Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A subtle veil of haze, spreads in shreds across the Guadalhorce Valley. It’s cool in the morning; the wetness of the night has made aromas stronger. You can smell the earth, the pines, the fruit trees, citrus essences. The fertile valley ends in this broad meadows which Alhaurín de la Torre watches over from above. It’s an intense, sweet-smelling, fertile morning. No wonder that the Phoenicians and the Turdetans settled here to exploit the gold and silver mines. No wonder that the Romans called the area Lauro Vetus (old laurel) and Caesar’s men captured Gnaeus Pompeius here. No wonder that the Arabs were here too, giving the town the name that’s come down to us. Remarkable modern events took place in Alhaurín de la Torre, too. “The Casa Refugio de Torrijos is the place where general José María de Torrijos took shelter when he came to Alhaurín de la Torre fleeing from the troops of Ferdinand VII. He had rebelled against the King in 1831 in an attempt to restore the Constitution of 1812. The general and his men sought refuge in an estate owned by the Count of Mollina, Hacienda de la Alquería (now Torrealquería), where they were taken prisoners. Torrijos and his men were executed by firing squad on San Andrés beach, Málaga City. An obelisk was erected in Plaza de la Merced as a memorial to these events” (source: Costa del Sol Tourist Board website).

Zooming in

Following directions to the city centre, I came to the local police square and parked there, close to the hallmark tower bearing the town’s name, next to the former Rural Hygiene Centre and Doctor’s Home. As soon as I got off the car, I was seized by a strong smell of jasmine. It was a powerful, sweet, evocative smell. About 36,000 people live in Alhaurín de la Torre, so it’s quite a large town, with lots of housing developments that have sprung around the original districts as a result of steady growth since the 1970s. It’s also a modern town, but it has a long, eventful history.

The Park, the Fraternities, the Church

I walked down Álamos Street across España Avenue and Juan Carlos Primero Street to reach Plaza de España. The square led to the Chapel of Alamillo (left) and the Church of San Sebastián (right). I went into Málaga Street to the right –a pedestrian street with multiple shops on both sides. It looked quiet in the early morning. The church was in Plaza del Conde, straight ahead, but I went through an archway into the Town Park. The park was a leafy space featuring a small kiosk, a playground for children, several benches, a fountain, a spring flowing into a pond, and a bunch of trees and bushes: cypresses, rose trees, China roses, poplars, rubber plants… I could hear a purring cat, seconded by cooing pigeons. It felt so good. From the park I sauntered down Calle de la Mezquita to take a look at the houses of two of the leading fraternities in Alhaurín de la Torre. Easter is a major event in town. Designated as a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest in 2001, Easter celebrations bring to the fore the rivalry between two of three local fraternities: Real Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno del Paso y María Santísima de los Dolores, a.k.a. “Moraos” (Purple), whose procession takes place on Maundy Thursday, and Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Vera Cruz y Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, a.k.a. “Verdes” (Green), who take to the streets on Good Friday. Their houses are on the same street. I left them behind to walk up Pasaje Félix Revello de Toro and into Cantarranas Street, then turned right and came to Plaza de la Concepción, home to the Church of San Sebastián. It was sober, modern square building with a curious trait: no belfry tower! Instead, it had a three-eyed belfry on each side of the frontage, one of which included three bells and a clock. This made it look peculiar. The white and ochre façade, in the Neoclassical style, features a series of drawn columns with a triangular pediment. This church was original built in the seventeenth century. Then an earthquake brought it down and it was rebuilt in the nineteenth century, almost from scratch.

Up to the Chapel of Alamillo past El Portón

Málaga Street brought me back to Plaza de San Sebastián. Alhaurín de la Torre was waking up. Some of its dwellers were having coffee and toast, or ham-and-cheese sandwiches, on the terrace bars. I strolled down a narrow pedestrian street, Calle Ermita, flanked by two-storey houses. Ermita Street led to Plaza Santa Ana, which housed the Town Library. I walked up Real Street and across Juan Carlos Primero Avenue. It was quite a walk to the Chapel of Alamillo, which I undertook with pleasure in the morning breeze carrying citrus smells. After a while I came to Finca El Portón, a fully rehabilitated auditorium surrounded by a leafy garden. In the late nineteenth century, this estate was transferred to the local government by a Mr Robinson to be used as a venue for social events and cultural activities. El Portón makes the ideal setting for concerts, dance performances, and art shows. Events take place in it throughout the year: band festivals, the International Folklore Festival, the Jazz Festival, Summer Film, the beauty pageant on St John’s Eve. A curious fact: the place is also used as a venue for wedding parties! (If you’re interested, make your booking at (+34) 952 417 164 or go to the Town Office from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). The road to El Alamillo opened up to the first lemon and orange groves. The town and the field met, affording glimpses of the depression known as La Hoya. Autumn smells came to me shamelessly. The chapel was in the backyard of the Hacienda del Cura. I could see it now. A quiet walk indeed, accompanied by the singing birds, a barking dog in the distance, a bunch of clucking hens. I was there. It was an 1875 chapel, dedicated to St Francis of Paola. It was simple and austere, delicate, ethereal. It seemed to rise up from the lemon and orange groves. I sat down in front of it, letting the wet morning air wrap me in.


The orchard at the feet of Alhaurín de la Torre is a real paradise for citrus and subtropical trees. Heavy rows of orange trees and tangerine trees and lemon trees and avocados and mango trees stretch out in bushy areas tamed by the hand of man. I fancied a stroll amidst them in spring, when orange blossoms are in bloom and branches become yellowish and orange in the form of small buds –little treasures in a deep-green ocean. I took the smells of the wet earth and the citrus in and understood why the Guadalhorce Valley attracted the Phoenicians and the Turdetans and the Romans and the Arabs and the Christians and the Malagueños and now, right now, visitors like me.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Torre del Cante Flamenco Festival: On the Saturday before St John’s Eve, the football stadium in Alhaurín de la Torre plays host to one of the leading flamenco festivals in Málaga and Andalusia, drawing top flamenco stars. International Folklore Gala: Held in September, the Traditional Folklore Gala, “Raíces,” gathers musicians playing traditional music from all over Spain, who perform to show their highly personal ways of understanding the music of their homelands.
Portón del Jazz: A must-attend for jazz enthusiasts since 1997, this festival takes place in June, featuring concerts by the leading jazz musicians on Fridays.
Useful links: To learn more about Alhaurín de la Torre, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.