Or How You Can Have Fun In A Tiny Spanish Village In The Off Season
When I first joined Everything this was the first thing I wanted to node. Being my hometown, of sorts, I thought of it as my duty to show the world how wonderful it is. I wanted to use words to show you the little corners in forgotten streets, to take you around the hills and under the arches. I really would like you to see the view from my bedroom window and hear the waves as they break against the cliffs. All in all I wanted to be the perfect tour guide. Then I read what I had around me and realised that I would never be able to do it justice, so I forgot about it and took on less personal more general projects. Now as winter draws in and we all miss the sun, I feel like I have acquired enough experience and confidence to present this write up. It is not as dreamy as I want it to be because at heart I love facts. Anyway welcome to my home…
So what is a Mojacar anyway?
Where are going…?
Mojacar is a small white village that lays about 90km north east of Almeria, Andalucia in Spain. At the moment it is home to about 5000 people, and maybe a few thousands ex-pats. Mojacar can be separated into to parts, two worlds. The village itself lies upon a hill about two kilometres from the beach, overlooking the surrounding countryside with an aloof manner. It is built in layers and at Christmas or fiestas when the chains of lights are strung up on every street the illusion of a grandiose wedding cake is complete.
Upon yonder hill…
Approaching from the coast at the base of the town you will find a small area which is referred to as The Fountain, because, surprise, it hosts the village fountain.
The fountain itself has a long involved history, which ended with it being completely re-built a few years ago with slabs of white and grey marble. The fountain is the place the all tourists’ busses stop and is home to the recently built local art center. There is also a very eclectic flea market there on Sundays, which brings together hippies, gypsies, ex-pats, locals and Germans (think Lola Rent with too many drugs, no money and 30 more years of experience). It’s the best place to find second hand books and videos in English.
Beginning the long trek up the steep incline to the town you can see the side streets pealing of into other areas of the village and steering of at impossible angles. But we carry on up the main road past the block of houses that look like, and are, about to fall down, past the place I crashed head first into the plumbers car, past the big dinosaur of the only hotel in town, past the local bus stop and past The Pavana (pool, coffee till 3am, good music and me most likely) and up into the town square (Plaza Nueva).
A lot of things happen in this square. There is the mirador, literally the lookout, which is composed of a large area (about 5 x15m) of light grey shiny marble that almost hangs over the edge of the building beneath. From here you can either contemplate the view of the mountains and the sea and the neighbouring villages or if you are so inclined throw water balloons over the four storey drop onto the cars (or people below). This part of the square is usually filled with people and children doing one of the two, sometimes you can see teenagers or villagers sit on the benches or the steps at the edge relaxing in the evening sun or waiting in the morning light.
If you chose to sit on the steps you can watch the local policemen desperately trying to stop cars filling up the rest of the square. On all sides there is activity, the strict unloading/loading car park with the, one and only, bank on one side, an ice cream parlour, a butcher and a hamburger joint (all owned by the same family) in the other and about three cafes side by side in the far corner. It’s always eventful and the best meeting place you will find in the village. If you wander up through the square you can see the multicentero (our excuse for a shopping center) on one side and a small street leading to the church on the other. The church is by no means a feat of any interest, a clumpy re-converted Christian fortress it has the minimum for respectful catholic worship, and I can happily report that the statute of Jesus has been replaced with a model that includes all ten fingers. Another square in front of the church holds the only pharmacy in the village and the Town Hall’s strange memorial to our past: a statue of a village girl with a water pitcher on her head.
Now backtrack down to the square and just pop up that shady side street over there, yes that one. See, now up these stairs and past that bar (I used to work here by the way), around this corner up those stairs and those stairs and those as well and we are here at the highest point in Mojacar and the other lookout point. This one is far more spectacular and much quieter (ninety percent of the visitors’ give up after the first 100 stairs) place. This view is facing west inland as opposed to the eastern view of the Town Square. It was also recently redone in the grey marble style, though this time they used muted instead of shiny marble, and on my last visit I was surprised to find that one of my families oldest friends had set up a small cafe there with a few small tables outside. In away though it did take away a lot of the privacy that the place once offered, I can still remember when I would go up there in my fits of rage to practice my drumming, to spew endless pseudo-gothic poetry, to cry or maybe to make up once again with Toni, now it is just another stop on the way.
