Best Friends

Today I was sitting around thinking about my good friend in Madrid, let’s call her Lana (not her real name). For years, when I lived in Madrid, we were inseparable.

Inseparable Friends Peace Sign

Lana and I are still in touch. But it’s not the same anymore.

When I lived in Madrid and she was single, she was a real rebel. Heavy metallist, rebellious, anti-conventionality. It’s ironic that now she follows all the conventions and all the things that people expect of her.

We met in the choir. Both of us sang in a choir. We hit it off right away and soon became fast friends.

We were both wild and rebellious, both of us a lot in character like George of the Famous Five, except we had – and still continue to proudly sport – long hair. The difference between us is that whereas I’m quite shy and diffident around people, especially people I don’t know well, Lana is very talkative.

I thought about all the things we’d done together, so many fun experiences we’d shared. Going home one night after a night out clubbing, at 3 in the morning, we decided to start howling like a bunch of cats in heat, waking up the neighbours.

Going to visit an apiary, that is, a bee farm, with a friend of hers. On a hiking trip to observe vultures. Like me, at that time she was very much into hiking, and we often went on hikes together.

Climbing into a water ride at the amusement park one hot summer day, two mischievous little urchins in the same boat with us thought it would be fun to throw water at us. We threw water back, and soon it was all we were doing the whole ride long. We went on that ride I think it was about eleven times with those same two mischievous urchins and had a blast.

Another time we went to a field that was off limits. One of those private properties where trespassing is forbidden. There was a very high fence around it to prevent people from jumping in. We wanted to play in that field. Not because we especially wanted to play in a field – although we did, and it was a very large field – but mainly because it WAS forbidden. On that occasion we went with our friend, the boy I would one day marry haha.

We were absolutely DETERMINED to get into that field come hell or high water. My boyfriend gave us a boost up onto the top of the wire fence. We reached down and pulled him up. So far, excellent.

The problem came when we went to jump down. The shirt I was wearing got snagged on the fence, ripping off half the hem when I jumped down. Unphased, we continued into the field and carried on playing. I don’t remember what we were playing now. Some kind of ball game, maybe?

When we tired of playing and it was time to climb out, this time it was Lana who got snagged on the sharp, poking-out wires of the fence. In her case, it was her jeans. The wire poked a hole in her jeans. However, jeans are sturdier than shirts, and neither was she able to rip herself off the fence, nor could she disengage herself or unhook her jeans from the wire.

She couldn’t simply jump or pull herself down, because then the wire would have gouged into her skin. In the end, we don’t know what she did, but she had to extricate herself from the wire all by herself because we couldn’t get back up again.

I remember one hiking trip in particular. We planned to go with a good friend of hers, Elena. In those days Lana had the bad habit of always arriving very, very late. This was in those times before mobile phones.

Anyways, we were going to meet up at Chamartin train station. Elena arrived, and we started spinning about the station in search of Lana. Aware of her tendency to arrive late, we didn’t give up when she still hadn’t shown her face after we’d been combing the station for a long time.

At last, we both saw her get off the escalators looking like a scarecrow, with wild eyes and swivelling her head in all directions. It was so late, she was convinced that Elena and I for sure must have taken off without her. Of course, being loyal friends, we hadn’t. We grabbed a train to some mountains north of Madrid, whose name I’ve now forgotten. But they are well-known and people often go hiking there. Gredos, I think.

There were a lot of people on the same trail we were on. We walked to the end of the trail, where lots of people had set things up and were playing, eating and just generally having a good time. I believe there was a lake there as well. All of a sudden it started to rain – one of those unexpected, unpredictable mountain storms. All the people started taking off down the trail.

It was quite a long trail. We were perhaps halfway down the trail, when Lana suddenly realized that she had forgotten something in the clearing where we had been playing. We had to trek all the way back, in the rain, to retrieve the lost object. This time when we turned around to go back, the mountain was completely deserted.

After what seemed a veritable odyssey, we finally straggled back into town. We were starving. We had packed a picnic and we wanted to eat. But of course, there was no way we could have a picnic in the rain. We didn’t know where to go.

At that point, we noticed a building that was in construction. It was halfway built. It had floors and stairways, sustaining columns. And most importantly, it had a roof!! That was all that mattered to us! Within seconds, we were rushing up the stairs to the second floor (for greater privacy haha). We plunked down onto the floor, relieved to finally find shelter from the cold rain after what must have been hours, and enjoyed our picnic with numb, blue fingers. It was just a silly thing, perhaps, but I remember we didn’t stop joking and laughing all the way.

With Lana I travelled to Granada, Cuenca, the Alpujarra, Morocco. We had a blast in Morocco. At that time, her family lived in the compound of the Spanish consulate in Tangiers, and I spent several days there. We also took the train to Larache.

We wanted to go to the beach in Larache. But unlike in Europe, it’s impossible to go to the beach in Morocco and even less so if you are two young girls. In Morocco, just the fact that you have long hair and wear a skirt, and especially if you are unaccompanied by adult males (although the presence of adult males is hardly a deterrent), is enough to draw in all the Moroccan men as if you were, well, some sort of rare prize or something.

So we had to defer on our beach plans. But even so, we had a great time together in Morocco. I remember going to the souk with Lana’s mother, and eating pistachio ice-cream. Mmmhh.

Today Lana is married, with two kids, like me (except I’m not married, of course!), and we live our separate lives in cities more than 500 km apart. We still chat via WhatsApp. She’s no longer a rebel, commutes two hours a day to get to work, gives her kids communions and attends all her and her hubby’s family events: baptisms, weddings, engagement parties……

She no longer goes out hiking or for walks in the country. They very rarely even go on holiday. She never travels, except to the family home on the beach.

I wish she lived here in Malaga, near me.

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

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Back to Granada Again

We had such a jolly day in Granada. Well let me tell you from the start. I was so excited and longing to tell someone about it, so I ran off to write this blog post. My son did too, as soon as we got home he grabbed his WhatsApp and was WhatsApping all his classmates about his trip. He asked me for photos to send to his mates but they were all in the camera which doesn’t have any connection to internet.

