I don't recall waking up to blue skies and bright sunshine on Halloween before, nor breakfasting outdoors, as we did this morning yet again. We took the eleven o'clock bus into town, and found the outdoor market was on, around a hundred stalls, selling mostly clothes and shoes, with occasional watch and trinket sellers, a couple of fast food vans and a couple selling herbs and spices. It occupied the half the football stadium car park, and was bounded on one side by social housing blocks, the other by the enclosure of the old town cementario (cemetery). The section of the market closest to the entrance was taken up with flower sellers, catching the eye of those arriving who weren't already laden with huge bunches of flowers from their gardens or nearby supermarket. And lots of people were arriving to make their commemorative visit.
Regional TV news programmes the past few days have carried several items of interest about the persistence of the popular tradition of visiting family graves, sprucing them up and laying flowers in preparation for 'Tosantos' - All Saints/All Souls. There are even voluntary groups that renovate areas of neglected cemetery, no longer visited by families or without famility members to visit. One large municipality employs charming young hostesses in uniform to welcome and guide visitors who can't find their way around - some are tourists looking for the graves of famous locals, others are simply relatives getting increasingly forgetful with age, with younger family members brought along out of duty, less inclined to remember the location of a tomb or a memorial to a distant dead relative.
After an hour in the market, we walked to the Salt Museum domain, with its carefully managed 'Salinas', with walkways, hides and intepretation panels - thanks to some European Community eco-funding. It's not as wild or vast as the area of 'Salinas' and scrubland the other side of the main highway south, but it's rich in wildlife. So, I got more photos of flamingos and the black winged stilts which eluded my shutter last week. Infuriatingly, just as I entered one secuded area which would give me closer shots, a pair of cormorants took flight closer to me, and unsettled a group of several dozen feeding birds. These took off showing their most spectacular scarlet and black under-wing colours just as I was struggling to get my camera into operation, so I lost the precious moment fighting with the machine, and missing the enchantment of just seeing such a rare sight, at forty to fifty metres. Ah well, another time I suppose.
We returned to the Playa de Levante next to the port, where Clare went for a swim and found the water quit warm enough for an enjoyable experience, despite seeing a large jellyfish. Then for the third time this week, lunch in Bar Los Curros, right on the beach, serving a great variety of the most superb fresh fish cooked in that straightford Spanish manner that does nothing to disguise the flavour or freshness of what is cooked. We ate differently on each occasion and weren't disappointed. The place is usually full with Spaniards and occasional foreigners like us who've made the journey of discovery through its unpretentious doors.
Today we noticed people at half a dozen tables eating from large paella pans. It looked like rice that had been cooked with stock and spices, but with little or no meat or vegetables added. At one table the dish was black rice, the colour of laver bread. It made me wonder if this might be a regional speciality to be eaten on the Vigil of All Saints. It was too late to ask and try. By then we were full of fresh sardines and baby squid.
We strolled into the town centre, all quiet for siesta with shops shut. I took time out for a snooze in the shady 12th century courtyard of the Castillo Fortaleza, and then we returned to the Gran' Pena beach cafe for tea and icecream, just in good time to watch the homecoming of a score of the port's fleet of trawler, each escorted by wheeling swarms of huge gulls, visible even though the boats were half a mile off shore. We often hear trawlers going out or returning from the night shift just before dawn. It was a rare sight to see so many of them arrive, just as the sun descended into the last hour of its autumnal glory.
Then it was time to walk slowly home, appreciating the sunset, and to call in to Enrique's bar for a drink - he's a long standing local family friend to Anto and Kath, and Anto's mother before him. She settled here 25 years ago when the neighbourhood was being built. We talked about Tosantos, and Enrique lamented the commercial introduction of Halloween commodities. Like Santa and northern Christmas kitsch, these things are foreign to Spanish tradition, with its deep Mediterranean roots in Christian tradition and history.