After saying hello to Glenda we can wander down the stairs maybe using the back route this time, past my fathers new adobe and into the heart of the town, stopping to whistle up at Angela’s window to see if she wants to come out, or maybe just if she has a cigarette. We can walk down past the restaurant "El Palacio". The Palace is described by all the tourist guides I’ve seen, including editions from 2001, as the best restaurant in town, pity it’s been closed since 1988. But if the thought of food has awakened you appetite Cristiobal’s Spar is just opposite, over priced and shabby it still remains the best supermarket in the village itself. It will suffice for emergency rations, wine and cigarettes. My reasons for stopping at the Spar are entirely seasonal. Winter is off-season, and not many places are open so I can’t drag you into the tapas bar in front of us. I can’t sit you on a barstool and order ten different types of tapas. I can’t introduce you to Vanessa to whom I owe most of my sanity or to Cesar the oh-so cute circus performer turned bartender. Maybe another time.
Lets carry down this steep hill (careful now these stones can be slippery), underneath the arch which proudly states in Arabic and old Spanish that it is the city gate, and now we come across a strange scene. On the right you see a bar with strangely shaped marble tables and a bunch of kittens jumping around the bougainvillaeas, on the left you’ll see a shaded German restaurant and pub, you also see and hear a large German woman screaming in Spanish at a small Italian man standing beneath on the large terrace of the Italian restaurant next door. The German lady is named Heidi and runs the German bar. I have never heard a good word spoken about her and I think her name for me was "stupid cow". Anyway the Italian man is Maxi (or Maximilliano) who recently took over from his father and is running the very big but always bankrupt Italian restaurant. Finally the bar with the cats and the tables is my home, the cats were mine and terrace above the door belongs to my room. I won’t stop to reminisce about how nice things where when I ran the place or how good it all was because, as with everything there was good and bad. It is currently rented out to friends of my father and things are bit different now, I missed the house until they turned my bedroom into a kitchen.
So we walk past here and say good bye to my fathers protégés, the little kittens that have invaded the downstairs area and Nina the donkey next door we and walk into the arrabal (Moorish ghetto) here you will find old houses, twisted streets and cats, millions of cats all over the place. If you follow down this hill, past that blue door that used to be my mothers, past the corner I had to sleep in one night and down that hill you come to the football pitch. The football pitch, made of bright orange dusty dirt, serves as the other entrance to the village, or was until they devised this strange new one way traffic system that no-one has figured out, and home also to the local primary school (the local high school is set in a town about 30km away), the doctors, the only Coca Cola machine in the village and on Wednesdays to the market.
The market is though not massive at least complete - you can find clothes, food, flowers, toys, jewellery, videos, shampoo, stained glass windows ... whatever you want. It starts around 7.00am Wednesday mornings and ends around 3.00pm the same day. Have a look, but just once, it gets boring really quickly. So now we turn around and wander up the other, kinder hill, circling gently around the town, under the houses, the washing lines and the step cliffs, avoiding the water balloons those damm children are throwing again from above, past the library (member 13 of 5069+), the local police station, the tourist information office and the post office (send goodies to box 149 please), and we find ourselves in the Plaza Nueva again. Time for a cup of coffee a piece of tortilla and we can head to the beach to catch some sun.
A bit of R&R
There are three ways of getting to the beach. The first one is undoubtedly the most comfortable and involves jumping in the Ford Fiesta rented car. This will get you to the beach in about 5 minutes. You can zoom past the back roads and the mortals who chose to walk (option 2.) The third option is to sit on the tarmac for an hour in the wind with all the third age tourists on day trips and get the bus down to the sea front. This method will take you about 20min of travelling time and ten years of off your life. Either way you will go down through the fountain, past the old country restaurant turned nudist resort turned non-nudist resort turned nightclub and down to the beach. If you jump off at the first stop, next to the cruce you can chose, which half of the seven-kilometre beach you want to explore.
I personally want to take you East first, maybe because this is the part that houses the restaurants, the beach bars and the fun. As we zoom past the Chinese restaurant, the pharmacy and the tobacconist we come to what I think is the best daytime restaurant around village. Run by an a hybrid American-English couple, Focus is one of the nicest places you can drop by. The menu is small but always exquisite and the company is always good. Go early because it shuts at five. We won’t hang around today; we can go down past the other nightclub and past the camping site, down to the beach bar area. Since it’s mid-October two of the four will be shut but we have a quick peek at the two that are still alive. The first stop would be El Patio, a small place with cemented floors and a grapevine roof it is open until around elevinish and offers a large menu, live music and a good game of pool. This beautiful little bar used to be run by a New Mexican called Rick, who can be said to be my unofficial godfather, and probably would have been my official godfather if he believed in anything. This is the place my parents first met and was the place I spent most of my childhood summers. It has been let out over the years to a number of people and now is run by a Spanish-German crowd. The atmosphere has changed slowly over the years and is no longer the gathering point it used to be.