Alhambra Granada

I didn’t feel like figuring out where to intersperse pics with text so I just lumped all the photos at the end of this post.

Anyways I got off on the wrong foot to begin the trip. Having to jump out of bed always does that to me, and we had to jump out of bed early. The first thing that went wrong was since we arrived so late at the bus station (we literally had less than FIVE MINUTES by the time we reached the ticket window, because there’s always a queue a mile long) I couldn’t get a ticket on the cheap bus and we had to take the expensive one (10 euros more for the 3 of us combined).

I was real p***d off about it. But at the end of the day, I realized we were real lucky.

Because the expensive bus was a luxury bus. I’d never gone on the luxury bus before and on the return trip home, when we got the ordinary bus, I realized how luxurious the luxury bus was. And how lucky we were to have got the chance to try out the luxury bus at least once. I would never have tried it out for myself, since it’s more expensive. In fact I didn’t even know it existed.

The luxury bus. Well the first thing is that it’s the same width as all buses. But inside there are only 3 seats in a row instead of 4. That means that each seat is wider. And 1 of every 3 people gets a seat all to themselves and doesn’t have to share with anyone. That is perfect for people who are travelling alone or for threesomes (like us). So my kids sat together and I sat alone on the other side of the aisle from them. A single seat is veeeeeery comfy and luxurious!

A wider seat is also more comfy. Then it was all covered in leather and it was very soft! Well I’m not crazy about the leather, but the soft part really appealed to me haha! The ordinary buses are covered with fabric but they could’ve used a softer fabric. Instead they used this very coarse, rough fabric that felt like old canvas. Dunno why they do that.

When we got to Granada I discovered that they had changed the bus system. So it was impossible to figure out which bus to take. The bus routes used to just have numbers. Now they had combinations of numbers and letters in different colours. (Well the colours didn’t have any significance, they were just to make it prettier.)

Anyways my friend later explained that the different letters tell us what kind of bus it is. Slow buses have one letter, fast buses (that come often) have another letter and circular routes have a different letter. Then the numbers are the route numbers.

We just grabbed the first bus that came along. It didn’t quite go to the centre but I lived a few years in Granada. So wherever it dropped us off at, I knew how to get from there to the centre.

Anyways, if you’re interested, planning on visiting Granada soon and you’d like some info on how to get into the city centre from the bus station, I’ll tell you that the bus we grabbed was called the SN-something, I don’t quite remember but perhaps SN1? It went close to the centre. It turned at Fuente Nueva, a park that’s just opposite the Pyramid building near Triunfo, and from there it makes its way to Camino de Ronda.

We jumped out at Fuente Nueva which is next to the city centre and walked around from there.

However, according to my friend, the correct way to go about it, if you want to ride directly into the heart of the city – let’s say you’ve got loads of luggage, for example, and your hotel or hostel is in the centre and you are NOT up to long walks with all those bags – then the correct route to take is this:

You would take the N4 bus which stops right at the bus station and get off at La Caleta. (Ask the bus driver.) (Or if you’re good at sighting sites on the fly, when the bus turns and you see a large open plaza with a very long fountain, where lots of kids are playing, that is La Caleta. Well come to think of it better you ask the driver haha.)

At La Caleta, at the same bus stop, you would then hop onto the LAC. The LAC is the circular bus that goes all around the centre. It’s fast and it’s coming all the time.

We spent a good few hours meandering around Granada and I showed the kiddies some more sights. They’ve already been there twice, my oldest son has been there more because one summer he spent a month with his papi who was living in Granada at that time, in a natural cave. (Not a rehabilitated one that has been conditioned for use as a residence, which there are a lot of in Granada, on the Sacromonte, and some very beautiful ones.) It was just a natural cave, that existed on the mountainside. But that’s for another story……

We had lunch in a place that I love. Oh and all the stores that I love that used to be in Granada had all closed and disappeared. There was practically nothing left in Granada. Only souvenir shops and lots of eateries for tourists. The city was practically a desert with streets all lined with closed-up shops that said For Sale or For Rent on them. I know in the summer some businesses go on holiday. But these were all empty shops, because they all had For Sale and For Rent signs on them.

So my fav stores include The Body Shop, which of course you must know as it’s a famous shop. Well they didn’t have one in Granada anymore. They used to. I later discovered that they had removed all their stores in southern Spain but increased the number of their shops in the rest of the country. Just to give an idea of what southern Spain is like. EVERYONE knows there is NO MONEY in southern Spain and the people of this region are as poor as dormice and have no money to buy anything.

Anyways I was telling about lunch. There was this buffet that we discovered in Barcelona which is a semi-vegetarian buffet. They have branches in many cities (but not in Malaga). They have one chicken dish and one fish dish and all the rest of their food is vegetarian. I love that buffet. Imagine a buffet full of vegetarian dishes!

I was sure they’d be closed too but lo and behold! there it was! So we had lunch there.

It’s called FresCo, if you’d like to patronise it. Gran Vía de Colón, 28. If you’re on the Gran Via and you just left the cathedral and you’re looking towards the Albaycin, it’s on the same street towards the left, on the opposite sidewalk.

The streets had been full of tourists and every tourist eatery had been full to the brim. So I was more than just mildly surprised to see that there were NO tourists in this buffet! Actually, I couldn’t believe that there was an eatery free of tourists in the centre of Granada in the summertime!

I guess vegetarian fare just simply isn’t on the lists of tourists haha.

Instead, the place was mostly full of families with kids. My kids fit in perfectly.

I was a bit miffed that my youngest son had to pay the adult rate because the kiddie rate is only to 10 years, and he’s 11. My youngest son hardly eats anything. I could’ve lied but you know, bad karma and all that……

But my oldest son and I ate sooo much I guess we ate my youngest son’s portion of food that he didn’t eat haha. My oldest son pretty much sampled every single dish that they had. I didn’t try out every dish, but I had a lot of chicken. It was really tasty! Now I’m in the mood for making the same chicken dish here at home.

After lunch we went out and you could really notice the steep rise in temperatures. Well we started the day off at 30 degrees in the early morning even in Malaga, so what did you expect in Granada? Every day at this time of the year the temps in Granada are in the low to mid 40s.

