|Subject: Re: Andalucia|
We were in Granada, Seville, Cordoba and surrounding areas years ago. However, we did do the last stronghold of the Moors - AndalucŪa - not too long ago. I have cut and pasted my travelogue below and if you'd like a few photos, let me know and I'll email them to you directly. We absolutely loved the area and we hope to return someday.
Have fun Susie Newton, MA
AndalucŪa - Feb 13 - March 11, 2001
Arriving in Malaga sans baggage was an auspicious beginning, but all was well the following day. We always travel without reservations - deciding at the last minute where to spend the night. This was no different.
I was armed with wonderful books: The Rough Guide to AndalucŪa, The Lonely Planet, AndalucŪa and a fairly new book - Special Places to Stay in Spain & Portugal by Allistar Sawday. This was indeed our Bible for the trip and we found some fabulous resting places from it.
The first night we decided to head north an hour into Antequera and Torcal Parc, as we were very jet-lagged and exhausted (flights canceled, lost baggage, etc) - For anyone who has been to the south island of New Zealand, this park reminds us of the Putinaki rock formations of the northwest coast on the South Island. The "pancake" formations are amazing! Unfortunately, one can only walk for about 1 hr by oneself - It is thereafter necessary to obtain a guide as it is very confusing and many are lost. We walked but decided that hiking in this region would not be something that we wanted. There was not enough challenge and after awhile, the rocks - though beautiful, were not overly interesting as far as hiking goes.
Our stop was at the Posada Torcal * (all inns, hotels and restaurants of note listed below with this asterisk) It was charming and lovely inside and out and the food was wonderful. The proprietors raise Great Pyrenees dogs - and are very knowledgeable on local walks, flora and fauna. This is a small inn as are all of the ones we stayed at in Andalucia. This is highly recommended and is less than one hour from Malaga airport. (It is very beautifully decorated and the diningroom and porch are lovely as is the main salon. It was our most expensive accommodation of the trip -- by US standards not so, but about $150/night w/ dinner and breakfast. (Breakfast was exceptional)
After spending two days in this area, we wanted to get going into the Alpujarra (our original destination) so we headed southeast. Unfortunately, the weather turned cold and rainy and we drove through Nerja in a tiny coastal hamlet, and through Almunecar - stopping just north at an old summer palace of one of the Moor Kingís - Palacete de Cazulas in Otivar - ĺ hr north of Almunecar. Incidentally, the whole Costa del Sol region is filled with Brits. They have made this area their winter home - somewhat like Florida for northerners in the States. It was very amusing to see everything written in Spanish with English underneath.
The countryside southeast of Antequera above the coast itself is very undulating with tiny villages - sometimes very primitive and sometimes unexpectedly beautiful with the tile alcoves in most doorways. Most everything was clean and we always found a local restaurant for lunch where everyone was happily eating everything!!! It was such fun really.
Our night in the summer palace was cozy inside with a wonderful huge hearth fireplace in the living room, while a gale raged outside. For dinner, we made our way up the graveled, pitted road to the owner's recommended restaurant which turned out to be terrific The Buena Vista in Otivar - No menu to speak of, just a choice of fish or meat. However, after a truly fantastic fish meal for a very small price, complete with red wine and dessert. We questioned our host at the palace and were told that this restaurant has been in the family for years and 7 brothers run it - simply and always the same with only the freshest food but with no great deal of choice. For us it was like Greece - simple and excellent.
Our next day was a hiking one on our way to the Alpujarras - (the foothills of the Sierra Nevada) - The weather was deteriorating and after hiking for about 4 hrs., we decided to head to our destination: Mistake! As we made our way from the main highway below Granada into the mountains it began to snow- heavily. We arrived in Bubion without reservations, but, luckily got the last room - a tiny suite with a view down the mountain - (which we could see when the snow lessened the next morning) and a small living room with a glass-door wood stove, all stoked and warm. It was charming - Villa Turistica de Bubion* We gave up the next day and decided to leave as it was still snowing with forsythia in bloom, daffodils in bloom crocus and snow- Oh well, Plan B -
Off we went after consulting guide books that Almeria has the least amount of rainfall in Europe, we split for that region (about 3 hrs from Bubion) - Alameria itself is truly awful to see - It has huge greenhouses for hyponic veggies with huge plastic covers one after another after another. These are huge greenhouses and they really cover the whole landscape, unfortunately. It truly is a blight on the coast! We headed further east onto Cabo de Gata - a lovely peninsula with walking paths around the coast and lovely, tiny villages dotting the beaches and towns. This is not a built up area at all and we were surprised at how few tourists there actually were. We were able to do quite a bit of hiking there - (coastal walks amidst the wild flowers) and we even had a few beautiful days but with much wind - The wind, I suspect, was from the terrible weather elsewhere. Nevertheless, we needed the exercise and the walks were lovely from village to village! We stayed a few days at the Hostel Family* - a family-owned, small, French pension in Agua Amarga - This little pension has wonderful food (especially the lemon chicken and duck - do skip the soup though-) and Madame and Monsieur are very warm and hospitable. They are ex-pats from France who are very simpatico. They have dogs (strays) and cats and even birds and everyone is treated equally lovingly. We enjoyed it here. Itís very clean and comfortable, but not for those who are unprepared. When the wind blows (as it often does) the lights go out and kerosene is the "lumiere" of the day. (We always have flashlights with us when we travel which, in this case, was a must) It was amusing and was fun. Dinner was produced and was delicious and we met, and chatted with a German couple with whom we shared a bottle of wine until almost 2 am - This area is known for its ceramics. One has only to drive due north for about 1/2-hr to find the town. There are the usual tourist pottery shops, but keep looking hard and you might be surprised. We found that the first shop on the right as you enter the main shopping area had a few wonderful pieces. This is not unusual or expensive pottery but it is representative of what you will see in the area.
