Thursday, December 31, 2009

The rain in Spain falls mostly on the... Costa del Sol, actually

Our view during a rare moment of sunshine

So, as Tea 'n' I were packing for our eight days in Andalucía, she noted that the long-range forecast called for rain every day; I think it even covered the whole trip, or certainly most of it. Now, you have to remember, we're both from the school of "Yeah, right" when it comes to forecasts more than a few days out: on the east coast, and in Ottawa, I don't know how often they're right, but I'd doubt they're batting .500; and, the thing is, they know it. They're purposely vague beyond 24 hours or so. In England, it seems to us anyway, there's something almost supernatural going on: they will forecast rain for 3 p.m. the following day, and be bang on, again and again; within a half hour, it'll rain -- I'm not kidding. That said, though, old habits die hard, and we were hopefully about seeing lots of sun as we left for southern Spain.

U'm, not so much.

We had rain, and hard rain at that, for seven of the eight days there; no word of a lie. Most of Spain had rain and snow for that week, actually, but the south continued to get drenched when things were clearing up in the north. We're talking incredible flooding; it was all over the news -- I had a lot of fun trying to translate the subtitles, actually. During a brief window of sunshine near the end of the trip we were in a restaurant -- in the marina of the beautiful Puerto de la Duquesa -- and we overheard a woman say, “My grandmother is 82, and she said she's never seen a Christmas here like this.” It really was extraordinary.

I mean, I don't want to be all doom and gloom here: Tea and I were both under the weather (in more ways than one, I guess you could say) so the forced relaxation was actually nice, and we still made it out for at least an hour or so most days, between downpours. On Christmas Eve, for example, the sun made a few appearances, and we were lucky enough to be enjoying mussels, prawns 'n' scallops in the Brasserie on the beach during the worst of the rain. We also drove to Gibraltar one day, stopping at a beach near San Roque so that Tea could dip her toes in the Med. And the local Mercadona had this amazing fish counter, so we were eating like kings at the apartment: prawns the size of my hand, and beautiful fillets of hake; Tea made her own paella, salsa, and guacamole; fantastic wines for one and two euros, and Brandy de Jerez for seven. Just incredible. We cooked up a chicken with it all on Christmas, and watched reruns of the Nochebuena shows. (Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas in Spain.)

At the beach-front Brasserie in San Luis de Sabinillas

Tea on the beach near San Roque


Check out the (not-so) shrimp!

Aside: one final point on the rain: so I brought my copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Trilogy in Five Parts," and had to laugh out loud when I got to So long... and thanks for all the fish: at one point a producer is talking to Arthur about this guy, Rob McKenna, he's discovered who's amassed all sorts of data supporting his theory that it always rains, no matter where he goes. This producer goes on to say that this "Rain God" is about to hit it big, and does Arthur realize how much he's being paid by tour operators to stay away from Málaga.

Málaga is just an hour down the road from us. So that's it: the Rain God couldn't resist a Costa del Sol vacation during our week there.

True to form, the day of sun that was forecast for our last full day there came to fruition: we decided to do the Land of the Bandits driving tour out of our Michelin Guide to Andalucía -- great book, by the way. We swung down to Algeciras -- where you can catch a ferry to North Africa -- and then back up to the beautiful fortified city of Castillo de Castellar, on the way to Jimena de la Frontera; from there it was an incredible drive through the mountains, stopping at the picturesque town of Gaucín -- a highlight of the trip for us, with local music and lambs' bleating to accompany our short walk -- on the way to the birthplace of the corrida, Ronda. You can see the best of our pictures, including captions, in my Navidad en España album in Picasa.

In Castillo de Castellar

Tea, with Gaucín in the background

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