We walked around the Albayzin, the Moorish neighbourhood. It was as dirty and dusty and run-down as it has ever been. When I lived there they were starting this campaign that they would subsidize renovations to the Arab neighbourhood so home-owners there could modernize and restore their historic Arab houses. But as far as I could see no one had received any money for this project and no house was reformed or restored.

Granada is on a mountainside. In fact it is actually at an elevation of 1000 m. or 1 km. up, so it is very cold and even snows in the winter. That is why they have the ski resort, Sierra Nevada, there. But it is also closer to the sun and at this latitude. So that is why the temperature is extremely hot in the summer.

In fact my friend posted on Facebook the other day that they had soared up to the comfortable temperature of 47 degrees, complete with a photo of a thermometer.

But since it’s on a mountainside, you have to do a lot of climbing to walk around Granada, especially the Albayzin which is built on the mountainside. (The rest of the city is built on the lower plain at the foot of the mountain.)

Yes Heidi I am not. I’m not a mountain person. Give me low, flat coasts any day of the year haha!

My friend has the good fortune to live at the top of the mountain, at the border between the Albayzin and the Sacromonte. So we had to climb up there to meet her.

(There is a bus but I wanted to walk to show the kiddies the sights. It’s a mini bus, it’s called C or Circular and you can catch it at the bus stop in Plaza Nueva. It circles the Albayzin and goes up to the Sacromonte.)

My youngest son turned very very very red. I was alarmed!

Of course, climbing up a mountain at 43 degrees would make you red!

When we got to the plaza where I was going to meet my friend…… a miracle! There was a water fountain. Not a fountain of the kind that is for decoration and has water spraying up. It was a fountain which is a water tap, which is fairly common in historic areas of Spanish cities because in the past before running water that was where everyone went to get their water.

In fact when I was in Morocco, apparently a lot of people there don’t have running water in their homes because we passed by one of these fountains and a lot of people were there filling up their jugs. I don’t remember where that was and that was over 20 years ago (disclaimer in case some indignant reader should ever feel like writing in and insisting that that is simply not true, every single home in Morocco enjoys running water). But back to Granada.

As I said, there was a water fountain! Of course I POUNCED on it and started pouring water over my red son. I invited my oldest son to take a dive too but he sat demurely on a bench and refused. Something about how he’s in a teenage phase of wanting to look elegant or something……

Well I am not in a teenage phase of wanting to look elegant so I did go quite mad with the fountain. My youngest son and I started pouring water on each other. It was so hot that almost as soon as the water hit you, it was gone already! I did get good and wet but it was so hot by the time my friends arrived you couldn’t even tell haha.

But at least my son turned a more normal colour haha.

My friends live in an apartment at the top of the mountain. I asked my friend why they live up so high and she said they couldn’t find anyplace else to live. Yeah I guess it makes sense no one wants to live at the top of a mountain.

My friend designs websites for a living, so if you know anyone who wants a website designed and they speak Spanish, tell them about my friend!

Or rather, let ME know about it. Leave me a comment and I will get you in touch with my friend.

This is the Monastery of San Jerónimo. Even though I lived in Granada for a few years I’d never been here. We wandered into the gardens for a break from the searing sun and discovered the monastery.

This is the Plaza de la Trinidad. I used to go there to run around with the stroller and try and make my baby go to sleep. (Didn’t work too often, he’s hyperactive.)

This is the Puerta de Elvira, one of the original entryways into Granada from Moorish times. It’s not particularly well cared for considering it dates from Moorish times and is therefore a few centuries old. You can see bars where people rollick all around it and traffic rolls in underneath it.

Puerta de Elvira Granada

I had always been struck by this “cage” at the top of this monastery (yes it is a monastery!), but it had never occurred to me to take photos of it. A friend of mine was an art historian and she had been hired by the people of that very same monastery to go in and restore all the art work in there. She invited me to have a look around once.

Albayzin Granada

You just can’t imagine the AMAZE art treasures that are hidden away inside those very modest, even run-down looking outer walls. The monastery isn’t open to the public, so most people will never get to admire these treasures. Don’t know why they hide them away……

Scenes from the Albayzin and Sacromonte.

Check out this mill stone with baby shoes. I asked my son if those were his shoes, since he was a baby in Granada. (He said of course not!)

Millstone With Baby Shoes

I used to have a much better view of the Alhambra from our rooftop terrace. But I wasn’t happy when I lived in Granada.

Alhambra Granada

What makes you happy is to live in a place that you love and to be surrounded by people that you love, I think.

Alhambra Granada

Well that’s pretty much it about our trip to Granada. As I said, if you’re looking for someone to design a website for you and you speak Spanish, leave me a comment and I will let my friend know.

And if you are NOT looking for someone to design a website, leave me a comment anyways haha! I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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The Carratraca Trail And a Water Party

We just had the most HYSTERICAL day ever!!!!!!! I had SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much fun!!!!!!!!!!! It was AMAZE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Carratraca

My kids don’t quite agree, especially my youngest son who even had a temper tantrum, and he’s 11.

We went out hiking with a hiking group in Carratraca. We had a greeeeeeeaaaaaaat time. (Pics at end of post.)

However my youngest son isn’t used to walking anywhere at all, and he wailed and complained and I majorly worried he’d just sit right down on the path and pout and refuse to continue! Or his little legs would get so weary they’d just rubber out on him.

Fortunately even though he had a couple of meltdown moments, in the end he still gamely went on till the end. Which is a good thing cuz we didn’t have any willing males to carry him on his shoulders like some of the other kiddies did.

Carratraca is a tiny village in the interior of Malaga province near Álora, Tolox (which is also famous for its spa) and Alhaurín El Grande. It’s only got one main street and a couple of smaller lanes. It’s one of those typical whitewashed villages that are scorching hot in the summer and probably quite chilly in the winter. It doesn’t look like there’s much to do there or many things to see or places to visit, except for walking around the countryside.

After the long walk we enjoyed the highlight of the day: a feast with a WATER PARTY!!

