A fresh mountain morning in the Spanish village of Lanjarón; I’m threading my way through the oncoming traffic of market-bound grannies, mums and kids. It’s time to grab a power breakfast of deep-fried doughnuts (churros) and chocolate at Café Melilla, the local churreria in a steeply sloping side street off the main Calle Real. On the way, I take in the sights: an old man with bare feet and bold blue eyes sits in his doorway, weaving sage-green grass into an intricate mat. A mule laden with hay clops through the congealing traffic, his master gnarled and knobbly as a bonsai tree; three shouting boys make their bikes rear up as they pass him. At the blue and white tiled fountain near the grand Hotel Miramar, a German shepherd dog stretches delicately up on his hind legs for a long drink of the town’s famous healing water.
On the way home from breakfast, I buy bread still warm from the oven, and fresh eggs from a woman who has set up a single orange crate of produce outside her front door. Striped purple and cream aubergines, ridged tomatoes and dusty fresh figs nestle alongside the eggs, all brought down from her campo allotment this morning. In Lanjarón, you can still shop for your day’s provisions with small change, one of many charming anachronisms in this unpretentious town so near the coast, yet so far from its prices and leisure preoccupations.
Like a gap-toothed smile, Lanjarón clings to one of the dizziest descents in Europe; from Mulhacén, the highest mountain in the Iberian peninsula, to the milling pleasure beaches of the Costa del Sol is a drop of some 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) in just 30 miles. At 725 metres above sea level, morning and evening breezes make even July and August days more bearable here than on
There is a sizeable community of British and expat Spanish property owners in the town and surrounding hillside campo, yet the ambience is thoroughly Spanish, deeply ‘Andaluz’.
Lanjarón celebrates both ham and water during the Fiesta de Agua y Jamón on 23rd and 24th of June, in a watery Bacchanalia that ensures you a good-natured dousing if you’re on the streets. Water is sprayed, splashed and poured on the unwary from doorways and balconies; luckily, no hams are thrown. But for the rest of the year, it’s the unfolding opera of everyday Spanish life that gives Lanjarón’s commercial thoroughfare its noisy old-fashioned charm.
You can get to Lanjarón from Granada by car in 45 minutes. There is a regular bus service from Granada, run by ALSA, which costs around €8 return.