Our Location in Las Alpujarras
Las Alpujarras (the name for this mountainous pocket of Andalucía) has been described as the part of Spain where North Africa meets Europe but is neither one nor the other; rather it is itself, different, magical, and steeped in a combination of Pagan, Catholic and Moorish traditions. Las Alpujarras has become a magnet to a multitude of artists, writers, musicians, dancers, and healers from around the world.
Alcázar - pronounced Al cath R - is a tiny mountain village with 68 inhabitants, situated in the middle of the Contraviesa mountain range, which faces the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the majestic Mulhacen, the highest peak on mainland Spain. Orgiva, the nearest town, a half-hour drive by car or bus from the village, has a colorful market on Thursdays.
Notes on Village Life
Meg's intention is to welcome creative people and soul friends to her home who are sensitive to and truly appreciative of a disappearing peasant culture.
Mules pass her door every day, trundling unshod towards the mountain terraces and valleys, returning mid afternoon laden either with firewood or crops. Of the 68 inhabitants, some still live just as their grandparents lived. Most families will kill a pig or pigs in November; this will give them meat for a year. Harvesting and drying figs, shelling almonds, salting olives, sun-drying tomatoes and peppers, are all still done traditionally by many families. Mules and donkeys plough the land.
There are many village ceremonies and rituals throughout the year including bonfires (January), processions (June and August), and the arrival of the Three Kings on the 12th night after Christmas. The village had a school until 2009. Sadly it closed and the six youngest children are now transported daily to school in Torvizcon. Old ladies, (many fewer now than eight years ago) wearing the traditional black, a sign of mourning, still search daily for firewood in winter, and collect herbs for teas and medicines. Some of the women in the village still make their own soap. Almonds have been the main source of income for the local people until recently. Just fifteen years ago, Alcázar was completely self-supporting in their food supplies. Now bread, fish, and vegetable vans come to the village.
But be warned: Alcázar really is remote! People sensitive to animal rights and welfare will be distressed to find that some of the older people here are still extremely medieval in their attitudes towards livestock.
'Driving Over Lemons' by Chris Stewart is a good introduction to the passions of the local peasant culture. Also do bear in mind that Spain is the second noisiest country in the world and from time to time the village dogs bark and the mules honk! Bring earplugs or better still an ipod for those occasions.
There is one tiny fascinating shop in the village but this seems to sell only non-essentials like chewing gum, tin foil, cigarette lighters etc. It almost certainly won't have what you want, but quite probably will have something that you might like, chocolate, ice cream etc! Just visiting the shop is an unforgettable experience.
Since first writing this piece about the village ten years ago, a few significant changes have happened. The school has closed; two mules have been sold and replaced by two quad bikes. Only a few families still kill pigs in December. Mass happens just once a fortnight now. Our much loved priest Fran - El Guapo (The Gorgeous), has been moved to Salamanca. But Josepha still makes her own soap, and two babies have been born in the village. Alcázar is still completely untouched by tourism, except for my retreat guests, who come from all around the world.
We had long been promised WiFi, and since July 2010, we have it. Now eight families are connected.
Alcázar is an hour inland from the coast, by car an hour and fifteen minutes from Granada, or two and a quarter hours by car or three hours by bus from Malaga Airport. A local bus runs daily from Alcázar to Granada.