Friday, August 26, 2016

 

The Almería Toros

With all the anti-taurino stuff in the local English press, it was good to go to the Almería corrida on Thursday to see some proper bullfighting. The stadium, built in 1888, was almost full (it holds 9,500 people).
Almería has a tradition of delaying the fight after the third bull so everyone can get out their beer and sandwiches. Or, as is the Spanish way, to offer them to anyone seated nearby.
The three toreros yesterday were a rejoneador (mounted bullfighter) called Hermoso de Mendoza, and the two matadores, Enrique Ponce and David Mora (the latter is substitution for the Peruvian sensation Roca Rey who was bashed by a bull in Málaga ten days ago).
The bulls were all around 450 kilos and born in February 2012.




Everyone came away content.
El Mundo report here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

 

Frigiliana

We went to the pretty little town of Frigiliana in the hills above Nerja (Málaga) for a short break last week.
I had looked for a hotel with a swimming pool and found one prominently displayed on a Google search for the town. I booked for three days and after a remarkably short drive - the motorway between Almería and Málaga now finally completed - we were soon checking in. The hotel overlooks the old part of the town, a maze of narrow streets and pretty views - a sort of gentrified Mojácar, and the two pueblos are in fact both members of the 'Beautiful Towns of Spain' club.
The clerk at the desk told us where everything was, including 'nuestra piscinita' - which sounded ominous - our lil' ol' pool. Turned out, the swimming pool was more of a baño, with a sign displayed saying that the maximum occupancy was, erm, six. That's a pretty good photo of your pool you've got on the Internet, guys, it looks Olympic!
Frigiliana is great, and compares well with Mojácar - except for the obvious lack of a beach. The architecture is richer, while the planners have been careful to not allow any eyesores. Their arches, openings, incongruities, charms, courtyards and passages, stairways and public gardens, are all in perfect shape and blend harmoniously with their neighbours. There are no nick nack shops but rather, a number of boutiques (the former, by the way,  have their stock delivered by mayoristas - wholesalers, who sell them any old schtock that sells well, while the latter must go forth to find their wares - or indeed make them up themselves).
OK, there's a fly in the Frigiliana ointment - a walley trolley does the rounds with three little gaily painted carriages drawn by a fake train engine built in Italy. The vessel is driven apparently by one Rafael (the hotel clerk may have been a relation).  Cheesy.
The public looked a little wealthier than the usual Mojácar guests, or to put it another way, they had evidently spent more on their tattoos and - as is presumably always the case, were happy to show them off to the rest of us. At least, the spider web elbow fashion was less visible there,  but nothing I saw made me want to rush into a parlour, drunk, to disfigure myself for life in a burst of low self-esteem.
The food was good, with a variety of restaurants, including a Polish place called Sal y Pimienta with a good selection. The ethnic waiter - heavily tattooed in the best Post-it style - was  mildly disapproving as I ordered a Polish vodka (good stuff).
Since the agency that, via Google, asks me for a rating for their hotel, I should probably mention the dysentery I caught from something on my visit - maybe the Polish sausage, or perhaps the suspect breakfast tortilla back at the lodgings. Whatever it was, it's taken four days of high temperature, aches and a spectacular number of visits to the dunny to overcome.
Still, that's travelling for you...




Saturday, August 06, 2016

 

Under the Rubble - A Miraculous City Lies Sleeping (National Geographic Edition)

