Travel bits and pieces

I have a different sense of this place this year. Less refuge and retreat. More? I’m not sure what word describes it. Let's just say 'uncertain'. The same hillside stretches east of the tiny cortijo towards the sea. The Mediterranean is back to blue today after the dismal dishwater grey of yesterday. The sun doesn’t always shine nor the sea sparkle in southern Spain; there are wintry interludes, usually brief. Today the sea is a broad sash of steely blue with a smudged band of almost-but-not-quite-white like a huge, hazy, halo spread horizontally at the point where it meets the sky,...

We were in Almeria again yesterday, picking up my daughter, Natasha, from the airport there. It’s a shiny new airport where very little happens. Yesterday five arrivals and, I suppose, about the same number of departures, was the total air traffic activity for the day. The mind boggles at the economics of this enterprise: perhaps it’s busier in the summer; maybe there are cargo flights I didn’t see.  But still, it’s a puzzle. I was in the passenger seat for the journey back along the A7.  Ample views and time to let the mind wander. There’s plenty to see besides distant...

The little house where we stay, Cortijo El Curato, is a delight. And, frequently, a frustration. Small, stone-clad, squat against the hillside, you have to look hard to see it in among the spacious, white- or magnolia-rendered pseudo palaces that sparingly populate the neighbourhood. They tower; the cortijo nestles. They look new; it looks old. They look ornate; it looks simple. But appearances, as we all know, can be deceptive. Come in the front door (well, the only door, in fact) and the impression of simplicity is maintained as you look right into the sitting room end of the single public...

I did a quick Google search on mistletoe having concocted a story as we drove through France past trees laden with its parasitic pom-poms. Here’s a landscape smothered in mistletoe so, I conjectured, maybe the tradition of kissing underneath it started in France. I was surely onto something. After all it was the French, was it not, who invented kissing? Google is quick to dispel dreams and disabuse you of such whimsies. But there is a story, albeit a bit less French et beaucoup moins romantique. Beyond the botanical basics of a plant that emerges in seed form from the alimentary...