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La Vide Del Pueblo

Days 76 to 84 Casabermeja

sunny 40 °C

We have arrived in Casabermeja. Where is Casabermeja and why go there you ask?

Well, the specification was: find a small traditional village in the South of Spain, away from tourists and live like locals for a couple of weeks. After hours of research, we found Casabermeja, Gateway to the Andalusian mountains, near Seville, with access to the beach at Costa del Sol and small enough to force us to immerse ourselves in Spanish life. We knew this town ticked all the boxes and more, especially when we arrived at our 200-year old rustic Spanish town house where we would spend 13 days.


The town is about 30-minutes’ drive north of Malaga, at the eastern end of Costa Del Sol. The extremely touristy coastline goes all the way down to Gibraltar. In contrast, Casabermeja is a village of white painted houses and, with the exception of 4 days during our stay, nothing much happens in a hurry. Its history dates back to Moorish times, and was established in 1550 by Spanish Emperor Carlos I.
1. Vivienda Rural - Calle Real, 86

Casabermeja is a wonderful little town with a population of about 3000. The pace of daily life is beautifully slow. The town goes about its chores, punctuated with siestas and time to chat. During breaks or when the day’s tasks are done, Los Abuelos and Las Abuelas bring out a kitchen chair, parking themselves in their front doorway, which is practically in the street and there they sit, for hours, watching the day go by and well into the evening.

Our abode is a wonderfully rustic, 200-year old farmhouse with loads of charm.

White plaster walls, old stairs, and a lovely cobbled courtyard.

The men of the village congregate in the Main Square, Centro de Mayores no doubt regaling each other with the same stories of past glory over and over, for years. Benches near the church are a great spot to pass the day chatting, watching the comings and goings from the bus and the market.

A highlight during the day is to watch the local Malaga bus drive up the hill, do a reverse 3-point turn beside the church with absolutely no room for error. The driver seems to have manhandled the massive coach enough times to know exactly how far to drive the bus past the church, easing backwards, full lock one way, then the other, with the nose sneaking past the corner of the house on the other side of the street with the merest of clearances, and deftly slotting into the bus stop. We caught the bus a couple of times and still not sure if its scarier watching from the street or from inside the bus!
Most of the restaurants for dinner are at the bottom of the town, one small Mercado half way up, with some smaller Carne and Pane Tiendas scattered.
English is rare. We often felt bad, after greeting a kindly Abuela or communicating what we needed, it was assumed we could speak more Spanish than we did, launching into a conversation which we could not understand. We found though a smile and nod, or if the body language indicated – usually La Abuela complaining of a crook hip or the heat or the little girl at the pool intent on explaining something to us – a frown and lo siento was enough.
We relished buying local food - feeling quite chuffed with ourselves being able to order what we wanted and communicating the correct quantities to eating at the local restaurants – figuring out the menu and even when we got it wrong, we were rarely disappointed, adding a new delicacy to our repertoire (or knowing what not to order next time). Ordering from horseback on the other hand, needs some skill....
although getting a ride home would be cool.

The Main Street has a gradient of around 10% and unfortunately our villa is almost at the top of the town. Heading down for lunch or dinner is a commitment knowing it’s a long hike back up the hill.
Days are long in Summer. Mornings are slow to get started, with locals starting to venture about at about 9. Sunset brings an end to the day and start of evening routines at about 9pm. Often we were first to wander in for dinner at 9:30pm.
Rarely in bed by midnight, with townspeople still chatting and hanging out, as we dragged ourselves up the hill to bed. We quickly adapt to the lifestyle! It is both a young and an old town with kids happily playing in the streets or in the small kids park while their parents ate dinner and grandparents sat on their kitchen chairs in the street, well past bedtimes of every Aussie kid we know.

We were able to slow down, do some cooking for ourselves in our wonderfully rustic kitchen and recharge a bit for the final legs of our journey.

Mealtimes were often arbitrary - this was technically breakfast, but eaten at lunchtime - we made sure we had our juice, old grape juice!
The biggest decisions each day were which out of the half dozen restaurants we were going to eat at that night, would we start with Cervesas or Tinto Limon (half red wine and lemon squash which is wonderfully refreshing) and whether to try something different on the menu, but also discovering some favourite dishes we’d order again and again.

Our host Luis was a lovely man and a wealth of information, if we had a question, he knew someone. He even arranged a private visit to the local Ceramic Museum.
The whole area is known for its ceramics and we adored the street signs and beautiful murals in the town.
2. Felices fiestas.
The weekend of the 5, 6 and 7 August saw the village have its Felices Fiestas festival for which we still don't quite know what for. It was a trip down memory lane dodgem cars and side show alley, a band, donuts, mechanical bull, jumping castle, trampolines, fairy floss and our previously sleepy village is suddenly transformed with the whole town donning their best outfits – the women must have been sewing for months creating dramatic flamenco style dresses for themselves and their daughters and cute outfits for little boys, all out of the same material. Even Los Abuelos arranged a street party that was pumping well into the AM.

Our usually quiet restaurants are packed, doubling, even tripling the number of tables and we still struggled to get a table.

What was crazy though was the festival each night did not start until very late. Whilst the Kids Rides started a bit earlier, the Dodgem Cars didn’t launch into action until about 11pm – the flashing lights, sparking wires, pumping music and the siren heralding the call to race onto the floor, jump into a car and get ready to seek and destroy. The Siren wails and we're away, then the grimace as cars lined each other up, slamming into each other.

