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Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia [Format Kindle]

Chris Stewart
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

When English sheep shearer Chris Stewart (once a drummer for Genesis) bought an isolated farmhouse in the mountains outside of Granada, Spain, he was fully aware that it didn't have electricity, running water, or access to roads. But he had little idea of the headaches and hilarity that would follow (including scorpions, runaway sheep, and the former owner who won't budge). He also had no idea that his memoir about southern Spain would set a standard for literary travel writing.

This rip-roaringly funny book about seeking a place in an earthy community of peasants and shepherds gives a realistic sense of the hassles and rewards of foreign relocation. Part of its allure stems from the absence of rose-colored glasses, mainly Stewart's refusal to merely coo about the piece of heaven he's found or to portray all residents as angels. Stewart's hilarious and beautifully written passages are deep in their honest perceptions of the place and the sometimes xenophobic natives, whose reception of the newcomers ranges from warm to gruff.

After reading about struggles with dialects, animal husbandry, droughts, flooding, and such local rituals as pig slaughters and the rebuilding of bridges, you may not wish to live Chris Stewart's life. But you can't help but admire him and his wife, Ana, for digging out a niche in these far-flung mountains, for successfully befriending the denizens, and for so eloquently and comically telling the truth. The rich, vibrant, and unromanticized candor of Driving over Lemons makes it a laudable standout in a genre too often typified by laughable naiveté. --Melissa Rossi


Chapter 1

El Valero

'Well, this is no good, I don't want to live here!' I

said as we drove along yet another tarmac road behind a row

of whitewashed houses. 'I want to live in the mountains, for heaven's sake, not in the suburbs of some town in a valley.'

'Shut up and keep driving,' ordered Georgina, the woman sitting beside me. She lit another cigarette of strong black tobacco and bathed me in a cloud of smoke.

I'd only met Georgina that afternoon but it hadn't taken her long to put me in my place. She was a confident young Englishwoman with a peculiarly Mediterranean way of seeming at ease with her surroundings. For the last ten years she had been living in the Alpujarras, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, south of Granada, and she had carved out a niche for herself acting as an intermediary between the farmers who wanted to sell their cortijos in the hills and move to town, and the foreigners who wanted to buy them. It was a tough job but no one who saw her ironing out deals with the coarsest peasant or arguing water rights with the most stubborn bureaucrat could doubt she was the woman for it. If she had a weakness at all it was in her refusal to suffer fools and ditherers.

'Do you bully all your clients like this?' I protested.

'No, just you. Left here.'

Obediently I turned the wheel and we shrugged off the last houses of Órgiva, the market town where I'd been adopted by my agent. We bumped onto a dirt track and headed downhill towards the river.

'Where are the mountains?' I whined.

Georgina ignored me and looked at the groves of oranges and olives on either side of the track. There were white houses covered in the scrags of last year's vines and decked with bright geraniums and bougainvillea; mules were ploughing; boiler-suited growers were bent bum-up amid perfect lines of vegetables; a palm tree shaded the road where hens were swimming in the dust. Dogs slept in the road in the shade; cats slept in the road in the sun. The creature with lowest priority on the road was the car. I stopped and backed up a bit to go round a lemon.

'Drive over lemons,' ordered Georgina.

There were, it was true, a hell of a lot of lemons. They hurtled past, borne on a stream of water that bubbled nearby; in places the road was a mat of mashed fruit, and the earth beneath the trees was bright with fallen yellow orbs. I remembered a half-forgotten snatch of song, something about a lovelorn gypsy throwing lemons into the Great River until it turned to gold.

The lemons, the creatures and the flowers warmed my heart a little. We drove on through a flat plain quilted with cabbages and beans, at the end of which loomed a little mountain. After dipping a banana grove, we turned sharp right up a steep hill with deep cuttings in the red rock.

'This looks more like it.'

'Just wait, we're not there yet.'

Up and up we went, bend after bend, the river valley spread below us like an aerial print. On through a gorge and suddenly we burst into a new valley. The plain we had crossed disappeared utterly, hidden from sight by the mass of mountain, and drowned by the roaring of the river in the gorge below.

Far below, beside the river, I caught sight of a little farm in a horseshoe-shaped valley, a derelict house on a cactus-covered crag, surrounded by unkempt fields and terraces of ancient olive trees.

'La Herradura,' Georgina announced. 'What about that, then?'

