IT’S nearing the end of a long, hot summer and what better place to go in order to find a bit of relief from the sweltering 30 degree heat of Estepona than Orellana de la Sierra, a small town in Extremadura where the daily temperature at the moment is more likely to be around 40 degrees! Perhaps not the most sensible decision we have ever made but we love it here.
Yes, we may well be instantly sapped of energy as soon as we step outside the front door as a blast of overwhelmingly hot air assaults us but there is some respite, usually at around 10pm when the relentless, sweltering furnace cools to a rather more bearable temperature.
It’s currently 11.10pm, I’m sat outside a local bar and it’s lovely. I feel a little like I’m sitting under a gentle hairdryer because (as my temperature app informs me) it is 29 degrees but there is also a lovely breeze. I’m sat with a cold beer, writin away and in the background I can hear the amiable chatter of some locals who are sat at neighbouring tables. There’s a football match showing on the television inside the bar and so at times the amiable chatter can become quite rowdy but the atmosphere is friendly and sociable and everybody knows each other as it’s a small town. And by small I mean very small.
The town has a population of just 311 Orellanitos spread over a mere 16,7 km2. It is home to one shop, one chemist, one church, three bars and lots of little houses that are full of character and individuality. It’s the kind of place where you feel you could literally (and safely) leave your front door open and it’s a place where, as you stroll around the streets of a summer evening you will come across people sat on chairs outside their houses who will bid you a cheery ‘buenas noches’ as you pass.
We come to Orellana de a Sierra quite frequently because my mum has a wonderful little casita here and despite the fact that getting here requires a five-hour journey in the car with our two young children, we aren’t put off because it is such a fantastic destination. It sits to the south of the Orellana, Enmedio and Pela mountains which provide a stunning backdrop and unbeatable panoramic views. The surrounding area has been declared part of a Regional Area of Interest and Special Bird Protection Zone. My mum is an avid bird watcher and tells me that the bird watching opportunities around Orellana are plentiful and my own children love to look out for those more recognisable birds such as vultures and storks from the car window as we drive around. But Orellana isn’t just about birdwatching, there is much to do here all year round. In the warmer months we spend time at the local lakes and in the cooler months we explore nearby towns and cities. Fantastic city day trips that can be made from Orellana include visits to Trujillo, Merida, Badajoz and Guadalupe and there are a plethora of neighbouring towns to discover too. We especially love visiting the castles at Puebla de Alcocer and Benquerencia de la Serena, exploring the streets of Don Benito and Villanueva de la Serena and taking a picnic to the lakes at Peloche and Puerto Peña. There are so many wonderful places to discover!
Now though it is summer and so our visit this time has been made up predominantly of excursions to the Costa Dulce ‘beach’ (it’s actually a lake) which is a ten minute drive away, or to the local lake which is just down the road. Costa Dulce is a bustling beach (lake) with restaurants, bars and a yacht club. You can hire pedaloes and kayaks or simply take a refreshing swim alongside the groups of little fish in the lake. Despite it being called a beach, it isn’t and as such don’t expect a sandy place to throw down your beach towel! The surrounding ‘beach’ is actually concrete but it’s actually a nice change to visit a beach and not come back with children and a car full of sand! Likewise, because the beach is actually a lake, the water can sometimes be a little ‘pondy’, with lots of algae floating around but it doesn’t bother the locals and, now we are used to it, it doesn’t bother us either!
But sadly our holiday here is nearly at an end for in the morning we will have to pack up and return to Estepona, ready for the start of the new school year. It is now almost midnight and we have an early start tomorrow and so I must finish my last beer of the holiday, pack up my iPad and wander the 100m back to the casita. It is a sad and sobering thought that this time tomorrow I will be so far away from this little place that has created so many happy memories for me and my family. However, I know that Orellana will be waiting for us the next time we have a school holiday and then, once more on our little rustic doorstep will be all of those familiar places for us to revisit and there will be new places to uncover and lots of new happy family memories to be made.