Tag Archive | Spain

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!

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

Stories From Granada

The Barcelona That Tourists Never See

Sierra Nevada

Selwo Aventura Safari Park

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.

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

Spanish Beaches

What I Do On Weekends

Chillar River, Río Chillar

La Línea de la Concepción

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.

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

A Treasure Huntin’ We Will Go in The Treasure Cave

Stories From Granada

Chillar River, Río Chillar

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Spanish Beaches

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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La Línea de la Concepción

Hot Hot Hot!

Hot Muggy September Nights

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Cordoba

Following last week’s post on the Patios of Cordoba, in this post I’ll put up other things to see and do in Cordoba.

Cordoba Mosque

Of course EVERYONE has heard about the Mosque of Cordoba. It’s right in the centre of town so if you head straight to the centre, you won’t miss it.

Cordoba Mosque

The mosque used to be, well, a mosque! That is, a place where Muslims went to worship, built during the centuries of Moorish rule in Spain. So of course, the architecture is typically Arab, similar to what you can also find in the Alhambra of Granada and other Moorish sites and monuments.

Cordoba Mosque

It was built over several centuries by a bunch of Moorish Caliphs with lovely Arab names but unless you’re really into this, I won’t repeat their names here. You can find their names in the pamphlet that they give you when you go to visit the mosque. Or in Wikipedia.

Cordoba Mosque

After the Reconquista, that is, when the Spanish Christians fought the Moors and regained control of the peninsula, the Mosque of Cordoba was turned into a cathedral. The cathedral itself was actually built inside a small section of the large mosque, respecting the rest of the building and its architecture and designs.

Cordoba Mosque

It’s a historic monument, like a museum, so of course entry is not free. It’s not very expensive although I don’t remember how much exactly. We went to Cordoba with not a lot of money because we went on a tour where everything was paid for (breakfast and lunch as well as, of course, transportation to and from the city, + entrances to all the winning patios from the patio competition I talked about in last week’s post). Even so I had no difficulty paying the entries to the mosque for the three of us.

Cordoba Mosque

This was an attempt to capture the original, old entryway to the mosque (NOT the huge mass entrance through the courtyard where everyone must go now to access the monument, where the ticket office is located) – without capturing the heads of hundreds of tourists walking all around it and posing!

(Okay it’s true, we were tourists too – but we didn’t pose haha!)

Cordoba Mosque

I’m sure the whole world must be familiar with these arch-famous coloured arches, and you’ve probably seen more than a dozen photos of them all over the place. Well here I regale you with a few more!

There’s also a very nice river, with a Roman bridge, that passes through Cordoba. It’s the Guadalquivir, actually. The same river that passes through Sevilla. Anyways, I didn’t remember that the Guadalquivir passes through Cordoba too, but later I remembered it.

Cordoba Roman Bridge

Cordoba is also the city where the movie Carmen with Paz Vega was set. So if you’ve ever seen Carmen…… you’ve seen the city haha! (Okay, not really.)

There’s a synagogue (not a current one in use, the one that used to be used by the Jewish community before the Reconquista) as well, but it was only open in the mornings. So we didn’t get to see it because the visit to the patios was in the morning.

I had lots of photos of typical streets in the winding Arab historic centre, but they were jammed with tourists! This was the only pristine photo I managed to capture.

Cordoba Typical Street

We had time to browse through some souvenir shops and grab an ice-cream. The ice-cream was really necessary as the temperature was over 40 degrees! And it was only the beginning of May.

Although it might seem corny, I do rather like to wander through souvenir shops. I don’t usually buy anything. But I do enjoy seeing what strange and funny relics are available. There’s always something weird or original to catch your eye!

Cordoba Abandoned Building

Okay, clearly this was not taken at a souvenir shop haha!

Finally, you can also listen to Medina Azahara crooning masterfully about Cordoba on YouTube, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9vE8zFvG78

Have you ever been to Cordoba? What did you do during your visit? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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Patios of Cordoba

I thought I’d get this post up before the appropriate time of the year had already passed.

