““Do you like that?” I’ll say in surprise since it doesn’t seem like her type of thing, and she’ll look at me as if I’m mad. That!?” She’ll say, “No, it’s hideous” “Then why on earth,” I always want to say, “did you walk all the way over there to touch it?” but of course…I have learned to say nothing when shopping because no matter what you say… it doesn’t pay, so I say nothing.” Bill Bryson – ‘Notes From a Small Island’
It was our final day at my sister’s place on the east coast of Spain and it looked very much as though the sun was going to make a reappearance so after breakfast we drove south into the Province of Murcia, the Costa Calida and the resort town of Lo Pagán.
On the way we drove past salt water lagoons, separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land and now a site of carefully managed and intensive salt extraction. It turns out that this is the biggest and most important site for sea salt production in all of Europe. I didn’t know that! The flamingos did and there were flocks of hem paddling about in the shallow water and expertly fishing for salt water shrimps!
It reminded me of what else Spain is famous for (other than flamenco, bullfighting and El Cid).
First of all olives because Spain is the world’s leading producer of olives and is by a long way the country with the highest number of olive trees (more than three hundred million) and nowadays the world’s leading olive and olive oil producer and exporter and the world’s leading producer of table olives, which explains why cafés and bars are always so generous with a plate of olives to accompany every drink.
Next – Serrano Ham because go to Extemadura in the west and you will drive through fields of grazing Black Iberian Pigs gorging themselves on acorns in preparation for being turned into the Spanish gastro specialty, Jamón ibérico. Iberian ham products are processed throughout Extremadura, making this region the country’s leading producer and in a sparsely populated region about a million hectares of open range are used by over one thousand-five hundred livestock breeders.
One of the fascinating things about the world’s great food it seems is the way they are a product of geography and Spain is a classic example, salt from the Mediterranean, Olives from the sun baked plains of Andalucia, Jamón ibérico from Extremadura and Rioja wine from the vinyards of the north.
I didn’t know what to expect of Lo Lo Pagán, would it be stylish like Alicante or utilitarian like Torrevieja? As it turned out it was somewhere between the two, leaning towards Alicante I would say. We stopped for a beer as the sun burned through the thinning cloud and then walked along a causeway which extended a mile or so into the lagoon. It was a lovely walk in the weak sunshine with statuesque flamingos on one side and see-sawing fishing boats on the other. At the end of the causeway there was a pumping windmill, idle today, but nothing else except an opportunity to look out to sea before turning around and walking all the way back.
The weather was good and I was almost tempted to suggest a swim in the sea but I could tell that no one else would be terribly enthusiastic about that so I said nothing and we returned to the car and drove to a shopping centre at La Zenia.
I am not a big fan of shopping as you know and fortunately neither is Mick so we left Kim and Lindsay to browse the shops and we went for a beer and a bocadillo!
In the late afternoon it started to rain, just a little drizzle, but we didn’t mind it was our last afternoon and evening and next morning we would be returning to English drizzle anyway.
It had been a good few days in Spain especially because I was able to confront some of my prejudices about the Levante region of Spain. I have to say that it is unlikely ever to become my favourite but I was able to scrape away at the surface of ex-pat life and appreciate some of the heritage and history of the region and I look forward to going back again!