Next door there is the slightly more formal, efficient and all together profitable El Cid. It started in 1979 and has been run ever since by an American couple. The staff change continually but the food is always good and the company is wonderful. Lloyd is always good for a laugh and Trish was my teacher and mentor for years while I learnt and gradually mastered the art of horseback ridding.
To carry down the beach, this stretch starts to lose charm as we come across the decaying and drab holiday complexes; the ex-pat suburbia and the remnants of failed businesses. If you drive past here, past it all, at the end of the beach down the side roads and about 40 minutes ride from anywhere you come to Treasure Island beach. This very private, very isolated beach is host to some of the clearest water in the area. This was the place where they filmed the movie of Treasure Island (in 1960 something), hence the name, and is also the local nudist beach. The beach bar also hosts a massive beach party every full moon from June to September.
Go West. Jump back to the cruce and we explore the other side of the beach. Before we go down there we can have a quick peak at the spanking new shopping center that is housed by the crossroads. It has a bank, post office, about 20 shops and a lot of young bored teenagers. As we carry down the road you’ll notice it is far more drab than it’s eastern counter part, it houses a number of residential complexes, and more Spanish dominated than the other side of the beach, a few businesses and not much life. It is home to what can affectionately be called a river, a river that only flows when it rains, but a river none the less. It is also home to the fishing area of the beach and gradually leads into Garrucha the neighbouring village.
From here as we turn back into the village and up the winding road we can stop for a quick drink in the square to finish the day.
If you really want to know there are a lot of country paths around and sometimes through the village. Most of them include treks up mountains and lots of dust. This is a semi-desert; it rains about five days a year, so the flora is limited to weeds and carob trees. Lots of carob trees. God if you like carobs.
Names, names, names…
So now I know how to get around what are the names of all these wonderful places?
is the first bar I mentioned, just below the Plaza Nueva
at the entrance to the town.
(sounds like bebe mas
– literately drink more in Spanish) is where I used to work and is just of Calle Enmedio
, it plays loud music
and serves cheap fun drinks. A place to drink, not to relax.
The Loro Azul
(Blue Parrot) – Is a wonderful blues and jazz bar run by the funkiest couple ever. Live music is not uncommon and the atmosphere is always great. Opens until dawn
during summer, until everyone goes home the rest of the year round.
The Time and Place
- The bar owned by my father
and previously run by me. Is still an excellent place to relax
and have a coffee, cocktail
or a quiet drink. Opens at 19:30 until late. Quiet atmosphere and relaxing music. It in the Plaza de Las Flores
(The Lizard) - The German bar in front of the Time and Place. Run by Heidi. Good if you want local gossip
at a loud volume in Deutsche.
(The Tavern) - Excellent tapas bar, with amazing service. Just don’t mention me please (Vanessa always said I spent too much time in front of the computer).
is the restaurant on the beach I mentioned, run by Rufus and Marie.
(The Patio) - The beach bar where I grew up
. Stop, sit in the shade and linger
- the beach bar where you can get a good meal
and good service. Doesn’t encourage lingering or louting of any sort.
El Viento Del Desierto
(The Desert Wind) - Not previously mentioned is the best dinner restaurant in town. Serves great Moroccan
food, all cooked expertly by Lala. Housed just above the church
Rincon de Embrujo
– Located in front of the church with a terrace in the church square it serves tapas and Spanish
food, good price
and good food. Go there in a large group
and order lots, you won’t be sorry.
Don’t let the bedbugs bite…
Where can I lay my weary head after so much fun?
For a proper hotel you can go to the Hotel El Moresco, it’s big, ugly, expensive and decorated in a horrible green shade. Sort of like a hospital but not as clean.
To rest in more humble lodgings there is a lovely pension near the church called La Luna (The Moon) run by a lovely couple from Madrid. Cheap, light and airy.
Or in a similar vein but a bit funkier, but cheaper, you can try the pension Esquinica in the Moorish quarter. If you go here you’ll help my fathers retirement pension. If you mention me here you might get a discount but don’t count on it.
Little things that grate…
If you are of gypsy extraction don't even think of moving there - it is still illegal for gypsies to live within the walls of the village. And if you see any of ones around our area you'll know why.
Every Easter the town hall makes all property owners in the village whitewash their buildings, if you can’t afford it they will do it for you. The reason behind this is to get rid of the awful orange tinge the winter rains leaves on everything. The orange tinge itself comes from a village about 40km down the road, which runs a large cement factory which fills the air with a terrible orange dust.
The only colour allowed in the village is white; if you live in the country you have choice between white, a range of terracotta and a range of earth orange colours. But the whole effect is dazzling and so worth it.
The place is full of bougainvillaeas. Orange, pink, red, purple and violet bougainvillaeas everywhere. One of the oldest and prettiest fell down in a storm and squished my cat darsi.
The Town Hall is a disaster, never ever go there. Never try to get anything done, just don’t
There is a weekly newspaper for the English called The Entertainer which after a long history of corruption and back stabbing is now centralised in Marbella, which means it has lost any real connection to village at all. Don’t bother reading it, talk to people instead, it’s more fun.
There are three local families, they all own large business, big houses and bat the town mayorship inbetween themselves election after election. This means nothing ever gets done.
If you want to go to the doctor; go. You don’t make an appointment; get up at 7.00 in the morning[ and wait in line. Emergency services are on the beach. Call 112 from any phone if in doubt.
There was a whorehouse, called Casablanca but due to the fact that it wasn’t very good and its terrible location it went bankrupt within a season. Two days before it was meant to close it was raided and heavily fined.
There are millions of stray cats, millions, you’ll give up trying to adopt them after awhile. There are less since the Chinese restaurants opened though (True story).
The village and regional symbol is the Indalo. The Indalo is said to have been found in a Neolithic cave nearby inscribed as a manner of protection against evil spirits. I am no good at asci art so imagine it like a stick man, with arms out stretched and legs; drawn as an open ended triangle outstretched with an arch going from one hand to another. The arch is sometimes said to be a rainbow and sometimes to be a snake, it depends on whom you listen to.
The public transport is nightmare; really, you can comfortably pretend it doesn’t exist and be much better of for it – most people do anyway.
The taxi services are a major rip off and nearly non-existent as well. Don’t even bother.
The nearest computer shop is in Garrucha and it’s not very good. If you have any computer equipment – be careful and don’t break it. It took me five months to get a replacement cable for my laptop.
The local fiestas are the last weekend in August but always including the 28th, in commemoration of the village patron saint San Agustin. These are the days the village queen and her ladies of honour are elected. There is drinking and live bands all about town during these 4 days. Do not even try to sleep in the village during this period, wherever you are it will be impossible.
There are also loud and fun celebrations at the beginning of June when the whole village is taken over by the re-enactment and commendation of the Moorish defeat at the hands of the Christians over 500 years ago. There is a large re-enactment parade and throughout a few days kabilas or possess are set up in different parts of the village. They all sell drinks and food and are run by different groups. It’s wise to go where you’re friends are or they’ll get pissed off if you spend the night giving your money to the cute waiter in the kabilia down the street since the funds are used for next years celebrations.
If you feel the need to get better directions you can try mojacar.com or any tourist website planning place. A good thing to know is that the nearest airport may be Almeria but it is rarely used so try to get a flight to either Alicante or san Javier (Murcia) they are both roughly 3 hours away. Busses and rent a cars are abundant in both places.
All in all this is my town, the place I grew up, if you have been so lucky as to go there you will know why I love it so much, if you haven’t then go find out. It is quiet and peaceful and unlike most of Andalucia’s coastline is not completely run over by tourists. Off season, if you don’t mid half of the places to be closed, is a nice time because everyone has gone home and you can have nearly the whole place to yourself. But if you want enjoy the benefits of all services September is by far the best month. In September the season is winding down but everything is still open, there are few Spanish tourists left but nothing like July or August.
In any case it is a wonderful little village and I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I have over the years.
my idea of translating
– Holidays and celebrations
- Bed and breakfast
– New Square
– Lookout point
– Multi Center, could be translated as shopping center.
– snacks and nibbles but much more than that. Side dishes with a vengeance.
– Moorish word for ghetto
– omelette, is used to refer to a potato omelette or Spanish omelette.
- cross or crossroads
– literally Street InTheMiddle
Plaza de Las Flores
– Square of the Flowers
- The Moor
Sources: None! I made it all up. No really, I wrote this all in a homesick induced panic and a desire to cheer our darling evilrooster up.
Notes: I left all the bad bits out becuase I'm homesick and don't want to think about those and I want you to go there. There aren't that many really. Promise