'Well, it's nice to dream but the pittance we've got to spend is hardly going to buy us a place like that.'

'With the money you've got to spend you could afford that place and have some left over to do it up.'

'I don't believe you. You can't possibly be serious.'

I was incredulous because this was so far beyond my wildest hopes. I had come to Spain with a sum of money that would barely stretch to a garden shed in the south of England, expecting to buy at best a ruined house with perhaps a little patch of land.

'Well, there's no point in going any further. I'll have that one. Let's go down and see it.'

We pulled the car off the road and tripped down a path. I was so overwhelmed with excitement and delight that I felt sick. I picked an orange from a tree, the first time I'd ever done that. It was quite the most disgusting orange I'd ever eaten.

'Sweet oranges,' said Georgina. 'They're mostly sweet oranges here - good for juice. And the old men with no teeth like them.'

'This is it, Georgina. It's paradise. I want it. I mean, I'll buy it now.'

'It's not a good idea to be too hasty in these matters. Let's go and have a look at some other places.'

'I don't want to see anywhere else. I want to live here, and anyway I'm your client. Surely we do what I want, not what you want!'

We drove off, further into the valley, and Georgina took me to see a stone ruin that was slowly slithering down a hill towards a precipice. It was surrounded by rotting cactus, and groves of dead trees covered the dismal hill around it. A poisonous spring oozed from a clump of thorns at the bottom of the property.

'Hell no, what did you want me to see that place for?'

'It has its good points.'

'It has the advantage of being a long way from the nearest golf course, but more than that I cannot see.'

We moved on to look at a concrete blockhouse, a battery

chicken shed, a filthy hovel infested with bats, and a sort of cave littered with turds and old bits of newspaper.

'I don't want to see any more of this sort of thing. Let's go back to La Herradura.'

So we did, and I sat on a warm stone in the riverbed, dreaming one of those rare dreams that suddenly start to materialise around you, until Georgina intruded.

'I know it's very nice, Chris, but there are problems with La Herradura. It's owned by a number of people, and they don't all want to sell - and one of those who doesn't want to sell has access to a room he owns right plumb in the middle of the house. That could be inconvenient if not downright disagreeable. And then there's the matter of the water . . . '

Her words faded as we both turned our heads to catch a snatch of song rolling towards us along the riverbed. I made out the words 'frog' and 'crystal glasses' but the rest was lost in a gruff baritone. From behind a rock came a red goat with only one horn. It eyed us up for a moment, then performed that trick that has so endeared the goat to mankind since the beginnings of time, the simultaneous belch and fart.

'Clever the way they do that, isn't it?'

Georgina ignored this observation. 'The man you see approaching us now,' she announced in an urgent whisper, 'is the owner of the place across the river - and I think that he may want to sell it.'

Following the one-horned goat came a huge man with a red bristly face, sitting astride a horse. He was doing the singing, presumably to amuse himself while he supervised the goat and its several companions, who included a couple of cows, a kid, a grubby sheep and a pair of dogs. He stopped, lurched forward in his saddle and surveyed us from beneath a filthy cotton beach-hat. With an oath he halted his entourage.

'Hola, buenas tardes. Would you be Pedro Romero, he who owns the farm across the river?' began Georgina.

The man grunted.

'I've heard you may want to sell it.'

'Maybe I do.'

'Then we want to come and see it.'


'Tomorrow morning.'

'I'll be there.'

'How do we get there?'

There followed a long-winded explanation of which I could only catch the odd reference to trees, brambles and stones. All rather unnecessary, I thought, as we were looking at the farm not half a mile away.

'This foreigner wants to buy the place?' He leered at me, assessing my worth.

'Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't.'

'Till tomorrow, then.'

'Till tomorrow.'

With which the little procession jangled its way back down the river. Romero had stopped singing and appeared lost in thought. I watched entranced as the lowering sun lit the little clouds of golden dust raised by the animals' feet.

'I know a thing or two about this business,' Georgina said, 'and that farm is definitely worth a look. It's called El Valero.'


Georgina considered me thoughtfully as we drank a morning coffee together before setting out for the valley.

'Listen, you're to keep quiet unless I prompt you. Leave the talking to me.'

'Alright. But hang on. Have we actually established that I want to buy El Valero? I was under the impression, if you'll forgive me, that I wanted La Herradura.'

