We return once again to ‘The most beautiful towns in Spain’. Some of these towns are special, but one must be in no doubt, the attention-grabbing label has been firmly stuck on the postcard by the local tourist authority.
They will be glad to see you, hope you have time to take a photo or two (post it on Instagram, because any publicity is good publicity), and then for Goodness Sake, why not stroll around and spend some money?
Friends, our souvenir shops don’t run on air!
The problem for the discerning tourist, who reads about these ‘best kept secret’ destinations, or sees the carefully angled photographs put out to attract his attention (Google will do the rest), is that thousands of other equally choosy people will have seen the same promotion. By the time you get there, it’s full to the gunnels of people all ready to get in the way of your photo.
You have seen the massed crowds at Machu Picchu (and that ain’t even easy to get to), the hordes of visitors in Venice, the wall-to-wall trippers in Barcelona, the apologetic oriental mob in Ronda, the gaggle of Brits in Mojácar and the multicultural throng visiting the Alhambra.
There’s nothing less relaxing than appreciating the magnificence of the mosque in Cordoba as the thousand raised camera-phones and their owners noisily and irreverantly recording the scene.
Personally, I think we have left it too late.
In the past, I have sometimes laughed at the restored fortress in some dingy town, where ‘over fifty people visited daily’ during the summer months. The rusted sign indicating the walls of a mosque in some Alpujarra village (the roof fell in over 400 years ago) or the iron cowboy erected near a bar where ‘Clint Eastwood once tried the garlic mushrooms’ (they were good, too).
But now I have changed my mind, and I shall diligently search for these treasures, content in knowing that the press of souvenir shop-keepers, tourist councillors coach attendants or travel-article hacks will be light to non-existent.
The food will be good (it always is in Spain), the tinto de verano will be cheaper and the bar-owners will close up and be in bed by midnight.
See, they never made a list of ‘the Ugliest Villages in Spain’, because – well, that’s a properly well-kept secret.