On Thursday morning last week I left home, as always, with the profoundest of misgivings. I consider it unwise to leave home and go travelling at the best of times; you might come across somewhere nicer than the place you live… and then where would you be?

I drove west for a couple of hours, dumped the motor, flew north for an hour, then took a train due north from Sants station in Barcelona up a long forested valley to Vic… pronounced ‘beak’, it said in the notes. In Beak there was only the last bus, and the last bus didn’t go all the way to where I wanted to go… but it went to L’Esquirol, and I liked the sound of that, so for two Euros eighty I signed up for the trip. L’Esquirol turned out to be a dead and alive sort of a place, and still eighteen kilometres from where I wanted to be, which was, as you might have guessed by now, Rupit.

So, hitching my bag on my shoulder, I stepped out onto the highway. It was a warm evening and a pale ribbon of road wound with no fences through fields of green corn. The sun was setting behind me and a few indeterminate birds gladdened the evening with their song. Sod’s Law says that when you are enjoying a walk like this some cabrón * will stop and give you a lift. (*Cabrón is a term much used by the Spanish; depending on tone of voice it can be affectionate or an impardonable insult, fighting talk. It means ‘cuckold’.)

After ten minutes on the road a grubby old van rumbled up behind me. I stuck my thumb out in half-hearted fashion… and it stopped. Santi was a crazy old guy like me, with curly greying hair and round glasses, the sort of cabrón who gives people lifts. He wasn’t going to Rupit, but he took me there anyway. As I waved goodbye to him on the outskirts of the village, we vowed undying friendship. I felt good; one forgets how good it feels to go hitch-hiking and get a lift.

Rupit… I looked down at it with suspicion. Something was wrong. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then I got it: I cannot ever remember seeing a village or a town that was not spoiled by some disfiguring excrescence. It’s the way the modern world is; we have come to expect ugliness, mediocrity and disneyification. Where people live and work is generally hideous, and when we encounter something that doesn’t fit this norm, we feel confused. I thought for a minute that I had slipped through some glitch in the warp and weft of time and entered a parallel universe. Perhaps there had been more to Santi’s van that met the eye.



18 Responses to “GARROTXA”

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  1. Comment by andy — May 7, 2012 at 9:11 pm   Reply

    More please.

    I want some more…

  2. Comment by babs — May 8, 2012 at 9:02 am   Reply

    a most promising beginning…I hope there’s more? So, you’ve got your writing shoes on!

  3. Comment by Linda Manning — May 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm   Reply

    Overheard someone mention Trevelez village, so we went to visit and went through some lovely villages Bubion, Orjiva and ended up in Trevelez. In a shop we saw the sequel to Driving over Lemons, which i read at least 8 years ago, we bought the book and both read it as I loved the first one so much and we could relate to the Spanish way of life and all the eccentricities that go with it. Really appreciate the lifestyle that you have undertaken, although sometimes diffcult and worrying for you and your family it certainly seems a whole lot better than the rat race life that we lead in UK, you are not missing anything I can tell you. We bought our little casa in Almerimar and always go off piste as it were and now that we have discovered the are surrounding Bubion we are going to go back and stay overnight and investiage further, the area was stunning and we saw an ibex which my husband was so pleased about. Anyway we are going to buy the rest of your books and take them out to Spain to go on our bookshelf, they are such a good read and very funny.

    Best Regards

    Linda Manning

  4. Comment by Ben — May 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm   Reply

    Dear Chris

    Just a quick one. Not got round to reading your book yet but im aiming for it to be my holiday read in Spain this year :) i am lucky enough to have a partner who’s parents own a small villa in Altury in the Valencia region (do you know it?), this will make for great reading by the pool!!
    I would just like to offer my admiration for what you have done, through reading your Bio on here and seeing yourself and your Wife on a travel show (cannot remember which one) last year. I will be checking back on your blog for more fantastic writing and pictures!

    All the best


  5. Comment by Nick and Blanca — July 18, 2012 at 12:45 am   Reply

    Hi there Chris,
    at the end of an evening of ideas growing, I impatiently and simply rudely end it with this blog post to you.
    Why you? cos i lived in granada and met my valencian wife there in ’87 and in ’89 we honeymooned in the alpujarras horse riding with dallas and dining with acquaintances david and dolores in their home in mecina fondales and since then and now of course again after having being divorced for 9 years we’re now together again and spending summers again with now just my mother in law but this time also want a real little escape back to the alpujarras where we began but only a short break with balneareo and a horse ride of course and hamams and massages and walks and a sculpturing workshopday for my so talented blanca who’s looking for new challenges in sculpturing and so i thought … who better to ask for a recommendation than you?

    Oh and I’m joining Ben above in looking forward to finally reading your first book this summer, on that break in the Alpujarras, in its element.

