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15-09-2017

Night in an outdoor museum

Last week, to herald the arrival of my friend, who brings a cold snap with her whenever she comes, the skies opened, dumping large amounts of rain, freshening the atmosphere and turning everything green again.

This inspired us to meet up with friends in the centre of the nearby town of Ondara, a place I have visited only once in my life, even though it is only 20 minutes away. Before Friday, I had thought that Ondara’s only redeeming feature was its air-conditioned shopping centre on the outskirts, but after some top-notch tapas and wine at a gastrobar in the town (yes, it has a GASTROBAR), we went for a walk around an ‘art route’ which had only been partly destroyed by the torrential rain the previous night.

On this night, with the smell of ozone in the air, we wandered the cobbled streets, admiring the soggy art installations and hearing stories that only our friends could tell.

There’s an enormous difference exploring a town alone or with a local. For example, the abandoned building we passed on the now abandoned stretch of the N-332 became more interesting when we learned that it was once a dancehall, and that the bricked-up arches had once been windows for buying tickets to dance with the girls.

On to the bullring, responsible for my one and only visit in the past. Our guide Pascual had dragged me to see a bullfight back in the eighties. I remember being horrified by the blood and gore, and getting away from there are fast as I could. My first and last experience of this horrible pastime. Of course, since the crackdown on money laundering, there is no spare cash to waste on bullfighting. The building has been beautifully restored and lit, and the ring itself was full of water from the rain the night before, which has drowned the swirling patterns of the temporary art work created as part of an ‘artistic route’ through the town.

As we strolled through the oldest streets, Pascual pointed out his birthplace, his parents’ bedroom in a first-floor flat, the walls covered with the same shiny tiles, with big windows overlooking a square that saw many changes over the years, before being restored to its original appearance. Opposite an elderly care home, boxes tacked to the walls containing objects to remind the residents of their youth. Clocks all set to the same time, all right twice a day.

Javier, another of our ‘guides’ and a designer, pointed out art nouveau and modernist features on the façades of enormous mansions, some of which he has restored himself, sharing anecdotes about properties that we would never have noticed. A funeral parlour annexed to the church, once a house whose owner died without heirs. The old town laundry, abandoned with the event of washing machines and running water. Once the water table in the town is very low, and how locals would have to go down three metres of stairs to get water in the past.

Just any old night with some old friends, but somehow it has reminded me of why I came to live here in the first place, and it wasn’t the shopping….

Juliet Anne Allaway.
[Picture by Juliet Anne Allaway]

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