Posted in Spain

8th November – Coast and Hills

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We revisited Los Escullos, a campsite in a enviable situation, surrounded by National Park and 15 minutes walk from the sea. The two dormant volcanoes tower above the flater lands below, wildflowers still blooming, crested larks, black redstarts and the black wheatears were all seen on the rocky scrubland of the lower slopes.

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We met Claudia and Alex from Bavaria, both speaking excellent English, and Lucy their gentle cocker spaniel. As we all enjoyed walking we headed to Las Isleta del Moro along a track with rough grass and a few palm trees to a pretty white coastal village. There was a small collection of boats near a pretty bar where we enjoyed free tapas with a couple of drinks before walking back, and stopping to look at the natural rocky sculptures. There was one piece of rock that looked like a turtle’s head and another that looked like a crocodiles head, so we had fun with the cameras.

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The campsite is close to the foothills of the volcanoes with the views over the sea, where our 3 hour walk end in a steep rocky decent onto the deserted small road leading to San José. Having been there before, we knew where to head for a wonderful mixed fish and salad lunch to recharge our batteries. We had decided to order a taxi for the return journey but one of the guys from the restaurant gave us a lift back to the campsite in his car, how very nice of him, and it saved walking 7 miles back the way we came or 5 miles around the road so we were well chuffed! His driving seat made us chuckle, almost lying down and then padded with cushions, his seat belt was useful too!

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We all stayed at Las Negras and Agua Amaga for a couple of nights at each site and enjoyed many more walks together. There was some beautiful scenery with coastal walks, steep rocky inclines and great views of the hills as well as the villages below. Over 6 days we walked over 26 miles enjoyed beers in the sun, a couple of evenings chatting in our motorhome, a beautiful paella at a beachside restaurant with coffee and a brandy, we had a really great time together with lots of fun and laughter.

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Going our separate ways, we headed to Mojácar, not close to the beach but a couple of miles inland and away from the small town at the top of a hill. A classic ‘pueblo blanco’ or white town, it has commanding views over a huge area, flat lands below, hills in the distance and right down to the sea.

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It was an uphill walk the whole way but although it was sunny it wasn’t too hot; entering the town itself we found narrow streets, a few small plazas, tourist shops and cafe bars. Recently built, the large Plaza Nueva overlooks the amazing views and it is possible to walk around the four sides, it was incredibly windy so we didn’t stop too long and went to find a more sheltered spot for refreshments. After walking down to Mojácar Costa, on a much cooler day, we did nothing more than find somewhere to eat lunch and walk back again. Maybe on a warmer sunny day or if it was busier, we may have been more inclined to stay a while, but I’ve certainly seen much nicer places.

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For a change of air and scenery we headed inland to the hills staying on an Aire in Ricote, 25 north west from Murcia. The rugged mountains looked spectacular as we travelled along the scenic twisting roads, along valleys and up to over 960 feet above sea level. Our friends Jess and Martin live nearby, further into the hills and through  a very narrow entrance. The lemon groves were all around Martin told us that they have long sharp spines unlike orange trees which have none, very useful to remember when scrumping a few lemons for your gin and tonic!

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We enjoyed time together birding over a vast area taking his car off-road on tracks between fields, to isolated tumble down barns, and out to large lakes and reservoirs. We were lucky to find a group of 14 great bustards feeding in the fields and several single ones including one flying which was a wonderful sight. These are large turkey sized birds with males weighing between 17 and 35 pounds, long blue grey neck, pale belly with chestnut and black over their back, wings and tail. These birds have also been successfully reintroduced to the UK with a breeding population on Salisbury Plain close to where we live. Another highlight were 13 dotterel, a wading bird now in non breeding plumage with a distinctive paler crescent on the sandy brown plumage just above the chest, a pale eye stripe, standing about 10 inches tall and well camoflauged. None one of us had seen this bird before so we all very pleased.  In total we saw 49 species including farmland birds, ducks, herons, birds of prey including a young golden eagle which was a great sight as it flew overhead.  It was a bright day but cold with a raw wind and in need of some warmth we found a local bar for a late lunch of the a Menu del Día; a large sharing salad with crusty bread, starter, main course, pudding, coffee, a large of bottle water, bottle of red wine and a pint of beer; all for €10 a head – unbelievable!

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Heading back to the coast to warm up we paid Bolnuevo a return visit to use up a pre-paid camping bond we had purchased two years ago. Our friends Claudia and Alex soon joined us for 2 days having beaten a hasty retreat all the way from Malaga to avoid the unpleasant weather. We showed them the wonderful sandstone sculptures nearby that are constantly being developed by wind and rain, and which look their best against a blue sky.

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There is a small working fishing harbour and a more attractive yacht marina at nearby Puerta de Marrazón where we tried a superb Morocan meal while watching the boats.

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We walked somewhere every day and found a couple of tiny rocky islands close to the shore with a walkway over to them giving a good view of the coast line. It was lovely to return to Bolnuevo again and we clocked up quite a few miles along it’s promenade, wide sandy beaches and hillside above and had a couple of beers as you would expect!!!