Heading due north along the coast isnít very pretty until you reach Mojacar which has a very long and somewhat tacky stretch of beach with many hotels, etc. Some of the beach is very pretty, though. However, to escape this, we went into the hills to Pueblo Mojacar and stayed at a tiny pension (again, using our same book) - Mamabelís * -- which was delightful - The food here was fantastic especially the vegetarian dishes.
Our weather was speedily deteriorating again and we were getting frustrated- we decided that we needed more hiking and headed into a fairly new park - Cazorla Park a bit northwest of Mojacar - by about 3 hrs.
Cazorla is a very interesting working town - The people are very friendly and the town is perched high, surrounded by low mountains - lots of pine and greenery and itís very restful. We did not have a memorable pension, but enjoyed getting out and walking - After the first night, we went to the Parador - Parador Cazorla - which was typically well- equipped with excellent food - in the middle of nowhere in this park. We found, throughout this trip that this part of Spain is very deficient in new maps. Trail maps of any real detail are non-existent and even when we could find a tourist information or park information open, there was little in the way of help available as to trailheads or trails of any kind. We used our own guide books, and, for the most part, followed the GR-7, (E-4 in Spain) which is the GR that goes from Athens to Algeceris. (The GR stands for Grand Randonnee, a system of trails throughout Europe marked in white/red blazes with different numbers for different destinations) -- The trails themselves were not like ones usually found in Europe - These were usually dirt tracks - wide enough for bikes or even small vehicles and they were poorly marked. No matter - we were able to walk, and from the locals, we learned that this is just the way it is in this region. Most trails here (Cazorla) were actual trails -and we followed them easily - They go from village to village winding through the mountains. They are very beautiful!!! We had quite a bit of rain here and were becoming less than amused!
Our decision to return to the Alpujarra and see what it was all about was a good one. The weather shifted again and we were in for a "rainless" spell. It took a day to get back there by car - driving through Ubeda, (where we stopped to try to see some of the sights - but arrived at the siesta time, so everything was closed). This is a city that we shall return to as it has a very beautiful old section with loads of history surrounding it.
We spent our last three days hiking in these foothills. What we expected was small towns with a lost way of life. What we found, unfortunately, were towns that are now built up by tourism. They were small and beautiful nestled in the mountains, all white-washed with narrow streets and magnificent wooden doors. However, there were trinket stores and shops at every turn. (These towns in the Alpujarra were the last stronghold of the Moors after they left Granada when Christianity came.) In the summer, I believe it would be impossible to be here. It would be torture to drive around these hairpin turns and make any distance with any kind of traffic and the addition of trailers (caravans) -
Again, the hiking is difficult as there are not signs, markers or cairns and the only thing that we could buy there was a map and a narrative guide to the trails which was sort of like a treasure hunt when we were kids. This was a big mistake as the markers on the trail description changed and we got terribly lost - We did implore a person who lived in the hills to help us return to our car (it was after 6 pm and weíd been hiking since 9 am) - With my husbandís high- school Spanish - we were able to make ourselves understood and it took us 40 min by car to return via dirt and secondary roads to where we left our car. If you go to this area to hike, I would recommend that you stop at Rustic Blue travel agency in Bubion where English is spoken and purchase maps. Plus, you might consider hiring a guide as well. This was suggested to us, but being seasoned hikers, we paid not attention. We would not have had exposure if we would have had to sped a night outside, but we would have been awfully uncomfortable - (We always carry enough food, water and warm clothes just in case- ) -- Also, it would have been a very, very long walk back to our car the following day once we reached the road.
We headed toward Malaga and our return to Boston, - with a brief look at Marbella, the old town. The coast is very built up and busy and we were glad that we got to see the small villages - in this area. We have been to Granada, Seville and the important cities of this region, but this off-the-beaten path area is not to be missed. It is very tranquil and still for the most part unspoiled.
