Posts Tagged ‘Road trip’

Costa Tropical – 3

The hotel, whilst delightful is an expensive place to park your car. They charge €16 per night to park in their garage, so we had to drive around for a little while to find on street parking – but we managed. As you walk closer to the beach area, many more metred parking spaces are available, but not really suitable for overnight. Anyway, as I say, we managed.

SalobreñaThis final evening, we aimed to first have a couple of drinks and then to eat at the Botica bar in Plas Antigua. We were once again treated to tapas with each of the drinks; but we also requested a table to eat at.

We were now properly able to soak up the atmosphere of Spain on this evening as they were about to have their first Semana Santa parade of the week (possibly the only one up here in the old town). We saw the young men preparing to carry the huge effigy of Christ; binding themselves up tightly around their bright yellow shirts. The effigies are so big that it takes many men to carry it and they have to protect their back.

Families soon started to arrive, to watch and follow the procession. Many other adults also began to walk up past the square, to the church just across the way – quite a few in traditional costumes.

As we took our table for dinner, we heard a band marching up the hill. This group of musicians were to accompany the Christ figure on its trip around the town. You have to admire them, not only were they playing (not necessarily in tune with each other) their instruments, but they were navigating the steep inclines too.

So, not only were we able to witness the Semana Santa preparations, we were also entertained to a marching band, the antics of drivers trying to navigate their way around the tight bends, now occupied by growing crowds of people AND we were to eat splendid food in the usually quiet square – which had had its water feature specially repaired for the event.

We had portions of Berenjenas Con Miel, which were delicious; Huevos Rotos (with cod and asparagus), not quite as delicious, and Boquerones Fritos (deep-fried fish, anchovy size but white fleshed). After two tapas too – we were stuffed!

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After eating, we followed the noise of the band and caught up with the procession as it wound its way around the upper town. There was still quite a good number of families following the effigy, despite the narrowness of the streets – see video.

And then we came home the day after, which was Wednesday. We caught up with shopping and washing then on Thursday we went and spent a delightful day with Michelle and James in Gibraltar.

Costa Tropical -2

We spent our first full day on this coats by visiting Alumuñécar.

Once we had arrived back in Salobreña, we walked up into the old town again, this time to eat at a restaurant we’d seen up near the castle. On the way, we stopped at a bar called Antigua Botica (I can’t find it on Trip Advisor). The bar is in a square right outside the history museum and just down from the main church, where the following day we would witness our first Semana Santa procession this year. Following yesterday’s trend, each of our two drinks in the bar were once more accompanied with tapas!

The meal we had at The Restaurant Bar Pesetas, which we’d been able to see across the hill from Antigua Botica, was delicious.

We’d not booked, but knew that they wouldn’t be full at the time we wanted to eat (8:30pm ish). We could have gone on their terrace, but it was slightly chilly up there, so we elected to stay in the well-appointed, clean looking dining room. The view was tremendous all the way down the town and then further down the coast towards Motril.

I started with Salmorejo, an Andalusian soup of tomatoes, bread, cream and garlic; served cold and garnished with chopped egg and tiny dices of ham. It was very tasty indeed, but I had first to get over it being the colour and consistency of Heinz tomato soup – but not the same taste AT ALL. Sharon had a house salad which was H U G E. However, she took one for the team and managed to finish it easily enough.

My main course was mussels in a white wine (and tomato) sauce. Lovely. Sharon’s was to be fair, an absolutely delightful fillet steak. Yet it had to go back after a few mouthfuls because it was a little too rare, but the bits she had before then and once it had been re-cooked (still less than medium rare) were very tasty.IMG_8315

I had a brandy in the hotel bar before going up to bed that night and Sharon joined me with a Pernod (no pastis down here).

Our final day on the Costa Tropical was meant to be in and around Motril.

However, we struggled to find the town itself, so we parked and walked along the beach front (around 2.5 miles there and back). Motril seems to be quite a busy place, there’s a port, they still manufacture rum here – a remnant of the sugar cane that was grown widely around here. However, we didn’t look hard enough to find the town so off we went.

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We then continued down the coast, stopping off at Calahonda for a coffee, a good mooch along the beach and around the rocks at the end. We also had a picnic on the beach, we bought the ingredients in a local Coviran and simply sat there and ate it.

We then tootled down the coast a little more – terminating our road trip at Castell de Ferro.

We returned to Salobreña, found a parking space and had a short siesta before heading out for the evening. Which, is the subject of my final Costa Tropical blog.

Costa Tropical -1

We recently decided to take a three-night trip to the Costa Tropical (Tropical Coast). This is about an hour and a half away, east of Malaga.

