La Casita Blanca

Available to rent: One-bedroomed house in Saleres, Granada, Andalucia, Spain

To visit Saleres is like stepping back in time. Houses crowd the tiny cobbled alleys, too narrow for most cars but just wide enough for the baker's van as he brings villagers their daily bread. This is a medieval pueblo and the massive carved wooden doors of many of the homes, leading to courtyards open to the sky, are Moorish in origin, a reminder of the 800 years of Arab rule in Andalucía.

Flowers bloom everywhere, on window ledges, balconies, terraces, in doorways, and of course in courtyards. Bougainvillea, jasmine, geraniums, roses, hibiscus, a riot of colour against the whitened walls. 

Groups of women stand gossiping at any time of the day, for like all pueblos here, there is always time to exchange news. Mules, swaying under giant-size panniers woven from esparto grass, clip-clop along the street, laden with produce from the fincas that form a patchwork on the surrounding hillsides. Swallows and house martins dart overhead. Occasionally, soaring high over Saleres on outstretched wings, an eagle.  
The historic church, built in 1550 in the name of Santiago Apostle, has an interior of baroque richness that astounds the eye. It is the centre of the village and its 300 people, with the bell tolling for the twice-weekly masses, and a choir of local women sing, a cappella, as the priest swings the incense-burning thurible. The men follow tradition by waiting in the arched doorway, rarely going inside. At weddings, as rockets explode, there is joyful dancing outside as a brass band plays; and of course sombre funerals. For this is life, births, marriages and deaths. And life goes on.
 Crime is almost unknown. In a pueblo where everyone knows everyone else, the arrival of a stranger is noted immediately. Eyes follow him wherever he goes, and the news travels. Hundreds of years ago the pueblo even had its own version of an early-warning system. The medieval watchtower of Saleres, perched atop a steep hill three miles away, commands a 360-degree view as far as the eye can see. Time enough for the village to defend itself
The entire Lecrin Valley has a system of water channels, introduced by the Arabs, that makes the land bloom, irrigating the olives, oranges and lemons of the fincas, where the chuckle of running water is a backdrop for birdsong and the incessant trilling of crickets.
The finca trees annually yield an abundance of olives, oranges, lemons, almonds, figs, pomegranates and walnuts. From the rich soil there are onions, beans, garlic, melons, pumpkins, marrows, maize, courgettes. Not so long ago, there were also crops of wheat, barley and oats, threshed by hand at night on large cobbled threshing circles, when a breeze, however slight, was enough to separate the corn from the chaff.
Casitapics/AlmondBlossom2014.jpegAgain, not so long ago, Saleres, like all pueblos, was self-sufficient. Villagers baked their own bread, made their own wine, grew their own tobacco leaves; very little had to be purchased, perhaps an occasional chicken, or a goat kid. From the coast, on muleback, came daily supplies of fish.
Today the 21st century has come to Saleres; the children of villagers arrive in their cars for weekends, travelling from Granada and further afield, where they have found lucrative work, some as taxi-drivers, some even doctors, lawyers, or architects. But the lure of their family land is strong.

La Casita Blanca, 12 Calle de Rosario, Saleres 18658, Granada, Andalucía, Spain.