No one expects they’ll turn into a busybody neighbor. Nor did I, until I found myself leaning over my balcony in Frigiliana, gearing up to regularly spy on the world below and mentally record every mundane detail with glee. Much to his delight (maybe?), I’d then breathlessly divulge to Ayaz my astute observations.
Me: A tour bus just pulled into town!
Me: I think they’re German!
Me: The ice cream shop opened its umbrellas; the sun must be getting hotter.
Me: Abuelas are out in force drinking cafe con leches this morning!
Now, a less, shall we say, discerning visitor might think, “Woooo-eee! Nothing happens in this speck of a town.” But, oh, they’d be mistaken. When you have 24 days to spend sitting, watching, waiting for who-knows-what to happen, you see daily patterns. You learn a town’s rhythms; understand how it breathes.
Every day we’ve spent in this 3,000-person village I’ve unearthed breaking news updates from my balcony perch.
Me: It’s 10 am and I’ve already seen four people walking dogs, three joggers, and one possible biker gang — a record!…There’s a tour bus traffic jam; people are about to go loco!…Kids are still in the plaza playing soccer at 11pm!…The bread delivery truck is running late today!
Call me “Nancy Drew,” and let it be known: I always did have a keen eye. But really, who could resist the daily dramas of a teeny, Spanish mountain town?
Life in a Northern(ish) Town
We found our way to Frigiliana thanks to equal parts chance and a twist of fate. After visiting the town for a weekend getaway while staying in Malaga for a stretch, I fell in love.
The white town tumbles toward the sea from a crevice in the Sierra Mountains, and is widely known as La Luz de Andalucia, or the Light of Andalusia — rightfully so. Frigiliana is one of the Spain’s Pueblo Blancos, the famed white villages, and the blinding-white buildings seem to shine — a burst of light in the crack of a jagged, green mountain.
It’s the sort of town — with winding, stone streets, colorful bougainvillea-draped balconies, and endless views of the valley and sea below — that makes you wish you could paint, or draw. As every sunset turns the town a hazy shade of pink and coral, I want to capture it on a canvas.
After a blissed-out weekend in Frigiliana, I returned to Malaga wishing I had an excuse to spend more time in the tiny town. “Maybe next year?,” I wondered. Then, the great insect infestation of 2016 occurred in Malaga, and … voila! I had to evacuate, and find a new home.
Yoohoo, Frigiliana? I’m comin’ back!
But It’s the Little Things, Really
We were lucky to find a last-minute apartment for three-plus weeks, and even luckier that the one we did discover was smack-dab in the center of town. Our balcony towers over the low-slung neighboring buildings, and overlooks the main plaza — perfect for my eagle eye.
I wanted to come here and feel the space around me. I hoped to stare hard at the craggy mountaintop in front of my window, and learn its grooves and tree lines by heart. I wanted to breathe clean air, watch the sunset, and fall into a simple routine.
Sure enough, my vision slid into reality. I found my fruit and bread vendor — the same man — whose prices varied depending on the day, his mood, and the phases of the moon. We discovered some of the better, and more inventive, meals we’ve ever eaten at The Garden restaurant and Al Fuente.
I learned the bus schedule into the nearby coastal town of Nerja. I found a walking route that takes me to the town’s highest point, and leaves me breathless — thanks in part to vistas as well as a profound lack of regular cardio. I memorized all the best overlooks where I could pause and just … admire.
I started to take siestas. (Don’t judge! The sun sets at 10:30pm here; it’s a long day!)
Slow Down, You Move too Fast
It’s a luxury to sit and stare into the workings of a tiny town for three weeks. There’s a certain stereotypical charm to small-town rhythms — a mistaken sense that all things are easier or simpler in such a place.
But one of the things travel has taught me is that similar patterns, quirks, and charms lurk in the recesses of the biggest cities just as they do in the teeniest towns — if you care and take the time to see them. You notice when you pause, breathe, and look. Only, it’s easy to forget to do so in our day-to-day lives. Frigiliana makes me want to remember.