Tales of the Lecrin Valley

A personal view of life in an andalusian village.

Another great day out at the romeria in Restabal. All the usual features, music, horses, wagons, and singing and dancing. There was unlimited beer and a two metre paella for those who had bought a three euro ticket, and this came with a memorial ceramic tumbler. What good value. eh? This year we set up our table as Asturianos and had cider and Asturian food aplenty, to recompense for the years we have freeloaded off the villagers. It was a geat success and a good time was had by all. It reminds me of a romeria here in 2007 about which I wrote at the time. Here it is:-

View of Restabla from Calvario

View of Restabal from Calvario

The Romería Cerro del Calvario, May 2007

This weekend we were free, so went off to to the beach on Saturday to expose ourselves to the sun for the first time this year and which as usual left me burned. Then on Sunday we went to Restábal, to attend the Romería de la Virgen del Cerro. This takes place on a hill above the village, aptly named Calvario, and from where there are stunning views of the valley and the Sierra Nevada beyond.

The horses resting and their riders at the bar

The horses resting and their riders at the bar

Atop the hill is a chapel which is the centrepiece of the festival and to the front of the chapel the romería committee had set up a bar and a stage for the attendant artistes. This year there were memorative ceramic cups to be bought for a mere 3 euros, which were then filled from the bar at no cost. To the side was a two-metre paella pan which dispensed paella to the assembled company. (and prices haven´t gone up since!!!)

The day starts with a procession of the Virgen through the streets of the village and then up the very steep hill of Calvario to the chapel. Being a romería, there are always plenty of horses around and the occasional carriage, bedecked with flowers and coloured ribbons. The villagers all bring tables, chairs and umbrellas and set up in family groups around the chapel, very much like a beach party.

Carmen and I arrived a little late and found that all the ceramic cups had been sold and that the paella crew had run out of plates so we could neither eat or drink. This is quite usual, so we mingled and chatted until resupplies appeared. We eventually received our paella and a beer and sat on the wall overlooking the village. Suddenly a gust of wind upended my plastic plate and deposited paella on my chest, staining my shirt nicely. A great start to the afternoon.

Dressed to kill

Dressed to kill

After that, Carmen and I walked about and joined various groups for jamon and queso, tortilla and olives. I had previously decided to stick to drinking beer as the weather was a bit warm, and the day progressed swimmingly. Juan and his son from Albuñuelas turned up mounted on a pair of beautiful Andalucian greys, having ridden across the hills to pay their respects to the Virgen, and whilst the music played the riders guided the horses through a dance routine, before riding up to the door of the chapel and having the horses bow to the Virgen.

Then we found ourselves sitting at the table of Agustin the plumber, who proudly brought out the dreaded mosto in a small goatskin bag. Anyone who has read my tales will know the perils of mosto and as usual, as soon as I had brought the goatskin up to my face and squirted the wine into my mouth from the required arms-length with only the slightest spillage on my shirt to add to the paella, all the surrounding tables insisted that I must try their mosto as it was far better than Agustin´s. And I was once again on the slippery downhill slope of village hospitality and mosto arbitration. We had a few with Agustin, and a few more with other friends and then the band came back from lunch and started to play. There were a few modern renderings and then the old favourite, the Paso Doble. I have no idea why, but I can´t resist this rather staid dance, so Carmen and I got up to strut our stuff with half the village. The group obviously realised that this was a good way to keep people dancing, so they carried on the same tune for about a quarter of an hour, the dust rising from the ground up to our waists. Finally it ended and exhausted, Carmen and I moved to one side of the dance floor and chatted to even more friends, our backs to the dancers.

Let the feast begin

Let the feast begin

I vaguely remember the sound of the Conga being played in the background and suddenly a pair of hands smacked down on my sunburned shoulders and the voice of the Alcalde came over my shoulder,
“Ron! Bailamos!”
One can´t, in the villages, go against the wishes of the Alcalde and Juan Antonio was well enough oiled by now to have made objection pointless even if he hadn´t been the Alcalde. The pain in my shoulders was excruciating and Juan Antonio, enjoying himself immensely, and with a grip like a Scotsman on a five-pound note, was now alternately burying his thumbs into the muscles of my shoulders, first left then right, indicating which way I should go, steering me like a rotavator. We careened around Calvary until at last the music stopped and my shoulders were reprieved. (I am writing this a few days later and the skin has peeled nicely above the bruises Juan Antonio left.)

More chatting and then I noticed that the music had changed to flamenco, and good soul-wrenching flamenco at that. I looked around to see who was singing and there was Agustin, a man with many talents. The guitarist was a bar owner from another village, and as soon as they had begun, his wife strode out into the centre of the dance floor and started to dance very passable flamenco indeed. It all seemed so right, the setting, the mood, the company, and soon she was swirling and stamping, her shoes and calves covered in pink dust from the earth of the dance floor. Entrancing. The local baker took the next spot, singing a mournful gypsy song, and between them they continued to keep us enthralled for a half-hour or so.

By now the sun was dipping below the chapel and things began to wind down. A delightful day, marred only by the certainty that the mosto was waiting in the wings to make me suffer the following day. Which it did, but not as much as it made the Alcalde suffer, according to Carmen who had a meeting with him first thing the next morning.

And as usual, I can´t for the life of me remember who had the best mosto, if there is such a thing!