Friday 31 October 2014

Modern Cordoba

Just in case you get the impression that all of Cordoba is pretty ancient, here is a couple of pictures of one of the modern boulevards.
As English people, we have to go out in the mid day sun, which probably explains why there is no one else about.
The walk from our campsite into the centre of town takes us along lots of beautiful boulevards with wide pedestrian areas.
It was much busier at 10pm the other night with runners, rollerbladers, and pedestrians enjoying the pleasant evening temperatures.
There are also loads of fountains and water features across the whole of Cordoba, which gives it a lovely cosmopolitan feel.
We are leaving today as we are heading north towards Madrid, with a few more stops along the way.

Alcazar, Cordoba

After yesterday's appalling explanation about the Mezquita, I think my attempt at the Alcazar may be even worse.
Basically, the Alcazar is a palace and fortress, just round the corner from the Mezquita and the dreaded Equestrian venue.  It dates from the time of the Vizigoths, which I think is around the year 500.
Again we did not get a guidebook, or even an audio guide. Instead we just wandered ignorantly around in the sunshine,  enjoying the beautiful rose and water gardens.
We also explored the building and climbed to the top of the tower to check out views of the city.
Ps, Many thanks to the performing fish who kindly agreed not to swim over the reflection of the tower for the duration of the photo shoot.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Mezquita, Cordoba

This place is so enormous, and the history so complicated that I hardly know where to begin.
It is also impossible to view the exterior of the building without a helicopter - which obviously we didn't have!
Basically, many hundreds of years ago the site was originally a church, then in around the year 750 local Muslims purchased half of the church for Friday prayers. Over time it was expanded into a gigantic mosque complex with room for over 40,000 worshippers. 
A few hundred years later it became a Catholic church again, and in the centre is a high altar that took over 250 years to complete.
This is very tiny and inaccurate history of the Mezquita - please don't sue me as we weren't given a guidebook. We had to pay extra for audio guides so we shared one between us, not always successfully, so some facts might have gone astray.
However, it is an unbelievably overwhelming and peaceful place, so visit if you can.
Ps, just to try and make it a bit clearer, pic 1 shows one of the many ancient doors,  pic 2 is the tower used for the call to prayer, and all of the three internal photos are taken in different areas of the same open plan building.

Cordoba Equestrian Show

After a little siesta we headed into Cordoba. It is a stunning town with many amazing ancient buildings. We walked into town besides a very impressive walled fortress and castle.
We intended on having dinner in a little bar and then heading home, but we saw a sign advertising an Equestrian Show, 'The Passion and Spirit of Andalucian horses at the Royal Stables in Cordoba'. Who could resist such a spectacle?
We arrived early so managed to get front row middle seats, so all was looking good. The building was also beautiful, a large oblong courtyard with the stables all around the outside. There was mood lighting everywhere and the crescent shaped moon hung brightly above us.
The show started and a nicely costumed man brought in a big brown horse on a long rope. The horse kept running round in circles and the lady behind me let out a long 'ooooh'. I was actually thinking that it wasn't very exciting, but then, what more could a horse do?
The answer came a few minutes later - it could dance the flamenco - sort of. The music was nice and loud, the seniorita was twirling and stamping along in time. The horse was also stamping and jumping around, with the help of his hombre. He wasn't in time with the music, but when it ended a man behind me shouted 'bravo!' just as I quietly muttered 'weird' to Darren.
There was also quite a few other horses, with men on their backs, who could jog sideways, trot with their legs sticking forward (a bit like Basil Fawlty), do handbrake style turns, gallop at full speed and then stop dead.
As a non horse rider it was difficult to know if these things are difficult, but when one of the horses walked off backwards, I decided they must be.
Also, in the very difficult category was a horse balancing on two legs. I don't think they particularly liked doing it either, but it made me realise how massive the horses actually were, and the crowd enjoyed it.
Overall an interesting night, but not necessarily an experience that I will rush to see again.
Ps, Daz summed it up with the comment 'it was a bit too horsey for me'.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Dry heart of Andalucia

When we woke this morning we were surprised to see it was cloudy, but they had all burnt away by lunchtime and then it was back to clear blue skies.
We set off from near the coast quite early and drove through the mountains behind Malaga.
We were soon on tiny, twisty-turny roads that gave both Darren and the campervan quite a workout.
The scenery was beautiful but incredibly brown and dry, and we passed mile after mile of olive trees that stretched out to the horizon. As the road climbed higher the trees disappeared and the earth was just brown, but every few miles we passed towns and villages with cute white painted houses and the occasional brown castle on the tops of the hills.
We are heading for Cordoba which is about 200k inland, and we reached it in the early afternoon.