Patios of Cordoba

Every year they have a patio competition in Cordoba, to see which home-owners have the most drop-dead gorgeous, beautifully designed and decorated patios. These patio owners REALLY go all out to get their patios up into tip top shape.

Patios of Cordoba

So these are the patios that won the competition. (Although they’re from last year hehe. I’m a little behind on the posts methinks……)

Patios of Cordoba

I don’t know about you, but I woulda had the most terrible time trying to choose the winner from among all these stunning displays.

Patios of Cordoba

Unfortunately, it was impossible to get away from the swarms of tourists while taking the photos. The patios are only open to the public for a limited number of hours each day, so basically the whole country and much of Europe and North America packs itself into these patios during these few short hours. It’s impossible to catch a pic of these beauties without loads of tourists about – unless you just happen to be a reporter, of course, and you get invited to snap photos for a newspaper or magazine!

Patios of Cordoba

So nuff talking. I’ll just let these wonders speak for themselves.

Patios of Cordoba

On many patios they had these tiles with wise or witty sayings. (Click on the photos to see them close up and if you know Spanish, you can read them!)

As you can see, this is a well. In the “olden days”, before modern plumbing, people relied on these wells for their water supply. So now you know. If the public water supply were ever cut off, these lucky blokes would have no problems.

Check out the eyes painted on the upper blank wall!

Next week I’ll continue some more with our exciting visit to Cordoba. So check it out, if you haven’t already!

What about you? Have you ever been to Cordoba? Did you get a chance to visit the patios? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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Just a Short & Silly Post

Well this is just a short and rather silly post. There’s no theme to it, and not much point to it either, really.

I always wonder, when I read about people living in faraway countries, what it is that they see every day when they leave their houses and go about their daily business. What are streets like in other countries? What do the buildings look like there?

So this is a typical street in my neighbourhood. Nothing extraordinary about it. It’s not a neighbourhood that stands out for anything in particular. It’s not a place tourists come to browse around. It’s not an especially luxurious neighbourhood. Just a typical working class street in Malaga.

Malaga Street

How does this street compare to streets in your city or town? Please do leave me a comment, I lurrve to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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Voting In Spain

We just had some big elections here in southern Spain. Well, I say big. I mean, typical. Governments in, governments out. Do we really care who’s in charge?

Political Parties of SpainWell, but anyways, apolitical though I am, I do care up to a teentsy tiny point who’s in charge. So I decided to do something unusual and go and vote.

Now, I don’t know what it’s like to vote in other countries, since I’ve only voted in Spain and Canada. And I don’t know whether the process in Canada is normal either.

In Canada, you don’t just sign up to vote whenever you want to. Every four years someone comes around to your door and asks you who in your family is eligible to vote. You probably have to provide some sort of proof that the people you name are eligible to vote, like a passport or birth certificate or something, that proves the person is old enough to vote. I wouldn’t know, my parents always took care of all that.

This is called “Census Day” in Canada, and during the days leading up to this all important date, there are ads in all the media reminding people to stay at home that day so that they can get onto the Census List and receive the right to vote.

I always wondered what happened to people who didn’t or couldn’t stay at home on Census Day and couldn’t get onto the Census List. Did that mean that they couldn’t vote?

And what about people who moved after Census Day, but before the next one four years hence? Did that mean that they couldn’t vote after they moved, until the next Census Day swung around?

But since those were never concerns of mine anyways, I never discovered the answers.

Now, here in Spain, the process is completely different. I like it here more, because it’s much more within your control.

Here in Spain there are Censal Offices. There’s an office in every neighbourhood, town and village. So it doesn’t matter where you live, even if you live way out in the outback or on a farm, you can sign up to the Census List.

People won’t come to your door here. Nope. It’s YOUR responsibility here to go to your nearest Censal Office and sign up for yourself. You should sign up your family members too.

Once you are signed up, your name will automatically be sent to your Poling Station every time there is an election, and you can vote.

It’s as simple as that. Easy peasey.

On the day of the election, all you have to do is wiggle your way down to your Poling Station, well equipped with your ID, of course.

When you get to your Poling Station you will find a few police officers hanging around, usually looking a bit bored, in order to keep order. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, so manning a Poling Station is a rather boring task round here.