    Vriendelijke groet,
    Nick and Blanca

  6. Comment by peter — August 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm   Reply

    just finished your second book “parrot in the Pepper Tree”- read it in a day- so absorbed. Bit much I know when it takes so long to write! but take it as a compliment.
    I want to know about the dam. Live just outside Malaga. so might try to drive up and visit it one day. Thanks for your writings

  7. Comment by Zara — August 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm   Reply

    Among the best/most heartwarming and honest books I have ever read – please don’t ever stop writing x

  8. Comment by George in AUS — October 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm   Reply

    Chris …. You lift my soul … Little do you know how your script entices and gathers us into the naivety virginity and savagery of raw boars versus delicate Spring blossoms up river of the lemons …

  9. Comment by Dianne Güngör — October 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm   Reply

    This request is totally un-related. I have just returned from a long weekend in Spain and I would love to purchase some spanish guitar music. The back ground listening kind. As you are a musician/guitarist and appreciate the spanish guitar would you be able to recommend a couple of albums? I appreciate we all have different tastes so you have my word if they are not what I am after I will not utter a word. Many thanks! Dianne

  10. Comment by grandma welly — January 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm   Reply

    Have just finished ‘Driving Over Lemons’ and desperate to know what happened with the ****** dam? Seems that Chris and co still in situ and not living a the existence of sub-mariners? Praps I should read the ‘Almonds’ book to find out?

  11. Comment by alison todd — March 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm   Reply

    Hi, just finished reading ‘Lemoms’ again, had a strange day last Sunday at a Craft and Food Fair, I had a stand next to the Teifi Goats Cheese producers, and I had a conversation about goats and he pointed out that they had probably created the Sahara with their grazing habits, I had never considered this before and it struck me as profound. That very same day I was reading you book and you repeated this observation. Never heard this in all my 58 year and then twice in one day it was a bit weird. Just thought I’d share it with you though you may have some better insight into the significance. Regards Alison Todd (potter)

  12. Comment by sylvia Meekham — April 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm   Reply

    Chris, please write an up-date to Almond Blossom. Have read all 3 books 4 times over past 10 years, will go mad without a further read! Regards, Sylvia

  13. Comment by Shaun Holden — July 15, 2013 at 11:40 am   Reply

    Hola Chris!
    I hope you are all in rudest health, and summer turns out to be more beneficial. I haven’t contacted you before, but through my love of Spain I felt the need to say hello.
    I live in Lincolnshire, soon to move to Northants (it’s unbelievably complicated) but have been very fortunate in the past to travel most of the eastern side of Spain. My first 2 years there, I travelled exstensively, Vic being one of my chosen towns (and home of a Catalan friend) to poke around in.
    My fiancee loves to travel (though we’re pretty poor, LOL) and through your books I’m very slyly trying to persuade here to visit Granada province as it’s my favourite part of Spain to date, though I’ve uncountable fond memories of kindness wherever I lived in Spain, though my spanish is still pretty ropey to the locals after all this time.
    Your website is a ‘little breath of fresh air’, and as always…entertaining. Please keep up the good work and…I can’t wait for your next book!
    kind regards

  14. Comment by Andrew — August 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris,

    Great to find your website after chatting to a friend about Grenada and googling.

    Years ago I introduced you at Waterstones Bookshop in Manchester when Driving Over Lemons became a best seller. As I remember we all (including my wife to be) went off and had some beer and noodles in town after. Fun!

    I do hope things are going well for you. I must devote some time to reading you website.

    Best wishes,


  15. Comment by sylvia Meekham — September 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm   Reply

    If we can’t have another sequel to lemons, then keep writing the blog cos we love it. Thanks Chris xx

  16. Comment by Erik Svenson — December 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm   Reply


    Just wanted to tell you that both my parentes passet away this autumn. In fact, today was the funeral of My mother. Just wanted to say that visiting you and your family in the Alpujarras and the friendship before that was something that they both valued very highly. And then i have not mentioned what they throught of your fantastisk! Thanks Chris and take care.

    Erik Svenson, son

  17. Comment by Jacqueline Littler — August 3, 2014 at 6:37 pm   Reply

    Hi Chris, feel that I have been waiting for EVER to read this latest book of yours! Am really enjoying it! Please continue to write more! (and I am only three quarters through at present!).
    Best wishes to you and your wife and daughter!
    Jacqueline Littler

    P.S Are you still eating tuna??!

  18. Comment by Lisa Lawton — August 10, 2017 at 11:14 am   Reply

    Hi Chris… I’ve just finished The Almond Blossom on holiday in Portugal. Im trying to make it my mission to draw a 7 pointed star before I go home. I’ve been to the tat shop and bought a compass and have pages of perfect circles but can’t get as far as finding point R! Have even googled but no joy. My family and friends I’m on holiday with think I’m a complete weirdo. Do you have instructions for numptys?

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