Salobreña StreetJPGWe arrived on Sunday and spent the afternoon exploring Salobreña, where we had booked our stay. The town is (sort of) in three parts: there’s the beach front, which is about 1/3rd mile away from the hotel; there’s the town itself, usually bustling but on this Palm Sunday afternoon, very quiet; and then there’s the old town, the bit people come to see. Salobreña is visible from quite a distance because the white (old town) houses fill the hillside that rises to the castle at the top.

OctopusThe white town is more compressed than the more famous Mijas (which is close to us here in Fuengirola) and much of the access up into town is via steep steps and narrow walkways. There is a route for cars, there’s even a mini-bus service (and the bins do get emptied) but it’s a tight run.  The views en route and from the top are tremendous.  You can see right down the coast to Motril and we even saw the Tangier Med ferry coming in to dock.

That first day, we walked around the old town in the afternoon and later had a couple of beers in one of the few places that seemed to be open in the main town.  Unexpectedly (remember we are based on the Costa del Sol), each beer was accompanied by tapa. The first was cubes of cheese in olive oil with delicious back tomato wedges. The second was a plate of tiny little chorizo sausages with a salad garnish. Both with one piece of bread each. Delicious. We came back here for cena (dinner) and had some ‘proper’ Potatas Bravas and a massive plate of Croquetas. Both dishes were plainly home-made; the ‘brava’ was spicy tomato – not just chilli mayo from a bottle, and the croquettes were packed with meat – the potato just holding it together (rather than the other way around).
Almuñécar boat

The next day we went to explore Almuñécar.

This is a much bigger town with a much bigger reputation.

Almuñécar_crossWe managed to find one of the last few parking spaces in the tree-lined car park and then walked blindly into town. Sharon had done some research, so we knew a couple of places to visit – one being the cross/crucifix, situated on an outcrop of rock where the two main beaches split. The beaches look good, a bit gravelly but easily serviced by the town.

We went looking for the tourist information office, one of which was reputedly housed in a fine old building. http://www.almunecartoday.com/palacete-de-la-najarra/ It was certainly worth looking out for, even if only for the opportunity to sit for a while in the nicely shaded grounds. The building is quite nice but not, as far as we could see and apart from the tourist office, open to the public.  Almuñécar tourist officeWe then strolled down the road and found the Botanical Gardens.

Although not very big, you can easily spend an hour in here looking at the plants and statues, exploring the little craft shops around the edge and checking out the Roman ruins, thought to have been used for salting fish.

As we wandered out of the park, we meandered our way up to the castle – one of the major things to do in Almuñécar.  It’s a quite a climb, not long but steep – especially when you get there to find it closes on Mondays! Ah well.

We’d had breakfast in Salobreña (and were going out for a meal that evening), so we just had a sandwich for lunch and, late in the afternoon, we returned to base.

Evening meal and day three next …

Almuñécar-Phone home

Seen in Almuñécar

Avila and Hendaye

We were met in Avila by Tony and Gill. They had travelled to meet us via Madrid where they were staying with their daughter Becky. They had taken the train out to Avila and had arrived about an hour before us. Tony and Gill suggested that we all have a drink first, as they needed something to eat, and that we should then walk around the city walls.

Built in the 12th Century the city walls are part of the reason Avila is named as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We started at Gate C (the bottom of town) and made our way up and around to the basilica at the top. Including the separate walk, at the other side of the basilica there are 1.7k of navigable walls.img_7287

The views both from and of the city walls are tremendous and this is certainly a city we would visit again. It seems odd for me, a tourist, to be glad that other tourists were in abundance and were not crowding the city. So, as there were no coach loads of folks following raised yellow umbrellas or filling the narrow city walls, as there were in the other cities – it was a delight.

As we had driven further north, the temperature had cooled noticeably. So much so that when out of the sun, it began to feel quite chilly (when in the sun however, it was still quite nice).

The journey from Toledo to Avila took us over some mountains and the views were terrific. In fact the entire journey was pleasant.  As was the first half of our journey from Avila to France.  The route via Valladolid is peacefully quiet and toll free – once the toll roads start they become a little busier but until Burgos, nothing like busy enough to make driving a chore.

I’ve also FINALLY worked out the Spanish motorway EXIT numbering system.  On the face of it, the system is shambolic and hard to understand with exit numbering bearing no resemblance to anywhere else on earth (unless you know different?).

HOWEVER – all motorways are mile-marked (or kilometre-marked in this case) and the exit number represents the closest kilometre-mark. EASY!

