Thursday, 26 September 2013

When is a holiday not a holiday, and what would the bull say?

Yes, I now, everyone thinks that we go to Spain for holidays, as we say our goodbyes many people kindly say “have a good time” or “how lovely, enjoy the sun”. To us, our house in the village of La Fresneda is home, just another one that’s all, and I certainly know more people here than I do in Stow-on-the-Wold! But, occasionally, just occasionally, when we are here, someone rents the house so we carefully hide all the booze and delicacies and take off in our motor caravan.

Curmudgeonly, I begrudge these interruptions to my work on the stone hut, yet I usually enjoy them enormously. This one started badly. Friends kindly invited us to a karaoke night at a bar run by some English people in a town down on the coast. Fresh from our most recent visit to the karaoke culture of Taiwan we expected too much from the evening. Here the singers mostly sang to the screen and were pretty much ignored by everyone else, good singers though they mostly were. Doing karaoke in Taiwan we feel part of something different and we always sing, in Spain we did not.

Next day we took the prostitute-lined road south, in search of the ephemeral “nice seaside town”. Most places that we visited were awful: overdeveloped and for sale. Then we found Acossebre which was low rise, pretty, had excellent beaches and was holding a fiesta that very night. We went to see the bulls twice! No not that awful business where the bull is tortured to near death then killed, often badly, with a sword. Not that at all. Here the daring young men who face the bull are the only ones in real danger. They “play” with the thing, enticing it to gore them then escape onto robust tables or behind thick iron bars when necessary (at one exciting moment the bull jumped onto the table too).

Personally, I see nothing wrong with this, though others do not agree. A good friend from our village asked me “what would the bull say?” I don’t know of course, no one does. But, is it just possible that the bull might choose a Saturday night out with flaming torches tied to its horns whilst chasing after crazy men over a quiet night in the bull pen, or a karaoke evening?

We moved on to the towns of the upper Duero river above Madrid. One of these, Medinaceli, was so quiet that deathly would be an understated adjective (I think I heard a dog bark once). Another, El Burgo, had one of the liveliest central squares that I have ever seen: people all around and kids tearing across the place on every conceivable child’s transport. Inevitably there was a crash and some tears until the injured were taken away to the sweet shop.

The Duero is nice, it flows all the way to Portugal, through Oporto and out to sea. W saw some remarkable churches, castles and so on in the towns that it passes through. However, in the architecture stakes I give Tarazona, in our own region of Aragon, top marks. It has fine examples of Gothic, Romanic and Arabic architecture together with a jumble of streets in the old Jewish quarter which boasts hanging houses (no we did not hang out there). We ate tapas in Tarazona, slept in the hospital car park and then went home – to La Fresneda. No bull.

And the weather here? As I passed the butchers today, the display said thirty-one degrees. Everyone else was asleep.

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