Myth vs Reality
I’d grown up to know many who would holiday frequently with their families in Spain. However, their tales of lounging round pools and all-inclusive resorts, had put me off wanting to visit the country. Likewise, TV entertainment appeared to echo the same message, enjoy sun, sea and all you can eat, without the need to step foot from your hotel. In essence, this advertisement was a far-cry from the traveller I wanted to become, when I at last got the chance to venture out in to the wider world.
Last autumn, I embarked on an MA in Travel & Nature Writing and was quickly confronted with the prospect of visiting Spain as a compulsory field trip. At first my heart sank a little, wishing I was one of the fortunate to have visited the rugged island of Orkney last year instead. As time went on, I was fed further information on our trip and gradually the context won me over. I needn’t have listened to all the travel agent promotions, for there was a much more meaningful connection to be established, if only I widened my sensory lens.
Stepping off the plane in Alicante, I configured the maze of airport immigration; adrenaline rushing, keen for the adventure that lay ahead. Driving along the motorway, we passed concrete masses on abundant desert plains. I was taken by the contrast of the view I had witnessed on my flight. My heart yearned for the verdant hills of the Pyrenees. For now, I was contented leaving the foreign landscape behind us, as we drove further towards to the sea, then winding into the mountains.
The village of Sella, pronounced ‘Say-ya’, is found perched on a cliff-face along the Penya de Sella, in the south-east of Spain. It appears a typically continental village of weathered whitewash and terracotta. Rooted in local tradition, the Valencian village, proved a most inviting retreat for a bunch of work-fatigued writers! Furthermore, I found myself quickly warming to the village, it was instantly inviting, but fittingly variant from the context of home; a far cry from my previous fears of a Spanish getaway.
‘A cluster of whitewash and terracotta, perched high upon the cragged rock. A maze of stairs and edge-way paths, rural Valencian life plays out. Orange, Lemon and Almond grow, clustered sweet nectarine orchards. Fallen fruit lies in temptation at foot, in this bountiful disregarded Eden.’
Each day followed a similar theme; walking, writing, workshops and wine. I found it was a routine I could easily grow accustomed to. Seriously though, it was the most wonderful introduction to life in Valencia. We walked routes surrounding this mountainous region, which offered stunning views and an abundance of native flora; worth taking note of!
‘Limestone terraces sandwiched in the hills, evidence of workers toil away from prying eyes. Shrivelled Carob pods stacked high against a trunk, wildflowers spread through the stony paths above and Sella’s sacred mountain water, offers a source of vitality for those who drink from the spring…’
I have found myself becoming slowly uninspired in recent times, bogged down at home in England with consistent work, more often unrelated to travel or to writing. My residential in Sella, in contrast, expressly offered a true sense of spatial awareness, of who I was and where I wanted to be; hiking the dirt roads, venturing through the wild, writing to my heart’s content as I went along…
‘A pair of eagles circle above the Syrian strip, glimmers of gold taint their feathered coats. An aerial rendimiento in the southern skies, muchas gracias al cielo for this rare fiesta.’
Upon returning to England, I find myself longing for those early Mediterranean dawns. Notably, fluorescent streaks of sky that would illuminate the mountain side, as the sun went down. I will always have those memories, myself and my fellow barraca can indulge for years to come. As such, I consider myself lucky to have had this opportunity, to embrace the local culture and explore the new environment around me. The ability to travel is a true luxury, so let us women spend it wisely, wherever we may go.
For more info on Sella visit: http://www.sellainfo.com/