Seville, Spain - The old man peers at us as we stand in the middle of the bus terminal.
"You are going to Tarifa?"
"You are loca," he says, tapping the side of his head.
He glares into my eyes and says, "Tarifa is for crazy people. The wind, it will drive you mad!"
He shakes his fist in the air and walks away.
Minutes later, I get on the bus for Tarifa, a small Spanish town at the southernmost tip of Europe.
Even the guidebooks warn against staying in Tarifa for too long. It's called La Capital del Viento, the Wind Capital, and the wind is all people ever talk about. Some say that Tarifa once had the highest suicide rate in all of Europe. It was, of course, the wind that drove the Tarifeños to madness.
But there are also days in Tarifa when the wind is calm and the ocean still. On these days, you can see your toes wriggle into the sand under the clear ocean water. There's 10 kilometres of unspoiled beach, pure white sand and crystal blue water.
Tarifa is the point where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic, a town with ocean on all sides. The undulating Moroccan coast is visible in the distance, only 15 kilometres away.
At first, I'm surprised that the beach is empty. On Valdevaqueros Beach, one of Tarifa's most virginal beaches, nearly 6 kilometres long and 58 metres wide, the water glistens under the hot summer sun. As as I sink my feet into the warm, powdery white sand, I look out toward the African coast. This is paradise, I think to myself. And then I feel it: a gust of wind sweeps across the beach, blowing sand into my eyes and spitting water on my back. My hair flaps wildly against my cheeks. I crouch down and cover my head with my arms.
"What are you doing here?" a man calls out from behind.
I turn around, relieved to see anyone.
"You must come inside! Look up the hill," he says, pointing to the windmills. His shirt flapping, his thick blond hair blowing across his face, he's forced to squint as he points and asks again, "Do you see?"
The windmills, which power the entire town, aren't turning at all.
"The wind is too strong today," he shouts above the noise of the howling wind. "Follow me. We'll go inside."
I follow him up the beach and into the town. The August sun beams down on Tarifa's whitewashed stone buildings with red shingled roofs - a Spanish trademark - giving the town an orange glow.
There's a peculiar desolation here. In a town of more than 15,000 people, I wonder why I don't see any children running about or families feasting on tapas during the siesta. People have closed up their shops and restaurants and boarded up their windows.
The man stops in front of an apartment building.
"I live on the sixth floor," he tells me. "You can stay there until the wind settles down."
Behind the blowing hair, I can see his dark chocolate eyes and golden tanned skin. He smiles.
"I'm David," he says in a cute British accent, holding out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
David's flat is a bachelor pad, as Americans would say, complete with empty fridge, bare walls and huge TV.
"I spend my summers here surfing," he says as he passes me a beer and joins me on the couch. "Days like this are rare. Not even the crazy ones go outside when it's this windy," he jokes.
The surfers are the only ones who brave the windy days. They travel from all over the world just to catch a wave on Tarifa's unpredictable ocean. The town's become known as Europe's windsurfing capital.
Today, however, the wind is unrelenting, and almost everyone takes cover inside their homes. But you can always find a few diehard surfers loco enough to brave the ferocious winds.
"Do you surf?" David asks, a playful smirk on his face.
"I've never tried it before."
"Well, you're in the right place," he says, smiling. David goes into another room and returns carrying two surfboards.
"Welcome to Tarifa," he says.