June 9th, 2011
Thursdays mean market days…and as far as markets in Las Alpujarras go, only Órgiva has the widest choice of everything under the Andalucían sun! Sitting at 450 metres above sea level, 70 km from Granada Airport, 35 km from the Coast, and with a mild climate, you too can Drive Over Lemons as well as buy them! What’s the town itself like? Let me show you…..
Most visitors to the La Alpujarra region of Andalucía, Southern Spain want to visit the numerous white villages with their traditional way of living and their white-washed flat roofed Berber houses.
But you will need to start somewhere, and a good exploration base is the town of Órgiva, on the River Guadalfeo and watched over by both the Sierra Lujar and the white hatted Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.
Here is a list of houses to rent there, take a look and imagine waking up to the smell of Orange Blossom….
Indeed, with the help of the mountain ranges sheltering the town, and the altitude not as high as some of the more remote Alpujarran villages, the warm and temperate climate here is ideal for the many groves of Orange, Lemon and Olive to be seen everywhere you look….It was all enough to inspire Chris Stewart to write his series of books about life here, starting with the bestseller Driving over Lemons. That same book was enough to draw me to the area and eventually buy here too!
No? No pasa nada...Don’t panic if your linguistic skills are not up to much – English is widely spoken here, mainly because a large percentage of the 6,500 population is made up of a mixture of British, German and Dutch. The Bohemian mix leaves a cosmopolitan hippy feel to Órgiva, and it’s a thriving friendly town full of life and vigor.
Spice is Nice
That market is held on Thursday mornings and takes up most of the upper part of town – streets full of stalls, from fresh market garden vegetables, salted dried (fly encrusted!) anchovies,sacks of spices from Morocco, fossils and semi – precious jewellery , clothes, pottery, pots and pans…. and even sometimes me with a bookstall! I’ll be the one haggling over a price and eating a sticky Moroccan M’Hanncha from my favourite café! Do say hola!
Break from the crowds and take five minutes to put your feet up in one of the local cafés. Sit outside in the sun listening to the street musicians or take advantage of the cooler air conditioned interiors. All the usual Spanish bars offering a caña and a tostada...Menu del Diá….cake shops, coffee shops, street vendors – be careful here, some of the cakes sold on the street have a little ‘extra’ ingredient! – but my all time favourite is a Tetería on the hill above the car park. Café Baraka is Sufi and sells mint tea, the aforementioned M’Hanncha, soy milkshakes with delicious ice-cream, and a great range of vegetarian and vegan meals. (Closed Fridays) In fact, Órgiva has no less than 4 organic food-shops, all well stocked.
Walk it off!
Back down the high street and main thoroughfare and you will find the 16th Century Church. It is an attractive building, boasting not one but two spires and a Baroque style. The lengthily - named Iglesía de Nuestra Señora de la Expectacíon is worth a look inside, also look out for the little white-washed Ermita de San Sebastian. Back up the hill and spend a few minutes in the Plaza de Las Alpujarras, which has attractive tiled pictures of the various villages of the area.
The main Fiesta runs from the 30th September until the 3rd October – called the Fería Grande. Also, in Spring the town comes alive with the Dragon Festival, music and partying for days on end, strictly for the young at heart and young at feet! Or get away from it all and take a day trip to the lovely beach at Salobreña, with its castle perched high on the hill and winding streets of the old town, about 35 km away.
Time for Meditation!
Unusual for Catholic Spain, nearby you will find the O.Sel.Ling buddhist centre, open to visitors from 2pm to 6pm most days…a little tranquility after the hustle and bustle of the town. The Dalai Lama visited in 1982 and pronounced it an excellent place to meditate, a good recommendation!
Other days out might include hiking, scrambling, birdwatching, or horse-riding, the surrounding landscape is perfect for any of these outdoor activities. Take the bus, it connects Órgiva to Granada, Malaga and the coast, and to the other surrounding villages.
Or just relax in your chosen accommodation – wake up and smell the orange blossom!
Photos accredited @Flickr to simonsimages, two steps behind, blue cat project and mad farmer.