Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I almost hate to admit it, but I have only been to the beach once this year. When I say been to the beach, I mean head out with the umbrella, chair, esky, book and towel--and actually sit on the sand for hours on end. When I first heard that our flat was water-front this was how I imagined spending the summers. However, this isn't how it has turned out at all. Truthfully I find Australian beaches a bit boring--no chiringuitos that sell sardines on a stick, palapas that sell coco locos, or even a huckster. Instead it is just wide open sandy beaches. I am not complaining. I love to sit on our balcony watching the waves roll in, but I miss our beach dramas of Spain--where a day at the beach was an event.
> Our Sunday morning wake up call came at 8:00 a.m. We jumped out of bed since there was not a minute to spare if we were to catch the the 9:25 train from Utrera to Cadiz. We had to be at the train station by 8:30 if we were to beat the long "cola" to buy a ticket and to pop into the cafe for a quick "desayuno". It was important to get that morning coffee fix since we knew that it would be nearly impossible to land a seat on the always packed train that originated in Sevilla. Though, if we quickly boarded the train--before all the other Utreanos--we could usually snag a position where we could perch ourselves on the edge of the luggage rack for the hour and a half ride.
Once in Cadiz we would stop off at the Hipersol to fill up the cooler with nibblies and adult beverages, and then walk over to the Playa Victoria on the Atlantic Ocean. Since our return train wasn't until 7:00 p.m. we would rent an "amaca y sombrilla" (lounge chair and umbrella). We always rented from the same location not necessarily because of the place itself, but because of the the other patrons.
Every Sunday just after noon a large family of Gitanos arrived at the same beach that we frequented. The group was lead down the escarpment that connected the road to the beach by an older, burly, dark haired man. The pace, a slow strut, was set by the leader who was dressed in white and adorned with plenty of gold. On his arm an attractive older woman. She was dressed in a flowing beach sarong, her hair was gracefully and elaborately piled on her head, and plenty of gold adorned her ears, arms, and neck. The other family members quietly followed their leaders. Each person in a designated space. The men were followed by the children who were followed by the women. Once on the beach they would take their places. Each of the men sat on a lounge under one umbrella, and the women sat on lounges, with the children on towels, under a second umbrella.
Over the next several hours we would closely observe the extended family next to us. It was a bit of a cross culture lesson, a lesson that allowed us a small glimpse into that shrouded life of the Spanish Gypsy.
We watched the short-claded men drink beer and boisterously engage in conversation. Occasionally a heated discussion would turn to a bit of a scuff in the sand, but when taken too far a loud "oye" from the man in white would bring it to an end.
The bikini wearing women would pull their chairs out in the sun and catch some rays, while the children headed down to the water to play. At exactly 1:30 p.m., the youngest of the women was sent out to round up the children and the oldest woman began to pull out "bocadillos": "papitas" and "acietunas" (sandwiches, chips and olives). A third woman headed to the bar and always returned with a round of Tinto de Verano, a Sangria-like drink . During this time the sexes would remain segregated and conversations never crossed the gender adult line. Some of the older male children would interact with the males, but for the most part they remained with the other children and women.
At a little bit past 2 p.m. the leader would once again rise. A slight nod would cause a second male to raise. Together, the two men would gradually walk up the slope, slowly looking to their left and right taking in their surroundings. In their absence more Tinto de Veranos were bought and distributed. It wasn't long before the two men filed back towards their domain , the forerunner carrying a large paella. This was the first time since their arrival that all joined together in a large circle. As the second in command distributed utensils and plates, the Paella was placed in the center next to the older woman. Her jewelry sparkled in the sunlight as she filled each plate. Not a bite was taken until all had been served. Lunch was followed by coffee and a siesta.
At 5:00 p.m. a signal announced that it was time to leave. We would leave shortly after the Gypsy family. They understood perfectly that those who arrive at the train station early were guaranteed a seat!


  1. What a well written memory. I felt like I was there. I could feel the hot sun, hear the surf and smell the saffron. Thanks for sharing the memory and hope you are enjoying the different Aussie beach.

  2. What an interesting post. Gives new meaning to a family outing. Bet you miss Spain.