IF ‘we are what we eat’ – my bathroom scales support that theory – are we also ‘where we live?’
I looked in the mirror last week and saw a country bumpkin, so yes. No trace of the Marbella Belle I once aspired to be!
It was a culture shock moving to the boondocks of Los Barrios. The confusion that living in a district called The Districts causes… “Yes but which barrio?” … “No, Los Barrios!” … “You live in two districts?”
It’s a pinprick on the map in the Campo de Gibraltar no one has ever heard of, much less set out to find. Even the postal service has problems as there are two number 27s on our street – go figure – so I don’t often get mail.
Unlike Marbella, they don’t wear high heels and pencil skirts here, except for weddings, funerals and Saturday nights, so I spend my days dressed like a campesina (peasant) if I even get out of my dressing gown. Dressing gowns are acceptable streetwear, though, when washing your step in the morning, as they do here.
It’s sublimely Spanish and quintessentially campo. The local rooster and his sidekick, a hee-hawing donkey, get us up in the morning. Regular power brownouts see us to bed at unearthly hours.
It’s not a wealthy town, but our three cats help boost the local economy or, rather, the local vet’s economy, requiring twice-daily insulin shots, special diets and regular fur-cuts.
On the face of it, this petite pueblo perched on the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula hasn’t a lot going for it…
The local beach, fringed with smoke-belching Cepsa chimneys, is hardly the stuff of holiday brochures (no one notices the wildlife reserve behind it) and the shopping centre is a sprawling industrial estate graced with its own ‘Twin Towers’ – the tallest office block in Andalucia.
The jewel in the crown was the town roundabout – modelled on a birthday cake, candles and all – until last month when it was demolished. We can’t wait to see what they put in its place!
But look at it this way: Los Barrios lies at the crossroads of two continents (Africa and Europe); two Spanish Costas (Sol and Luz) and is the gateway to two seas – Atlantic and Mediterranean – and three ‘foreign’ nations – Morocco, Gibraltar and Portugal. That’s pretty central in my idea of the universe.
Beyond the frumpy facade, this quirky Spanish pueblo frays at the edges into country lanes where a wild beauty sprouts from untamed hedgerows in a tangle of colour.
Did you know that Los Barrios …
– Boasts the most scenic rubbish tips in Spain, on the edge of Europe’s largest cork forest (Los Alcornocales) – a favourite roadside diner for thousands of birds en route to Africa
– Has one of the largest white stork colonies in Europe (if you’ve seen the size of stork droppings you’ll know why I wear a hat!)
– Would have had the most high-tech bullring in Spain if the automatic roof worked. It doesn’t because the architect wasn’t paid, so he took away the motor.
Unbelievably, Los Barrios has only 20 lines devoted to it in the English version of Wikipedia, so I’m going to add my own citation … from the centre of the universe!