Good evening from the Cocina Pura Vida. Where?? It’s an outdoor bar in Alcossebre, Spain, where we’re joined at the other side of the table by the Mediterranean. It’s Wednesday evening and for the second time this week we’re here for a beer and the view past the bending coastal road beyond the table: a cobalt blue sea garnished with a cloudless horizon.
The idle barman catches our eye, smiles, remembering us from a few days earlier. He weaves his way between the dozen low, outdoor tables, all carpeted by the arid Spanish earth. Though there’s only one other occupied table in this predominantly outdoor bar and restaurant he doesn’t seem bored. The other night he tiptoed his way between his laptop at the bar (made from a disused trailer) and the kitchen at the back of the tented area. Summer tunes play quietly from speakers (think Ibiza). Those at the other occupied table that night had ordered from the menu of organic pizzas and tapas. His detailed preparation of their tapas looked like his life depended on it.
‘A small draught beer again?’ I ask him. He’s in his thirties, Spanish, though he looks like a tanned American surfer. My hand gestures help identify that I’m after a 500ml glass.
‘Your small is our large,’ he smiles.
‘And what was the name of that herbal beer we had the other night?’
‘That’s the one.’
La socrarrada is a bottled artisan beer with rosemary and honey. Deep brown with a thin line of froth, its taste is unique for a beer and divinely delicious.
Where is Alcossebre, you ask? I too hadn’t heard of it until a few weeks’ earlier when friendship and circumstance led to an invite. Perched along the Castillion coast, Alcossbre is a small town with a beautiful June climate of 20 degrees plus by day, dipping by only a degree or two at night. The town and its fringe have two or three small, clean beaches and a good choice of family restaurants and tapas bars.
A beating sun dominates the sky all day, warming the sea sufficiently by mid-morning to invite swimming. At night, the fragrances from the pine trees along the coastal path come alive to invigorate the senses. The town’s distance from anything except the highly touristy town of Peniscola (think Gibraltar) and a spot-lit church and restaurant on the nearby mountain provides intimate views of the stars. As with the day, no boats or ships pass the horizon. We can’t tell where sea ends and sky begins.
For nine months of the year the town is quiet. June ticks over with tourists from Spain and a sprinkling from elsewhere in Europe. In July, the place explodes with tourists from Spain, Britain and French from the south seeking greater mileage from their euros. October and November, according an Irishman we meet who’s spent about a quarter of the year here for twenty years, are quieter and the weather is wonderful. For him, it’s all about cycling the smooth, undulating Valencian roads.
When I go up to the bar to order a second beer the barman is re-painting the pizza options on a blackboard.
‘It looks good,’ I tell him.
‘It needed to be re-painted. The letters had become…’ and I help him to find the word faded. He smiles with pleasure and a look that tells me time doesn’t matter.
I can’t tell if his days of web browsing and re-sprucing will be replaced by busier times in July. The bar is situated at the quieter end of the town, the nearest good beach and caravan/apartment resort closer to a small cluster of restaurants that probably wins out. But like us, he seems happy to be left in peace, consumed by nothing but the Mediterranean and a perfect horizon.
A 500ml glass of the only draught beer and a 330ml bottle of La Socarrada cost €7.50