The Sleepy Town of
Nadia Kabir Barb
There must be hundreds of crickets outside chirping away incessantly, their unmelodious tune rising in waves to a crescendo and then falling to a gentle hum. Apart from this background noise all I can hear is the sound of music wafting through the window, and the occasional burst of laughter. It always amazes me how the children can sit in the sun for hours while I hide away in the shade for fear of headaches, sunburn, heatstroke and the like. There is a stillness in the air and the palm trees stand silently, their leaves immobile waiting wistfully for a breeze to enable them to resume their graceful dance. The view outside the window is a familiar one yet every time I gaze out and see the clear blue sky unmarred by clouds, the jagged cliff in the distance caressed by the azure Mediterranean Sea, and the lighthouse blinking untiringly giving the boats on the water safe guidance, I find myself awe struck. It has been almost sixteen years since I became acquainted with Javea (Xabia as it is known locally) a little town on the east coast of Spain, and no matter how many times I come here, the beauty of my surroundings still takes my breath away.
Right: A typical Spanish ‘Old Town’ with its Gothic church.
There is something about Spain and Javea in particular which strikes a chord in me. Maybe it is the mountain 'Montgo' standing tall and majestic in the distance with the little towns of Javea and Denia prostrating themselves at its feet or the sea lapping the shores, or perhaps it is the scent of the orange groves we drive past and the olive trees bearing their fruit in abundance or maybe it is just the warmth of the people here that makes me want to come back time and time again.
On my first few trips to Javea, what made me fall in love with this place was the fact that the area was like a little oasis miles away from the fast pace and hustle of any big city. The roads were never busy and the beach was frequented by locals and a small number of tourists and everything would wind down and close for the daily siesta, reinvigorating people for the evening ahead. There was a wonderful sense of time slowing down and the stress of city living evaporating. If you went to the old town with its narrow streets housing the 14th century Church of Saint Bartolome and the port which dates back to the 15th century you could soak up the atmosphere and almost envisage walking on the same paths as the Romans and Moors had done centuries ago. The old world charm was not only delightful but irresistible.
At the time there were very few restaurants although there were a row of beachfront eateries and some located around the port and the Old Quarter. If I recall correctly there was only one Chinese restaurant and one Indian restaurant to speak of. The one and only time we ever went to the Indian restaurant (the name escapes me), the owner refused to serve my husband a lassi with his meal as the man was convinced it would give him indigestion. It was only when we assured him that we would not hold him responsible if this did occur that the lassi was reluctantly brought to the table! The food was not memorable but the owner definitely left quite an impression.
However, sixteen years is a long time and each year I notice subtle changes in and around the town; a few more restaurants popping up here and there (I think there might be three Indian restaurants in Javea now), improvements in the infrastructure and a few more cars on the road. But since my last visit, the transformation of Javea has been quite dramatic. I only have to drive a few minutes down the road heading towards the beach to be struck by the numerous residential blocks and holiday homes sprouting up like wild mushrooms. Somehow their silhouette looming in the horizon with the beach as its backdrop seems incongruous and out of place. Even the number of shops and restaurants seem to have increased exponentially. Everywhere I turn there is a new supermarket or furniture shop! This morning on our way to the local grocery store, we were shocked to see a traffic jam near the centre of the town. Our sleepy little town appears to have woken up and is making up for lost time.
This should not really come as a surprise as I recently read that the population of the town which is approximately 30,500 increases to over 100,000 people during the summer months. The reason for this is mostly due to the fact that Javea is said to have more recorded hours of sunshine per year than in any other place in Spain and the World Health Organisation has named it as one of the healthiest climates in the world! I find myself resenting the hordes of tourists descending upon Javea disrupting its tranquillity and eroding its idyllic atmosphere. I suppose what I forget is I too am one of the 70,000 people that descend upon this little town each year enjoying the weather, the stunning landscape and the hospitality of the locals.
The sun is setting in the distance and the music has stopped outside. The children will be in any moment breaking into my little reverie. If I strain my eyes I can still see a few boats in the distance skimming the water returning to the shore. Thankfully the view outside my window has not changed over the years and the sound of the crickets is almost comforting...
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