Five reasons I love living in Andalusia

Five reasons I love living in Andalusia
Tarifa at sunset. Photo: Guillermo Stitch
Guillermo Stitch has spent nine years living in Tarifa, Andalusia's southernmost city, where he has been writing his first book, which will be published in July.

He shares what he loves most about living there. 

1. Onions

Snow capped mountains provide the backdrop to the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas Photo: Tim Rawle / Flickr

All kinds of sensations await the new arrival in Andalusia. The place is maniacal in its determination to deliver drama, colour, flavour and spectacle. Your first time on the Mirador de San Nicolas, looking across at the Alhambra and the snowcapped Sierra behind? Unforgettable. Getting caught up in a religious procession in Seville, jostled along with the throng even though you were only on your way to the shop? Magical. Surreptitiously checking your watch twenty minutes in to a ropey flamenco show? Inevitable.

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But the real rewards come with time and effort. Getting the knack of Spanish bureaucracy (the stuff of legend among expats, principally because so many of them decline to learn the language), acquiring un poco de castellano, getting to know the neighbours, going through some rough spots and coming out on the other side, standing on the Mirador de San Nicolas for the umpteenth time – all the little repetitions that make you feel more embedded in a place. Knowing your onions, in other words.

And for those of you starting out on the learning curve, here's a Spanish onion related fact you can take to the bank – a tortilla de patata without them es una decepción.

2. Acetaldehyde

Photo: kiko_jimenez/Depositphotos

If you know nothing of sherry wines, or have dismissed them as a tipple for old English ladies, then your first encounter with them might come in the form of a rebujito, the sherry spritzer they serve at the Ferias. At least you'll be having fun in the din and dizzy mayhem of a Spanish fair, but it's not much better an introduction to one of the world's finest wines than that muck in your granny's cabinet.

If, on the other hand, you can see your way to Jerez, and to handing over a few euros at the door of a bodega for the privilege of stepping into the darkness of a vaulted barrel room and…just breathing – then you will know what sherry is all about.

What is that perfume? That unmistakeable aroma no other wine can produce?

Acetaldehyde – the chemical compound that gives sherry its nutty, appleish quality, and that makes it partner so well with the best Spanish ham, itself packed with the equally nutty oleic acid that Iberian pigs absorb from the acorns they eat.

Science is great, isn't it?

3. Six a.m.

Do you like a bit of peace and quiet from time to time? Tough. You live in Spain now. It isn't on the menu. It isn't even one of today's specials. There's nothing special about silence to the Spanish ear – it isn't anything to shout about, just an empty void to be shouted into.

Do you sometimes hover by the phone, ready to call the police if that altercation next door sounds like it's getting out of hand? Perhaps the gentleman of the house has been caught in flagrante? The lady? Or have they invited two dozen anarcho-syndicalists around to hold a political rally in their front room?

No, they're just watching the telly.

At six in the morning, though, they're asleep. Set your alarm.


Just across the Strait of Gibraltar but a world away. Photo: Gezimania / Flickr

As a writer, how could I not be seduced by the charms of Tangier – a mere ferry ride away – with its 20th century history of intrigue, espionage and art? I have supped beer at what might have been the same table William Burroughs was asked to vacate because “Dean”, the cross-dressing Egyptian bar owner, didn't like the look of him. I have looked out over the same pool where Jim Morrison swam, walked the same alleys as Paul Bowles and Henri Matisse.

Further south it gets more exotic still, in the souks of Marrakech and the arid, Saharan valleys, but nowhere more so than in the astonishing medina of Fes.

There can't be anywhere else so close to Europe and yet so different from it.

5. Scoring on the street.

Calm down. This isn't about the narcotics that flow from South America and Morocco through La Linea on the border with Gibraltar. It's got rather more to do with asparagus. Specifically, wild asparagus, sold here in bunches on the street corners. It isn't cheap – the vendors need to hike along the coast to collect it.

In winter, it's barrows of sea urchins, sold by the dozen or hacked open for you on the spot so you can tuck in to the delicious gonads where you stand. It could be custard apples, or snails, oregano on the branch, alchofaifas (a tiny, apple-like fruit) or tagarninas (a salty coastal nettle).

There's always something.

Guillermo Stitch's first novel, Literature®, has been hailed a “masterpiece'” by the San Francisco Book Review. It will be available from July 1st in paperback and Kindle editions. Pre-order the Kindle edition here.

For more on the author visit his website. Or follow him on Twitter.