Coming from Los Angeles, a bustling city that moves at breakneck speed, to a cave house in a village with less than 1,500 people in Spain’s southeastern region of Andalusia was quite a shock. I traded in being kept awake at night by police helicopters shining spotlights arbitrarily into my windows and the smoggy skyline of downtown L.A., for a much slower pace of life and clear views of the peaceful Sagra mountain range that surrounds my new hometown of Galera.
Nestled in the valleys of its surrounding mountains, Galera is conveniently located a 90-minute drive from the tourist favorite of Granada. The Mediterranean coast and Sierra Nevada mountains are also less than a two-hour drive away meaning I have the beach and skiing right on my doorstep.
Galera is a town steeped in history with evidence of civilization dating back to 2000 BC, after which the Phoenicians and Romans came to what was then known as Tutugi. While this area is still an active site for archaeological digs, for most of the locals Tutugi refers to one of the several bars in town for excellent tapas and local wines.
It’s been two years since I moved here and I still marvel at my life here. Gone are the days of drive-thrus and late-night diners, replaced instead by planning my daily activities around afternoon siestas and shopping for fresh meats and vegetables from the local farmers markets. “Traffic” around here is having to stop for a shepherd and his herd to cross bridges and streets.
The difference in cost of living between Los Angeles and Andalucia is staggering. Daily expenses ranging from gas to groceries are quite manageable, and while electricity can be expensive, water and local taxes are cheap.
The market in our village of Galera takes place on Wednesdays, and is the social event of the week. Vegetables are plentiful, always in-season, and the hams and cheeses available are a refreshing alternative to the processed products so common in the States. Above all, the prices are very reasonable…$5 usually sees me through a morning of perusing the stands, with enough left over for a coffee or beer once shopping is finished. Last week I bought Spanish onions and garlic from my favorite vendor, and got free lemons as a token of appreciation for my loyalty…all for just a couple of euro.
In addition, Galera has small supermarkets, bakeries, as well as two bank offices and a town hall all within walking distance of its pleasant, sun-drenched town square. During the warmer months children play around the large fountain while the locals meet to discuss the everyday goings on.
Galera is small town with a tight-knit community and the locals have been patient, and forgiving, of my sometimes painful attempts at speaking and comprehending Spanish. It has been times like these when my knack for charades has come in quite handy.
Moving to Galera was an opportunity to take a step back from a teeming metropolis to gain perspective and inspiration in a part of the world with more sheep than skyscrapers and less of, well…more. A move from the so-called “fast lane” to a slower pace ripe with new challenges and rewards has proven to be a detour worth taking.
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