Once we hit the French border, we turned off and entered Hendaye, the nearest French town to Spain. This was a far busier than expected town – not sure what I did expect so close to the border with a ‘toll’ motorway thundering past about half a mile away. Of course, people use the town to cut across the old bridge to and from Spain – doh!

September in the sun

As October begins and we begin our preparations to return to the UK, I have to ask: Who knew that September could be such a fabulous month for taking holidays?

Who knew!

As a child, the school’s six-week holiday was always mid/late July and all of August. Depending on the year, we might still be off school for a number of days in September, but not many. Holidays ‘away’ with parents were always limited to two weeks in late July as Huddersfield closed down for the ‘Textiles’ holiday, or in our case the ‘Engineers’ holiday. At least one week of those holidays were invariably spent in Blackpool. We did go to Great Yarmouth when I was 10 and to Weymouth when I was 11, but after that I rarely went with parents, preferring the weeks I spent camping with the scouts, and school trips.

My early working life was pretty much dictated by the same local holiday pattern before my own family life began and that meant that ‘main’ holidays were to be taken, as above, sometime in July/August.

I compounded this then by working in the education sector, where it can be difficult to take any time off work that is different to the students. So, only now that Sharon has divorced herself from ‘Education’ and we are both self-employed (both with ‘online’ work), can we contemplate going on holiday when we like. And we like September.

The very high temperatures we experienced on our journey down became somewhat muted, settling into the mid-high twenties and there were not the crowds I saw in August when I was here with Emma, Charlie and the girls. More and more snowbirds began to arrive as the month progressed and parking was a dream.img_7148

Readers will have noticed that we set off on September 2nd, stopping in Kent for the night before travelling down through France and Spain to our small apartment on the Costa del Sol. Here we were met by friends, who had also taken advantage of being old enough to leave the country in September. We spent some good times walking here and there, eating here and there and simply enjoying the glorious sunshine. For the last two weeks, Sharon and I have been here alone and that has allowed us to complete our work, to read copiously and to ‘scoot’, something we have done most mornings, along the paseo between Torreblanca and Carvajal.

And today, we depart for home. Our journey will take us to Cordoba tonight, then to Avila, where we will meet Tony and Gill who will travel by train from Madrid, where they are staying with Becky, their daughter. Then we will drive up through France staying in Boulogne on Saturday night and home by Sunday teatime.

Seville

The drive to Seville from Elvas was fairly uneventful, we cut out as much of the motorway as we dared, but even that, when we joined it was quiet. We had two coffee stops, one in a very quiet road side bar, where I tried to hold a conversation about the weather with the girl serving (who said she was learning English) and another at the busiest rest stop you’ve ever seen – manic.

img_6978We also stopped at a town called Monesterio. This town seems to celebrate itself as ‘ham town’, with statues of ham and many ham shops in abundance. I’m guessing that as this is the Iberico ham region that the hams they celebrate here are amongst the finest produced in Spain. The town certainly has an air of quiet confidence (affluence even), with houses that are well kept, streets that are clean and shops that are busy.  We were simply looking for the monastery so didn’t stay for too long – but once again we were unable to find exactly what we were looking for. All streets seemed to lead away from the monastery.

Then, I found Seville to be THE most frustrating city.

They certainly sacked the town planners early in Seville’s existence (which, in the main was a good thing). What exists now is a maze of streets, roads and alleys that wind around in no particular order, going in no particular direction, but which produce a surprise around every corner.

Some of the buildings here in Seville are magnificent.

img_6999Our hotel was just outside the major road that circles the city, so getting ‘in’ required some delicate map work. Thank Goodness for my Maps.Me App http://maps.me/en/home which is simply GPS and doesn’t need internet connection. The tourist map given by all the hotels (and the tourist office) simply lies!  We were lost so often using that map that we had to resort to the Maps.Me App quite often. In fact, having clicked the hotel as a destination, we had to use the App to find our way back three times!  I have never seen so many tourists asking other folks the way to a, b or c – or, walking face down looking at their own phone Apps.

And yet, what a beautiful city! Some of the ancient architecture is sublime. See the Cathedral and the Torre del Oro and the Plaza de España. All gorgeous well maintained pockets of history. But also look and see some of the more modern structures, e.g. The Plaza Mayor, with its Las Setas de la Encarnación canopy.

iberico_hamIf I were to come again, I think I’d like to be more centrally situated – perhaps arriving by train or bus and have a full-on internet connection, so that I were able to find out more about each building (etc.) that I saw – when I saw it.

Now onto friends in Alcaidesa – ready for Gibraltar Day  (10th September)

http://www.jamon.com/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/travel/17journeys.html?_r=0