AN­DALU­SIA: PAST PER­FECT

Rein­ven­tion is the name of the new game in An­dalu­sia

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - Lara Pren­der­gast

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

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