February 13th, and while the sky beckons us outside with its promise of a generous sunset, the Andalusian air is fresh. We’ve just arrived from Malagá by coach.
Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves sleepily scrolled by, the conical hills reminiscent of the rolling countryside of a B-roll film. M was cosily sat in the seat on the aisle opposite, taking his customary nap. His red New York Knicks baseball cap contrasted sharply against the trees waking from a wintry slumber.
Ronda’s Puento Nuevo awaits. Before we cross, we spot the sweeping horizon of the El Tajo valley. We see coach loads of tourists, presumably from East Asia, armed with maps and cliché this, but yes, professional cameras. At the Aldehuela viewpoint, M and I discuss whether or not to distance ourselves from other tourists, without having the language to validate what in other times, would be labelled a prejudice.
‘But come on’, I say, ‘if the virus is in Milan, it’s here too, and it’s not just coming from people visiting from China.’ I say this with a haughty self-satisfaction that I’m ahead of the curve, and it deserves a slap.
Dusk falls and people scatter. M is meant to work in Milan in March but that will almost certainly be cancelled. The evening sky is the unreal purple of fancy chocolate boxes. The thread needle streets are empty. The houses, if they ever were inhabited, show no signs of life. We circle St Mary Major Church and continue on to Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, the mixture of Renaissance and Gothic styles on private display, just for us.
A dinner booking at 20h00, but when we get there and greedily butter our toasted bread rolls, there’s only one other couple on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Are tourist numbers down? – Or is this a town that only receives day trippers?