of the site and the surrounding area, if you ask
- A building with toilet stalls (BYO toilet paper, usually – DO NOT FORGET) and showers (usually, either pay for 5 minutes or push a button to get spurts of a few seconds of water, which is maddening)
- Usually attached to the outside of
this building, a row of sinks for washing dishes, and a row of sinks for washing clothes. These are not to be mixed. One campground had a sign that said that anyone caught using the sinks for the wrong purpose would be “sanctioned.” (lost in translation? Maybe not, this is the EU.)
- Often, a small building with a rec room with chairs, table, book swap, sometimes TV
- A laundry room (paid, sometimes Luke has to slam the dryer with his mighty paw to get it to start. That happened once.)
- Usually, grassy plots delineated by hedges or trees. Only a few have been just open plots of grass.
- Usually, a few permanent dwellings, which are usually RVs/caravans that are parked in one of the plots, with maybe a porch and some planter boxes added.
- They do not all have flamenco guitarists practicing in the plot across the path, as we do right now. It is lovely. However, this being Costa del Sol (Brit-focused mass market tourism mecca), we can also hear go-carts. And a go-cart announcer, which seems superfluous.
Warning: history lesson ahead, skip if easily bored
We visited the Mesquita (mosque) in Córdoba, which is now officially called the Córdoba Cathedral. So it goes like this – the site was originally Christian (Visigoth, google it). In the 700’s it was split between Muslim and Christian halves, until in 784 the Muslim emir (king) Abd al-Rahman I bought the whole shebang, knocked it down, and built (most) of the structure we see today. However, the Christians took it over in the 1200’s when Córdoba fell in the Reconquista (which was a 700-year period of history when Christians took back Spain from the Muslims, by force). It’s now Catholic – see my photos below for bizarre evidence of this. Muslims have asked to worship there, and the Catholic Church – all the way up to the Pope – adamantly deny this. I invite each of you to have your own opinion about this situation. I am happy to supply you with an one should you be lacking.
Also, we found Flamenco! Ok, so it wasn’t that hard – the guy working reception at our campground told us the time and location, and there was really loud pumping music and a huge stage in the main square. Anyway, Córdoba had a flamenco festival that night, running from 10:30pm to 5am. Apparently the Spaniards make up the lost sleep with siesta, as if that helps. We are old people so only saw the first concert, an incredibly virtuosic cantora (flamenco singer) named Argentina. She was nominated for a Latin Grammy last year! The Arabic (and Jewish) roots of flamenco were so easy to hear with Argentina’s style. This was very exciting for me and I generously took the time to lecture Luke about it extensively. I’m sure he was very appreciative.
As always, we love you all!