Georgina looked me squarely in the eye. 'I've given the matter some thought, and I've decided that El Valero and you are well suited. You'll see when we get there.'

We drove to the valley in warm January sunshine. The farmers were working their fields of vegetables, the dogs and cats had returned to their allotted places in the road. It looked familiar this time. As we passed La Herradura, I looked down at it wistfully, and then with some misgivings at the place across the river.

After a while the road gave out completely, and we took our shoes off and waded through the river, which was knee-deep and fast-running in places, not to say cold. 'This is a hell of a way to get to a place,' I shouted, 'if you'll excuse my saying so.'

We climbed up a bank by eucalyptus trees and across a field, and from there followed a narrow path through terraces shot with flowers and shaded by oranges, lemons and olives. Clear runnels of water flowed here and there, tumbling down stony falls and spreading to water terraces of fruit trees and vegetables. The path stepped across a stream and curled up through a grove of blossoming almonds. Georgina turned and smiled at me.

'What do you think?'

'You know what I think - I've never seen anything like it!'

'Here's the house.'

'House?! It looks like a whole village. I can't buy a village.'

A couple of houses wi...

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2084 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 308 pages
  • Editeur : Sort Of (8 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0956308643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956308641
  • ASIN: B006WB2E6O
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°36.773 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Super fast delivery 29 août 2014
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Love this book...having read it years ago i'm now re-buying it for my husband. Inspiring, funny and touching too! A joy to read and share :-)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.2 étoiles sur 5  100 commentaires
82 internautes sur 85 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Provence, Tuscany ... try Andalucia! 30 mars 2000
Par M. Ellingham - Publié sur
This book has been huge in the UK - top ten for the past six months - and no wonder. It is such a great tale: Chris Stewart, one time drummer of Genesis (he left at age 17) sinks his all (the grand sum of $35,000) into a peasant farm in Andalucia. It has no runing water, no electricity, and gets cut off altogether when the river is in flood. Oh, and it turns out that the man who sells him the farm has no plans to move out himself. But as the subtitle says, Chris is an optimist, big time, and that carries him through, along with a little realism from his wife Ana, and local wiles from Domingo, the best neighbor you could hope to find. The book gains its strength from the fact that Stewart has no money and needs to work (as a sheep shearer), bringing real and often very comic insights into the local life - something I found lacking in the Mayle/Mayes Provence/Tuscany bestsellers. But like those books, this is a perfect holiday read - and a book that makes you yearn to follow the Stewarts' lead, and head for a simpler life in the sun.
26 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Warm, touching, uplifting 13 juin 2000
Par Michael K. McKeon - Publié sur
Those expecting a description of Spain akin to Mayles of Provence or Mayes of Tuscany will be momentarily disappointed. However, one quickly becomes invested in finishing this warm, engaging memoir.
There are no descriptions of fine wines, imcomparable meals, or other such rich treats. Instead this is a tale of an English couple that eschews the bourgeois lifestyle and seeks a simpler lifestyle in rural Spain. The leitmotif for the book could be summed up as carpe diem. The result is a touching description of evolving understanding of a different culture, appreciation and respect for the challenges of an agrarian lifestyle, and the importance of human relationships.
Throughout one is struck by what a kind hearted, genuinely good, and often frustratingly credulous person Chris Stewart is. He has an endearing capacity for laughing at himself and chalking up losses and set backs as part of the cost of change. Much of the book's humor is derived from the characteristically deadpan British understatement and irony, and the assortment of interesting and eccentric characters to whom the Stewarts are drawn and also attract.
Stewart's growing relationship with his laconic, multitalented neighbor Domingo is particularly heart warming. One is struck by the neighor's acumen, unceasing generosity, and ongoing willingness to aid the often fumbling Stewart. There is a particularly moving chapter about "understanding the water" where Stewart reveals his immense gratitude and respect to Domingo by expressing the hope to earn his respect someday.
This is a lovely, uplifting, fun book depicting the growth of a family and the development of a new, and perhaps more essential, lifestyle. I felt better for having read it.
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Read 20 avril 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
There are some great books out there about making a new life in France or Italy, but this is the the first I have read which makes a move to Spain seem so real. Chris Stewart leaves all that he is used to and transforms himself and his family in the process. It is very well written and an excellent account of adjusting to life in rural Spain and also the transformation of a young couple to a family with the birth of their little girl and all the changes that can bring. I greatly enjoyed both facets of this book.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 different type of expat book 7 août 2010
Par Tomaj - Publié sur
Chris Stewart joins the cast of hundreds of English-speaking expats who move to a rural area somewhere vaguely near the Mediterranan and feel compelled to write a book about fixing up the house and dealing with the natives. I'd probably want to do the same if I were there. Chris recounts his trials and tribulations, his triumphs and misdeeds, but actually no, he truly doesn't produce a cliché book. The required elements are there--finding the house way way in the country and dealing with the peasant who's selling, trying to be accepted by the community, and all the food and wine that goes along with this kind of stuff, but Chris is more insular than the Peter Mayle types. His farmhouse really is a farmhouse, without runing water or electricty, and with a roof and walls that need to be rebuilt, partly by him. This is far more rustic territory than the standard Provence or Tuscany books; much of Steward's work involves merely surviving. The Provence types write about shopping for wine and having trouble hiring workmen to get central heating. Stewart writes about shopping for sheep, to raise on the farm, and of having trouble building a rudementrary bridge across the river just to get to his property.

