On Sunday, we said goodbye to what has become our second home in Spain. It is three years since we spent more than a few days here and we remember now why we fell in love with the area in the first place.
Jimera de Libar is one of the numerous pueblos blancos (white villages) to be found in Andalucia. Many are perched on steep hillsides and this is true of the main part of this village too but because there is a railway that runs through the valley another settlement has grown up around the station and it is here, in Estacion de Jimera de Libar that we have been based.
Jimera sits almost centrally in a region known as the Serrania de Ronda. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and great geographical diversity. Popular with walkers, birdwatchers, climbers and potholers, it contains parts of both the Sierra de Grazalema and the Sierra de las Nieves. The beautifully-situated town of Ronda is the administrative headquarters of the area.
The landscape of limestone escarpments, cork forests and orchards of oranges, olives, almonds and walnuts is both dramatic and serenely beautiful. The walking is wonderful, whether it’s a short stroll along the river or a hike into the mountains. Ornithologists value this area as a major migration route and some rare species can be seen. I’m not that good on birds but we have frequently seen kingfishers and cormorants on the river and the large birds of prey hanging over the valley are common enough not to warrant an exclamation anymore.
Not just birds to be seen here – to my delight and astonishment, I came across a young otter in the river. It was just a few feet away and looked at me for a minute or two (long enough to confirm it definitely was an otter) before elegantly diving below the surface. I have spent many hours at dawn and dusk both in Scotland and at home on the Somerset Levels silently trying to see these beautiful elusive creatures and here I stumbled over one in the middle of the day with three noisy dogs in tow.
It is good to have the station here too. Not only does it make getting here from the coast both easy and cheap but the trains are part of the place. A few weeks ago there was a very popular running race held here and the trains hooted enthusiastic support as they went through. There are only three in each direction each day so it’s not an intrusion and a trip to Ronda is just 4 euros.
All this beauty, peace and serenity is wonderful but this tiny village has secret gem. Bar Allioli, run by Paul (from England), Synnove (from Denmark) and their son Pablo, not only stock a vast range of beers from all over Europe but also host live music events pretty much weekly. I have seen more live music in the month we have been here than I’d manage in a year at home!
We did find ourselves here on Brexit night too and I think we may be the only remainers we know who had a brilliant night out on Jan 31. An audience of Spanish, British, Dutch, French and Danish enjoyed live music, poetry and English tapas. Marmite vol au vents are better than you might think!
We will remember watching the morning sun tint the mountains pink, the sound of the goat bells and the smell of oranges and almond blossom. Merlin will definitely miss his favourite spot for sunbathing.
So to Jimera de Libar and all our friends there: Adios y hasta luego!