Following our arrival in Andalucía on 4 October Christine and I had planned to visit the Alpujarras, the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that extends eastwards from Granada. We travelled from Antequera to Órgiva, a small town that I had visited with my younger son Simon about 20 years ago. On that occasion we had taken our tent to a public camping ground on the outskirts of the town where we were loudly serenaded by Nightingales on bright May mornings.
My recollection from that visit was of a lively town with white-washed buildings typical of the “pueblos blancos” of many parts of Andalucia, along with a twin-spired church in its centre. I was a little disappointed this October to find the town centre looking more unkempt than in the memory of my first visit, with streets and pavements appearing uncleaned and littered. There is clearly a large expatriate community (possibly seeking the away-from-it-all experiences described by Chris Stewart in his books recounting his own settlement in the Alpujarras), some of whom appear to have been unable to manage and live homeless on some of the town’s doorsteps. Órgiva remains popular with youngsters seeking a basic life in a lovely part of the world but I was not tempted to go for the dreadlock look (I have far too little hair anyway!).
We were fortunate in finding a comfortable room in a small hotel but the highlight of our stay was undoubtedly our evening meal in the Mesón El Viejo Molino restaurant. A passage from the street opens into a large courtyard with a bar and uncrowded tables, from which we could watch the descent of the moon in its first quarter as we chatted over our meal. If we had wanted we could also have watched football on a screen in the restaurant but this was tastefully discreet and on very low volume.
The first problem was to make our choice from the extensive menu of local cuisine. Christine selected the leg of young lamb infused with rosemary while I opted for medallions of pork loin with a pepper sauce. After ordering, we were presented with complimentary bread and olives, followed by a further complimentary appetiser of meatballs in sauce with chips. When our ordered dishes arrived they were both much larger than we had expected but were succulent and delicious. This wonderful meal, in such superb surroundings and ordered and delivered with efficient and unobtrusive service, had the added advantage that it was not a major strain on our pockets, despite the current poor performance of the pound sterling against the Euro! And during the payment process we were given complimentary liqueurs.
We returned to our hotel for a good night’s sleep in readiness for the next day’s travels.