Archaeologists have begun work on a new dig to discover precisely what lies under the town of Disneyville in southern Spain.
It is known that the settlement under the garish collection of today's souvenir stands and disco-pubs was once called Mojácar, but there is little left to guide the investigators into an idea of life in the town in the Twentieth Century.
Beginning at the foot of the hill, volunteers from the Granada School of Archaeology have been working diligently with spades, brushes and blue plastic buckets to unearth the secrets of the town that once existed here.
They now know that the 'Moorish Fountain' was built over the remains of the earlier 'Public Fountain', with a bounty of white marble in what was known at the time as the 'Bathroom China' style of reconversion. The fountain's earlier purpose of washing clothes, refreshing the livestock and providing drinking water (this in the halcyon times before Galasa) was largely sublimated in favour of a photographic concept, designed to seduce the weary visitors, with the erection of a peculiar and most ill-thought municipal art gallery and some other attractions of dubious historical value nearby. The area has now become the centre of Mojaquero culture, with seven bars and a number of jolly festivals, usually including the ancient sport of delivering something pointy to a gaily coloured and beribboned hole from horseback (an early version of wham, bam and thank you Ma'am).
We drive up the hill on the Avenida Encamp (named after a town in Andorra famous for its foreign bank accounts) and past the venerable Hotel Moresco, which is one of the rare buildings that has survived the many changes to the settlement over the centuries. Originally built by the Phoenicians, the hotel has remained closed to the public now for over 72 years, glaring remorselessly at the passers by from its location on the bluff. The owners are said to owe more money in taxes than the value of the building, while having remarkable connections in Madrid. So, an impasse.
Visitors would find it hard to imagine that, at one time, Disneyville was once thought to be an attractive residential village, with a small number of amusing bars, an elegant theatre, an open-air cinema, several romantic arches (including the Arco de Luciana), a single town hall building and sundry other wonders now lost. The surrounds of the old castle that crowns the hill was heavily reconverted in the late 20th Century, with the discovery of an ancient burial ground bulldozed quickly over, and is now the home to a worldwide association of graffiti artists. Another area used as an ancient cemetery was the Plaza de Parterre, rebuilt in an amazing mixture of styles, including Roman, Moorish and Neo-vulgarian. Above, archaeologists have located a strange plaza with what appears to be a tiny underground garage (evidently accessible only to those with impeccable connections who may have been allowed to drive through the pedestrian streets of the village before the introduction of personal fliers and other modern forms of transportation).
But, after all is done, the characterless buildings excavated to find the cultura popular underneath, we must move to the Plaza Nueva, so called, despite being erected in the 16th Century. At the time, settlers, given land in nearby Turre by Royal Decree, could not stay overnight in that region, thanks to the irate mozarabes who dwelt in the hills above, so they would live in and around the main square of Moxacra, which was built in that time with the ever-less appropriate name of 'The New Square'. A few centuries later, now with a road of access built in the mid 1950s (the Generalísimo, later Avenida Horizon and now Av Encamp), the square became the main point of the village. A small hotel called the Hotel Indalo dominated the plaza (archaeologists have found traces of it under the remains of at least fifteen different nick nack shops) and diagonally across the square, the largest of all the emporia stands, three stories of tat. Previously, a modest carpentry evidently occupied the same space,  connected with attractive arches to the narrow street to the left and the wider pedestrian avenue towards the church on the right.
But, it's the viewpoint we focus our attention on: This was a three-storey car-park built by a mayor in the early eighties, with vertiginous ramps for the vehicles. The building was in one way a failure, but it was later used for some small purposes underneath, and a mayor purpose above, where its large marble roof became a perfect place for a number of competing cafeterias to fill with their brightly-coloured tables and dustbins. The viewpoint was an immediate success (substituting, as it did, the previous exactly-the-same view).
In 2016, the construction was demolished and another viewpoint was created to crown a fresh town hall (paperwork and jobs, then as now, was a lively consideration of the local inhabitants).
The narrow streets of the earlier town were, generally speaking, preserved (except near the church, now a souvenir shop selling Chinese-made material, including small busts of one Wallace B Disney). Some streets had been introduced, as it were 'from scratch', in the 1950s and evidence of earlier lanes, running in different directions, give an early example to the sometimes ingenious local planning. The earlier 'popular architecture' was replaced in the second half of the 20th Century by uninspired 'off the shelf' architectural designs with untypical large windows, later used as shop-fronts.
One narrow alley gives evidence to a brief presence of a large number of pre-Brexit British settlers in Disneyville: a street which for around thirty years was called Calle Pedro Barato, named after an ex-pat scallywag who was known as 'Cheap Pete'. The name of the street was quietly changed  in the early years of the current century to Calle Cal.
Disneyville hides many interesting anecdotes under the streets and rubble.



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