Friday 24 October 2014

Afternoon on the beach

We are still in Torremelinos and we decided to have a lazy afternoon at the beach.
It is about 15 minutes walk from our campsite and is lovely, a long strip of sand that stretches for miles.
We stretched out for a bit of sunbathing, then started the ball rolling by checking the sea temperature. It was a bit nippy, but Daz was straight in there, leaping about like a dolphin.

Thursday 23 October 2014

El Chorro

A few days ago we saw a poster at the train station advertising stops a beauty spot called El Chorro. It looked pretty spectacular so we decided to visit.
The train was very efficient and dropped us, along with four other tourists at the station.
Unfortunately, there was then no signs or tourist information and non of us knew where to go. We wandered in random directions, but eventually we all headed downhill and round a corner as that way looked the most promising.
I had read that we would see a lake, vertical cliffs, a hydro electric power plant and the ruins of the Carminito del Rey. Initially we could see the first three attractions, but really we wanted to find the C del R.
You can look it up on YouTube, and it is a metre wide walkway attached to the cliffs by metal rods. It is about 100 metres above the lake, was built in the early 1900's by the owners of the hydro electric plant and was used by workers at the plant to get to work.
It gradually fell into disrepair and it was closed in the year 2,000 as 5 people fell to their deaths from it at that time.
Since then a few climbers have managed to get on to it, and there are crazy videos showing sections with huge holes and missing handrails.
However, it is now being repaired and is supposed to open again early next year.
We eventually found a pathway that took us up on to the mountain opposite so that we got great views of the path, the beautiful scenery and the workers doing the repairs.
I won't be rushing to walk along it when it reopens, but the area is incredible and totally different to the nearby coast.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Oriental garden

After our failure to visit this garden on Monday, we got our bikes out today and cycled there today.
We went to the Jardin Botanica, Molino de Inca.
We knew very little about it in advance, apart from that it closes on a Monday.
Today the huge entrance gates were welcomingly open and the entrance fee was only one euro each.
For that we had the whole place to ourselves, and we wandered around among the fountains, waterfalls and enormous palm trees.
There was a few cages with bored looking birds in them which was a shame, and it was far nicer to watch the flocks of wild green parokeets screeching and flying from tree to tree.
There was also a very peaceful Japanese garden with a pond, raked gravel and cloud pruned olive trees - very imaginative.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Picasso's birthplace

We caught a train to Malaga today and headed straight for the Plaza de la Merced in the centre of town, as in 1881 it was the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
It is a lovely peaceful square with a statue of the great man himself sitting peacefully on a bench.
His parents rented a flat in the end terrace house that is exactly behind his head, and the whole building is now a museum.
In contrast with the Fondation Van Gogh that so disappointed me last month, the Fundacion Picasso explained all about his life in the town, although he left aged 10. His father was also a painter and they had examples of his work, and even some of his paint brushes, which really pleased me.
After our visit and a pleasant lunch stop, we visited the Museo Picasso Malaga that was full of his paintings, ceramics and a couple of weird sculptures.
Some of the paintings were pretty strange too, but I really enjoyed and liked most of it. I even disagreed with one of the posters on TripAdvisor who said that it was mostly full of doodles.
Maybe some of this culture is sinking in at last.
Ps, Malaga is also a lovely town full of tightly packed beautiful buildings - excellent day out.

Monday 20 October 2014


The family all went home yesterday, and after dropping them at the airport we headed to Torremelinos.
The owner of the campsite was very abrupt when we arrived mid afternoon. The door was shut, but next to it was a little bell that I rang. He appeared after a couple of minutes, let us in and said to me to come back later and tell him which pitch number we had camped in.
I went back after a few minutes and was surprised to find the office shut again, so once more I rang the bell. This time he arrived more quickly, muttered darkly in Spanish and was definitely very abrupt as I let him know that from an almost deserted campsite we had chosen number 29.
It was only later that I remembered that strange habit that is very popular out here - siesta.
We awoke from our overnight sleep this morning refreshed and ready for an outing.
I had wanted to go to Malaga but read that the Picasso museum was closed on Mondays, so instead we walked to a Botanic Garden up in the hills behind the town. Big surprise, it was closed on Mondays too - why hadn't I thought to check that?
Not too dismayed, we walked to the furthest beach in Torremelinos and then wandered back to the centre where we were going to have lunch. We had seen it yesterday with the family and it was called ' Chickenland'. We passed lots of lovely looking places, but we knew what we wanted, but when we got there - surprise again, it was closed too.
What is this Monday closing thing?
Better luck tomorrow.

