Los pueblos blancos

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Spain  ,
Friday, November 24, 2006

By lunchtime we'd made it over the grey dotted borderline into the Cadiz province, and on to a little town called Olvera. It's referred to by many as the 'white village' and like Antequera, sits majestically in the heights of the many hills that abound the province.

The steady climb to the castle was massive and induced a temporary and mischievous surge of strength from the old fella and me as we powered our way to the top flapping pathetically over the last few metres before finding a nearby wall to hold on to. The plaza de la iglesia occupied our attention for ages, in particular the views that could be seen for miles around.

Olvera has seen human settlement for more than two-thousand years and just oozes history. On one edge of the square sits the church of Nuestra Seņora, a stocky and enchanting structure which sits confidently, almost arrogantly, atop its highly appropriate pedestal which overlooks the village. We let our eyes wander, following the undulating contour of distant hills and mountains, the tiny clusters of white settlements dotted here and there amongst the vast landscape. The weather was shite but the views were fantastic, offering an interesting contrast to coastal Spain. This was mountainous, barren-like and teeming with traces of Old Spain.

We stopped for tapas. Of course we stopped for tapas, and this little restaurante on the hill was a gold mine of pleasures: the minutely detailed tiles of blue and white, each one contributing to the fascinating finished product of a much larger picture; the lively chanting of smiley locals perched on tiny stools slurping back coffee and sinking teeth into oil-soaked bread; the huge 'caveman's club' of aged hog's leg which lay prisoner-like, showing off the perfect arc where whisper-thin slices of delicately carved jamon serrano have been harvested; and a whole selection of tapas, most of which we'd not come across before and all nestled snugly in a spotlit display cabinet. Neither the restaurateur nor his customers spoke English. It was perfect. An hour later we waddled out.

Next stop was 'Arcos de la Frontera', another old town, and one which happens to be arranged quite curiously right on the edge of a sheer precipice. The whole town is said to have a bit of a crazy sinister vibe about it, laden with witchcraft and the occasional bursting of madness. We parked up, walked around, summitted and descended and got a good feel for the place. It was odd. And old. Very old, and as the wind howled through the streets and whisped around us like a dark blanket, I'm sure that I started to hear the cold message of crying voices. It was only when we started eyeing each other up and down and licking our lips that we realised it was time to get out of there.

And so we made it in one piece. To Jerez, (pronounced 'Heh-reth', if you want to get into all this) and known more officially as 'Jerez de la Frontera'. It's significantly larger than the other places we soaked up - sort of, city-to-village larger, 'Christchurch to Queenstown' maybe, or even 'Birmingham to Burntwood'. By the time we'd negotiated one of the many one-way systems and found a suitable hotel - losing the old gel in the process (panic stations), it was almost dark and we managed - through a scattered delivery of basic Spanish and hand gestures - to secure two reasonably priced rooms.

We spent most of the night in the amazing 'Calle Polvera', a big bustling main street lined with trees which intertwine themselves seamlessly, creating a kind of 'leaf ceiling' which makes the whole street seem as if it were indoors. We sat outside right underneath them and sunk cervezas. By mid-evening we'd had a good meander around and found ourselves kind of by accident in the local church marvelling at its architecture and uniqueness. We totally lost ourselves in there, individually, and it was only when the door snapped shut that I realised we'd just won ourselves a seat at the front of 'tonight's sermon'. Though there was a bit of sweating involved, we sat through it as humbly as we could and made all the effort in the world to stand up, mumble and sit down in all the right places.

We got out an hour later. We said nothing. No questions, suggestions or ideas. There was no need. We walked straight to the nearest restaurante. Cervezas y tapas. Muchas. Sublime. Rounder. Heavier..

Tapas count:- 21
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