This morning, Alwyn and I drove south on the A7 autovia a hundred miles to the seaside resort of Roquetas del Mar, the far side of Almeria, to celebrate the Eucharist for the small group that has met there for many years. The service wasn't in a church, but in Burti's Bar, a place frequented by expats, run by an Englishwoman. When the chaplaincy was well established, there were many more worshippers here, all retired people. Over the years people have died, or returned to the UK, and have not been replaced by other British expats. The focus on desirable places to settle has shifted elsewhere since then.
Roquetas, like Almeria sprawls across the coastal plain beneath the mountains, a very built up area. Seaside land is dominated by some stylish colourful high rise hotels and apartment blocks. Further inland are zones of commercial and industrial buildings. What strikes the eye however, is the vast acreage of poly-tunnel greenhouses, filling in every patch of open space remaining. Fields of white plastic sheets begin to appear, filling plains and valley floors a good 20km to the north of Almeria, and further south as well. This is one of Spain's main regions for growing and exporting vegetables on an industrial scale thanks to technologies developed and refined over the past thirty years.
The A7 autovia winds through the sierras and by-passes Almeria to the west, straight through the foothills, rather than around them. Apparently, it's now open all the way to Malaga, cutting journey times significantly. The terrain through which it passes is semi-arid with pale sandy soil, low bushes, with trees a rarity. It's easy to see why spaghetti Western movies were shot on location around here. The sedimentary bed rock is geologically young and crumbly, so excavating cuttings straight through is less difficult, and makes for a road with fewer and longer curves. Cross-sections of rock in these cuttings are varied and colourful, with pale yellow, pale grey orange and pink hues, all of which made the journey most interesting for me.
There were half a dozen of us for the service. I think there'll be more attending next month's Remembrance-tide service. The last time I recall leading worship in a bar was over 30 years ago. A Harvest Festival sing-song in a pub at the edge of Bristol's St Paul's area. It wasn't an abiding custom however. The pub itself closed and was demolished not long after.
On the way back, we stopped at a large DIY store where Alwyn purchased two long folding tables, such as are used to prepare wallpaper for hanging. These will have a different life as stalls for the forthcoming Christmas Fayre.
We didn't stop for lunch, as I was apprehensive about being sleepy while driving after a meal. It was gone four when I eventually sat down to eat. I'd like to return and take a good look at Almeria itself, but would prefer to go by bus, and not have the hassle of car parking and one way systems in a big strange city. I'll need to do some research first. I haven't get found out where Mojacar's bus station is.