“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination.” – George Orwell
When planning a road trip in Spain at least for one night I generally like to find a place to stay off the usual well beaten tourist trail. I have had great success with this and in picking places like Carmona, a few miles east of Seville in Andalucía, Pedro Bernardo in the mountains of Castilla y Leon and Almagro on the Ruta de Don Quixote in Castilla-La Mancha.
With the car safely but (very) tightly parked and walking back to the hotel at Plaza San Sebastian I was optimistic that Antequera was going to be added to the list of good selections. Because of geography, tradition and culture Antequera is called the heart of Andalucía and was once considered as a suitable candidate for the regional government to be based but it eventually and inevitably lost out to Seville.
And the sun was shining!
Plaza San Sebastian was at the very bottom of the city at a busy roundabout junction where every major road in the city seemed to converge, a bubbling pink marble water fountain, a modern monument that marks the junction of two Roman roads, a proud church, several grand buildings and overshadowed by the looming presence of the Alcazaba, a steep cobble-stoned hill climb away.
We tackled the steps and entered through a castle gate and made our way directly to the top where we found a restaurant/bar with pavement tables and stopped for a while to draw breath. This was the Plaza de Santa Maria dominated by the biggest church in town and we sat and enjoyed the heat of the sun on our faces as we drank wine and nibbled the inevitable olives. It was wonderful.
Refreshment break over we left and paid admission to the Alcazaba and entered the interior of the fortress. Antequera has always been an important place due its geographical position as it falls on a natural crossroads east/west between Seville and Granada and north/south between Malaga and Cordoba and the Moors built their most impregnable castle at this place to protect their possessions in Iberia.
It took the Christian armies of the north almost two hundred years to overcome this fortress but this was eventually achieved in 1410 and the Muslims were expelled and obliged to relocate to Granada. In the context of the current migrant crisis in Europe this set me thinking. The movement of people, both voluntary and enforced has been going on forever. As I have said before history teaches us nothing except that we live in a sort of hamster wheel of rotating repetition. As we walked around I could just imagine what the reaction was in Granada at the time – “How can we cope with all of these extra people?”, “Think of the added pressure on our water supply systems!”, “How will our Mosques accommodate all of these migrants?”.
We dawdled around but towards the end of the tour around the battlements and towers we had to speed up significantly because there were some uninvited black clouds gate-crashing the sky and we ended the visit rather abruptly and dashed for the shelter of the church as a steady rain began to fall.
There is only so long that anyone can spend in a church of course and after we had watched a video history of the city and finished wandering around the interior, back at the door and finding it still raining there was only one really sensible option so without any sort of debate we returned to the friendly bar on the opposite side of the plaza.
We made it only just in time because within seconds there was a thunderstorm of almost biblical proportions when the sky exploded with thunder and was lit up by lightening brighter than a flashing roadside speed camera and the rain bounced off the cobbles like shrapnel. Luckily it didn’t last long and after one drink we promised to return later for an evening meal – just so long as it wasn’t raining of course.
In the early evening the day settled down into a period of perfect weather and so later we fulfilled our promise and returned for an excellent meal, a history lesson and a weather forecast for the next few days from the helpful waiter.
Back at Plaza San Sebastian we grew concerned about the traffic noise and just how busy the little square might be and with a room on the front we worried about sleeping but I reminded Kim that this should be no trouble at all because one time in Pisa we stayed at the noisiest hotel in Italy, the Royal Victoria Hotel.
Anyway, we needn’t have worried, the noise died down and we fell asleep and the only sound I heard in the early hours when I stirred was running water which I thought might be more rain but which turned out to be the fountain.