"It's full of hippies."
"It's dirty and lacks grace."
And these are just the comments I have heard this week about the capital of Las Alpujarras. Plenty of people think Orgiva is as seedy and crumbling as a stale pipas de girasol loaf from Galindo's - and they don't all live in Lanjarón either.
On grumpy days, I can see what they mean. The endless obras, construction works that never seem to decrease the number of buildings needing work; a plentiful supply of potholes but non-existent parking; the run of cafes opposite the church - plastic chair parking lots serving the Orgiva special, a tostada con tomate where the tomate is apparently scraped off the polystyrene bread just before serving. Stray people and stray dogs busy heading nowhere. Even the little piper wraith opposite Galindo's, with her formless fluting. Some days I just want to get in, get the shopping and get back to Lanjarón's more sleepy certainties.
But if I don't take the winding road to Orgiva for a week or so, I start missing just that clash of people and energies that drives me mad at other times. Here's a 'top-of-mind list of things I love about Orgiva:
Café Galindo's terrace (see pic above) on a mild spring or autumn morning. Who's sipping their café con leche under the big green canopy today? I might stop to sip and read the latest hair-raising issue of The Olive Press. And to buy one of Galindo's serious, substantial loaves of wholemeal, oatmeal, five grain or sunflower-seed bread. (The earlier stale loaf allusion was just a figure of speech).
Camac Wholefood Store - To me, Camac is the perfect 'village store' run by the perfect proprietors. 'Organic, international, wholefood and soulfood' is how they describe the contents of their pleasant shop. I love exchanging weather news and local gossip with Steve and Audrey while buying the all important chocolate peanuts and raisins, Steve's yummy homemade jams and pickles, emerald basil and coriander nodding happily in their pots, Indian and Thai ingredients to transform local chicken or veg...I sometimes go in even when I don't want anything. Camac is part of the Orgiva experience.
Baraka - Perched just above the Plaza Alpujarra, serving wonderful drippy chicken or falafel shawarma wraps and blended carrot/apple/orange juice, with a thoughtfully-supplied shower in the women's loos so you can clean up afterwards (semi-joke). And just a waddle away is Café Willendorf. Excellent coffee in tall thin mugs, squishy sofas (if you get there first), palatial loos. Dire food but never mind, because for great food there's...
...Cafe Libertad. Sally and her team of smiling maidens have ditched the original, rather clinical décor and given the room a lightly girly makeover. No pink ostrich feathers, but soft seating in jewel-coloured velvet now surrounds a big low table at the back, with warm brown cane seating around tables draped with softly shaded cloths. And the menu - brunchy, lunchy, crunchy, a great balance of healthy and self-indulgent savoury and sweet things. Fred took a photo of me trying to look dignified as I plunge into the All Day Breakfast Tart, light pastry around a wobbly egg custard filled with bacon, sausage and tomato. There's a veggie version too. Unless you are very hungry, get one to share!
Art shows put together at two days' notice. "They told me the space (the old ayuntamiento next to the Plaza) was available. I told them I didn't have anything to show just now. Next day, they printed a poster announcing the exhibition," says a slightly bemused but happy Jayne Morley. She worked early and late to put up the show, also featuring wildlife photographer Gig Binder, and Fred. Jayne, a theatre actress turned photographer, is busy putting together aRThOUSe Orgiva, a range of residential courses in photography, filmmaking, theatre, dance, music, writing, and voice. (Website under construction, like everything else in Orgiva, but getting there). I love that in Orgiva, you don't have to be rich or connected to some stuffy European establishment to get things like this started. Good luck Jayne and I hope to report on aRThOUSe's first season soon.
Christmas shopping at Nomadas. If you haven't been into the sunny mini-emporium above Bar Cañada (opposite Dia supermarket) lately, it's been transformed. Maria has done away with a lot of the ethnic fabrics, soft furnishings and clothes, replacing them with gifts, decorations and household stuff. I am going there to do some Christmas shopping next week - the products and prices are a joy, and they wrap your gifts in bright pink Nomadas paper stamped with gold.
The little piper. Bright-eyed and wild-haired as a Portuguese water dog, this elfin street performer almost lives on the high kerb opposite Galindo's, in the shade of the yellow pillarbox. Her unpunctuated piping is one of the characteristic sounds of Orgiva. When she is not there, I step around her space.
So if you see me lurking in a shop doorway with a scowl, just ignore me. But if I've found a shady seat at Galindo's and Antonio has just brought my coffee, then put your shopping down, take a seat and tell me what drives you nuts or lights up your day in Orgiva!