Sunday, 9 December 2007


Woah. I just uploaded 84 photos from my zippy little Canon, and the last two weeks of my life literally flashed before my eyes! It seems like forever ago we left here and set out for Paris, wondering if the transit strikes would strand us at the airport. Since then it´s been
feast, feast, feast,
toddlers sour and sweet,
bright lights/big city,
tropical palms,
purple mountain majesties,
an olive grove
railroad cars,
and still more amazing food. And wine.
And desserts... OMG the desserts! Oh, my stomach!

I realize more and more how big Spain is, how it´s a lot more like a confederation of little countries and ethnicities than one big homogeneous whole. The pilgrims who visit Spain for just a walk along the Camino should never think they´ve really seen Spain, even though it takes them six weeks to walk the Path. There´s way, way more than just this little sliver! And tough as it may seem, I feel it is my duty to see it all. Slowly.

So here I will post a few photos from the last week or so. Here are me and Jeanne, my best bud of Paris, and the statue of the headless St. Denis (who even though he holds his head in his hands, still keeps his bishop´s miter neatly perched on top. I think it helps that the whole thing is made of stone.)

Here is also Patrick´s son Matt and his family, who we stayed with in Torremolinos. Baby Sam is the smallest one, and he´s at a delightful age.

And here are palm trees, and the Mediterranean in the back, and Patrick and Sam examining cigarette butts in the grass. Cranky and acerbic as Patrick may seem to be to casual observers, he is very good with small children. They have such a lot in common, really... aside from communicating with grunts and hand gestures, and putting strange things into their mouths, and whining when conditions are less than perfect. The real difference is in potty training, I think. (Paddy´s been there and done that, thank God.) And maybe reading Wittgenstein for fun. (Sam prefers "Where the Wild Things Are." ) And Paddy, I am sure, is a better cook.
When we left Torremolinos we rented a car and drove east, up the coast, to Lubrin, a little white Andalusian village in the mountains above Almeria. It was a 4-hour drive, and gave us a real display of the horrors of modern agriculture. What used to be desert and salt pan from the mountains right down to the beach is now turned to greenhouses... acres and acres of plastic-covered fields. Inside, in high and humid temperatures, illegal Moroccan immigrants labor to produce Spain´s big crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and lettuces. Ugly stuff, but nobody´s doing anything to change it. We like our cheap produce, and without these greenhouses, there aren´t any jobs at all down there.

Up in the mountains above we stayed for a couple of days with Aled and Sheila, a couple who have lived in the area for about seven years. They´ve spent the last two or three re-doing a stone farmhouse in a hidden valley outside Lubrin, living on solar power and well water, etc. He is an engineer and a construction project manager, so they made a lot fewer mistakes than we have. Very informative people, and downright nice into the bargain. And man, can that Sheila cook!
(Yes, I do seem to be hung up on food. Must be because my stomach is so unhappy with me.)

One highlight of the visit was the olive harvest. Right about now, all the trees in southern Spain that are not almonds or oaks are now loaded down with ripe olives. Aled has about 10 on his little hillside, and we agreed to help pick two or three trees´worth with him. Here are some pictures. We got about 6 kilos of olives in total, then drove over to the local co-op olive press, and got us two liters of fresh, extra-virgin oil to take along home! How cool is that? Tourism is FUN!

After a week of English expats it was a shock getting on the road on Friday and coming home on the trains. All Spanish, all the time. I realized I´d missed it.

I was ready to be home. I am sure Libby was ready, too... in Moratinos it´s been foggy and damp all week long, and the apartment in Sahagun ran out of heating oil midweek, and there´s not a load of things for the Libster to do with herself out here on her own with only Tim and Una to talk with.

Today, Sunday, we are back in the swing of things. Mass this morning, and at 4:30 or so all us Wimmin will gather at the church to put up the ´Belen,´ (That´s Spanish for ´Bethlehem´) Any respectable community has its Belen, a little wooden Nativity scene display that includes tiny townspeople, livestock, the Three Kings, etc. Big cities have huge extravagant mechanized Belens installed in the city hall, (no church-state conflicts here!) and families line up to view all the tiny spinning potters´wheels and splashing fountains and flapping geese. I think Moratinos´Belen is a bit more humble, but I will let you know.

There are a few pilgrims passing through, even now. We saw five this morning in about an hour´s time. Extraordinary.
Maybe by this time next year we can offer them a break from their journeys.

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