Inside the Poling Station you will see a couple of tables with a candidate from each of the main political parties sitting around eyeing each other rather suspiciously. They are there to make sure that there is no monkey business by members of opposing political parties.

It also saves trying to round up volunteers on the street who would be willing to sacrifice a beautiful Sunday hanging around in a Poling Station.

You have to present your ID and when they find your name on their lists, you can vote.

In Canada, the way to vote was, you went into a little private cubicle where you could pick up a sheet of paper. The names of all the candidates and their political parties were printed on the paper, and you had to choose just one. I don’t remember whether you chose your candidate by circling them, or making a tick mark next to them or making an X next to their name. But the point is, you had to read the instructions and make the correct type of marking, or your vote would be invalid.

Then you would slide the paper inside an envelope, which you would then seal and put inside the voting box.

Here in Spain, you also get to go into a private cubicle. But you don’t get a piece of paper with the names of all the candidates. Here, in the private cubicle, you will see piles of flyers in holders on the wall. There is a flyer for every candidate and their political party.

You must choose the one flyer corresponding to the one candidate and political party that you want, and you must slip that one flyer inside an envelope.

Then you seal the envelope, so no one can see which flyer you had chosen, and put the envelope into a voting box.

After that you can leave, pass the bored police officers, and hang out in the nearby bars, where you can observe all the people venting their passions and adrenalin with heated debates about politics.

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Canada vs. US vs. Spain

3 flags3 flags3 flags + knot

I was just reading through expat blogs by Americans in Spain, and one of the things that most struck me, unbelievable though it might seem, was the differences between Americans and Canadians!

Now, you might find that a bit weird, considering that, you would expect, the differences between Spain and Canada should be far greater than those between the two North American countries which, when you come right down to it, still share a continent and have a common history and ancestry.

But I suppose perhaps I’ve just gotten used to the differences between Canada and Spain, since it has become quite customary to me to compare the two all the time. In fact, I’ve written another post in the past comparing life and customs in Canada vs. Spain.

The United States, on the other hand, is not a place I think about a whole lot. So it did strike me how different the United States really is from Canada.

Now, do take into account that perhaps my experiences might not be representative, and I’m sure another Canadian would probably have different views from me. I’m also not a “typical” Canadian (if there is such a thing).

I grew up in a small town in French Canada. The English language and culture that prevailed there were more British in many ways than American. So I think there are many things that I do that are more “British” than perhaps would happen with the average Canadian.

I write many, but not all, words the British way, and I use some British terms more than their American equivalent. And then there are some words that I use that are just, simply, Canadian, lol.

So I will write “realize” and “criticize”, but “favourite” and “colour”.

Now, having said that, it’s also true that that doesn’t make us “Brits” or British in any way. I don’t speak with a British accent. I’ve been told I don’t have an American accent either, however, but rather, an “unidentifiable” but fairly neutral one. Maybe, if anything, perhaps slightly “Scottish”, since there is a strong Scottish influence in Canada.

In fact once, in London, a wonderfully friendly gentleman told me he was sure I must be from Scotland, and he was flabbergasted when I told him I wasn’t. He said I had such a typical Scottish accent!

So now, these were the differences, in no particular order, that caught my attention the most.

Words

I will say torch and rubber, and I had no idea that in the States, rubber is a “bad” word hehe. But I also say pants, car trunk and running shoes (rather than trainers or tennis shoes). And in my particular part of the world, we would say patio, the same as in Spain, and métro rather than subway, tube or underground.

Place Names

I am used to places being called “Place” (as in Place Bonaventure, a place that really exists in Montreal), which is the equivalent of the Spanish plaza. It took me a long time to find out what English speaking people call a “Place” (ie. Square).

It didn’t make much sense to me when I found it out. As far as I could tell, although it’s true that some “places” (with silent “e”) are square, such as the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, as far as I could tell, most were round. So I really couldn’t fathom why they are called “squares” in English language areas of the world.

We also call very wide avenues “boulevards”. And as I mentioned before, we take the “métro” rather than the subway or underground.

