This post is the first in a series under the heading Beyond the Beaches which describes my love affair with Andalusia and the real Spain, the one you will find 10 minutes inland, but also the one you can find in one or two cities which sit on the coastal strip.
If you love sand under your toes, warm clear water, restaurants, burgers, cold beer and wine, all the other distractions of the Costa del Sol then this post is not for you. Don’t get me wrong — I like all of that too. There is little that can top eating sardines fresh from the barbecue pit with roasted pepper salad and a cold-beaded glass of cerbeza while sitting a table with sand under your toes. But there are plenty of others who have written about that, and I’m hoping to show you some of the wonders that lie beyond the beach.
Why do I want to tell you about this aspect of Spain? Primarily because it’s closer to the Spain I write about. Not very close because that Spain no longer exists, but a little remains if you know where to look.
Inland Andalusia is a patchwork of small towns, villages, and isolated houses all nestling in the space between mountains. Everywhere there are houses. They cling to hillsides and sit atop ridges. Almost all are white with small windows to keep out the fierce heat of summer.
The Spanish spoken in most Latin American cultures is different to Castilian Spanish. Not enough to make someone from Spain unable to converse with someone from Mexico, but enough to cause the odd stumble. Why should this be, when most of the settlers were Spanish? The answer is that the majority of Spanish sailors who crossed the Atlantic came from Andalusia — the al-Andalus of Moorish Spain that I write about. Here, the language spoken, and the language still spoken, was a mongrel mix of Spanish, Arabic and local dialect. We have a house in Spain, in the heart of the countryside, and can barely understand our neighbours because they speak only Andaluz, a close cousin of this ancient dialect. And boy do they speak it fast!
Most of the towns and villages are white too, with streets so precipitous there are times you think you might need crampons. Almost all of these villages will have the necessities of life. A bank, a Correos, or Post Office, a small supermarket and often several, but also a butcher, a panaderia, a ferreteria. And, of course, a bar. In fact, it would be a poor excuse for a Spanish village to possess only the one bar. And in these bars you will be able to enjoy a glass of wine or beer and, likely as not, it will come with a free tapa. And the cost? In my local village, Riogordo, little more than €1.
All of this will be explored in a whole series of posts revelling in the wonder that in Andalusia. But for now, this is just the first part of my opening.In the next post I’ll tell you why I chose this area to set my books, and how I discovered other authors who are also writing about the same time and period. In the next installment I will tell you how I came to start writing the Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries.