Baeza, Úbeda, lluvia, huelga.

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It was time to head back to València after nearly a month of travelling. I was anxious to see my beloved home again and rebuild my life there, but I was also sad to see the trip end. Ya era hora para volver a València después de casí un mes de viajar. Tenía ganas de ver mi hogar querido otra vez y reconstruir una vida allí otra vez, pero también estaba triste para terminar el viaje. 

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It was going to be a road trip, and a rainy one at that. We left Granada around 9:00, and I didn’t get too lost making my way to the motorway. Our first stop was supposed to be in Baeza, a village in Jaén that I’ve always regretted not visiting my first year in Spain in 2008 when I was in Linares. Iba a ser un viaje de coche, y un viaje en la lluvia. Salimos de Granada sobre las 9.00, y no me perdí mucho buscando la autovía. La primera parada planificada era Baeza, un pueblo de Jaén que siempre he lamentado no visitar durante mi primer año en España en 2008, cuando estaba en Linares. 

Baeza, population 16,253, together with its neighbouring town Úbeda, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. It’s famous for its Italian Renaissance architecture. I wish I could have taken my time exploring its beautiful streets, but a huge downpour started right before I arrived. Baeza, población 16.253, junto con su pueblo vecino Úbeda, ha sido Patrimonio de la Humanidad de UNESCO desde 2003. Es conocido por su arquitectura del renacimiento italiano. Ojalá tuviera mejor tiempo para explorar sus calles bonitas con calma, pero un diluvio empezó justo antes de llegar. 

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I did get out a bit and got completely drenched despite my umbrella. I hadn’t been that wet since I lived in Bilbao. I stopped for a café con leche to dry out a bit, but I was ultimately disappointed I didn’t have more time there in the town. Aparqué el coche un rato y aunque tuviera paraguas, me empampé enseugida. No había estado empampado tanto desde viví en Bilbao. Paré para tomar un café con leche, intentando secar, y quería más tiempo en el pueblo (y mejor tiempo). 

At least I stopped in Baeza. In the neighbouring Úbeda, population 36,025, we just drove around, seeing the main sites. Al menos paré en Baeza. En el pueblo vecino Úbeda, población 36.025, no salimos del coche, viendo los sitios importante desde el coche.

After leaving Úbeda, the rain began to stop, of course. Murphy’s Law. I decided against stopping in the town that was home for 8 months, Linares, letting the past stay in the past. The olive trees were a good reminder. A part of me regrets never going back for a visit, but a part of me doesn’t at the same time. Después de salir de Úbeda, el diluvio paró. Desde luego. La ley de Murphy. Decidí no parar en el pueblo donde viví durante 8 meses en 2008-2008, Linares, dejando el pasado quedar en el pasado. Los olivos era un buen recuerdo. Una parte de mi lamenta nunca haber vuelto a visitar, pero otra parte de mí no lo lamenta nada. 

We followed the motorway to the north of the province of Jaén into Castilla La Mancha. I pulled off and recharged my own driving batteries with a café con leche. I was all set to continue on the road when I saw the infamous Casa de Pepe, home of Franco memorabilia. Seguimos el autovía hasta el norte de la provincia de Jaén hasta Castilla La Mancha. Paré para recargar mis propias pilas de conducir con un café con leche. Estaba listo para seguir cuando vi el famoso Casa de Pepe, que es conocido por su “museo” de Franco. 

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I had a morbid curiosity and a death wish. Tenía una curiosidad morbosa y un deseo de muerte.

I zipped up my coat to hide my Barcelona hoodie, as I know a place known for its love of Fascist Dictator Franco would disapprove (to put it mildly) the team of the capital of the autonomous community trying to become independent. I also hid my rainbow bracelet, as I’m sure gays weren’t welcome there. Cerré mi abrigo hasta arriba para esconder mi sudader del Barça, como sabía que a un sitio conocido por su amor de dictador fascista Franco no le gustaría nada el equipo de la comunidad autónoma que está intentando independizarse. También escondí mi pulsera arco-iris, como seguramente los gays no somos bienvenidos allí. 

I’m not even Spanish, and seeing the flag of the Franco regime and his face everywhere seriously sent a wave of nerves throughout my body. I was there for a minute. I survived. I can say it exists. Ni soy español, y ver la bandera de Franco y su cara por todos los lados me puso piel de gallina por todo el cuerpo. Solo estaba durante un minuto. Sobreviví. Puedo decir que existe. 

The bar made the Spanish news last year when the current governing majority named a street in honour of the “alt-right” bar/restaurant. It was a huge controversy last year and says a lot about the current Spanish “democracy”. El bar fue noticias el año pasado cuando el gobierno que tiene poder ahora nombró una calle en la memoria del dueño del bar de”derecha alternativa”. Había mucha polémico el año pasado y dice mucho sobre la “democracia” española actual. 

