Saturday, 25 May 2013

An Andalucian Adventure

Let's set the scene right in the beginning, shall we? A very poor example of a summer in the UK in 2012, followed by a cold, dark, damp winter and my thoughts began to turn to being warm (hot, perhaps) and in a sunny climate for a while. Elseline found a tour of some of the main cities in Andalucia -  Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Ronda and Granada - and this met all the criteria we had set, so it was booked and before we knew it, we were embarking on the plane from Bournemouth to Malaga. Just so you get the picture I have thoughtfully provided a map to enable you to see the area. The area marked with the "A" is the town of Mollina (Mo-yee-na), where we stayed at a B&B villa.
The Andalucian Area of Spain

The first day we had was a free day, so we went to Mijas (almost on the coast in the centre of the map).

This is a town 7 miles from the Med, halfway up the mountains. It has a bullring, which is not that unusual for Spanish towns. It is also an example of what is known as a "pueblo blanco" or white village, as all the buildings are blindingly white. Seems quite reasonable in the heat of summer.

Owing to the heat, there are lots of under cover patios where it is a lot cooler and they are a delight to see. After our hill climb, we ate at one, on the roof, under a grape vine.

All the little streets are decorated with pots of flowers on the walls and it makes a pretty sight.

 Most of the flowers are red or pink, but I particularly enjoyed this white one.

After our obligatory cup of coffee, we left the little town and walked up the hill, as this seemed like a much better thing than shopping for tourist tat in all the shops that abound in all of the towns we visited.   There is a pathway to follow that leads up and up and up, past a shrine and on the the peak far above. Eventually we only got about 7/8 of the way up, but what a lovely climb!

Here we are, only a little way up and still very keen and almost cool!

The slope was unending, but occassionally there would be a copse of pine trees to provide a bit of shade. Not that it was really required as the day was not very hot.

A little bit of local fauna......

And some of the pretty wildflowers.....

It seems as if  the theories about the origins of the Easter Island statues might be inaccurate! I found this stone on the hillside.

A girl, very pleased with her ability to scramble over the hills, pointing off towards the west and perhaps trying to say that is where I should go!

All around the town itself, there are little gorges and in some of them, rock climbers were practising their art.

Our first day, off to Mijas, was a free day for us. The rest of the tour group arrived during that day. The tour began with a trip to Seville, also known as the furnace of Andalucia. We started off with seeing the  magnificent Plaza De Espana, built spcifically for the 1929 Exhibition, but was unfortunately a bit of a white elephant due to the stock market bust that happened at the same time.

And so we were off to the Old Town. I have a thing for doors and this one caught my eye, not surprisingly, as it is magnificently carved!

We stopped for lunch in the Jewish Quarter and one of the little bodega-cum-restaurants had a good display of the typical spanish hams hanging. Apparently the person who carves these has to have done a lengthy course on it!

Being the furnace of Andalucia, it made sense to build the old buildings really close together, so as to expose as little open ground to the blast of the midday heat (in the mid to upper 40's C) as possible. Clever people.....

 The exterior of the buildings are drab and plain, but once you get a peek through a door, you see a whole new world. I really like the idea of an interior courtyard, around which the house is built.

And finally, we came to the Real Alcazar. This is a building that has influences from the Arabic period (8th century), right the way through to the 19th century. That which is most striking is from the Arabic period, the detail and intricacy of which is astounding and has to be seen to be appreciated.

I have a fondness for a bougainvillea hedge and this was a rather good one!

Peter The Cruel (whose palace the Real Alcazar was) had a mistress who apparently used to bath in the cool waters of the underground water tanks and they have now taken her name, the Baths of Lady Maria de Padilla.

Another look at the incredible attention to detail that was applied to these buildings. The craftmanship is simply awesome.

The Hall of Ambassadors has a domed roof the likes of which I have never seen. I assume it was no accident that this breathtaking scene was where the throne was and where  official receptions took place. It must have been rather daunting and mind-blowing to see what magnificence had been created. If I seem a little effusive, it's only because it is entirely beyond words and I have been attempting to describe the indescribable.

Elsewhere int the palace there were a number of rather large tapestries which have sadly faded a little over time, but would have been magnificent in their own right. This one below is of part of the known world (at the time).

Horseshoe arches seemed to be all the rage, as they abounded throughout the palace. Lots of things in sets of three, but I dont know the significance of that.

Cordoba was next on the list.... There is an annual competition for the best patio flower display. This is one of the entries.

It also had a yellow rose - Mom, this is just for you!

Oh dear, I found another door.....