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Posted in Spain

30th October – Andalucía

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Heading towards the coast we skirted around Jerez and travelled though part of the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales, enjoying views of the mountains and wilder countryside. We wanted to spend sometime on the coast and revisit La Duquesa for 4 days to meet up with our friends Mandie and Mal on my birthday; we had a great time catching up and did a bit of celebrating too! The marina area is always a nice place to relax, have a drink and do a bit of people watching with the boats in the background. We also managed a good few walks in both directions along the pathway beside the beach, a hour or so on the sand and a relax by the pool.

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Feeling rested, we headed inland to Casares; quite a bit cooler as it on top of a rock escarpment over 1,400 feet high. It is a pretty white village nestled onto the rocks with steep and narrow streets, small shops and bars, a church and at the highest point, panoramic views over the surrounding countryside, we could even see Gibralter in the far distance. It is well known for the Griffin vultures that soar on the thermals with outstretched wings measuring approximately 8 feet; we saw so many gliding past, some at eye level so we could easily see their pale heads and hooked beaks.

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The mountain road was really beautiful, high peaks on either side, big valleys stretching out far below with the sides cloaked in trees. There were so many great views I kept stopping, purpose built pulling in spaces with illustrated plaques informing you about the sounding mountains and landscape. I followed the scenic route, edged in green on my map, along interesting roads and we were so pleased we hand not taken the main route from the coast up to Ronda. We saw several Griffin vultures circling high above, but interestingly, a flock of several thousand starlings stretching right across the road in front of me, whirling and diving, then up again, weaving this way and that. My very first murmeration of starlings, but at mid-day, and not the classic time in the evening going into a roost site.

 

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Ronda is well known for its huge bridge crossing the gorge that separates the old side of town dating from the Moorish era and the newer area from the 15th century. We walked around the town crossing the Old Bridge at one end of the gorge, continued along a steep uphill pathway through rose gardens that followed the course of the river.

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Our first view of the huge three arched bridge was amazing, standing at 321 feet high and 216 feet long it was very impressive, construction in the mid 18th century and was completed in 34 years. In the centre of the bridge is a room which was once used as a prison but now has an exhibition of the construction of the bridge. Luckily the sun shone, showing off the masterpiece of engineering in all it’s glory.

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Driving across vast open, prairie style land, we saw thousands of acres of olive groves all of various ages; new trees only 3 feet high with the tiny thin stems encased in protective plastic sleeves, and ancient gnarled and twisted, multi-trunked trees that had seen decades of production. Hundreds more acres of land, cultivated and bare at present, but as soon as the rain comes will soon turn green with crops for the next season. In the far distance were mountains looking blue-grey they were so far away, some with clouds perched on top, others silhouetted against the sky. Steeper inclines slowed the lorries down allowing me the opportunity to pass by and free up my views in front. On many of these hills you see big signposts warning motorists to slow down as they come up behind slow moving vehicles, so funny to look at.

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So far no rain as we headed to Antequera with its ruined fortress situated on top for the hill, it was a steep walk to get there. For me the most amazing feature of the fortress was it’s position at 1,886 feet above sea level, high above the surrounding land which of course is why it was built there in the 14th century.

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Most of the building itself was now a ruin, although parts of it had been preserved; it still gave a very good impression of an impregnable bastion and the views of the surrounding land were tremendous.

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In the distance you can see the famous Lovers Rock high above the surrounding flat land, a real icon in the landscape. It got it’s name from a local legend where a beautiful Muslim girl fell in love with a Christian, they were chased to the top of the rock by soldiers, and rather than be separated, jumped to their deaths from the top, to be together forever and never be captured.

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Rain forecast next day spoiled plans for a walk, so it was time to head for the coast and the predicted drier and warmer conditions. However, after around 80 miles we pulled over at a small town called Guadix, famous for its ‘cave houses’ built into the hills long before there was a modern town centre. There was more to see than we imagined having both a castle and a cathedral; but we had seen a few of these already so concentrated our efforts on looking for these strange houses.  Walking around the village we spotted loads of old, probably disused caves now.

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Newer caves built into the hills with several rooms to each house, the exterior wall usually rendered and whitewashed, the roof being soil/gravel with one or two large chimneys. These peppered the hill side, standing up like white pillar boxes and were sometimes the only sign that there was a house underneath the hillside. Also looking quite weird in this setting from a bygone era, were the television aerials looking like spindly trees, obviously entertaining and informing the thoroughly modern occupants.

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We met one home owner, José, whose daughter told us to visit him and assured us that her father would show us inside with no charge! His house was so much larger than we had imagined, warm and cosy with plenty of light, all mod cons with several televisions, fridge/freezer and microwave! He was a happy man and very quietly spoken, it was so unexpected to see inside a house, and I felt we were intruding so we gave him a few Euros. On our walk back we found a large tarmac area with bus parking, obviously in tourist season, multitudes are bussed up to the village, I hope it helps the villagers and is not overwhelming.