Thursday 16 October 2014


Caught a bus along the coast to Marbella with Darren's mum today.
We started in the beautiful old village with churros for breakfast - these turned out to be a doughnut flavour snack that were shaped like a massive Cumberland sausage. It was served hot with a cup full of liquid chocolate - fantastic in a sickly and happy way.
We then wandered through a lovely park complete with tile covered seats and fountains.
While walking we met a very friendly Norwegian gentleman who recommended that we head down to the harbour and catch a ferry to Puerto Banus.
It was a pretty town a few miles away with a harbour full of huge yachts, streets full of expensive cars, fancy shops and numerous restaurants.
We had a look around and then sat on the seafront drinking wine and watching the world go by.
Finally we caught our own top of the range transport home - our ferry was a catamaran with bouncy trampoline netting at the front. We bagged the best space and dangled our legs over the front for the journey home.

Wednesday 15 October 2014


How does the other half live?
On luxury yachts I would imagine.
Well, today we went on two, although technically one was a ferry.
We caught the 11.30 ferry from Fuengirola along the coast to Benalmadena,
The harbour there is beautiful, a lot of the buildings look like ice cream cones and are all vanilla coloured as well.
After a little wander around we boarded a yacht, for a sail around the coast while we sipped fizzy wine and soaked up the sun.

Friday 10 October 2014

Daily life in the sun

For the past five days we have been relaxing with Darren's family in Fuengirola. The weather has been wall to wall sunshine, and we have got into the habit of playing tennis every morning, regular swims in the pool, a little bit of sightseeing and frequent visits to bars and restaurants.
I didn't get around to taking any photos and decided to put that right today.
We caught a bus up into the mountains to a beautiful little town called Mijas.
In a textbook example of bad timing, today started out fairly cloudy and we were just having lunch when a tremendous storm hit.
Within about 10 seconds torrential rain was wrecking the happy al fresco scene.
Rivers ran down the road and the restaurant staff were soaked to the skin as they tried to protect the tables from the elements. It was very dramatic, but hardly the sunny scenes that I had in mind.
Within about 20 minutes it was all over and the sun tried to return, so I took the opportunity to pose on a metal donkey.
It was possible to ride a real one, and there was plenty if them around, but I always struggle with animals so decided to quit while I was ahead.

Tuesday 7 October 2014


We caught the bus into Fuengirola and were amazed to find that we had arrived in time for a Fiesta.
We know nothing about it, apart from that it was a religious ceremony and the whole town was packed with local people in traditional costumes.
The square in front of the church was the scene of a solomn ceremony, and then there was a parade through the town.
There was lots of brass bands and ladies with fans and carrying icons. The highlight of the parade was an enormous Madonna that was carried on the shoulders of about 100 local men.
We watched the parade then joined Darren's mum and dad who had headed to a bar by the sea for cocktails.

Sunday 5 October 2014


Our poor little campervan is putting his wheels up and having a well earned rest for a few days. In just five weeks he has transported us from the very top of Scotland to the bottom of Spain.
Over 4,000k with not a hint of a complaint, although maybe a tiny bit slow over some of the steeper hills.
The same couldn't be said of the sat nav as we have had some spectacular rows, and I developed a possibly irrational hatred of it.  I won't go into it all now, but I think it behaved fine when Darren drove but as soon as I got in the driving seat it veered off onto the narrowest and steepest roads possible, all the while pretending to take the shortest route.
It is forgotten and maybe forgiven now we are here  though, so I am going to try to make friends with it. Maybe I should buy it a bunch of flowers and some chocolate, and if it doesn't eat it then me and Daz could help it out.
We are parked at Cabopino, which is midway between Marbella and Fuengirola. We are a five minute walk from the seafront and it is very pretty.
It is also nice and hot and sunny, and we are taking it easy today as we went to watch a flamenco show last night and the wine and sangria was just a little too tasty.

Friday 3 October 2014

Alhambra Palace

We caught a bus from right in front of our campsite to Granada this morning for a day trip to the Alhambra Palace.
It is one attraction but is made up of four separate sections, built over many years by different rulers. They are all inside an enormous walled fortress that is a long walk uphill from the city of Granada.
We managed to see all four sections, although we were running short of time on our ticket, and the whole place is very beautiful.
It is built in an Islamic style and has little water channels running everywhere. They feed into reflecting pools, and also help cool the Palace during the summer.
It was packed full of tour groups and we often followed them closely if they had an English speaking guide, then doubled back once it was more peaceful to look at the sights again and take photos.
Once we left the Palace we had a late lunch, then went searching for a view point. We eventually managed to find a good one on a hill on the opposite side of the valley. The whole place is so huge, stretching out along the hilltop that my photo only includes a small part of it, and I think our campsite is somewhere up on the hills behind it.
We had a very long day with over 26,000 steps on my counter, so I am just enjoying a nice sit down on the return bus while writing this blog.