March 28th, 2012
In fact, a storm is just about the last thing you might encounter here in the town of Adra – in Almería, the driest and sunniest part of Andalucía. Fly into the airport at Almería, or motor along from Málaga and enjoy the dramatic change in scenery as you move from the Costa Tropical to the Costa Almería and the desert – like setting of the spaghetti western scene of our destination.
Living here in Andalucía, southern Spain means that we often drive long distances for something as mundane as stocking up on the grocery shopping, winding our way down the mountains of the Alpujarra towards the coast and the sparkling Mediterranean sea. It certainly beats tail to tail on a motorway in the rain! Now that I have made you jealous, let me tell you about one of our regular trips to town – this time Adra on the Costa Almería, an altogether nice sort of town!
Modern day Adra, nestled at the foothills of Sierra de Contraviesa, has an impressive past in it´s closet. There are still signs of it all around if you choose to take a peek inside. As far back as the 8th century BC it was known as Abdera, and if you were to take a visit to the local museum in town today then you will see signs and artifacts from Phoenician, Punic and Roman life and times.
From fish to fabric
Fishing has always played a large part in it´s past, as it does today, the port is still a busy place, full of noise, nets and freshly caught bounty. In the 1st century AD Adra had a huge part in the salt fish industry and was the main port for the whole of the surrounding area, if you like, the doorway for traded goods in and out with the rest of the world. Not just a fishy business either, Adra minted it´s own coins and cultivated White Mulberry trees, stamping it as an important point on the Silk Route.
Boabdil – the last Nasrid ruler of Granada – was handed Adra after the Catholic Kings had taken over Granada – not a bad gift! It turned out to be his last port of call in fact, as he sailed from here when eventually given his last marching orders…
In the 16th century it was given the new name – literally – of Adra Nueva and continued to act as the main outlet of traded produce from the whole of the Alpujarras region and beyond. Sugar Cane, and production of, was the biggest and most lucrative product by the 17th century. Then it all changed…
Look out for, or rather up for, the 19th century Torre de los Perdigones, it looks a little like a lighthouse that has been built too far inland!
You can in fact park the car right just behind it for free. This construction was used in the manufacture of lead shot and Adra became the epicentre for smelting lead – the ovens are still there today. The lead came from the Sierra de Gador, looming in the background.
Salt and vinegar?
Not just the raw product,the Fabriquilla de Vinagre is still here too, vinegar not being just for chips! Vinegar was manufactured here as it was essential in the cupellation of silver from the lead, yet another lucrative product. This became so successful that Adra was considered the dominant leader in the world market, but of course, it wasn´t infinite and all good things come to an end so inevitably and eventually the seams were exhausted of lead.
Walking in the beautiful Sierra de Gador today means adding a note of caution, as many of the mines are still there to literally trip you up,so stick to the guided paths!
More nature on offer if twitching is your thing at the Las Albuferas de Adra Nature Reserve where there are many Aquatic Birds to spot. You´llfind it between the Punto del Río and the beach at Balanegra. 75 hectares of Flora,Fauna and wetlands are home to more than 140 species of Bird – binoculars at the ready! Back in Adra by the harbour, we spotted some Gulls and Cormorants lined up ready for lunch…! Catch of the day?
So, needs must – and it was looking back to earlier fortunes that allowed Adra to once again flourish as a producer of Sugar Cane – today agriculture is prevalent and it´s all greenhouses and vegetables, the leading supermarkets in Northern Europe are all supplied with produce for your 5 a day needs. I´m more of an advocate for eating what is in season, but I guess as long as folk want salad on the table at Christmas then the future of farming in Adra and other coastal towns is safe…
The port and the work available have ensured that there is a heavy North African influence here, as in Almería, it´s not unusual to see road signs in Arabic as well as Spanish! You´ll find some great little shops with Moroccan items for sale, lovely lamps and terracotta Tagines, minerals rugs and jewellery. The town is lively, with plenty of cafés, tapas bars and restaurants to try out all of that locally caught fish...why not?!
Share a plate of fried Boquerones with a simple squeeze of fresh local Lemon, Pulpo in a rich tomato sauce, or a salad of Anchovy and Olive…
Beach life is good here too, with Blue Flags and plenty of facilities. There are 3 different beaches, all handily joined up by a cycle and pedestrian path. The longest is Poniente to the extreme West of the harbour, and San Nicolas - my favourite – and Censo to the East. The advantage of the town directly behind the Eastern beaches means no long walks to the car or into the centre for a spot of lunch.
Sticking with the area behind San Nicolas, you´ll find an open area called Paseo de Maritimo – nice to walk on a balmy evening, or for listening to the band on Sundays. on the 3rd Sunday of each month this is also the setting for a great Rastro – car boot sale - secondhand treasures, art and crafts, goods from Morocco, clothes and plants compete and collide for your attention.
Whether you want a flamenco dress or an original oil painting they´re all here!
The regular market – new clothes, food products and household goods – is held down at the other end of town next to the sports centre and by the harbour twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Saturday, it´s also worth a look but isn´t as much fun as the Rastro!
Of course! You are in Spain after all!
Next month is the first party of the season in Adra – the 25th sees the Fiesta de San Marco – and you can join in with the fun and fireworks, food and fantastic atmosphere. The biggest festival f the year is not until September, where you´ll need a little bit more than one day´s worth of energy conserve!
What´s the occasion? Fiesta de La Virgin del Mar - it takes place from the 5th all the way to the 10th September – the high points are the 8th – when the flotilla and the statue of the Virgin are taken out to sea, and the 10th – when the procession of San Nicolas de Torentino marches around town. Something for everyone whether you prefer sea legs or are more of a terra firma type of person!
You´ll be exhausted! Choose a nice apartment in Almería to recharge those batteries… and remember to pay Adra a visit when you´re in this area, it´s not just for grocery shopping!