ANDALUSIA: PAST PERFECT
Reinvention is the name of the new game in Andalusia
There was much talk about anti-austerity party Podemos when I visited Andalusia in June. It was hot and sunny, and the orange trees smelt wonderful, but at the same time, youth unemployment sat at 49 per cent, second only to Greece, and that seemed to be what people wanted to chat about.
Podemos, which means “we can” in Spanish, seems to have generated some hope for bright but frustrated young things, many of whom have given up hope of ever finding a professional position. In Seville, a story was doing the rounds about a low-paid receptionist job that had received 2000 applications, although tales like this were apparently not unusual.
Faced with little hope of finding office work, many young Spaniards have turned their hand to more traditional pursuits, the results of which may be of interest to travellers looking for something a bit different.
In Seville, graphic artist Miguel Brieva has made a name for himself with his drawings that focus on the economic crisis, which he exhibits around the city. Others are reverting to older skills such as blacksmithing or flamenco music.
David Ciudad, who previously worked as a marine biologist, has set up a cookery school in an old outbuilding. He combines this with tapas tours of the city. He’s called his enterprise Not Just a Tourist and it takes you directly to his pick of the city’s top places to eat, drink and be merry. In the Triana neighbourhood, which he compares to New York’s Brooklyn, we dined on meaty cuts of pork, marinated carrots and small vials of fino sherry. Later, we dived into a bustling bar in the pottery district for plates of salt cod, quail’s eggs and Iberico ham. As jobs go, his must beat being a receptionist.
What’s more, many are using technology to support their endeavours. In Ciudad’s case, sites such as TripAdvisor have helped his small business to flourish.
In Linares de la Sierra, a pretty whitewashed village in the Huelva region with a population of 300, the restaurant Arrieros is thriving. This is partly thanks to a WhatsApp group that helps owners Luismi and Adela speak directly with producers in the area to find out what is available. It’s a simple idea, but it means local producers can avoid going to market, which is often a costly undertaking, and the restaurant can offer food that is seasonal, cheap and delicious. On the day we visited, we were served dishes with local goat’s cheese, strawberries, honey and common mallow flowers. Afterwards, we trundled up to Posada Finca la Fronda, a small hotel run by the Wordsworth family. It’s just up the hill, and is the most divine spot, set in a grove.
In nearby Jerez, families who have produced sherry for many years are starting to see the benefits of the drink coming back into vogue. Having cast off its stuffy image, sherry is being enjoyed across Europe by a more youthful audience who love nothing more than a new tipple they can post pictures of online. But in the bars of Jerez, glasses of manzanilla are still enjoyed by old boys who order it with pickles and salami while they play guitar and gossip.
All along the bright, breezy Costa de la Luz, it’s easy to find cheap delicacies. In the ancient port city of Cadiz, plates of octopus and marinated dogfish can be enjoyed for next to nothing at bars dotted around the edge of the fish market. In Barbate, Spain’s bluefin tuna fishing capital, local fishermen rely on the Moorish almadraba technique for netting tuna as they migrate from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. Eighty per cent of the tuna caught is exported, but in a few nearby restaurants, such as El Campero, they serve some of the finest cuts, including the highly prized neck. While the Costa del Sol is still visited by hordes of holiday-makers, especially from Britain, every year, Andalucía’s Costa de la Luz has traditionally found more favour with Spanish tourists, who appreciate the good food, Atlantic-facing beaches and historic sites. Some of these haven’t fared well during the recession, and certain parts of the area look somewhat dilapidated, but perhaps this is to be expected.
The mood in this area of Spain seems to be focused on self-preservation on a slim budget. But despite the region tightening its belt, Andalusia still has plenty to offer.
THE SPECTATOR • notjustatourist.com • arrieros.net • andalucia.org
Glasses of manzanilla are still enjoyed by old boys who order it with pickles and salami while they play guitar and gossip
Linares de la Sierra with its whitewashed houses, top; social buzz in a Seville cafe, left; relaxed life in Jerez, above