Our best and last accommodation (before we actually went west to Malaga) was at the far eastern perimeter of the Alpujarra in a lovingly-restored cortijo in Cadiar called Alqueria de Morayma.* This is a special place, by our standards, in any country -
I have not added an points of historical interest on purpose as I think each person who decides to venture into this region can look this up in any guide book. What Iíve tried to detail is the feeling of peace and quiet for a restful vacation - complete with places of interest to stay and/or eat.
Here are the small hotel and restaurants that we would gladly return to anytime. (I will also have them listed in the hotel database as soon as possible under the heading of Spain, Andalucia.
La Posada del Torcal (1 hr north of Malaga) in Villanueva de la Concepcion tel: (95) 203 1177, fax: (95) 203 10 06,
This is a magnificent inn, beautifully decorated - 2 of the larger bedrooms have jacuzziís . The dining room overlooks the pool and undulating hills beyond. It is moderate to high in price and includes breakfast (which is terrific and plentiful). The proprietors are very nice and helpful- During the time we were there, we paid about $150 per night with dinner and breakfast.
Palacete de Cazulas (north of Nerja by about 1 hr) - in Otivar, Granada province tel: 958-644036, fax: 958-644048.
This magnificent summer palace of one of the Moor kingís is a treat. It is cavernous, but warm, beautifully furnished and it is supposed to have wonderful meals - We couldnít eat there as we arrived too late - One caveat - each room has itís own water tank for hot water - We were not aware of this and when I tried to add more hot water to my luxurious tub, there was none. Fred was allowed to use the shower in the next bedroom as no one else was staying there that night. The owners are slow to warm up, but once conversation gets going - they were very nice. There is a restored chapel next to the palace which is really something! They sent us up the "road" to a wonderful restaurant: The Buena Vista - at the top of the hill in Otivar (one street in the "town") - Order whatever is fresh and you wonít be disappointed.
In the Alpujarras region there are 3 places:
Villa Turistica de Bubion - in Bubion, tel: 958-763112 or 763111, fax: 958-763136 Ask for a room with a living room and glass-front wood stove - Itís charming. This is enexpensive to modeate in price. It was the largest accommodation we stayed in (43 apartments) - but it was wonderful and we had a great view all the way to the Mediterranean except it was snowing and we could only make out where it would be. Breakfast was just okay.
The restaurant we ate at while in Bubion was La Artesa - tel and fax 958-763082 Itís small and filled with locals - we saw no tourists and had some trouble ordering. The patrons helped us decide what to eat and everything was very hearty and good.
The second place was just outside Orgiva (the 2nd week of our trip) Hotel Taray - tel: 958-784525, Fax: 958 784-531, This is a very clean, comfortable hotel - nothing charming, but our dinner was good and we had a wonderful bathroom with a good nightís sleep. (Orgiva is at the base of the Alpujarra - Itís up, up, up from there) Itís not expensive and we would return. The owner is very warm and helpful.
The last place in the Alpujarra was the trip favorite!!! Alqueria de Morayma, in Cadiar just about at the western end of the Alpujarra -tel: 958-343221 or 343303, Fax: 958 343221, In Sawdayís book, he says that this is a "lovingly restored" Cortijo (farmhouse) - and it is! Itís artistic and really a joy to see. There are row-houses, each with a separate entrance and each one a bit different. Ours had a kitchen sitting room with a bedroom and bath - glorious beams everywhere and windows framing views that could be pictures in themselves. This is a must for anyone in the region. Even the shower rod was covered by an old beam!!! We paid about $45. for this suite which included breakfast as I recall.
The meals here are almost the best part as everything is what I would call Ďhearty-gourmetí - The dining room contains collections and artifacts that are like being in a mini-museum! Enjoy! One of the waitresses spoke French so I was in Heaven - Finally I could understand what we were eating and we could select what we really wanted to try!!!
There are two other hotels of note: North of Cabo de Gata we stayed in a French pension - The Hostal Family on Calle La Lomilla, Agua Amarga - tel: 950 138014, Fax: 950 138070. This is a quirky place but we loved it here. The owners are generous of spirit and it was very comfortable - The dinnerís were terrific especially the lemon chicken and the duck - Skip all soups- Desserts are good and the breakfast choices are wonderful!!!
The last hotel that we liked was in Pueblo Mojacar - Mamabelís - tel and fax are the same: 950 472 448, This is housed in a charming, area - the village is at the top of a giant hill and you have to walk down many steps to get into the hotel - Itís worth it and the food is outstanding - dinner with vegetarian yummies and breakfast with crepes!
One last "food thought" - There is an old Moor dessert called biensabe -- which is a mixture of honey nut meats and cinnamon - Itís sweet but very tasty and should not be missed. The best one we had was in Antequera, but I think it can be found in the Malaga region.
Regards to all, Susie Newton, MA