Sovereignty and Imperialism

The great majority of Canadians enjoy being a monarchy and having Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. I dunno, we just do. We think it’s pretty cool, to have a queen and a royal family. It’s quaint and fun. What’s more, the British royal family have always been quite crazy about Canada and have always treated the country well.

Customs and Names

In Canada we hang out at the shopping centre rather than the mall. We can do our shopping at both a grocery store or a supermarket. A grocery store usually refers to a small food shop while supermarkets are very large.

Like Americans, we go to elementary school and high school. But after graduation, we don’t head off to a college but rather, to a university. A college, as far as I was ever able to discern, was a sort of élite school where children from wealthy families could attend for a year or so after high school but before entering university. In that sense, I suppose you could sort of refer to a college as a “preparatory school”.

Colleges were also vocational schools where you could study a “métier” or a trade, if you didn’t want to go to university or undertake academic studies.

What You Can Buy

Canadians always go crazy when we go to visit the United States and we walk into a store, like Walmart or a supermarket. It is like going to the Mecca! There are sooo many things to buy in the United States! Such a variety of brands and such a humungous number of goods is never available at a shop in Canada!

Now, it is true that there are some things that we have more of in Canada than in Spain. We have instant flavoured oatmeal and cream of wheat. We have more cookie flavours than in Spain.

But the cheese selection is really, really poor. Basically, from what I remember, about the only cheese you could buy was cottage cheese and the plastic-flavoured Kraft cheddar cheese cut into little square slices and wrapped in plastic.

In fact, there seemed to be a dearth of milk and dairy products in general in Canada. We only had one, maybe at the most two, brands of milk. You could get it in whole fat, semi and skimmed varieties. But there were only one or two brands.

I remember going to the supermarket for the first time in Spain. I nearly fell over when I beheld the gigantic range of choices in brands of milk. Puleva, Pascual, Covap, Asturiana…… Just the brands of milk you could buy in Spain occupied one entire aisle!

The same is true of yoghurts as well. In Canada, at least when I lived there, you had Sealtest, and that was it. True, there were many flavours you couldn’t find, like blueberry and raspberry, which were flavours that, until recently, seemed as foreign to Spanish people as Martian flavours.

But once again, the enormous number of brands of yoghurt available in Spain was overwhelming, to me.

In Canada, most people read about all the new products that come out in the US in magazines and drool over them. We count the years (yes, years) until they finally start getting imported to Canada.

And if we’re lucky and we live near the border, like I did, we get to take a road trip a couple of times a year to the US, where we bombard the stores and SNATCH UP aaalll those goodies that we just can’t find in Canada.

We’d drive back to the border with the car trunk loaded to the maximum. Usually the kind and understanding customs officers would just glance through our goods, which were probably enough to stock up a small shop, and wave us through with a sympathetic smile.

I remember when Carmex brand lip balm first came out in the States. A friend of mine who was a makeup artist dropped in to the south of the border and hoarded up a huge stash of little jars of Carmex, which she then doled out magnanimously among her friends back in Canada.

Canada doesn’t have its own car company either. They import all their cars, although several American companies, like Ford, do have factories in Canada, where they manufacture vehicles solely for use in this country.

So I was quite amazed when I arrived in Spain and discovered that Spain actually has its own car company, Seat.

The American Dream

As far as I’m aware, no such equivalent exists in Canada. If anything, perhaps the Canadian dream is to be able to emigrate to the United States haha!

How about you? If you are a Canadian, or an American who has ever visited Canada, or a Canadian or American living in Spain, what differences have you found?

Do leave me a comment if you’d like. I LURRVE receiving (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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One Sunday in February – Massacre on the Road to Almeria

One nefarious day in February 78 years ago, over half the population of Malaga fled to the countryside, down the long and difficult seaside road to Almeria that was their only escape route. Behind them, the invading troops of General Franco, already crowing victory. And on all sides, Italian, German and Franquist naval ships and war planes showering bombs down on the fleeing and defenceless civilians, in the forgotten Massacre of the Road to Almeria.

