Week 26 – A wet start but then Seville

  • We started the week with a showery Saturday, but as we are determined to keep fit we did our 10 km Marbella walk anyway. We only found one person on the beach – a lonely sand sculptor.
Three weeks ago the corniche was pumping, now it’s a just a few hardy Scandinavian and English tourists
Just the activity for a wet Saturday – although not many crocodiles in Spain
  • Sunday we headed through a very heavy thunderstorm to Castellar de la Frontera near Gibraltar. The storm passed over and we had a lovely lunch and afternoon with Sonya and Tonio at Origen Castellar restaurant, (owned by Tonio’s brother). Sonya, (cousin of my friend Dorothy), is from Melbourne and husband Tonio from Spain. We had lots of delicious vegetable dishes, a welcome change from the very meat oriented Spanish “tourist” food.
L to R: Grant, Adrienne, Sonya, Tonio
  • Monday was back to sunny so we headed for the old town in Marbella. When we came to here in 2007 we found Plaza de los Naranjos and it is still a beautiful public space – gardens, orange trees and lots of lovely outdoor cafes and classy shops. It really is a most inviting place – we find ourselves lamenting daily about the short-sighted, mean spirited, politicians and bureaucrats in Australia who do not see the need or benefits of human scale, inviting, community social space in their town planning.
Adrienne in Plaza de los Naranjos
The small church next to the plaza
  • This week we headed off for another road-trip and drove up the steep highway past Ronda and on to Seville. We were blown away – Seville is a beautiful town, full of stunning buildings and huge, well kept gardens and public spaces.
  • We had a few adventures trying to find our apartment but decided to park and take a taxi – great idea, Adrienne – as the old town is a complete maze.
    Our street – not for out of town drivers

    Turn around and you have the “shack” at the bottom of the road
  • I could write pages and add all of the 50 odd photos I took, but to start with the “shack” – Seville cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral on earth, and quite literally is head-spinning in it’s size and beauty – this really is a “bucket list” place.
    The front facade – mercifully not melted by acid rain like many in northern Europe
    No single photo can capture the immense size and grandeur
    One of the dozens of “smaller” side chapels and alcoves
    These objects are all solid gold with emeralds the size of dove eggs. They were “gifted” by the most generous Cardinal of Mexico – no mention of where he got all the gold and precious stones!! And there were many cabinets of these artefacts.
    Another side chapel – the carvings are all covered in gold leaf – Seville was the jump off point for Christopher Columbus – these sailors did well in claiming the Americas for Spain!
    The long axis – use the people in the bottom left corner as yardsticks to understand the sheer enormity of this magnificent edifice

    Adrienne is going to remodel the quad at James Ruse High based on the square outside the cathedral
  • We did the open top tourist bus – a glorious warm day about 28oC – what’s not to like about a city of beautiful buildings and wide tree lined boulevards?
Many of the city buildings have Moorish influence and are stunning – the Islamic builders of 800 years ago were certainly more far sighted and talented than today’s ISIS fools
Torre del Oro – built in 1220 A.D. – Gladys, (NSW Premier), would have had it down by 1240 A.D. – lucky Seville is not in Sydney
  • Next up – Plaza de Espana – and to suggest that Adrienne “was going left AND right” is a complete understatement – this is a landmark building lined with ceramic tiles representing every province of Spain, and just blew us away. One photo cannot do it justice so have attached a video. This is a city of 700,000 in a country that has struggled economically in recent times, but it is proud and vibrant and we have fallen in love with Seville!! Please watch the video.
  • IMG_2424
Still in use for government departments
The view looking out from the centre – the Spanish love a fountain framed by a portico, (and so do I)
Your intrepid writer is sitting here looking like a twat because we are quite proprietorial about the Camino de Santiago and we departed from Sarria in Lugo province, (bottom centre)
Looking back to the centre portico
  • We then walked into the Parque de Maria Luisa – defined on google as “Sizeable, prominent park featuring scenic plazas with landscaped gardens, plus fountains & monuments” – and nature girl was in heaven
No, I can’t build this in our backyard
Or this ….
Or one of these …
  • But after all this we arrived back in the old town and I could not resist –
“The Barber of Seville” (see opera)
Grant – I hummed Rossini while getting the grey locks cut – crass but enjoyable, especially because he spoke more English than the bloke in Ostuni!!
  • After such a huge day we needed beer and red wine so we went in hard, (channelled Bruce and Paul), and found a place that served good Italian food with loads of atmosphere. Great pizza and even some Italian beer.
It’s only been operating since 1386 – but the pizza was really good
  • The next morning was planned to be the “Royal Alcazar of Seville”, reputed to be the finest Moorish palace outside of the Alhambra, but I’m afraid the outside photo is all we got – the queue was about 2 hours long, and we don’t do that sort of time in the hot sun …
Check the queue and it went about 200 meters back around the corner – we should have booked on line!
  • So we sat in a cafe on our street and people watched. I have to say we saw a number of “old people” in tour groups, and we thought the poor sods looked like groups of walking cadavers – being dragged about while being force-feed endless info they would never remember – all when they would rather just have a glass of rioja and a sit down … do they know where they are and what day it is? We are so happy to have made the decision to travel when we are physically and mentally able to appreciate it all at our own pace, but we’ll cover that in our reflection piece in a few weeks.
  • We did some shopping, (who would have thought), and headed for home through the spectacular gorges below Ronda. We have a few rest days and next week are off to Lisbon in Portugal on a week long road trip.