Jen and I did have a go at the dodgem cars and both reminisced when was the last time we rode one of these things. We both accepted a long long time ago!

Jen was treated with a little more respect and did not get smashed too many times, but I was immediately the target of the posse of young Spanish teens. “Gringo!”

They ganged up on me. I did the Aussie flag proud and gave them as good as I got.

The night’s festival would continue into the very early hours of the morning, long after we’d gone to bed. Saturday night was the big night with some still hanging around at 8.30am when we ventured out for our morning walk.

3. Natacion en La Playa y La Piscina

The heat was at times unbearable, especially between 3 and 5 each afternoon, and we had a few days where we just stayed inside – given our hectic travels to date, it was a welcome enforced sojourn or we hung out at Piscina Municipal Pablo Ruiz Picasso, the local pool, alternating between the pool and the shady tree over the course of the day.

In Summer a special bus is arranged for €1.65 per trip, to Playa De Las Acacias, a beach about 10 km north of Malaga. It is stinking hot at 38 deg c and we get to the beach around 11.30 am.
It is still early and the morning haze hasn’t yet burnt off. Fortunately, the beach is still quiet. We stake out a great spot on the grass under palm trees. By about 12.30 pm the beach is packed and with no room at all. We spend the day, again alternating between swim and laying in the shade of the palm trees, adjusting our position, following the shade as the sun moves across the sky.

A couple of interesting observations of beach culture in Costa de Sol.

1. The beach is brown grey dirty sand and sand finishes about 5 m from the water’s edge.
2. From where the sand finishes it turns into a dirt dust bowl that is scalding hot.
3. The locals do not know how to body surf.
4. Locals don't wear hats and stay in the sun all day. How they don't get burnt to a crisp is still unknown.
5. There is a lot of rubbish on the sand and in the water, which is unpleasant. Finding a spot to swim is difficult. We didn’t mind that we looked a bit conspicuous coming out of the water with chip packets, plastic bags and other rubbish, putting it in the bin where it belongs.
6. Swim wear for the girls is worn with their bikini pushed up their bum to convert it into a G- string style. It can’t be comfortable. They are often topless, which doesn’t bother anyone, but is somewhat inconvenient when they have to make a run for the water across the hot sand – things tend to take on a life of their own.

4. Malaga.
The city of Malaga has the largest airport on the Cost a del Sol so it's a prime spot for travellers (usually Poms) to get off and go to the beaches. It also dubbed Costa del Golf as the area all the way down to Gibraltar is filled with resort golf courses.
No, I didn’t play a round. It is also a place for cruise ships to dock while travelling through the Mediterranean.

Malaga is also the birth place of Picasso so we did spend a couple of hours in the Picasso museum.
It did have some nice pieces, e.g. Woman with Raised Arms,
Acrobat which can be viewed from all four sides and still be anatomically possible, as much as a Picasso can be,
and Jacqueline Seated, a portrait of his last wife,
but in comparison the one in Barcelona was better. The Malaga curators may have taken a few liberties with history and Picasso's connections back to Malaga. It was made out that Picasso was very much connected to the town, even though he never visited again after leaving in his early 20s.

The whole of Spain has high esteem for Picasso, nominating and naming many things after him. Given he spent most of his life in France, we're not sure how much of his thoughts remained in Spain.

Malaga is a pretty cool town though with a mix of old and new, modern and traditional.

We spent the day walking along the town mall, the marina and the local beach.

The area has been redeveloped and is a well thought out and a lovely place to visit.


I braved the waters and the rubbish and went for a quick dip, while Jen people watched and kept an eye on our bags. It was refreshing to get in the water with the temperature still in the high 30's but as with most beaches here the sand back to the path way is blistering hot and you need to sprint across, or risk blisters.


We returned to Malaga a few days later to collect a car to do some exploring. Once we escaped the town, through a maze of tiny one way, ridiculously narrow, dead end streets (although GPS showed otherwise). We took the scenic route home via Montes de Malaga. The mountain ranges are spectacular and it is hard to understand how life and farming (olives, almonds, goats and sheep) succeed here in the rocky and harsh environment.


5. Caminar en Las Montanas

All around the town are a series of walks through the Andalusian hills and we picked a 10 km walk Fuente de las Parras Viejas (or The Fountain of the Old Grape Vines) walk.

The walk took us to the top of the town, around the back and then to a natural fountain. This fountain has significance as it was the first source of water to the area to allow the town to develop and also for trading.
About one km from town, it was built in the 18th century (but its location as a water source is documented back to the 16th century).

This ended the first part of our life in Casabermeja.
Our rustic stay was doing the job and as an added bonus we were now also able to watch the Olympics, although coverage favours 'Espana'. I think the neighbours heard the yell when they left the mens swimming relay featuring Australians to cross to the bronze medal playoff between Espania and USA in trap shooting.

Posted by tszeitli 01:09 Archived in Spain Tagged hiking history hot village_life living_local slow_down sideshow_alley dodgem fairy_floss casabermeja hablar_espanol

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Wow! I LOVE this idea of traveling! I'd always choose people watching at a local cafe over visiting a famous site unless the site is a museum. My dad never visited the Great Wall until he was almost 50. We practically lived right under it. I get him though, as we are both more of culture travelers.

by Angela Zheng

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