The feast was okay. The food wasn’t that great although there was plenty of it and you could eat and drink as much as you wanted. They had sangría, and I had that of course. The kiddies had soft drinks. They put out apéritifs that they said there would be deli meats but there was only potato chips, bread sticks and olives. But the sangria was far out!

The route wasn’t really that long or bad, it was only 4 km. But you have to take into account what is the height as well, because it’s not the same to walk 4 km. but climb 2 km. haha as it is to walk 4 km. and only climb 100 m.

The walk was up to the top of a mountain and then walking all the way around the mountain. It was quite pleasant and not very difficult, but the main problem was having to carry my youngest son’s bag with its 1,5 litres of water and tons of food!

Anyways after that they served 2 humungous paellas. There was plenty of food and we were full, but in my opinion the paella wasn’t all that tasty. I guess they were counting on that we’d all be starved and we wouldn’t notice the less than ideal flavour haha!

My son loved it though.

After that they turned on the water hoses and you can NOT avoid them. They said the party was at this place called the bullring so I thought it was the local bullring. But turns out it was a very large open air bar CALLED The Bullring.

Anyways so since it was outdoors there were lots of water hoses and lots of fun with them. My oldest son used to enjoy doing silly things like this but now that he is going through a teenage phase of wanting to look elegant all the time (he told me he wanted a pretty sun hat this morning, not a plain, ordinary kiddy sun hat but a really fashionable one) he didn’t volunteer for much running around underneath the hoses. Didn’t matter, if you didn’t go to the hoses the hoses went to YOU.

My youngest son sat and sulked in a corner cuz he doesn’t like anything exciting. He even hates the amusement park. Didn’t matter, the hoses went for him too haha.

In Spain since it’s so hugely hot in the summer (temps over 40 every day) lots of water activities are scheduled haha.

I didn’t take any photos of this section of the day, I put the phone away in a safe, dry place and let the guy with the HD underwater camera do all the honours.

One thing I really love about Spain and Spanish culture is that people aren’t going to go, ew we don’t want you you can’t take part cuz we don’t know you. In Spain people go, come on the more the merrier. So you don’t have to feel like you don’t belong and can’t take part in activities. I’m usually a lurker and an onlooker, but it looked like soooooooooooooo much fun that I tried to get in and everyone was so nice and amazing. They had all sorts of silly games and activities (underneath water hoses of course hehe). They even had skip rope.

After that there were door prizes. I was so excited, we won a prize!!!!!!! My son’s wishes came true and we won a sun hat with the name of the hiking group emblazoned all around it. I gave it to my son of course.

When we came home there wasn’t much to eat in the house: a pack of eggs, some grains like pasta, couscous and rice and flour and an aubergine. I was too tired to make fried aubergine. Then I had an inspiration! I made garlic soup.

Garlic soup is the fastest and easiest thing in the world if ever you’re pressed on time, you have an empty house and you’re tired. Here’s the very easy recipe:

Fry a bit of garlic in oil at the bottom of a large pot. Then fill the pot with water and put in chicken stock, salt and pepper. When it boils throw in some small kind of pasta (like not large pasta like macarroni or spaghetti, something small like alphabet letters). When the pasta is ready (always keeping lots of water in relation to the pasta, or it wouldn’t be a SOUP haha) carefully upend an egg into it. The egg will cook and the yolk will be a nice round raw yolk. Serve a bowlful with the yolk. Then put in another egg for the next eater etc.

My kids fell like stones into bed.

We went to a shrine, a religious Catholic shrine, at the top of the mountain. They say the villagers wanted a shrine so they built it. On the very day it was supposed to be inaugurated a bolt of lightning arched clear out of the clear blue sky and struck directly onto the shrine and burnt it up. No more obvious indication from the heavens that G-d did NOT want a shrine built there. So they didn’t rebuild it.

This little village (with only 1 main street) apparently was some sort of spa and lots of manors sprang up to handle all the health tourism. We actually peeked in at one of the spas, it sure looked luxurious inside. Anyways the biggest manor of them all has been converted into the Town Hall.

Just a coupla landscape pics.

Carratraca

These really large eolic things were all over the place. In the photo they look so tiny but in real life they are really humungous and impressive towering over ya.

Carratraca Molino Eolico

Coupla pics bout town.

Dunno why the last photo came out so fuzzy. Maybe it’s heat waves haha.

I’m only putting up one photo of the water party because they were taken with an HD waterproof camera and they are not mine.

Carratraca

Photo credit: Las Rutitas De Los Domingos

I just had to laugh thinking about some elderly people who came to the water party. Water parties round here are NOT a spectator sport haha. These weren’t members of the hiking group, they were I guess just villagers who decided they’d drop in and have a look round. They thought they could just sort of hide in the corners and observe. Well as for observing – no way! The water hoses attacked them just the same. The fact that they were elderly didn’t in any way provide them with immunity haha.

One couple just decided that what the…… Since they were there they might as well join in the fun. The other couple, they were so funny. They didn’t like getting attacked by water hoses and just sat in a corner and SULKED. They just happened to end up sitting next to my youngest son who was also SULKING haha.

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Caves of Nerja

Well, looks like it’s time for another sightseeing / travel post.

I promised my son I would take him to the Caves of Nerja for his birthday. His birthday was at the end of last year, so you can see I’m not very current with posts haha!

If you live around here or have ever come for a visit, you are probably familiar with the Caves of Nerja and you have probably dropped by to discover them. They are very well known and most tourists do try to make an effort to stop by and visit them.

The Caves of Nerja were formed millions of years ago during prehistoric times by rainwater filtering through the porous rock and slowly gouging out cavities and openings underground. They were almost continuously inhabited by cavemen, who left several paintings depicting everyday life in their times. These cave paintings aren’t open to the public, in order to preserve them.

Even though they are so famous today, no one knew about these caves in modern times until they were discovered in 1959.

Now, it’s very common for caves to be discovered while public works are taking place excavating tunnels for highways, parking lots or other things that are habitually built underground. But that wasn’t how the Caves of Nerja were discovered.

A group of five boys from the nearby village of Maro liked to wander around in the fields and go bat hunting. They were aware that there were some holes where literally hundreds and thousands of bats would fly out from at dusk, and they liked to go chasing these bats.

