Weeks in Isla Cristina are like Dave Edmunds albums - you really only need one. To call it a bombsite is being unfair, but since a great deal of Spain resembles a bombsite, it is being fairly accurate. IC has 2 sources of income : Fishing and Tourism.
The Fish Harbour is a hive of activity with 2 fleets coming in daily......Sardines are netted overnight, the small trawlers festooned with more floodlights than Colin McRaes rally car and landed from 9am with the auction starting from 10am. We inadvertently wandered in and watched for an hour, only discovering that this was strictly forbidden for tourists when we read the notices on the way out. (This notice did however promise that should we present ourselves at the Tourist Office, close by, we would be offered a free guided tour. I did so, and now have a ticket to go back at 16.30 next monday to see the second catch of the day being landed and auctioned. And this free tour has only cost me €1.50 - a bargain ).From the amount of sardines we saw it is a surprise that there are any left in the sea round here. The sardines are hauled up from holds in huge barrels and then sorted into polystyrene boxes apparently by size. Anything not a sardine is tossed onto the quayside and whilst tourists are not allowed on the harbour, the locals hover like vultures to snatch up the many and varied discards. Whether this is a current social trend or a traditional perk long established, I do not know, but we saw a huge amount of fish going into plastic bags,and certainly in many cases enough to supply medium size restaurants with todays pescados fritos on the menu de dia.
After lunch the offshore trawlers arrive with everything else, especially clams, the local speciality. We have watched these trawlers from the beach as they go backwards appearing to scrape the clams off the seabed...I shall no doubt learn more on monday. From this, it may be deduced that every eatery, of which there are many, specialises in fish. Perusing the english version of one menu, my favorite mis-translation under Eggs & Scrambled Eggs
is " Shaken with the seaweed and spawn of the sprocket wheels with prawns".
Unfortunately the GF was just recovering and whilst tempted settled for a spanish omelette to be safe - I had the fresh baby anchovy which was delicious. So fishing is big here for quite a small town.
Now for Tourism. I use the word tourism in the sense that Great Yarmouth mentions tourism ie not the international variety but the local homegrown sort. I doubt that you'll find an entry in the Thomas Cook's or Thompsons' brochures for Isla Cristina although it does boast a Barcello hotel and several others of good quality but I may be proved wrong by an uppitty offspring with too much time on his hands. And,re tourism, despite the dutch here and the germans wildcamping in the beachfront carparks, it is still the off-season and whilst we all stroll around in shorts and t-shirts (apart from the GF who is always well wrapped up), no self respecting spaniard has yet removed his hoodie,fleece,jumper,scarf,jeans and boots, it still being winter and bloody cold and all that. So there are very few homegrown tourists about ( this week is an anomaly though as it is both half-term and carnival week so there are a more than usual, I suspect) but most of the shops are not open or not on a regular basis. Of course that ignores the fact that spain (and france) do not do shops and shopping like we do. Napoleon nearly got it right - we ARE a nation of shopkeepers but also a nation of shoppers unlike anywhere else in Europe. I think ex-city euroland basically dislikes shopping and the shopkeepers collude in this by opening at such weird times as to make it as difficult as possible.
So Isla Cristina looks like it is suffering badly in the hard times afflicting spain. Off the main streets there is much decay and deriliction. Lots of men and youths standing around doing nothing and lots of closed down businesses and a general air of depression............which made the scale of the carnival on Sunday even stranger and the Burial Of The Sardine Parade and fireworks on Wednesday night even more incomprehensible than it might otherwise have been.
FRIDAY......and then we cycled through the saltpans & marshes to AYAMENTO which just proved all the above wrong. Lovely vibrant town, bustling with tourists and shops everywhere and I even bought a shirt. Lovely lunch and brilliant cycle ride with flamingos, spoonbills, herons, cranes, storks, curlew, snipe, avocets, stilts, godwits, plovers and that's just the ones we can now recognise.