So we made it to the Alcornocales Natural Park, an hour west in Cadiz Province; it’s one of Europe’s largest and oldest native Mediterranean forests, chock-full of cork oaks.
A magical place where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet and where Europe touches Africa; the park is a place to hike and enjoy the wildlife. Just as we arrived I managed to take the wrong road but it took us up to the hilltop village of Alcalá de los Gazules. This is no sanitised Andalusian village with boutique hotels and organic grocers run by worthy, arty foreign residents – no, this is a little more straightforward.
Look up and before you’re dazzled by the winter sun, you catch glimpses of wives and mothers dressed in house coast hanging out the laundry; their husbands and sons are taking sport in the main square, in the shadow of the 16th Century church.
Here cork harvesting, and cattle farms don’t provide enough work for everyone; this is the harsh reality of rural life here in the south. I quickly snapped this bar; although hard to read, the sign above the reflective tobacco box reads, ‘ en esta casa no se fia’ which roughly translates as ‘in this establishment, there’s no credit’.
This is the reality of life for many in southern Mediterranean Europe.