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Walking back from the cave houses we passed through some tiny cobbled streets, even too small for a Smart Car, some had steps at the top and bottom to prevent carsfrom passing, however bikes could manage these obstacles.  We found a large plaza with a covered colonade and town hall at one end that made a lovely setting to relax for a while before going back to Bessie, parked on a camper stop on the edge of town.

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Posted in Spain

25th October – Sensational Sevilla

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The metropolis of Sevilla was our next destination, we had long been told of the beautiful city and at last we were in the right area to visit. Our location for Bessie was at a great setting in Gelves Marina; slightly out of, and south of the city, looking out over the Guadalquiver River with the marina behind. Herons stalked on the river margins, ducks and moorhens paddled around and during dusk each evening, a flock of around 50 cattle egrets flew to a roost somewhere nearby and bats flew erratically catching insects. The steady comings and goings of boats, rowing lessons for kids on long thin boats and occasional noisy jet skis kept me entertained for a whole afternoon of relaxing after we arrived.

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We used the bus to get into the city each day which was easy, cheap and took only 20 minutes dropping us a short walk from the centre itself. Horses with carriages were everywhere, looking very striking as they trotted with tourists all over the city in a constant clatter of hooves; I never tired of admiring them. Firstly a walk in a lovely large park , some autumn colours in the trees and shade over wide pathways for pedestrians, bicycles, 2 and 4 seated cycling carts and of course the glossy horses with yellow wheeled carriages. There were fountains and pools, reflections in the water added another dimension and a gazebo styled building overlooked the water.

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The Plaza España is a magnificent area with a large expanse of decorative paving, a curved ‘Venice’ styled waterway complete with boats just in front of a beautiful curved building with towers at either end. One of the features within the whole area was lovely coloured tiling, either in decoration along walls, ceiling and floors, but also as pictures depicting many cities around Spain with maps too.

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Walking around the streets and squares the buildings are varied in architectural style, colour and age making it fascinating, the views are constantly changing and interesting. It was Halloween when while we were there and many shops had decorations and amusing signs,  everything was so colourful.

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An old cobbled, tree lined street had a wonderful collection of tapas bars where we stopped to try some different dishes we hadn’t seen before. One was a very busy no frills experience, just good food, and cheap too. The barman drew a chalk circle on the bar in front of you putting in the number of tapas you ordered and simply amended it and charged accordingly at the end; no paper, pens or electronic devices in sight, brilliant.

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The huge cathedral stands impressively with its varied Mudéjar and Gothic architecture gleaming in the sun, it’s so big I couldn’t find a single place to get a photo of the whole building. With many turrets, finials, and the tall Giralda Tower looked great against the blue sky, a large round window with elaborate and decorative details surrounding it, and an enormous arched doorway, complete with thoroughly modern ‘sail’ shading for the visitors as they wait to view inside. We didn’t as there were several days to wait for a viewing slot, may be another time.

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For something different we went into the Achivos de India building, a large square building right next to the cathedral with marble floors and staircase with an elaborate diamond plasterwork ceiling. Upstairs was a very good exhibition of telling the story of Magellan’s historic first circumnavigation of the world and the heavy toll it took of men and ships. We knew nothing about it both felt we had learned something, it was really well put together with information in English and many displays.

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Walking alongside the river the tall pale stone, 12 sided, Torre de Oro has stood there since the early 13th century and was damaged by the earthquake in Lisbon in 1755. Further along is the Plaza de Torros, the old bull ring, not used for that purpose anymore and has been done up as an historic building. Triana on the opposite side of the river is a colourful area, buildings line up along the river bank just after crossing the Triana Bridge, which itself was structurally attractive having great circles along it’s length. We found a colourful indoor market to wonder around, lots of fruit and vegetables, cheeses and cured meats, nuts, pulses and fresh herbs, cakes and breads.

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Totally different from everything else we’d seen was a large modern structure built in 2011, the Las Setas de Sevilla, meaning The Mushrooms of Seville. It is the largest wooden structure in the world standing at 85 feet tall, inside Roman remains which were discovered while being built have been preserved and displayed. It has a street level market, and large plaza shaded by the structure, a restaurant, and the upper levels give great views over the city.

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The one major building we waited 2 days to see was the wonderful Royal Alcázar; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the beautiful Mudéjar and Gothic styles and still used by the Royal Family as their Palace when in Sevilla. No description can do it justice; the decorative walls, courtyards, tiling and friezes, ceilings, wooden doors, enormous tapestries, the list goes on….

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Moving outside there were large gardens, beautiful and peaceful right in the centre of the city, huge trees, water fountains and formal ponds, geometric designed gardens enclosed in hedging. In one area of the garden is the 17th century hydraulic Water Organ that plays music once an hour as the water flows through the pipes, one of only three in Europe.

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In total we spent 6 days in Sevilla, so many great things to see in a city that is easy to walk around and navigate around the places of interest. It is pretty with spacious plazas, great places to eat, parks and the river, and of course the wonderful horse carriages are everywhere adding to the atmosphere. So glad we have finally got to see it and spend time there, and we definitely need a return visit in the future.

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