FINALLY it seems that winter is coming to Spain after one of the longest summers on record. Finally the ski slopes, from the Sierra Nevada to the Pyrenees, are being groomed for what promises to be a memorable season.
Along the country’s southern coast, however, sun-worshippers from northern climes are still stretching out on the beaches.
It recalls the the time, so long ago, when my wife and I fled the British winter by taking a train across Europe to the coast that some bright spark had dubbed “the Costa del Sol”.
Arriving late at night in Málaga, we stumbled through darkened streets seeking a cheap hostal. Next morning, as we prepared to go for breakfast, my wife put on her thick overcoat.
“Why are you wearing that?” I asked her.
“I don’t want to catch cold,” she replied.
“But look out there,” I said, pointing through the window at the street below. The passersby were in blouses and shirt sleeves. Not a coat or a scarf in sight.
We had arrived in the land of eternal summer. And it felt great. Taking a bus along the coast, we passed fields of sugar cane and found a humble fishing village. Women were drawing water from a fountain and the odour of frying churros and coffee wafted through streets uncluttered by traffic, except occasional herds of goats.
It was the ideal bolthole. Now and again I bought the local newspaper just to confirm that we were in the right place. The heavily censored stories, each ending with the exhortation “Viva el Caudillo!”, all conveyed the same message: Spain was an oasis of peace and prosperity while the rest of the world was in turmoil.
One day we trekked up a dry riverbed to a village perched way above the coast, a mere splash of white on the hillside. Mules plodded along the narrow main street lined with immaculately whitewashed houses. So rare were visitors that a gaggle of giggling children followed us about.
After trying the local wine, we drifted happily back to the coast as the setting sun tinged the sierras with gold. It was good to be alive. And, did we but know it, we had just visited the pueblo which would become our home.