Its Not About The Tapas, Polly Evans

An enjoyable account of a solo bicycle journey made around parts of Spain made (probably) in 2002. It would serve as a good primer to Spain but also has something for those who know the country well

Bantam Books 0 553 81556 3 Paperback 301pp £6.99

Burned out and brassed off in Hong Kong, Evans decides to cycle around Spain. It is a familiar, if not downright unpromising pretext. But Evans is a good writer with a genuine knowledge of and love for Spain. Examining the map at the start of the book, it is clear that her tour took in only parts of the country – she rides from San Sebastian to Barcelona, tours a little in Andalucía and Extremadura, and crosses to Madrid.

However, her grasp of Spain is sufficient for this to provide a framework on which to paint a convincing picture of the country in the early years of the twenty first century. She deals confidently, if light-heartedly with both historical context and the recent dash for modernity. Here she is introducing an explanation of Spain’s monarchy.

‘When Louis XIV of France said: “There are no more Pyrenees”, he was clearly misinformed. He had blatantly not bundled his freshly powdered wig under a cycling helmet, stuffed his spare velvet knickerbockers in to a very tiny pannier and tried cycling from Versailles down to Spain.”

Dealing with everything from Iberian food, to the fashion sense of elderly Spainish women, she maintains a similarly well-informed, but jocular tone.

Her excursion into Extremadura also marks out this book. This huge area is thinly populated, little known, and infrequently visited by outsiders. For those reasons it is far more like ‘old’ Spain than any of those areas served by low-cost airlines. Evans enthusiasm for the area is reason enough for more people to venture north of Jerez.

PS Mar 09

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