We were led to one of only 3 surviving medieval synagogues, this one was built in 1315 and was used after the Jews were expelled in 1492 by the guild of shoemakers. It was a hospital and a nursery school at some time too.

After yet another delicious Spanish lunch, we headed off to the Mezquita. One of the first things you see upon entering is this wooden window.

Some closeup detail of the window...

And so on to the Mezquita..... The red bricks in the arches below are actually jasper, all of them! And there are 856 columns made of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

Originally there was a (tiny) cathedral built around the year 600. When the Arabs invaded, they bought half of the cathedral & for about 200 years they worshipped side-by-side. Eventually the Christians moved off and by the year 987 the Mezquita had reached the size it is today. Strangely there is a big cathedral in the centre still, with some AWESOME woodcarvings, as you can see in the pictures below.

There is an Islamic prayer niche, which used to contain a golden decorated Koran. The worshippers would circle the niche seven times on their knees and this has worn a path in the marble floor

Now - is that not a beauty? But really, what a door! What you see is only the bottom half of it and there are 2 of them to close the entrance.

The next day dawned with us anticipating 20-odd degrees in Malaga, so I donned shorts for the occassion. Unfortunately, the day began with a trip to the mountains where it was a mere 3C!!! I must admit to shivering a little. The trip to El Torcal allowed us to have a little walk around the rocks and crevices of this magnificent karst landscape. The low clouds with fleeting breaks of sunshine made it look really dramatic.

During this walk, there was a moment when a fox walked right past us, not 5 feet away from us - quite unconcerned about our presence. We also came across this lovely wild peony.

From El Torcal, we headed off to the coast at Malaga where we had lunch at the beach at a restaurant which is frequented by the locals and not the hordes of tourists. This was born out by the lack of languages spoken, other than English (our tour) and Spanish (all the rest). The prices seemed to reflect this too. Most of the group ate the freshly caught and cooked sardine, but I cannot bring myself to eat fish that hasn't been scaled or cleaned, so I went for the calamari.

Back into town after lunch and we visited the Alcazaba (the palace) which was a rather impressive edifice that must have been quite impregnable in it's day.

From the walls of the Alcazaba we could see the bullring in the town and the Med beyond.

A scale model of the Alcazaba does not include the fortress (the Gibralfaro) that sits above it at the top of the hill. 

As ever, there is a fountain and water flowing to a pool in the courtyard in the palace.

And a drinking fountain, although the water is not for human consumption these days. Perhaps they had stronger constitutions back then? 

Ronda is a lovely town, split by a gorge and joined by a few bridges. This is the view from where we ate lunch, looking upstream.

And from below the new bridge (built in the mid-18th century). It has some dark historical moments, as both sides in the Spanish civil war threw opponents off it.

Use is made of the river, the gorge and the waterfall. While we were eating lunch we saw a bunch of youngsters heading upstream, going canyoning. When we took a walk (clamber?) down to the base of the bridge and beyond, we saw some abseilers going down the waterfall.

It seems as if there were lots of happy people, to be able to wade, abseil or climb steep slopes!

There are a number of properties right on the edge overlooking the view which is described only as breath-taking.

After climbing back up the slope we found a quiet and peaceful cafe to have a refreshing cup of coffee.

As with all of these old towns, there are remains of the walls and gates.

This was the only bridge, built bt the Arabs and with the remains of arabic baths just beyond them.

The final city on the tour was Granada. We were told not to eat much for breakfast as we would be eating churros first thing.  A great thing, a fine churreria!

As we had some time to spare before going up to the Alhambra, we went shopping. For us it was a herb and spice shop and one particular blend of tea had been sold out, much to my chagrin!

We also found an icecream shop that had some watermelon carvings in it. This is a wonderful art!

 And so on to the Alhambra, which boasts some lovely gardens that include well tended hedges.

Oh, and the ubiquitous water feature.  This one was particularly splendid.

The Alhambra contains several palaces. After a few hours of wondering through the various gardens, fortified castles and other buildings, we queued up to get into the Nasrid Palace. Rather bored by the whole thing we entered the building, not expecting too much, but were soon flabbergasted, gobsmacked and simply blown away by the splendour inside. So much so, in fact that I forgot to take any decent photographs and am left with just these three that are worthwhile sharing. The rest are all skew, blurred or otherwise just not acceptable.

This little panel shows the sheer attention to detail that the craftspeople paid when making the palace.

The roof of one of the rooms is just as detailed.

So, folks, that was our tour which we booked through Tour Andalucia, who I am very happy to endorse.


  1. Wonderful photos! I do love Andalucia :-)

    1. Thanks Eddie. I knew nothing about the area before going there. Now I am ready to go back and spend a great deal more time there!