Guest blogger Robert Gordon reflects on the recent Easter migration to his corner of the Bay of Cadiz…
Just over 10 years ago the area in which I live was covered in woods and fruit orchards, indeed my own home is set on what was an orange grove – as you can see from the photo many changes have taken place. The development of this part of La Bahía de Cádiz has established it as a considerable attraction for Spanish tourism, indeed over ninety per cent of the visitors here are Spanish, most of whom are second home owners.
In my barrio, the Spanish swallows arrive from Sevilla, Cuidad Real, San Sebastian and mostly from Madrid. What brings them to a fairly ordinary town to pass their well earned holidays, and how do they pass their time?
Well in most part they come for the ambience. Los Gaditanos have a reputation: “Ellos saben reírse de sí mismo” (they know how to laugh at themselves) even in these difficult times. During fiestas they form sizable groups in the cork woods, break into song, and will adapt any handy object into a form of percussion to enjoy day long festivals created by their own initiatives and paid for by their “vaquita” (piggy bank).
Many of the city dwellers that arrive have told me they seek “turismo nacional” and it can be found here in a form much less “bomdardeado” than in many other parts of coastal Spain. They are “con su gente, como estar en casa” (with their own people, they feel at home).
Semana Santa, Easter, represents “un aperitivo del turismo” with the main course served in July/August. Alongside the week long religious festival, the visitors relax, recharge batteries, and enjoy the local attractions which are mainly the food, spectacular light, and the beaches.
I at first doubted that the food here (fish) had a national reputation, but those doubts are long gone. Seeing Madrileños queue 40 minutes for a table resplendent with a “surtido” of fried/grilled fish and an uncountable variety of mariscos is proof enough for me. After lunch they stroll around town licking their preferred ice cream from tiny plastic spoons.
The swallows also tell me they love the beaches, not just for their natural attractions, but also for the fact that they have remained authentic in that they are both free and “bring your own”. There is no hiring of sun loungers, parasols etc. This leads to wonderful streams of beach pilgrims penguin-padding down to the shore laden with… well almost the kitchen sink.
During Semana Santa beach occupation is light, it is after all only the aperitivo, but the swallows are suffering from winter withdrawal symptoms. So down on Playa Santa Catalina they bask, preen and dip their wings in the fresh sea, revitalize all working parts and restore the canyons of their minds which have suffered from the winter grind.
They are easy to spot, sporting their recently purchased “pijo” (posh) spring outfits. During my evening stroll through my barrio, I see them, rollerblading, biking in family groups – enjoying themselves. They elegantly walk by with their tiny lap dogs cradled on their forearm. Couples with v-neck sweaters draped around the shoulder swan neck the plots which have changed since their last migration.
Their gardens come alive at night with chatter and sounds of local dishes being eagerly devoured, and later hoots and hollers over shared jokes and card games. I very much enjoy their arrival and whilst they are now gone, they will soon return for their summer visit, which will take both a similar and different form. For me there is something quite wonderfully distinctive and impressive in the style that my Spanish visitors pass their days here in Cadiz.