Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Feeling at home

We went to see our pal Pepa this weekend. She has a Casa Rural up in Teruel in a place called Fuentes de Rubielos.

I never quite know how to translate casa rural - rural house isn't right and although I always tell my students to use country cottage that doesn't really convey the same idea. It's somewhere people rent for a holiday and it's usually in the middle of the countryside. Anyway Pepa owns one. There are tens of them in Fuentes de Rubielos and hundreds in this part of Teruel province, part of the ancient Kingdom of Aragon. I've always thought staying in a casa rural would be the perfect recipe for getting bored in 24 hours - reading is great but it can also become a chore and how many times can you walk up a hill for entertainment? Pepa surprised me by saying that there are all sorts of activities on offer for people who stay in the houses - bird watching, astronomy, furniture making, canyon running and a recent addition - first you hunt out your truffles and then you cook with them. Teruel is famous for ham - I wonder if it's pig and tourist in perfect harmony sniffing out subterranean mushrooms?

Fuentes is called Fuentes because on every corner there is a drinking fountain, horse trough or open air wash house - something powered by water flowing down the hill and all described as fuentes in Spanish. There is also a rather more sophisticated stretch of water which is the municipal swimming pool. Every year the local town hall auctions the right to run the pool for the summer months. For the second year in a row three young woman won the contract. They do a splendid job running a bar alongside the pool. They're a bit alternative - baggy harem pants and tied back hair. They produce snack food which is pretty unusual for Spain - couscous, Greek salad, hummus - light, tasty stuff with enough Spanishness not to put the Spanish off but different enough to be interesting.

I've just been looking for more information about the pool. I expected it to feature on websites because Fuentes is full of people who are a bit "hippy" - felt hats, non standard hairstyles and clothes that don't come from chain stores. My guess is that they are all computer wizards, have an allotment outside the back door of a house powered by a mix of small hydro-electric plants, chicken droppings and photovoltaic panels. They hang around the bar so I presumed they would have done a webpage for their chums at the pool by now. If they have I can't find it. Nice to know that when you don't want to read or walk or hunt for truffles there is still alcohol and food to be had.

We went for a walk of course. We went to see one of the now abandoned masías which is nothing more than a family farm at some distance from the main village. We passed one of the ermitas, hermitage in English, but really a sort of rural chapel that gets occasional use for local religious processions or feast days and maybe the odd wedding. We passed several of the multiservicios - a multi-use community space. There is a multiservicio in Fuentes so that means there are two bars to choose from. We strolled through villages where nothing stirred and the only sounds were of things creaking in the sun. There were people in the bars though and it was noticeable that there were bars. Food smells wafted from open windows.

Sitting in Pepa's house we had several reminders that we weren't in our own home. We couldn't get a decent cup of tea. She had thousands of varieties of fruit teas and infusions but nothing like council house tea. Anyway she had no milk - she had soya milk and an even stranger milk substitute made from oats. It's not the first Spanish house I've been in without milk or tea. Coffee was awkward too. Hot drinks at home are a bit unusual. Different traditions. She did have a frying pan though that she keeps specifically for when she cooks tortilla - the Spanish potato omelette - she says it's a necessary expense to stop the tortilla from sticking. She offered us a burger - I think they may have been bought in specially for us. It was easy to see what a strange food it was for her. She served it without any garnish, with the bread on a side plate and with a side dish of fried spring garlic and broad beans. Very McDonalds

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