We stopped at a offroad restaurant near Valdepeñas which had the worst translated menu ever. The food was decent though. Comemos en un restuarante de carretera cerca de Valdepeñas que tenía la carta peor traducida de historia. La comida no estaba mal, pero el menú…

 

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It was about 2.5 more hours back to Valencia, and I arrived at the airport to return the car. My idea was to take a taxi on into the city as my mom’s walking issues (update: At Christmas, she was walking completely normal and healthy….) wouldn’t allow her to maneuver the metro. Little did I know there was a taxi strike against Uber (illegal in Spain) and Cabify that day. 100% of the taxis were on strike, and they didn’t even have a taxi for emergencies. I hope I never have to use a taxi in Spain again due to this. Nos quedaban unas 2,5 horas hasta Valencia, y llegamos al aeropuerto para devolver el coche. La idea era coger un taxi hasta la ciudad, como los problemas de caminar de mi madre no le permitieron usar el metro. (En Navidad, estaba caminando bien, sin ningún tipo de problema…) No sabía que había una huelga de taxistas contra el uso de Uber (Uber es ilegal en España) y Cabify este día. 100% de los taxis estaban haciendo huelga, sin ningún tipo de servicio minimo, ni para urgencias. Espero nunca tener que coger taxi una vez más en España y hacer mi propia huelga…

The car hire agent had a friend who was a driver, and she happily drove us to the hotel for a small fee. El dependiente de la gencia de alquiler coche tenía una amiga que era conductora, y nos llevó al hotel sin problema. 

The trip was finally over. During my mom’s last few days, she got out to see a few of the amazing places in Valencia, such as the Ciutat de les Arts i Ciencies, and I began my new job. El viaje por fin había acabado. Durante los últimos días de su visita, mi madre pudo ver unos de los sitios increíbles de Valencia, como la Ciutat de les Arts i Ciences, y empecé mi trabajo nuevo. 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. -Semisonic. Todos los inicios nuevos vienen del final de otro inicio. -Semisonic. 

Until the next trip! ¡Hasta el próximo viaje!

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Jaén. The land of missed opportunities.

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Jaén is a province in Andalucía located in the middle of nowhere that not many people of Spain have heard of and not many people in Spain know anything about. It has more olive trees than people, which means it has some of the best olive oil in an entire country known for its olive oil. It also means that when I was 26 and assigned a school in Linares, the second biggest city of the province at 60,000 (half the size of the capital city Jaén), I freaked out.

“I’m going to be the only gay in the village!” I shrieked. (Not true. There were maybe three others.)

“There’s going to be nothing to do!”

“I’m going to give up on going to Spain!”

How young and naïve I was. When I got to Jaén, I was amazed by how beautiful it actually was. True, their Spanish is hard to understand (I had maybe a B2 then, Upper intermediate.). Compared to some parts of Andalucía, the Spanish in Jaén is quite easy to understand. The city is located in the mountains and has a vibe of being forgotten. Now? It sounds right up my alley. At the time, I had my heart on living in a big city like Madrid where I could feel free to be me, and in your mid-20s, the idea of Chueca still sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime.

And I was sentenced to Jaén.

Now that six years older and six years wiser, I want to go back and kick myself in the culo. Jaén is a charming city with friendly people and great olive oil.  And the province has many beautiful places I never took the time to appreciate. (Linares is not one of them sadly. I do love how long I thought the 6 kilometre vía verde was at the time. Now it’s nothing!)

During my time there, I got to tour an olive oil factory in Martos, which is a quaint typical Andalucían village. I found myself exploring Andújar in the middle of Carnival. And those three weeks of winter when it was only 10ºC/50ºF and we had no actual heat were some good times.

However, I feel I missed out on what the province had to offer. I didn’t have the knowledge I know now about public transport in Spain. I also lived in a flat without internet, so I wasn’t able to explore my options. However, in 2008-2009, most of Jaén was in the dark about this invention called the internet. Seriously. There was an article in El País about how Jaén was the least connected province in Spain.

One of these days, I’m going to go back there and visit the place I once called home. I hope to have a car, as that bus from Jaén capital to Linares was pretty darn scary…those back roads…on a bus…and to revisit the capital city and see those Set Meravelles that I never took the chance to see before.

Set Meravelles

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Jaén Capital: The capital city is a small, charming city worth visiting to get a glimpse of the real Andalucían life outside the more touristy Granada, Sevilla, Málaga and Córdoba.

Castillo de Jaén

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I never hiked up to see the castle that overlooks Jaén. One of these days, I want to rectify this grevious sin.

Olive Trees

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On that Vía Verde de Linares, I passed a lot of olive trees. A lot. More olive trees than people. But the olive trees makes some of the best olive oil in the world. It’s the perfect place for it. Also, my friend Peter reminded me that almost everyone in Jaén is quick to point out that while many olive oil bottles from Greece and Italy say they’re from those countries, the oil is actually produced from olives from Jaén

A-4 Mountain Pass

Once upon a time, the Autovía del Suro (A-4) took you from Madrid to Andalucía through some sharp and steep curves and mountains that separated Castilla La Mancha from Andalucía. You still can see the amazing mountain views, but now that the new part has opened, the route is a whole lot safer (and a lot less nausea inducing).

Úbeda

Úbeda is an incredible village of 36,000 habitants located in the heart of Jaén province and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. While I’ve seen its beauty from the bus to València, I regret not taking the time to walk around this breathtaking village.

Baeza

And whenever anyone talks about Úbeda, they almost always talk about it’s smaller sibling Baeza. At 17,000, it has even more of a small-town atmosphere while keeping all of the beauty. It shares the UNESCO World-Heritage site with Úbeda.

Cazorla

La Sierra de Cazorla (Cazorla Mountains) is one of the most breathtaking natural parks in Spain. The namesake village and another village called La Iruela are beautiful places to start the journey to this incredible mountain range. I cannot wait to go back to Jaén and correct all my youthful mistakes.