Malaga 1937

Most of this human column of fleeing refugees, over 150,000 souls, was made up of women, children and families, who had had nothing to do with the war. As happens in all wars, it’s the politicians and military men who make the decision to attack, and the civilian population – women, children and ordinary men just trying to make a living doing whatever they can – who pay the high price.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) was, like all wars, complicated and difficult to explain. Most people supported the Republicans. However, the opposition, led by Francisco Franco, enjoyed the support of the Fascist troops of Germany and Italy, and it wasn’t long before they began to conquer the entire country.

Wherever the Franquists went, people fled. Like all invaders, Franco’s troops were notorious for their savagery and barbarism. They looted, stole, raped, murdered, tortured and took whatever they wanted.

So it wasn’t surprising that as soon as the inhabitants of Malaga discovered that these invaders were at their doorstep, they took to the road and fled.

In those days the only unoccupied route out of Malaga was along the dangerous and sinuous road to Almeria. There was little place to hide along the road: it wound its way between the sheer cliffs that fell down towards the sea on one side, and the high mountains on the other. The distance from Malaga to Almeria: 219 km.

That ill-fated Sunday morning, people woke up to the sounds of the Franquist troops surrounding the city, grabbed their things and ran. Those who could climbed into cars, trucks or onto donkeys and mules. The rest had to make their way on foot.

16-year-old Ana María Jiménez woke up in her home in the Capuchinos neighbourhood, looked out the window and saw Francisco Franco’s troops on the mountains overlooking the city, with their cannons and their flags and their muskets.

Her family, like most other families living in Malaga, loaded their belongings onto a truck heading out of town and started on their way. In Rincon de la Victoria, on the outskirts of Malaga, they ran out of gasoline and continued the rest of the way on foot.

“I didn’t understand much about the war at that time,” recalls José Martos, who was only six back then, “but I had it clear that we were running from the Fascists.”

Malaga 1937

The journey lasted a week. Along the way, as the naval ships drew up close to the shore and began pelting them with bombs and bullets, people started to fall. The Italian and German aviation added their two cents’ worth by riddling the straggling survivors with more bombs.

There was no reason for doing this, other than the cruelty, sadism and taste for innocent blood of the militants who ordered and carried out these attacks.

The people fleeing along the road weren’t Franco’s enemies. They were just families trying to make a living during hard times. They were carpenters and farmers and cooks and schoolteachers. Mothers with babies and little children.

Malaga 1937

A woman stops to feed her baby, surrounded by dead people, on the long road from Malaga to Almeria

The man who ordered this cowardly attack against the defenceless citizens, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, explains it thus: “Those masses of people were fleeing, they were getting away. So I thought, why not make them run a little harder?”

The people who survived did so by hiding in holes, ducking down on the ground, rolling behind stones or anything that could shelter them.

Along the way, Ana María and the other refugee children met families who had lost loved ones. Parents burying children in holes in the ground. Entire families lying dead together.

The group found respite about halfway down the road: at Motril, the International Brigade succeeded in halting the enemy attacks and the people were free to continue their journey without death raining down from the sky. However, by then most were so exhausted they could hardly walk.

Suddenly, salvation surged up out of nowhere. Like a dashing white knight in shining armour at the head of a flaming cavalry, the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune arrived with a party of trucks to drive them the rest of the way to Almeria.

Norman Bethune was a Canadian doctor working the Republican frontlines bringing medical aid during the Spanish Civil War. He was in Valencia when he received news of the forced exodus from Malaga, and he hurried to Malaga as quickly as he could.

Malaga 1937

Norman Bethune with his ambulance

Over and over again, the trucks took off overflowing with people, then returned for more. Norman Bethune himself rode in a vehicle which he had converted into an ambulance, where he attended to the ill and the wounded.

The odyssey didn’t end in Almeria for most of the families on this trail. When they arrived in that remote city, most made their way out on ships and trains and travelled to Barcelona. Some of these families remained in Barcelona for the duration of the war while others journeyed into exile, returning only after the war had ended.

Photo credits: Norman Bethune

For more information:

El camino de los olvidados (Diario Sur)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (El País)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (Málaga en Blanco y Negro)

 

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