One day, they thought they would explore more deeply into the holes where these bats flew out from. They tried to drop down into one of these holes, and soon found out that it wasn’t exactly just a tiny little rabbit warren haha!

It was, in fact, an enormous, immense, gigantic cavern. When they dropped down into the cavern, they discovered skeletons lying around.

They were very excited and were soon sharing their findings with friends, neighbours and teachers. Word spread, and it wasn’t long before scientists and experts started swinging around to check out this new finding.

Very soon they realized the immensity and significance of this discovery. Archaeological research began on this site, and the following year the caves were opened to the public.

The five lucky lads who discovered the caves weren’t forgotten. They are immortalized in a statue that you can see in the town of Nerja.

The Caves themselves are divided into three galleries, only one of which is open to tourists. The two deeper galleries, the Upper Gallery and the New Gallery, can only be visited in special, pre-arranged tours.

A series of pathways cuts through several halls and leads you in the end to the main showcase of the Caves: the Hall of the Cataclysm.

This is the famous hall where you can see the super gigantic column in the centre. This is the largest naturally-occurring cave column in the world. It reaches from the top of the hall into depths so profound that you can’t really see the bottom of it all. The column is 32 metres high and occupies a space of 3000 m3.

We went in the afternoon so we could see the guided tour, but I’m not too sure it is really worth the bother of having to jostle with all the crowds. If we ever go back again we will probably go in the morning, when you don’t have to go in a group and you can wander about freely.

We got assigned to a tour guide who pretty much didn’t say a word to us, other than telling us which direction to go in the labyrinthine trails which appear to wander about in all directions. Fortunately, we hung behind, and we were able to catch other tour guides who were a little less laconic.

I’m not too sure about how much information you can garner from the explanations of the tour guides, all the same. We listened to one explain how the Hall of the Cataclysm was formed:

“This hall is known as the Hall of the Cataclysm. The reason it received this name is because during the time this cave was formed, there were lots and lots of major cataclysms on earth. Severe earthquakes, which really shook up the earth a lot and made a lot of the blocks inside this cave fall down all over the place into haphazard shapes, which is what you can see now.”

You can see from this natural cave design where the Moors got their inspiration for their incredible artwork and architecture that you can admire in places like the Alhambra of Granada.

The pamphlet that they give you when you enter into the Caves provides you with the same explanation, in slightly clearer language:

“At the bottom of the cavern you can observe piles of enormous stone blocks. These are stalactites and stalagmites piled one atop the other without any logical order. This chaos resulted from a colossal earthquake which took place 800,000 years ago.”

There is a vast space which is usually filled with seats, where concerts and dance shows take place during the summer. These concerts take advantage of the incredible and formidable natural acoustics in this area. You can hear these acoustics if you scream in the hall (when no one is around, of course): you will hear your voice echo all around you. The sound is just amazing.

Of course, if you go with a super-responsible, old-before-his-time child with adult behaviour, he will say something like, “Mami, stop screaming! You shouldn’t scream in public places!”

Outside the Caves, you can wander around and enjoy the Hispano-Arab garden, which is a small pool of water covered with beautiful tiles. There are also playgrounds and cool paths with benches to stroll about or to sit and rest.

There is a cafeteria-restaurant where they serve drinks at a most reasonable price, where you can freshen up before the long ride home or grab a bite to eat.

All in all, this is a really great site for a day trip. You can just come to enjoy the caves, or you can combine it with a trip to the town of Nerja. We have been to Nerja a few times and if I ever feel up to it, I might zip up another blog post dedicated just to the town of Nerja.

The Caves of Nerja are open from 10 am. to 1 pm. in the mornings for unsupervised visits. At 1 o’clock the first guided tour begins. After that the Caves close for lunch, and re-open at 4 in the afternoon. From 4 to 5:30 there are guided tours every half hour.

There is a special schedule during the summer months, so if you are planning a visit in the summer, check their new opening hours for that period.

They also offer special visits (with different prices) which must be reserved beforehand. These visits can be reserved through internet.

The visit costs the same regardless of whether you go alone or with a guide. The price of the ticket is 9 euros for adults and 5 euros for children up to 12 years old. Children under 6 can enter for free. (As of 2015.)

I do like the Caves of Nerja, and I consider it a must to visit them if you are in Malaga on holiday. However, I feel that in matters of cave exploration, the best kept secret in the region is definitely the Treasure Cave.

Check up my blog post on the Treasure Cave here.

I personally prefer the Treasure Cave over the Caves of Nerja for a number of reasons:

  • the Treasure Cave has a greater variety of shapes, caverns and hallways
  • there are rock formations with more interesting shapes in the Treasure Cave
  • the Treasure Cave has a lot of historical significance, and it was used as a centre for cult and deity worship during prehistoric times
  • you get to see the cavern dedicated to the worship of the prehistoric deity Noctiluca, really quite incredible
  • there are never a lot of tourists jostling around in the Treasure Cave, so you can have a relaxed, leisurely tour at any time of the year
  • it’s a “wet” cave, so you can see basins filled with water and you can even dip your fingers into the water and rub it on your face (the water is naturally clean and clear, it’s rainwater that has filtered in through the porous rocks). I would be careful which basins you dip your fingers into, though, since some of these basins were used for animal sacrifice!
  • there are three underground lakes, beautiful and spectacular! You won’t find that at the Caves of Nerja
  • the entrance fare is cheaper than at the Caves of Nerja, and if your kids are members of “La Banda” they get to go in for free
  • there is an archaeological park at the Treasure Cave that you can visit for free, and it gives you archaeological and scientific information. You can also see reproductions of some prehistoric cave paintings in this park. Children will probably be bored there, however. I speak from experience!

I saved these two photos for last because they seemed rather special. I thought that both these photos looked sort of like the book cover for some Lord of The Rings-like novel. Of course they are not as good quality as a real, true, bona-fide professional book cover, they’re grainy. But I thought they still rather looked like something out of The Lord of The Rings.

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Malaga Port

Since it seemed the appropriate time of the year for this, I started a collection of beach photos that I’d made throughout the years. But then I got bored. So these are the photos that I managed to finish editing before I got bored.

