Friday, April 15, 2011

La primera finca

While in Spain we stayed on three farms, or “fincas.” We started in sunny Andalucia in the south of Spain and then made our way north to two more farms in the northwest province of Galicia.

Cortijo Llamado de la Totovia

Our first farm was outside of a small town called Orgiva, in a valley between the Sierra de Lujar mountains and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It was in a mountainous region called the Alpujarra, which is stunningly beautiful, and the dry, sandy terrain with the occasional cacti and an omnipresent blue sky reminded me of the desert Southwest. “Cortijo” is another word for farm (or farmhouse). The couple who owned the place were Welsh school teachers who decided to make a life change and move to Spain to start an organic farm.

The farm consisted of primarily olive and orange trees and also had a small vegetable garden. The house had a few solar panels on the roof and (with the exception of a gas stove) ran entirely on the energy they produced. We worked from 9 am to 2 pm from Monday to Friday, with a tea break midday, and afternoons and weekends off. We did lots of pruning trees and clearing branches from previously pruned trees, with some more exciting landscaping work in the vegetable garden. At times we were disappointed with our experience there; we had been hoping for something meaningful and life-altering and profound. We wanted to immerse ourselves in this couples' life and farm and learn from them. But we lived in a caravan separate from the house, only joining them in their home for meals, and for the most part worked and lived independently. I had wanted another Sengersbroeklike experience (though of course not expecting as much) and though we tried, no matter how hardworking or inquisitive or charming we were we couldn't really cultivate a meaningful relationship with them. Christopher was especially frustrated by this but eventually I adapted my expectations and goals for our time there, viewing it more as a two-week-long, all expenses paid, relaxing, romantic getaway in the stunning Alpujarra! And though it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for, it was still wonderful. Catherine and Anthony, our Welsh hosts, were very kind even if they weren't terribly interested in getting to know us, and they introduced us to the British broadcasting genius that is “Dr. Who.” It was an unbelievably gorgeous place, sunny and warm even in the beginning of February, and we had lots of free time with which to explore and enjoy the scenery. We spent our afternoons reading and soaking in the sun in the orchard and eating the most juicy, delicious oranges picked right off the trees. We often walked with the couples' two big, fluffy dogs down the so-called Rio Seco that bordered the property and explored the countryside. We took a day trip up into the mountains to visit three tiny and ancient villages (the Alpujarran version of Cinque Terre), the oldest of which was settled in 300something AD! The towns were cute but I really loved the walks between the three towns and the panoramic views they offered; upwards of the snowy Sierra Nevada and down into the valley.

I was excited for the next leg of our journey, and I wasn't sad to leave . But it was a truly lovely time spent in a beautiful place that felt a little bit like paradise.

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