It´s fifty years since Penelope Chetwode, wife of John Betjeman, rode alone on a borrowed mare into the wilds of inland Andalusia and then penned Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia which was released in 1963.
I finally tracked down a copy of Chetwode´s book and read it from cover to cover eagerly. Many times I read a section out loud to my husband that was about the area we live in and the times we love chatting to our neighbours about.
By the time I´d finished the book I´d mentally plotted my own route and when eventually I got out a map I was hooked. I knew that one day I´d have to retraced Chetwode´s steps. I would even have betted I could find some of the characters in the book that remembered her.
Her journey, staying in posadas took her a month, her only set plan on leaving the Duke of Wellington´s estate near Illora in Granada province was to get to Cazorla and back to Gibraltar for her flight back to England.
Starting her explorations on Bonfire Night she rode along mule tracks to a town or village she´d decided on as her next stop, each pueblo unique yet as poor and welcoming as each other. Her room was often just a bed, a washstand and a 15 watt bulb. The toilet more often than not the deep litter in the stable shared with mules and at times chickens and pigs.
In the days when cars were few, roads were pretty non-existent and travelers rarer still, Chetwode arrived at a pueblo and attracted the attention of the whole village. The simplicity and charm of the book shares the social history long gone, though times in our neighbours memories and with a firm grasp on their heart and spending.
For times lost, for better and worse this book should be a compulsory read for all lovers of Spain.