Alcala de Guadaira is a city 10 Kilometers South of Sevilla. It is here we found our home to rent for the year and a half we lived in Southern Spain. Alcalá used to be known as Alcalá de los Panaderos (Alcalá of the bakers) because it provided most of Seville’s bread. The town is located on the banks of the Guadaíra River, and watermills built during the Moorish period of Spain can still be found in the area. It is at the site of one of these old windmills that I placed some of Birgitta’s ashes in the river. The location is within 150 yards where we lived. Near an old bridge that spans the river. An area of peace and tranquility just on the edge of a thriving community. There were beautiful trees and lots of flowers, two fishermen dozing by the river, ducks paddling by, birds quietly singing. Amazingly the place looked very much the place that she had chosen to walk little Fiona in Guildford when she lived there. It was a place that would have drawn her to it’s peace and quiet. The river joins the one from Sevilla and finds it’s way into the Mediterranean Sea at Sanlucar a coastal town with beautiful beaches.
Alcalá de Guadaíra was under the domination of the Muslim rulers of al-Andalus (and later the taifa of Seville) from the 7th century until its capture by the Almohads, who built extensive fortifications around the town. These fortifications on a promontory overlooking the river continue to dominate the south-west side of the town. We referred to it as the Castle which was visible from my daughter Christina’s bedroom window. The edifice is lighted with beautiful yellow light at night. It is the site of many unique concerts by Spanish Artists which highlight the Arab influence on the Andalusia and it’s people. The breastworks are very extensive. Sometimes at night we were treated to the sounds of the haunting music that permeated the warm night air. How fortunate we were to find a small home in this beautiful area full of special pines with their decorative crooked trunks. We even had a small swimming pool. The home was small for six people and we had many visitors from Sweden and the USA. Our girls used to fight to see who would have the honor of giving up their bed for our guests. What unselfish jewels they were.
Spain is very unique. Sevilla is very warm in the summer and quite cool in the winter. Our home had one fireplace to heat the place and we purchased a couple of electric heaters we had to rush up and start in the morning to warm the place up. But that isn’t what you remember. Your remember the glorious cloud free sky. The outdoor living on out large patio, the persinas- Heavy Steel Shutters, that you closed in the middle of the day and turned the house into a dark place where you could enjoy your siesta. I worked with the Spanish Air Force. My work day was from 9 am to 2 pm. Then home to a siesta 3 to 5 then up to sit outside, swim or just enjoy company on the patio. Dinner in Spain is always late. The restaurants do not open until 10pm. Life’s rhythm was entirely different. In the big cities with little or no air-conditioning the people took a siesta, and stayed up very late at night because by then the buildings had become too hot to sleep. It as so very easy to fall into this pattern. Relaxation becomes a way of life. I often wonder if it isn’t us that has it wrong. Racing through life, short or no vacations, live to work not work to live. I wonder what a slower pace would do to things like our divorce rate. Anyway it was a lifestyle that really suited my beautiful Contessa. Life truly turned around family and friends. She was in her glory entertaining our guests. A world champion hostess. We were finally back in Europe with all it’s culture and treasures. Little wonder we stayed there as long as we could and returned to work there every chance we got. For me, my nearest boss was three countries away. I always worked best without supervision. All you have to do is solve the customers problems. It is amazing how easy that can be when you don’t get a lot of help and advice. When a job is relatively stress free it very often results in a very tranquil home life. I think these jobs and the problems we had to resolve living in a foreign environment, and there many, brought us closer and closer together over the years. We learned we, two very different people, loved each other so much that we could discuss anything and find a solution. What a glorious feeling. After a year and a half we were able to solve many of the jobs problems. Our next step was to move to Madrid where I will continue this narrative. It was there Birgitta really came into her own. How she loved the life and the museums, but that’s the next story.