For my last weekend in Spain before my summer excursions abroad, I went to the beach. When you are accustomed to 48 degree temperatures in a land-locked city, you can imagine this was a welcome respite.
With a carload of friends we took to the roads in and around the province of Cadiz, and went to stay at a beautiful spot, known for it’s beach and nothing much else, El Palmar.
Sunshine and sea breezes now seem a far cry from the wet and chilly weather I am now experiencing here in England so I am writing this blog to remind myself of the fact that there is in fact a summer somewhere, in some part of the world.
This trip to the beach came at a very convenient time. Firstly, because it was the week that Cordoba hit 50 degrees on the weather boards and I was in desperate need of a swim. Secondly, it was my twenty-erhmm-seventh birthday and the first summer birthday I have ever had. Finally, it was the festival of San Juan, which in Spain means two things: beaches and bonfires.
San Juan celebrates the summer solstice – or the longest day of the year. Tradition has it that you are meant to pass the night away on the sandy shores of a Spanish beach and once the sun sets, you make yourself comfortable around a beachfront bonfire… sing songs, toast marshmellows… ok, not exactly but you get my drift. To simply charlar y descansar (chat and unwind) will do.
The brave will take a midnight dip. But the best and most important occurence for San Juan-goers is the part is when you toss your woes into the fire (or your wishes because apparently the very Spanish ambiguity or como quieres applies here – do as you will, dicen que no importa) to do away with the old and usher in the new. A bit like a six-monthly resolution.
It troubled me that there was supposedly no difference between throwing something positive into the flames versus something negative. The mere thought of burning something good seemed wrong. But as I really couldn’t think of anything I would rid of, I decided to do as the Romans.
Since living in Spain, I have managed to kick the coffee habbit and I no longer spend far too much of my life in an office chair so in terms of lifestyle, I felt pretty set. So I made a wish. I tried to make it heartfelt despite not feeling confident about the whole process. And as all wishes go, I can’t tell you what it was. We shall see if it eventuates first.
Which reminds me that as my friends and I wandered down to the beach that night, we saw a shooting star. Magic. Shame I was too captivated by the moment to take advantage of it otherwise I might have doubled my chances.
There is no township El Palmar to speak of, just a few restaurants that I am almost positive are only open for the summer, and a big, long, white-sandy beach that meets the sparkling deep blue Atlantic.
While there, my friends and I stayed in a bungalow in a camping ground aptly named, Camping El Palmar. We joined up with a bunch of people from all around Spain – a network of down-to-earth, funloving, well-travelled people from all around the world who belong to the famed Couchsurfing forum and were connected by an event on Facebook.
The entire weekend was virtually organised for us, bar transport there and back. We paid our money for our accommodation and that was that. I have to say I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting myself into but the folks on the Facebook forum seemed so postive and friendly, we decided to roll with it. It was seriously worth every penny. There was not only an affordable roof over our heads but plenty of food and drink provided. I didn’t spend more than €100 the entire weekend and that included hiring a car, food, petrol, drink and accomodation. Bargain. And first impressions rung true. The people were quality.
We took advantage of our hot wheels to do a bit of exploring on the Sunday. We ended up in a small seaside town of Los Caños de Meca where we had a long, €8, three-course lunch, lazed in the sun, bathed in mud (we don’t really know why but all the locals were doing it so we followed suit) and swam before finally setting off at dusk, back on the road to Cordoba.
What a way to spend my last weekend in Spain before heading off on my travels again.