As committed Europhiles, when my husband and I retired, we investigated the opportunity offered by our right to roam. We decided to spend part of our retirement on the Continent.
However, I still felt the need for our British home. Maybe I wanted to have my cake and eat it, but often that is me. The choice lay between France and Spain. Both were equidistant from England. Both offered a Mediterranean climate and the kind of food we most enjoyed.
Now, let me explain why we opted for Europe instead of Tunisia where the climate and the food were as good and as healthy. This was for reasons of equal opportunities. We had grown accustomed to living outside both Scotland and Tunisia. We still wanted to live in a ‘neutral country’ so that neither of us benefited from what we called an unfair ‘home advantage’,. We were also a little addicted to a life filled with globe-trotting opportunities.
So we visited property exhibitions, studied maps, and drew up lists of criteria to help narrow our search – a house with a garden and a splendid sea view in a quiet village or small town not too far from a larger one with more amenities. We marked possible places out of ten and let simple arithmetic decide where we should search. Then we took the car and travelled through beautiful France, and then, equally beautiful but less familiar Spain for a whole month. It was my idea of the perfect holiday, for I was made for the age of motoring. It was heaven to stop wherever the fancy took us and carry on when we were ready.
We crossed the Channel to Calais and continued travelling South until we got to the Pyrenees spending days here and there on the way. Then to Spain right down to Alicante taking the coastal road of the Mediterranean Sea. We stopped in cultural cities, busy market towns, tourist resorts, sleepy villages, and started back home taking inland routes with their castles and fortresses, some a bit gloomy and not open to foreigners. Finally we decided to go back to this lovely little coastal town we saw on our way to Valencia.
Alcossebre, lay just South of Peniscola, close to where the Greenwich Meridian dissected – it is a charming little town open and friendly. The first night we had dinner in a family restaurant and instantly began to feel at home. Strangely enough that feeling stayed with me for the decades when we visited each year.
So we decided to buy a plot of land and have a house built to our specifications with French windows to flood every room with magical Mediterranean light. It never fails to relax and soothe. Perched on a hill above the village below, we could see the outline of a volcanic Island on the horizon. Distant ships and nearby pleasure craft kept us entertained. Behind the house the coastal mountain rises to 600 meters. Daily we witness the sun rise set in glorious technicolour.
At night the moon waxes and wanes. When at full exposure its reflection on the Sea, bewitches me. Around us fields of vegetables and orchards of fruits, especially oranges, mandarines, and artichokes, arrive fresh at our table. This delight awaits you in the next tale.
By the time we secured drinkable water for our hillside, we had got to know all strata of society. I helped in starting up a new newspaper where I contributed monthly articles in Spanish, and later on in Valencian, both of which I learnt thanks to the Castellon School of Languages (EOI). I also stood for election to the Council, heading the new political party with the same name as our newspaper Anem. I had cleared enough space for dialogue and managed to make friends among the Councillors in the Town Hall. Their friendship created opportunities for cultural and charitable events.
I continued with my language learning and spent another 9 years studying German, Italian and Russian. I taught English to a couple of lovely local girls who called me their grandmother as we mustered the courage with which to master the unknown. They now see foreigners as people they can like. I have raised funds for the Mental Health Society there, organising concerts, fashion and folkloric shows, flamenco and Sevillian dances, for the past 15 years inviting Pipe and Ceilidh Bands from Scotland to play in our town and neighbouring towns, as well as quizzes for the students of English.
Finally, Town twinning between our town and Forcalquier in Provence was successfully launched with visits for language learning, sport and cultural activities mainly between the youngsters of the two towns.
Thanks to my adventurous nature, I meet interesting people, learn from them, teach them and we exchange experiences. Spain has become a home from home. Understanding flows freely and we have learnt to appreciate each other easily. They know what fuels me. And any fear that initially separated us has dissolved. We are the richer for it. May respect and love continue to thrive between us. Last visit to Forcalquier in May this year, accompanied by two Councillors I took 48 others, (a football team, a handball team, 4 people from the town’s historic society) and they all bestowed on me the honour of representing our town, for which I am grateful.
I certainly could not have asked for more. The twinning had become a genuine friendship society with a warmth that banished memories of Covid lockdowns. I feel blessed that there was room for an elderly lady from the other side of the Mediterranean to share in the warmth of their friendship. Thank you everyone in Alcala/Alcossebre, from the bottom of my heart.
Speak to you soon.
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