Winding through the circuitous mountain route we headed for Competa, a beautiful white village tumbling down the hillside. The song of the skylark could be heard and eagles circled lazily above, flowers adorned the mountainside and our cares and worries receded as we entered this Spanish heaven. 'Casa Rosa' was our home for the week, where we stayed with friends Brian and Jill. The villa was a refuge of peace and quiet, and always a pleasure to come back to after a hard day's sight seeing.
Competa, and neighbouring Canillas have a traditional Spanish feel, although there is an English bookshop, and another store catering for ex pats unable to live without HP Sauce and Branston Pickle. Pavement cafes surround the squares and we spent many balmy evenings drinking wine and sampling tapas. The sleepy atmosphere however, belies the busy life of the village. The people are hard working and talented, and a community spirit is very much in evidence. For the last three years 'Race 4 Life,' has taken place, (a 2km walk) and the profits have gone to a regional cancer charity. Although hovering near the bottom of the league, the local football team's spirit and enthusiasm rarely diminish. Named 'Grapevine' after the monthly magazine, they provide much fun and entertainment, but it has to say, not too many goals. Local author Glenn Stuart has had his first horror/fantasy book, 'The Well of Despair,' published, and just to keep the residents' grey matter up to scratch there's a weekly quiz at a local restaurant.
More and more Brits and Danes are buying property in the 'campo', and it is easy to see the attraction. Pure air, wonderful views and a tranquil atmosphere are all a far cry from the noise and pollution of the Spanish costas. Nothing is perfect in this life however, and Competa has not escaped the problems of buying property in rural Spain. In the short time we were there we came to realise that our friends and some of their neighbours are involved in boundary disputes. These issues can ruin a dream life in the sun,, so it is important for prospective buyers to look into the intricacies of Spanish law as the legal system differs from the UK.
Just outside Competa the road rises, twisting and turning, finally becoming a dirt track leading into the National Park. No breeze here to alleviate soaring temperatures. Underfoot a carpet of herbs, ferns and plants, and pine wood smells fill the air. Bees buzz in the soupy atmosphere and the occasional horse trots by flicking flies from its tail.
On the coast, beach shacks known as 'Chiringitos' barbecue sardines and anchovies, This makes a great lunch, washed down with a glass or two of tinto verano. A trip to this region would not be complete without visiting the Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex of Moorish rulers. Consequently, we dragged ourselves away from the comforts of 'Casa Rosa,' to the city of Granada. Entrance tickets previously booked on the Internet facilitated a speedy entry and our eyes alighted on the alcazaba, a red fortress overlooking the city. Hundreds of house martins flew in and out of this terracotta citadel, and set against a background of the bright blue sky, this truly was a memorable sight.
The hot sun bore down us as temperatures reached 40c, and we slowly made our way towards the Nasrid Palace, named after Ibn Nasr, founder of the Moorish Nasrid Dynasty. Wandering through columns and rooms displaying wonderful stalactite like ceiling decorations, then out into courtyards with fountains and green reflecting pools, we were taken into another world, and temporarily forgot the oppressive heat. I thought the day could hold no more in store, so it was quite a surprise to find Brian, pacing up and down the terrace on our return to 'Casa Rosa.' Barely pausing to ask if we'd had a good time, he shouted out, “Take a look through these binoculars, you can see Morocco.”
Not being good with binoculars, at first, all I could make out was a wildly moving horizon, and the Andalusian countryside. “Look again,” said Brian
I strained my eyes, readjusted the focus and could just about make out what might have been the coast of Africa. Lost in the moment I gazed out across the Mediterranean, and Morocco with all its different cultures suddenly seemed so near.
That evening, sitting on the moonlight terrace, we reflected on our week in this magical part of Spain. Lazy days, sunshine, and the good people of Competa had all contributed to a wonderful holiday. We could ask for no more, except perhaps an invitation for next year!
by Sally Chamberlain