As ever we took lots and lots of pictures while in Spain so I have pulled out the best few here.
Our last day in Spain started at the bottom of the hill from were we are staying where there is the Presa De Béznar dam. We stood at the top of the dam looking down – it’s a very long way and enough to make my stomach curl.
It is a curious thing in that there is an escape for a (very) small amount of water but it seems to be recycled so none leaves the confines of the dam works. According to the notices there it was built to help the environment, provide a reservoir for drinking water and hydro electric power. At least that is what we could make out through the use of Google Translate!
After lunch on the terrace at the villa we drove out to the small town of Orgiva hitting the mid afternoon lull. It was the most curious place in that the only other people we saw were what can only be described as British hippies. They were all there with their dreadlocks, multiple piercings in interesting places, colourful tattoos and scrappy dogs on bits of string. We fitted right in! I could only assume that there must be some commune nearby and they had all come in to collect supplies.
For our final meal we went back to Lanjarón and to a hotel overlooking the castle ruins. We had a superb meal but the portions were of monumental proportions. Take my starter, which was described as fried egg with Spanish chorizo and fried potatoes, an accurate description but I was expecting a delicate little thing. What I got was a full meal served in a large pan, as you can see from the picture below. The main course was similarly overblown too!
So we have enjoyed our few days in Southern Spain and a bit of early sun but now it is back to the UK and Reading where it has apparently been trying to snow…
After yesterday’s traipse around Granada we took it slower today starting with a walk up to the bakers to get some pain au chocolate. As described previously, like all shops, the baker here is carefully disguised as a house lest anyone find it and purchase something. To aid this further all shops also open as infrequently as possible shutting just at the time when it would be most convenient to buy something. It really is like a trip back to the 1970’s or a trip to France… Now.
Breakfast out the way we set off to the La Alpujurra region on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada aiming for three villages Pampaneria, Bubion and Capileria. These were reached up a winding mountain road which Helen treated as some sort of white knuckle ride! We stopped at Pampaneria and went for a wander around the streets looking at the well maintained, white washed, houses. A feature of the houses is the high chimneys on the roofs, each having a little hat presumably to prevent snow coming down.
Rugs seemed to be a speciality of this area and there were examples of all colours, shapes and sizes along the twisty footpaths through the villages (no hiding the wares here!). As luck would have it we have been looking for a new rug for the lounge and to date hadn’t found anything suitable but here, half way up a mountain,was something that appeared ideal and was likely £200 cheaper than we expected to pay. So we bought it, you can see it on the picture below furthest away from the camera, but we were quite a long way through the transaction before the question “how are we going to get this home” surfaced.
I have form when it comes to bringing home rugs from far flung places. I once brought home a rug in a rucksack from a shop just outside of Agra so I knew that it was possible to do. We were assured by the shopkeeper that it only weighed six kilos but it felt an awful lot more than that when I lugged it back to the car. Right now it appears to be a toss up between the rug and my dirty clothes as to which one makes it back to Reading so check back in a few days to see which one makes it!
Today was the only day of the break where we had anything planned. One of the draws of being in this region was being able to visit Granada, somewhere that everyone who has been there seems to wax lyrical about. We had been warned about booking early for the Alhambra and when I did, a couple of months ago, I was amazed at how booked up it was already, so it is certainly popular. In the end we went for a 14:30 slot which allowed us to explore the town in the morning and the Alhambra itself in the afternoon.
We arrived at Granada at 10am and parked up at the Alhambra car park having decided that this would be the easiest option as reading online it seemed that parking could be difficult in the town itself. After a short stop to collect our pre-booked tickets we walked down into town and it was steeply down too so the walk back up would be fun!
First stop was a cafe for a well earned coffee and a Fanta! That out the way we wandered the streets past some lovely buildings following the stream that ran between the road and the base of the hill to the Alhambra. Ideally we wanted to find the iconic view that you see on so many postcards taken overlooking the Alhambra site but this was to elude us (spoiler alert – don’t look too closely at the header image if you don’t want to know yet if we managed to find it!).
We made the climb back up to our staring point and entered the Alhambra. The site is huge made up of at least four distinct areas including the Nasrid Palace and Generalife. Entry to the former is via timed ticket which avoids there being massive crowds traipsing through the rooms, although it was still busy with parties of disinterested school kids.
It is easy to see why it is so popular as the buildings and in particular the mosaic tiles and carvings are spectacular. There is something deeply pleasing about the Moorish geometric designs.
The outside wasn’t bad either!