Week 25 – Visitors, rest and planning the last weeks

  • We spent a busy weekend with Georgina and Rachel – the last visitors during our gap year. We have had the pleasure of sharing our adventures with many of our family and friends, and we are sure there will be lots of fun and experiences revisited over a primitivo or rioja in years to come. We still have 5 weeks before heading home but the planning for our next “gap year” is underway!! 2021 based in France is looking good – pencil it in.
  • It was only 44 km up to Ronda, but with a very slow scooter holding up traffic on the windy road the whole way we needed a beer “settler” on arrival. Ronda was pumping with tourists – like everywhere we have been it seemed so much busier than when we visited in 2007.
LtR: Rachel, Adrienne and Georgina on the bridge between “old” and “new” Ronda
The spectacular bridge from below in the hanging gardens, but the lookout is packed
  • Ronda is also home to a very traditional bullfighting arena, but I am happy to say it is only used one day a year. As our visit did not coincide with the day we filled in for the bulls ….
The toros preparing for battle
The intrepid matador taking guard …
Apparently only one matador has been killed in the Ronda arena – bloody miracle looking at the size of them compared with the bulls!
The “old” bridge in the foreground but typical southern Spanish landscape in the background – hot, dry and tough on farmers
  • Sunday was always going to be a big day as we headed for the Alhambra palaces in Granada, and did not start well – we headed straight into heavy rain and when a red light started flashing on the dashboard we worked out that our diesel car required something called AdBlue or it would stop – between google and some keen observation we found that all servos have a huge tank of the stuff and we were back in business, (drivers blood pressure going back to normal).
  • But there was more – between the inadequate arrival instructions from the Sixthrills tour company,(inadequate because they failed to note that we could not actually park at their meeting point and received a 60 Euro fine for following the GPS and driving into the restricted square!!),  the 15 euro per person “rebooking fee” for when we finally got to the meeting point an hour late and had to take a later tour, and the final “snafu” when the guide was denied entry to a major section of the castle, the day did not seem to be heading for a success.
  • The guide then called the tour off, (much to our delight, but lots of anger from the rest of the tour group – and we are still waiting for the promised refunds), and we then headed off for the “Kiwis go large” jogging tour of the Alhambra. On our own we were able to head off and see a large section of the spectacular palaces and gardens – this is a truly beautiful, mystical place – the Moorish buildings and the fabulous gardens are stunning. At every turn I could “hear” Loreena Mckennitt singing “The Mystic’s Dream”.
The Alcazaba fort
King Carlos V palace
The courtyard inside the Carlos V palace
Georgina being artistic in the gardens
Granada framed by Moorish palace window
Inside the Paseo de las Torres – the Arabic carvings are exquisite
The summer Palace and Generalife Gardens
Alhambra from the Summer Palace
Courtyard gardens in the Summer Palace
Started badly – finished very well
  • Given the number of things that we had overcome in a few hours the day was outstanding. Put the Alhambra on your bucket list, but book months early to get into the Nazrid Palaces and do it on your own, (no need for tour guides and lots of forgettable statistics) – this is a place for seeing not hearing about.
  • By popular demand we dedicated the rest of this week to walking, swimming and lying on the beach. We have found a walk along the beach into Marbella that takes 90 minutes there and back which is perfect.
  • We have planned a couple of roadtrips for the next two weeks – Seville next week and Lisbon the following week.

Week 24 – Road trip to Cadiz and Jerez

  • Sunday we headed up the coast to the white hill town of Frigiliana. The whole town is on board with the white town theme, making it a most attractive place, so despite being a hot day, it was well worth the drive and walk from the car park. The locals have, (very wisely), made it a real art destination so there are art galleries by the dozen. Adrienne resisted the temptation but we found a nice restaurant in lovely shaded square and whiled away the afternoon with a few local rosados and a very nice rack of lamb.
Beats the view at Kellyville Woolies fruit and vege section anytime
Adrienne found some ideas for Anna’s new courtyard – I hate to think how heavy our bags might get!
  • Next day was still hot, so we headed for Playa Cabopino beach near Marbella. It is on the “25 most amazing beaches on the Costa del Sol” list. To quote the webite “The fine golden sand and the calm, clean water, makes it the perfect family destination.” The beach description is true, but given a large proportion of the beach is zoned “Naturalistic” there were more “willies” on display than in a Scottish phone book!! (I wanted to don a batik bandana and join the throng, (pun intended), but Adrienne suggested I wasn’t up to it …). So we walked for about an hour on the boardwalks across the dunes and up and down the beach – where is a set of scorecards when you need them ???
Boardwalks to allow regeneration – no photos on the beach – some things are best not recorded as you cannot un-see naked grey hippies.
  • Tuesday and our first roadtrip. Destination Cadiz and Jerez about two hours from Benehavis. We drove past Gibraltar but did not go in – we heard the English border guards are very over-zealous in their checks – apparently we are all busting to get to England and overstay, while importing packets of cheap cigarettes to avoid the english taxman!! It seems no one has told them people are wanting to get out of the UK, (see Brexit fiasco), not in!!
  • Found our very nice apartment in the old town of Cadiz and went for a walk. This is a lovely “old town” with gardens, beaches and public spaces all accessible within a few hundred metres.
  • We visited an exhibition in the Santa Catalina Castle dedicated to the Cadiz Explosion in 1947. The Submarine Defence Base nearby was actually a facility used by the Germans in WW2 and over 200 MT of TNT and amatol blew up destroying not only the base but a large part of the town around it. Some 150 people died and the photos look like the aftermath of Hiroshima – the town was flattened. Interestingly the military enquiry findings were never published and were “lost” in a mysterious fire.
    Playa de la Caleta Beach with former spa in the centre
    Santa Catalina Castle – built to protect Cadiz when it was one of the richest trading ports in the world.
    Parque Genoves – beautiful botanic gardens on the seafront

