Advertising (kind of)

Empty wine bottle (sketchy)

With the firm agreement that Sketchy Behaviour (Jaén’s best drawing club) should be resurrected for 2016, we thought we’d start things off with a bang! This particular cheeky number is only just over 2€ in Lidl, and very delicious it is too (if in a slightly ribena-y way).

Where’s weird now?

Move over Austin, there’s a new weird kid in town

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Jaén. No, not Jane. “Hayen”, and if you can cough up that “h” like a furball, all the better (you’ll be needing it later).

I’ve often not chosen great places to live, rather, I’ve had great places thrust upon me.

Saving some money to live in Paris, I found myself in London’s Homerton during the “fried chicken years”. First impressions weren’t good. The only shop open after 9pm was “Senoritas”, whose services I was unlikely to require. But over the subsequent four years, and during the early days of it’s gentrification, Homerton was an edgy and exciting place to live.

And throughout my time in Paris, I felt like I’d ditched my quirky, funny boyfriend for a superficially superior specimen, but longed for the weird goings-on at the canals and in the basements of Stoke Newington.*

I came to Spain to learn Spanish and live in Seville. And I did, for four months.

I found some quirky cafes (Thank you Alameda), some tourist strongholds and a picturesque river walk but when I started to look for permanent work, I cast my net wide, knowing this postcard city and I weren’t a match.

I wasn’t keen to come to Jaén, but soon-to-be-beggars certainly can’t be choosers, and I passed up some poorly paid work in the charming Cadiz to come to a town which advertises it’s self as “an interior paradise”. Someone should tell 1) the Jaen tourist board: “ONLY ONE HOUR FROM GRANADA”, they scream, and 2) the Jaén wikipedia entry, which features a large roundabout as it’s main image. I was reassured by my at the time Pamplonian flatmate “It can’t be that bad” she said, “it’s got a  Corte Inglés”.

But she makes a striking impression, arriving from the west, with white houses lapping on the steep hills of Jabalcuz (“Habalcooth”, again go for it with that furball).

Architecturally, she’s underwhelming. Four weeks prior to the famously commemorated bombing of Guernica, Jaén suffered similar, devastating losses during a bombing raid as part of the Spanish Civil War. Narrow arabic streets provided a high concentration of deaths and casualties, and many of the old parts of the town were lost.

There’s not much said, on the internet or otherwise about small town architecture post war and during the Franco era. With good reason: the preferred style was ugly, or should that be cheap.

But Jaen got’s something about it.

It’s weird.

And it’s ok with that.

*There was an excellent Tuesday evening life drawing group in a Stokey basement. Great tunes. I hope it’s still there!

Culinary discovery on the Camino

  
A walk through the Spain’s North Coast with an unlimited food budget would be a discovery indeed. The Spanish culinary Renaissance is in full swing and the Michelin guide has been complementary in it’s sprinkling of stars over this region.

For the moment, I’m better placed to review relative prices of jars of chick peas in Carrefour and Dia supermarkets.

That’s not to say that there aren’t revelations to be had. The other day I discovered that it’s possible to guzzle non-liquid foodstuffs (chocolate raisins… 2 packets) and that under the right conditions (no other food for 20k) the proteinacious brine surrounding beans can be surprisingly tasty in and of it’s self. I don’t think the palates at Michelin have anything to worry about.

I first saw this contraption at Castillo, walking from Laredo to Güemes. It seems to aerate the drink, adding, I’m told, to ‘El sabor’. Very nice it is too.

Santander and the midday sun

  
New strategy: the midday drawing. 

This is a bit risky because the camino del Norte is proving popular this year and albergues are filling up. Today I’ve phoned to reserve at a private albergue for the first time as otherwise there would be a 39 km hike between two public ones. I would be pushing my right at my limits with that – especially in the sun. 

La Catedral, Urban Coffee is the sort of place where you know that you’ll be overcharged for the coffee. Their cheesecake, however, is worth the hit. 

I don’t really do baked cheesecakes but I heard some other customers raving about it. The waiter concurred and promised it would be muy rico. It has a thin layer of quite tasty raspberry jam, and wasn’t too clawey. The coffee lasted considerably longer than the cake.

Coast

My constant companion on the Ruta del Norte is the Atlantic Ocean and I wanted to get some practice in with waves and the sea, to try too early away from a symbolic shorthand.

I’m getting better at fitting in some drawing in my walking day, and hope to get to some actual coastal scenes.  
 This was a quick attempt at an evening scene at Pobeña, although I didn’t implement any of my waves practice.

Deba: The Steep City

  
It’s a steepness we are thankfully spared at the end of the day. An elevator in the street drops us around 7 floors, and another by around 5 to town level, where we stay in a well converted station building. An excellent albergue, which could have more clothes drying space! (Where is Albergueadvisor !?)

This is a15 minute sketch of the Iglesia de Santa Maria in the historic (and only) centre. Crowds gathered outside in black, too ‘alegre’ for a funeral and turned out to be musicians preparing for a concert in the nave. The conductor was an especially expressive chap.

A delicious slice of Morroco in Spain

 
 Thank you Cafe Alsafir (Calle Castillo de Maya, 39. Pamplona).

Twelve and a half hours of changing scenery and family friendly movies have brought me to Pamplona, home of the controversial San Fermìn bull running extravaganza. I’m no expert but I recon British health and safety would make pretty short shrift of it: see example gougings and crushes here.

I’m just passing through though and on a ration of tapa sized tortilla, pisto and 2 peaches, sightseeing was not a priority.

I’d walked by, discounting a Marrocan style meal, usually heavy on the kebabs (from my Andalusian experience) but was powerless to resist the aromas of coffee , cloves and mint following me with the warm breeze.

I was looking for a small but filling plate which wouldn’t be too heavy before sleeping. The waitress recommended the €3 ‘potato salad’. A revelation in taste! Potato, green olives, a shallot (it could have been a mild, pink onion, I’m not great on my alliums), olive oil and a dusting of paprika! Not a large serving , but more substantial than a typical tapa – exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t identify any other ingredients and yet it was a taste masterpiece. 

I’m the sort of person who likes to finish a meal with a coffee – the Arabic coffee served was DIVINE. The scent lingers with me, and I feel all the more exotic for it! So with a soft drink it set me back €7 in total. If your camino is heading through Pamplona and you can stretch your food budget just a smidge, consider a short respite from some of the camino staples and treat yourself!

The drawing tonight was a slightly secondary affair but ups and downs with the drawing, the path and life!

Sketchy Behaviour in the Park

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Sketchy Behaviour’s second outing.

And as we sketched, the guiri musicians of Jaén called their own meeting (perhaps that’s too grand a word) in the city! A creative vibe is infectious – particularly in a small community like ours!

This time: landscapes, and Jaén has quite a few to offer. This time we looked up towards the castle (Castillo de Santa Catalina) and cross (I was directly across from the side of this, hence no “arms”). It’s a very rocky view and quite challenging from that point of view. I think I would have struggled with this even more a few weeks ago so I think the more regular drawing is paying off.