Pretty much all of these photos are from around here (Malaga). I really wasn’t much into photography before I came to Malaga, so I have very few (if any) photos of beaches from any other places.

This beach is in La Línea de la Concepción right up against Gibraltar. It’s a very beautiful beach, as are all beaches in Cádiz, with fine white sands and warm Caribbean blue water, mmmhh. Wish the beaches here in Malaga were like that haha!

You can see that hazy blue floaty mass of land across the way. It’s Africa! Yes you can really see Africa from this beach. It looks so close. It looks like you could almost swim across. But the very narrow strait that separates Spain from Africa is deceptively treacherous and full of dangerous undercurrents.

Beach in SpainSpanish Beach

Torremolinos.

Beach in Spain

This was a winter’s day in Chipiona. We went there with an organised group mainly so we could see the sights. Well we did get to see the sights, but most of the group spent most of the time going to visit – Rocío Jurado landmarks! Like her tomb at the local cemetery, her home or a huge statue of her. Rocío Jurado was a very popular, now deceased flamenco singer.

This is in Torremolinos again. Somehow I actually managed to grab these beaches empty! Maybe it was off-season hehe?

And again. But many years ago.

(I think he was crying or about to cry!) (This is the same little guy who is now making pizzas!)

My kids in Maro near Nerja. Check out the people bathing in November!

Maro in November

Although not quite a beach, I couldn’t help including these darkly dramatic winter pics.

Spanish Beach

Beach in Spain

A view from a classic viewpoint of the Port of Malaga.

Malaga Port

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Proper Hair Oiling For Long, Drop-Dead Gorgeous Locks

The women of Kerala, in southern India, are renowned the world over for their long, thick, shiny locks. I think in general most people know, or consider, East Indian women as having the most beautiful hair in the world.

Genetics? Maybe. It’s certainly true that nature does seem to have endowed them with naturally long, thick, abundant hair.

But I think a great part of their secret is what they choose to DO to make the most of and ENHANCE what nature had already given them.

And among all their haircare routines, HAIR OILING is what most stands out.

If you don’t believe me, let me show you a photo of what MY hair looks like since I started a practice of REGULAR HAIR OILING:

Hair Oiling

I certainly don’t have Indian hair. And I do agree, I also don’t have kinky locks that curl inwards very tightly, so I realize that at least to a certain extent, genetics do play a part in the kind of hair you have.

But regardless of what type of hair nature decided to give you, I feel that EVERYONE can achieve the most beautiful locks and make the most of whatever you DO have naturally, with hair oiling.

Hair Oiling Basics

So, this is how I oil my hair.

I do it twice a week. You can do it just once a week, or more often if you like. The women of Kerala oil their hair absolutely every single day. They even walk around with their hair sleek with oil the whole day long, and go out on the streets with oiled hair. It’s a normal practice in their society, and if you go out with oiled hair no one is going to come up to you and say, Ew, what greasy hair you have!

Of course here in the West you can’t go out on the streets with oiled hair, or people will come up to you and say, Ew, what greasy hair you have!

But you can most certainly walk around your home with oiled hair.

Benefits of Hair Oiling

  • Oiling your hair will make your hair MUCH STRONGER and more resistant to breakage, keeping it from becoming fragile.
  • Oiling your hair will prevent split ends.
  • It will make your hair MUCH softer and shinier and bouncier.
  • It will protect your hair from damaging elements and the heat of hair styling.
  • It will encourage hair growth and prevent baldness.
  • It will help your hair grow long, since it won’t break off or fall off as much, and because you won’t have to trim it as much since you won’t have so many split ends.
  • It can repair your hair if you’ve already damaged it (and most people have damaged hair, what with chemical hair dyes, hair dryers, flat irons and hot curlers and the like……).
  • Although I don’t know if it’s true, the women of Kerala claim that oiling your hair regularly will also prevent white hair.

As I said, I do hair oiling twice a week. I always use either pure coconut oil or pure olive oil. I’ve also prepared a mixture of castor oil with olive oil which I use for the roots, as it’s supposed to encourage hair growth and prevent hair from falling.

I dunno but I do seem to find a LOT less hair shedding since I started this routine.

Steps For Oiling Your Hair

I always follow the same steps. It works, at least for me.

I begin with dry hair. I apply hair to the roots first, from the middle of the part downwards on both sides. I simply dip my fingers into the oil and rub them in the hair. I do this until all the roots are covered, and then I give myself a relaxing, soothing massage.

Next, I divide the hair into two on each side. I cover both palms with oil and stroke (or rather, pour, as I’m a bit wild haha) the oil all the way down the hair to the tips.

I do this several times until all the hair is saturated with oil.

After that, I dip just the tips of my fingers into the oil and finger comb the hair to get rid of all the tangles. I have coarse, curly hair that naturally just LOVES to tangle, so I usually have tangled hair. And I have found that this step makes a HUGE difference in the way the hair looks afterwards!

One final stroke of oil all the way through from crown to tip, and it’s done!

Your hair should look somewhat like this when it’s finished:

Hair OIling

After this, you can put your hair in a shower cap or wrap it up in a towel if you like. I find that very uncomfortable, and prefer to put my hair up in a plait. You can make one or two plaits.

Most people get satisfactory results keeping the oil on just one hour. I always keep it a minimum of two hours and longer if possible. That simply gives the oil more time to penetrate into the core of the hair shafts, which is where it works its magic.

The deeper the oil penetrates into the hair shaft, the more it is working in there, strengthening the hair and moisturizing it.

When you wash the hair later on, the oil will be stripped from the outside of the hair shaft. But if you’ve left it on long enough, there will still be oil INSIDE the hair shaft, where it will continue moisturizing your hair and providing it with flexibility and strength. Hence that glorious soft sensation after you’ve been oiling your hair.

Some people like to sleep with oil in their hair overnight and wash it out in the morning in the shower. I like to take a shower at night, so I put the oil on in the evening and keep it on until it’s time to take a shower.

If you’re going to sleep with oil in your hair, you can just cover your pillows with towels.

Washing It Out

When I get into the shower, I wash the oil out with shampoo and condition as usual, or use a hair masque.