In the end we spent the best part of three hours wandering around the well preserved site and could easily have spent more time. It was certainly well worth the €14 each entry fee we paid.
We then caught the little train back down to the town and this time stayed on until we reached the highest point. We got off and went for a wander and somehow stumbled upon the view I had been hoping to find across the town to the Alhambra and the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada behind – breathtaking.
A slow walk back down to the bottom where we had some dinner. In my case the local speciality of plato alpujarreño which looks like an English breakfast with it’s sausage, egg and black pudding and was a welcome treat after a long days walking. By the time we had walked back to the top and the car park we had done over 20,000 steps which is equivalent to ten miles and were knackered but it was a great day.
The first challenge of the day was to try and find the bakery. This was difficult for two reasons – firstly the woolly instructions we had been given on where to find it and secondly because shops don’t look much like shops here but more like private houses. It felt like a real triumph when we stumbled upon it. We bought a couple of the largest pain au chocolate you have ever seen – they will easily do a couple of breakfasts but, due to a continuing lack of Spanish, we also managed to end up with two bread sticks when we really needed only one but it was easier to pay up and look big than to try and explain we only meant one!
The day’s second challenge was to try and find the castle over looking the town of Almuñécar and on this one we utterly failed. We did drive around a bit but saw nothing that was remotely castle like so in the end we gave up and went onto Salobreña which had a pretty obvious castle to satisfy our need for fortified ruins!
We arrived just after two o’clock and the town was closed for the siesta with the shops not opening again until gone five. Fortunately there was a nice (but hot) walk around the narrow streets of the old town to occupy us with each street lined with pretty white-washed houses. Half way up we found a bar and stopped for a drink. Once again this was accompanied by a small snack – this time some courgettes in batter, which was really delicious. This is the equivalent of popping into your local pub, ordering a pint, and it arriving with a small plate of unrequested savoury snacks. Of course that wouldn’t happen in the UK as it would eat into the profit margin.
Having completed our drink and snack we went on to the castle. As it turned out the castle itself was best seen from the outside as there wasn’t much going on within so we made our way back down to the car and drove on to the beach front.
After a short walk along the beach we found a restaurant that looked promising and had outside seating. It’s early in the season here and many resturants are still closed but this one was doing a good trade. We ordered and almost immediately a plate of fried fish (we think) that we hadn’t ordered arrived. They like giving food away here obviously. I ordered the grilled fish and was presented with the following. Unfortunately it was heavily doused in garlic butter so that was the predominant flavour which was a shame.
So we are off on our travels again and this time the destination is southern Spain, somewhere we haven’t been before. This meant an early start was required to get to Gatwick for our flight. We have a reputation for arriving places early, something that both our boys find irritating I think. This time, however, we really excelled ourselves and arrived at a time that even I thought was too early. To be fair to us, as good project managers, we had built in a lot of contingency for issues that might arise along the way and of course none of these materialised.
The flight was reasonably uneventful and we landed into Malaga where the temperature was 24 degrees. The weather had suggested that at the hottest it would be 20 degrees. We had planned accordingly and then regretted not bring more shorts!
Our destination wasn’t Malaga itself but a small village some distance away so we had to pick up a hire car. Collecting a car is never a stress-free task as the agents are trained to up-sell as much as they could. Do you want a bigger car? How about sat-nav? Additional breakdown cover? And, of course, collision damage waver. We felt pretty smug having taken out excess insurance in the UK on hearing the couple next to us part with (and then regret) 400 Euros for the hire companies own equivalent – we paid about 40 Euros. This out the way we were able to hit the road.
The first few miles were pretty stressful as we went the wrong way (twice) while we got to grips with the sat nav on my phone. We were both tired and hungry by this point so pulled off at the first opportunity and found our only dining option was a McDonalds but needs must and all that. Visiting an international fast food chain does have its advantages as the words “Big Mac and fries” are pretty universal – although there was still some difficulties when we were asked the inevitable question about meal deals.
The rest of the drive along the A7 was pretty uneventful and finally we reached our destination. The instructions we had been given were, let’s say, woolly and so we drove round the village three times before discovering that that was both an upper and a lower village and we needed the lower. And finally we were here.
After unpacking and getting our bearings we decided to go for a walk and to try out the local bar. Armed with only a small phrase book, Google Translate and wild gesticulations we managed to order a wine and a Fanta, which thankfully was what we went in for! The drinks were accompanied by the odd assortment of goodies you can see on the plate below.
Tomorrow the holiday begins proper.