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Blog In Travel Addicts

On the road in Spain, Gaucin

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Jun 21, 2010 in Travel
Taking a break from the occasional series intended to give those considering a visit to France a taste of what this country has to offer, I headed south - well south - to the very edge of Europe, and from where I could see Africa from by bedroom window.
My destination was Gaucin, one of those picturesque little villages in Andalusia with whitewashed houses - or pueblos blancos - around 25 kilometres inland from the coast or the Costa del Sol.
It was really an excuse to escape the cold weather that has been treating much of France to autumnal temperatures recently, and after a couple of hours of knees-to-chin style economy class as I braved the skies from Paris to Malaga in southern Spain, it was "Goodbye shivers and hello sunshine."
For fear of repeating myself, the easiest way to get to Gaucin is to fly in to Malaga (there are regular services from all over Europe and the brand spanking new terminal is well worth a visit in itself) and then hire a car to make the one-and-a-half-hour trip to reach the village, which is just under 120 kilometres away.
Driving along the A7, you head west-southwest, following the coast, past Marbella (probably the best way to visit that particular town, in other words giving it a miss all together) and exiting the motorway some 40 or so kilometres later before starting the final 25 kilometre climb to Gaucin itself.
Now that coastal drive of course provides something of a taste of all the "delights" the Costa del Sol has to offer.
Yes, well. What was once apparently a series of small fishing villages has now become almost an endless line of apartments and hotels "carbuncling" (to borrow and adapt an expression used by HRH the Prince of Wales a couple of decades ago to describe "modern" architecture in London) the Spanish coast.
Costa del Sol  Spain
Costa del Sol, Spain
The past 30 years have of course seen an explosion in mass tourism and the whole area has been famously overdeveloped and still, somehow, there seems to be room found to squeeze in even more monstrous constructions.
In fact, if you want a view of both the motorway and the sea - simultaneously - the Costa del Sol would seem to be the place to go.
Costa del Sol  Spain
Costa del Sol, Spain
The lure of reasonably priced accommodation (to rent or buy), beaches and great weather all seem to have kept drawing tourists to the area, and another more recent major attraction has been the number of golf courses that have sprung up.
The economic crisis may be hitting Spain hard, and many of those apartment blocks built with less-than-dubious planning permission left unfinished, but that doesn't seem to stop golfing enthusiasts pitching up to take full advantage of the area's greens.
Certainly the number of bags containing clubs on the baggage reclaim carousel at Malaga airport arrivals seemed to bear witness to that.
But I digress. The Costa del Sol, or Costa del Golf as it's otherwise known, was not my destination, I was Gaucin-bound.
Being perhaps completely unoriginal, the word that sprung to mind when first capturing a glimpse of the village from afar was "breathtaking".
And the promise of that initial impression was more than fulfilled on arrival.
Gaucin rooftops  Spain
Gaucin rooftops, Spain
Those whitewashed houses are every bit as "charming" as they appear on many a photo. The village is dominated by a medieval castle, and a wander up and down the narrow streets and glance over the rooftops gives another perspective and a peek directly into the way people live.
Great for the extremely curious tourist.
Gaucin street
Gaucin street
From the outside then, the village looks what might be considered to be "typically Spanish", but that's something of a false impression.
Take a closer look and a listen and you'll quickly realise that the British have "discovered" Gaucin too.
There's evidence everywhere. From the shop which carries an assortment of products such as tea bags, water biscuits and tomato ketchup - which you might expect to find on the shelves of many a British high street supermarket - to the market held on the first Saturday of every month from March to October.
Gaucin market
Gaucin market
There you'll find stalls, manned by Brits resident in Gaucin and the surrounding area, selling fare such as carrot cake, apple pie and samosas!
Carrot cake
Carrot cake
You see Gaucin, with a population of about 1,200 is also home to around 300 Brits and is a popular stopping-off point for many a British tourist to the area.
There's even an English language website promoting Gaucin.
Of course the British are not the only ones to have bought property in the area, there are plenty of other (mainly European) nationalities around too.
And it's hardly surprising, given the beauty and the great weather, that people have chosen to relocate or retire there to give up the rat race for a gentler, slower life.
It's just perhaps not as "Spanish" (whatever that might be) as could be assumed at first sight.
But that doesn't mean it's not worth visiting. Far from it.
Because apart from the architecture and the picturesque setting and the fact that it's something of a gateway to the other marvels of Andalusia, there's also one very special ingredient the village has to offer.
That's the view it affords as you look south.
Because there in the distance, beyond the orange groves, past the cork forests is Gibraltar and the Mediterranean.
And there's more. If the visibility is good enough you can even make out the shores of Morocco, in other words the continent of Africa and the outline of the Rif mountains on the horizon.
Take a (very) close look at the photo and you should be able to see them.
Gaucin  Spain - view of Gibraltar and Rif mountains in distance
Gaucin, Spain - view of Gibraltar and Rif mountains in distance
Of course it helps if a) you have a camera with a powerful lens - I don't - and b) you're a halfway decent photographer - I'm not.
Where else in Europe, I wondered, could you stumble out of bed, pluck a fresh orange off a nearby tree and gaze out into the distance to see Africa?