I find one washing more than enough for the length, but I do need a second washing for the roots, which are oilier.

I used to use normal shampoo but I’ve switched to natural soap (either solid or liquid) and bar shampoo, because I want to be as natural as possible, and avoid toxic chemical detergents.

I do need conditioner or a masque at the end. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, washing the hair removes the oil on the outside of the shaft, so you still need something to smooth down the hair cuticles and make the hair soft, manageable and easy to comb. And that is what conditioner does.

The second reason is because, with the Medusa locks that I was naturally gifted with, that were programmed to tangle right from the start, the only way I can possibly get a comb through my hair is with gobs and gobs of conditioner on top!

If you have thick, coarse, curly hair like me, the best type of comb to use is a wide-toothed one. I never use a fine-toothed comb or a brush. A brush would just pull out all the natural ringlets.

But you should choose your comb or brush according to the type of hair you have and what works best for you. Straight hair seems to do very well with a vigorous brushing every day.

Dry, Dry, Dry My Hair

I always air dry my hair and shy away from dryers or irons. I really don’t understand people’s obsession with ironing away their gorgeous natural curls. Curly hair is, in my opinion, much more exciting than straight hair. And it’s also rarer, throughout the world, since the majority of people have straight hair. Which makes your curls more special, I say.

It’s true that perhaps in some countries, like Spain, curly hair is the norm. So if you live in Spain and you have curly hair, it might make you feel like your hair is ordinary and everyday and run-of-the-mill.

But really, if you look at people throughout the world, most people have straight hair and it is really straight hair that is more everyday and run-of-the-mill.

Sometimes, people with curls complain that their curls are frizzy, so they need to iron the frizz away.

Well, personally, I don’t feel like you have to grab the hair-damaging iron to get rid of the frizz. If you start oiling your hair, it should naturally become less frizzy just simply as a result of the hair oiling.

Then, if you still have frizz, there are products out there to get rid of frizz. And you don’t need to call upon the iron, which burns your precious locks.

In India hair oiling is a real pleasurable experience. People don’t have to oil their own hair there. In India people live with their extended families, so in most households there are many women. All the women get together to oil each other’s hair. So it is a very pleasurable activity. Women chat as they oil each other’s hair. Or the woman who is getting her hair oiled can do whatever she wants, watch TV, read a book, whatever, as long as she sits still, and other women oil her hair. Then she oils other women’s hair.

It’s also customary for all the women to gather together and sit down together and oil each other’s hair while they chit-chat. It’s like a quilting party, but instead of making quilts they oil each other’s hair.

Of all the things you can do to preserve the health of your hair, I feel that hair oiling is the king and the queen and reigns supreme on the list of good things you can do to your hair. If you try it and keep up a regular practice, I’m SURE you will soon notice the difference.

So, how about you? Have you tried oiling your hair? What results did you find? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I LURRRVE (positive, non-spammy) comments from readers!

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Anti-Vaccinations: Dying To Be Natural

(This is the same post I put up earlier, yesterday. But I made a few changes, and I changed the title, so now it goes up as a new post. But if you’ve already read yesterday’s post, you don’t need to read this one since it’s almost the same.)

I wanted to put up another travel post this week, but I felt like this subject was more pressing. After all, the sights and monuments will still be there a week from now haha!

Lately there’s been a lot of controversy in Spain about vaccinations, due to an outbreak of diphtheria in a child whose parents had decided not to vaccinate him.

Many people believe that vaccines are dangerous or have lots of terrible side effects, like autism, because they think there are toxins in vaccinations such as mercury.

Well, if you DON’T get your child vaccinated, then what are the chances that he will catch a terrible, potentially fatal infectious disease like diphtheria, measles or polio? Compare that to his chances of getting autism from a vaccination.

English Cemetery Malaga

The Children’s Cemetery, English Cemetery, Malaga, filled with the tombs of children killed by infectious diseases in the 1800’s.

Which do you think is higher? His probabilities of becoming seriously ill from an infectious disease that is highly contagious but easily preventable by vaccines, or his probabilities of “picking up” autism from a vaccine?

To top it off, it’s now been shown that the link between vaccines and autism was, in addition, nothing but a hoax and a lie. (You can read more about this news here: Autism and Childhood Vaccinations.)

Vaccine-Related Autism Was a Hoax

So in addition to NOT protecting their children from dangerous illnesses, turns out parents who oppose vaccinations have even NOT been saving their children from autism, either. Their children were never in danger of “picking up” autism from a vaccine shot, because vaccines don’t cause autism to begin with.

And as one person I know put it: “I’d rather have a child with autism who’s alive, than a dead child who died from an easily preventable infectious illness.”

Long-term Effects of Serious Infectious Illnesses

Here is what can happen if your child gets ill from diphtheria:

(Quoted from the Mayo Clinic, link to original website here.)

Left untreated, diphtheria can lead to:

  • Breathing problems. Diphtheria-causing bacteria may produce a toxin. This toxin damages tissue in the immediate area of infection — usually, the nose and throat.
  • Heart damage. The diphtheria toxin may spread through your bloodstream and damage other tissues in your body, such as your heart muscle.
  • Nerve damage. The toxin can also cause nerve damage. If C. diphtheria toxin damages the nerves that help control muscles used in breathing, these muscles may become paralyzed. Respiration may then become impossible without a respirator or another device to assist with breathing.

Diphtheria is fatal in as many as 3 percent of those who get the disease.

This is what happens if you get measles, another infectious illness that is covered by current immunization campaigns:

(Once again, thank you for the information, Mayo Clinic, original link here.)

Complications of measles may include:

  • Ear infection. One of the most common complications of measles is a bacterial ear infection.
  • Bronchitis, laryngitis or croup. Measles may lead to inflammation of your voice box (larynx) or inflammation of the inner walls that line the main air passageways of your lungs (bronchial tubes).
  • Pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common complication of measles. People with compromised immune systems can develop an especially dangerous variety of pneumonia that is sometimes fatal.
  • Encephalitis. About 1 in 1,000 people with measles develops encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that may cause vomiting, convulsions, and, rarely, coma or even death. Encephalitis can closely follow measles, or it can occur months later.
  • Pregnancy problems. If you’re pregnant, you need to take special care to avoid measles because the disease can cause pregnancy loss, preterm labor or low birth weight.
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia). Measles may lead to a decrease in platelets — the type of blood cells that are essential for blood clotting.

