Just like Polly Evans, I have often wondered what traditional Spain was like before the beer swilling Brits arrived in the Costas demanding traditional English grub from bars called ‘The British Bulldog’ and ‘Royal Britannia’? Is Benidorm really the best that this country has to offer?
“It’s not about the Tapas” highlights that there is far more to discover in Spain if you are willing to take a path less travelled and explore the relatively unknown.
Polly takes on an epic adventure – to cycle a minimum of 1000 miles in 6 weeks from the Pyrenees to Andalusia. Having never spent that much time on a bike myself I can only imagine the pain that this would induce; however, not fazed by this thought the mountainous areas of Spain call.
You picture yourself travelling with Polly through countless villages, grinding your teeth whilst forcing your unwilling legs up a hill to then accelerate back down the other side. Some villages sound picturesque whilst others make you question her route and overnight accommodation. I can categorically say that I will never be staying in the hostel, Pension Paz, described in Trujillo or the establishment at Los Navalmorales with its brown tap water and toilet that does not flush. Others however, have gained my interest and the ‘Parador’ chain spread across Spain looks very inviting.
Starting in the North of Spain near San Sebastian Polly takes in Ziga, Burguete, Roncal, Jaca and many other villages on route to Barcelona. Instead of simply describing the scenery around her the history behind each stage of her journey is explored and could explain the reason for the route she took. Being an avid Tour De France follower the opening chapters follow in the footsteps of famous cyclists that take on these mountain ranges for a living three weeks each year to be crowned with a yellow jersey. Not happy with just scratching the surface of each story she explores the more controversial side; starting with the drug induced success of cyclists years gone by and the tactics used to hide this from the authorities. Keep reading and you will potentially understand more about the Spainish Inquisition and the Civil War that ripped through the country. Continue on and you will find out more about how the Moors were banished from a place they had called home for over 800 years and the destruction of the architecture that followed.
Famous Spaniards are also mentioned in this personal account including Gaudi, Goya, Isabella of Alba and several bullfighters that are treated like Gods when they succeed in destroying a bull in the arena.
The larger cities that many would have heard of are also visited – Granada, Malaga, Seville and finally Madrid are all on the tour and the history of these areas are explored.
This novel mixes travel, history and culture together to create an itinerary that, should you wish to follow in Polly’s footsteps, would expose you to the true, untouched Spain. There is no mention of lager louts or fry ups but instead takes you on a culinary tapas enriched, sherry and cava tasting experience that would entice even the most cynical to reconsider a trip to Spain.
The bike tour may be a bit extreme for myself but the route taken is definitely one to consider when next planning a trip to this media abused country.
As a novel it is written with a comic approach, bordering on a sense of hysteria at times and whilst sometimes lacking in pace the thread of this novel does provide a clear picture on unspoilt landscapes and gives you a sense of Spain that the Spanish would be proud of.
Have you read Polly’s Book? Maybe you have found other books along a similar theme, if this is the case we would love to know about them.