Thursday, September 7, 2017 – another small village in the Andalucian hills, Linares de la Sierra held some exquisite surprises!
Another morning walk through the chestnut and olive forests. Foot paths cross highways. Pass garden, wooden bench, abandoned stucco and oleandered home. Silent except for shoe and sandal on stone and soil, dry leaves crunching under foot. Vistas of verdant green and golden grasses.
Silent still as we enter the lower village and are met by a grandmother at fountain, hand drawing water to her granddaughter’s mouth. The fountain brings spring water to the village and feeds the communal “lavadero” – laundry basins – slightly downhill.
We make our way up cobblestone streets to the local bar for an early breakfast of toast and tomato, slices of jambon. “Cafe con leche” and fantas, or my regular “coppa de manzanilla,” that refreshing dry sherry that cuts the oil and saltiness of local tapas. Time to pass, to enjoy the vistas inside and out, red tiled roofs cascading across white stucco and green hillside, families and neighbors sharing gossip and food.
Meandering alone, I encountered a wagon decorated with white and purple paper flowers for tomorrow’s pilgrimage, the Romeria of La Reina de los Angeles, the Sierra Aracena region’s annual homage to its patron saint. (We will rise very early to travel by car to the village of Higera de la Sierra to walk the route with its townsfolk, joining hundreds who pay tribute.) Later, I peek into the 18th century church to see the cart, to be driven by oxen oiled and decorated, being washed and regally adorned, ready to bear the village’s icon.
The old bullring, now a sun-baked patio for tavernas, its white walls festooned with colourful murals made by local school children…the local potter selling her vibrant wares…and secretly tucked down a shady, narrow street, the Michelin recommended restaurant, Meson Arrieros. Oh, to have accepted the owner’s kind invitation, that despite being closed, she’d welcome us to a lunch of gazpacho! No substitute, but a photo or two would have to suffice, the downside of group travel and established itineraries!
The upside, however, was our visit to the Hammam La Molinilla, where we bathed and soaked in cool and hot pools, spending several hours in the still splendor of our small group’s cloistered company. Occasionally pausing for mint tea in the sunny patio, or the tenderly administered massage to legs taut from daily hiking, or backs relieved of the weight of daily urban life. Another gem of surprise, hidden away down the alley, past debris, around the corner, though the slightly open door.