And how about polio, another infectious illness that is easily preventable by following the regular vaccination schedule for children. As a side note, I had a teacher at school when I was a schoolgirl, she was quite young to be so ill, only 35. She suffered from chronic health problems as a result of contracting polio as a child, before vaccinations existed.

(As usual, thanks to the Mayo Clinic for the info, original article here.)

Paralytic polio can lead to temporary or permanent muscle paralysis, disability, and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet. As a result, children who survive polio may spend their lives with severe disabilities.

Well I could continue onwards, since there are a number of diseases that can be easily prevented in children by a simple vaccine shot, included in the vaccination schedule and available for free to all children, at least here in Spain and probably in most developed countries.

Infant Mortality From Infectious Diseases Before and After Vaccination Campaigns

As a parent who obviously loves your child, do you really want to go through the anguish of seeing your child seriously ill, on the brink of death, perhaps not even surviving, because YOU refused to provide him with something so easy to obtain as a simple vaccine shot?

Think about how many people, especially children, died or suffered from lifelong disabilities, as a result of contracting any of these easily preventable infectious diseases before vaccinations existed.

As an example, in the US in 1921, 15,520 children died from diptheria.

On the contrary, in the US last year, ZERO (yes read it, 0) children died from diphtheria, thanks to routine vaccination of all children.

People Who Oppose Vaccinations

Some people who oppose vaccination said to me once, “Why do I need to vaccinate my children? They’re at school and they’re perfectly healthy. Besides which, all their classmates are vaccinated, so their classmates can’t get the disease and pass it on to my kids.”

Yeah that’s right, another word for this is called riding on someone else’s coat-tails! So, you want other parents to run the “risk” of vaccinating their children so your children won’t get sick? Is that it?

Come on, gimme a break. How selfish can you get?

That’s like living in a shared home where you do no housework and never clean up after yourself, and expect the rest of your housemates to be your slaves and clean up after you!

And as for your kids being perfectly healthy today, well, that’s just the way it is with illnesses. Today your kids are bouncing with energy and life and just won’t get out of your hair, and by night-time they’re flat on their backs with a fever of 40º Celsius (that’s round 105 for those using the old-fashioned Fahrenheit thermometers).

Just be thankful for your blessings that your kids are happy and healthy right now. I know I am, every minute of every day.

But at least I know my kids won’t be dead from meningitis by nightfall. Meningitis can kill literally within hours from the time the first symptoms appear.

But I don’t have to worry about that. Because my kids are vaccinated.

Are yours?

My Hippie Friends’ Point of View About Vaccinations

Once upon a time I was a hippie (maybe there’ll be more about this particular theme one day……). Most of the hippie crowd I hung around with believed in living the “natural life”.

They didn’t hold jobs, preferring to make a few bucks (well, euros) by pawning off stuff at handicraft fairs or selling their old rags on the street. Some were squatters, since they didn’t want to enrich the pocketbooks of people they perceived as avaricious, Scrooge-like, power-hungry landlords.

Some were beggars, or spent their time spaced out on booze, hash and cocaine.

Most of them advised me not to vaccinate my baby. Because it’s “not natural”, they told me. Or because my baby could pick up autism from the vaccinations, or have an allergic reaction. Because breast milk naturally protects babies, they said.

Well, getting a vaccination is “not natural”, but illnesses ARE natural and which do you prefer? A NATURAL illness, or “artificial” protection from that illness?

And by now we have debunked the autism myth. As for the allergies, well, you’ve got as much chance of developing an allergy to vaccinations as you have of developing an allergy to anything else in the world. And you’re not going to avoid strawberries, eggs, milk, wheat, nuts, flowers and trees (pollen, you know) and cats and dogs, just because you MIGHT one day develop an allergy to all these, are you?

And yes maybe breast milk does provide some protection from infectious diseases (always supposing, of course, that the mother was vaccinated herself……). But are you going to feed your baby breast milk for the next eighteen years, until your baby grows out of the high risk age for contracting infectious illnesses?

All the same, since I was into the same hippie crap as all my friends in those days, I did consider not vaccinating my beloved son. One conversation with a good acquaintance changed all that.

Dead Babies in Africa

He travelled regularly to Africa. He told me about all the little babies that he saw dead or dying every day in these countries from polio, meningitis, diphtheria, measles.

None of these children had to die. A simple vaccine shot could have saved them all.

If you asked any of these parents if they would have preferred their child to suffer from an allergic reaction to a meningitis vaccine – easily survivable, since it is easy to counteract an allergic reaction – or what did happen, that is, their child dying from this illness, what do you think they would say?

So yes please do forgive me if I sort of tend to see “opposing vaccination” as a rather arrogant, ignorant, holier-than-thou, anti-society First World problem. I don’t think one single parent in Africa who had seen their child die from meningitis, or become permanently disabled from polio, would think twice about running as fast as their legs can carry them to the nearest vaccination station (if they’re lucky enough to even have one in their country) and vaccinating all their remaining children.

Finally, since they say a pic is worth a thousand words, a few months back we had the opportunity to visit Malaga’s English Cemetery and take photos. This cemetery was founded in the 1830’s and I was especially moved by the oh so many tombstones belonging to little children who had died in the 19th century.

Children used to fall like flies in those days. As a mother, you knew that most, if not all, of your babies would never see their fifth birthday. And measles, meningitis, polio, diphtheria and whooping cough were the main reasons for this.

Chidren's Graves English Cemetery Malaga

These one-year-old twin babies died within days of each other from one of the above mentioned infectious illnesses. The same goes for all the little inhabitants of the graves surrounding them. And the ones that fill up the Children’s Cemetery of Malaga’s English Cemetery.

Is that what you want?

If not, the solution is simple.

Vaccinate your children.

And let them bury YOU one day, rather than you being the one to bury THEM.

As usual, positive, non-spammy comments are ALWAYS welcome! I LURRVE to receive them!

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