Another strength of the book is that he does not shy away from describing the bad elements of life, particularly the locals. Even the food gets rough treatment. Stewart doesn't hang out in local cafes or seek out restaurants (ever, it seems); all his food descriptions are from the farms, and they're not the simple, hearty, soul-warming dishes one expects. Food is rough and strong and not always easy to take. He doesn't even pretend that the wine is respectable; it's not. The first dish ever described (and one of the few) is the oily potatoes that the former owner of the farm cooks, almost daily. By itself, it's a good example of the whole experience--both attractive and repelent, and not to everyone's taste.

The people of the region get the same treatment. Too many writers pretend that their rustric countryside doesn't have the same percentage of bastards that any city would have, or that life isn't hard on them. Stewart doesn't, and you get to meet some of them.

Still, his main occupation at the farm and the house is the farm and the house. It takes everything just to keep that place going. The details are tremendous. One certainly gets a sense of place about his plot of land, but not nearly as much about the rest of the area. The same holds for Stewart himself, and his wife. We don't know much about them, which usually is not a big deal with these expat tales, but since this one is so insular, the book may have trouble holding your attention. In the standard expat tale, the village and land around them is full of characters who carry the action, but here it's 80% the author, with perhaps 5% his wife. Stewart, to his credit, is certainly not afraid of showing himself as a bit clueless on many things, but you may not find it endearing.

As with many expat books (I'll stop using that phrase now), the ending is not a neat wrap-up, and utlimately the author is struggling for what the book was trying to say. Progress has certaintly been made on the farm. It's a home now, with creature comforts. Everyone is happy, and they've even had a child and are raising her there. But Stewart never steps back and pontificates; he doesn't do the reflecting on life that's almost demanded of such a memior. We're left with a very narrow and effective sense of place, but little sense of self.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Bravo, A Realistic Account of Spain Through Prism of Expats 10 août 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur
"Okay, you've got a read this book," a friend said, plopping this paperback on my lap. "It's about a dopey Brit, who JUST like you, bought a house in Spain."
'Help Me!' I whispered to my wife. Two years ago, we, too, purchased a home in southern Spain. While some U.S. friends cheered our foresight (lining up for future visits), most thought we were completely nuts (Guilty).
A couple days later, I read Stewart's book and found it worth a sharing. Unlike 'Tuscan Sun' fare, I found Stewart's book on Spain a funny, realistic, and unvarnished account of expats, finding a house in Spain, fixing it up and then trying to make a 'go' of it.
I immediately recognized the take-no-prisoners real estate agents in Spain, offering you a remote but charming finca (we wisely chose a city rowhouse, instead), as well as the Spanish locals who think they've hit the national lottery, courtesy of you and checkbook.
Spain is a quirky place. But trust me, it can grow on you. Stewart's book matches the quality and perspective of a similar book, called "On Mexican Time." "Driving Over Lemons" offers a Andalusian prism to what life can be like in many of the small towns and rural villages in southern Spain. I chuckled and nodded at the familiar struggles, learning the language, winning the trust of your neighbors, integrating yourself into everyday life in Spain. It also shares, in a winning way, the value of deep friendships, family, and a quality of life in Spain.
Bravo Chris Stewart.
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