    There are two Moreton Bay figs this big – stunning trees
  • Wednesday was overcast and showery so wandered around the old town. There was a huge cruise ship in and we guess the departure ports were all English – Cadiz felt like the Blackpool Bingo Hall – all grey hair, bad teeth, socks and sandels, and a gridlock of mobility scooters.
    Old city walls and gates

    We climbed the tower – they built the fortifications because they were sick of being raped and pillaged by the English and Dutch – not much has changed over the years!!
  • Thursday dawned with thunderstorms and we headed for Jerez and the dancing horses. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy what could have been a little “circus-like”, but it was a show with beautiful horses, skilful riders, and very little “stunt work”. Sure there was one act that had horses doing some tricks on their back legs, but the rest was about skilful stepping, (dancing), and coordination that was really quite impressive.
Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza Del Arte Ecuestre
The show arena, (to the left), is in the grounds of a stately home, surrounded by parklands and a huge equestrian facility.
  • Friday is a domestic chores day with a bush walk. Our niece, Georgina, (and friend Rachel), are joining us for a second time tonight, and we need to rest up ahead of trips to Ronda and the Alhambra Palaces in Granada.

Week 23 – Our final destination – Southern Spain

  • After a quiet last day in Normandie we headed for Paris airport thinking we had plenty of time as it was Sunday morning. We had an easy drive, but then we got to Paris and roadworks, (with attendant traffic jam), all around the airport!! While Adrienne spotted and translated the completely inadequate car rental return signage we finally found the Hertz yard, grabbed our bags, handed the keys to the bloke, (suggested all was in order, but over to him), and ran for the terminal. We made the flight to Malaga with about 10 minutes to spare.
  • We found our new house in La Heredia near Benehavis without any problem and moved in. The house is large, has all the facilities and fabulous views over the area and out to the Mediterranean sea.
La Heredia from our balcony
Views all the way to Gibraltar
  • We are here for 8 weeks so spent a couple of days investigating the new ‘hood. Headed down to Estepona and found a lovely old town with heaps of alleyways, shops and restaurants. It also has a large Carrefours on the outskirts for weekly groceries – no Italian wines but four Australian.
A shady square in Estepona
Can you imagine Sydney councils allowing the blocking street access so restaurants can spill out into the streets!!
  • We have two good sized public pools in the village, so I have taken the opportunity to get back into daily exercise regime. I’m the only one there in the mornings so no need to dodge other bods. Adrienne prefers our terrace plunge pool.

    Only a few steps to the pool
Dawn Fraser eat your heart out – this women can knock out 20 lengths in minutes!!
  • Our local beach is about 10 minutes drive. It has been quite windy these last few days but that does not deter the northern Europeans – they lie out in the sun no matter what! We’ll try again tomorrow – the weather forecast for the next month is mid 20’s and sunny so plenty of time to add to our tans.

    We walked along the beach and retired to a nice bar for drinks and pizza
  •  We have found dozens of walks around the area – hiking seems to be a real thing here so we drove over to Benehavis and headed off up a trail. We walked for an hour and a half and did not see another soul, but the trail was well marked so we weren’t concerned.
Not quite the Camino but this is Southern Spain
Over 300 sunny days a year does not lead to rainforest – the landscape is dry and barren
I guess this “river” flows occasionally, but not at the end of summer
  • Our new house is great, and we’ll get into exploring next week. We went to the white hill town of Casares today – it had great raps in Trip Advisor, but what a disappointment – very small, and not a lot to see. Great views of the surrounding area but does not beckon us for a return.

    Casares, (with Adrienne’s bum as usual)
  • So instead of absorbing the village ambience we went to the huge shopping centre just out of Marbella and bought new running shoes. The Camino de Santiago was pretty tough on shoes so ours were just about out of bounce. Is it just me or do all modern running shoes look like they were designed in a post apocalyptic art class?