Posted by inka on Mar 15, 2013 in art
, Day trips
, Travel tips
Even though it’s now well over a month that I have moved to the South of Spain, I’m still awed at what sights and locations, how much history and monuments can be seen and visited at no more than about 100km in either direction. I could go on day trips every day of the week and fill many months.
Right now, unfortunately, I have foot trouble which doesn’t allow me to walk much. But, help is at hand and soon I’ll be able to resume.
One of my next trips will lead me to Malaga with a plethora of sights. Being a great fan of museums, I look forward to visiting the Picasso museum because the genius of the manic stare and lose morals was after all, born here. And the Thyssen museum. But, as I’m always on the look out for the unexpected, I was delighted to discover two museums which I’ll visit first.
One is the Doll House Museum, the only of its kind in the whole of Spain. A collection of 50 doll houses, created between 1870 and 1920 is housed in a Baroque palace adjacent to the Plaza de la Merced. The child in me will be delighted.
Loving glass and crystal, my next stop will be the Glass Museum which is not far away. A private collection of crystal and glass, displayed in yet another mansion as if you were entering a drawing room. Not only will the glass collection be marvelous but it will also be interesting to see the furniture, paintings, carpets and mirrors. I just love ‘lived in’ museums which speak to me so much more than, say, the Louvre.
In case you are headed for Malaga before I get there, I thought I write this short post about these two museums with the links which show directions, pictures , opening times and admission fees. Let’s see who makes it there first!!
Posted by inka on Mar 14, 2013 in Day trips
, Travel tips
Europe has many jutting edges which merit being called ‘the most..’. There is the most western point which is actually in Portugal and Cap Finisterre in Galicia/Spain as is often thought.
Then there is the most southern point, Tarifa, famous for windsurfing and nearby national parks, also in Spain. And then there is the Balcony of Europe, albeit without the added ‘the most’.
Once upon a time, a Moorish castle stood on a promontory in Nerja, the lovely town approx. 60km east of Malaga. Of course, the location was chosen to give an unobstructed view over the Mediterranean, to be able to spot approaching enemies as early as possible and to defend the town and surrounding areas against possible conquerors as well as pirates.
Sadly, the castle is no more, but the promontory remains. On the occasion of his visit to Nerja, Rey Alfonso XIII, the grandfather of Spain’s present king, was so taken with the view that he famously proclaimed this spot to be the Balcony of Europe.
The name stuck. Today it’s a tourist attraction, a glassed in restaurant which literally clings to the rocks and a short, palm tree lined promenade and observation platform on top.
The glassed in restaurant
The observation platform
The canon is all that’s left from the original castle
As you can imagine, the views over the sea and the waves crashing into the rocks below is marvelous. It’s also a very windy affair. On my recent visit, which happened to be on a rather rainy and stormy day, I had my work cut out for me to keep my balance. It needed some juggling to keep my umbrella over my head which constantly was blown inside out and to try to get a few pictures which weren’t totally out of focus.
Having said that, it was great fun too. I mean, everybody can visit on a calm and sunny day, but struggling against wind and rain whilst standing on a promontory and watching the water down below, not to mention other brave souls who equally fought against the elements was something else.
So, here are the pictures from the Balcony of Europe taken in harsh conditions.
View to the left
The Mediterranean can be wild
Posted by inka on Mar 7, 2013 in art
, Day trips
, Travel tips
One of the most sought after sights in Andalucia in the south of Spain are the romantic, white washed villages, often clinging on for dear life on a steep mountain side. It doesn’t get any better and picturesque that Frigilania, the epitome of an Andalusian village located approx. 50km from Malaga next to the Sierra Almijara. Not a picture or coffee table book about the south of Spain which does not feature an image or two of Frigilania.
The beauty is, that this village is not only the ultimate white washed mountain village, it also has a remarkable and very well preserved Moorish old town. Ceramics, on the walls as well as on the pavements document the Muslim past which ended in fierce battles during the time of the Reconquista.
I was on my way to Nerja on a recent day trip from Benalmadena Costa and Frigilania was the first stop. This being a mountain village, it means very steep and narrow streets and many, many stairs up and down to get around.
And this is where the Chattanooga Choo Choo comes in! Until that day, I have always shunned these little tourist trains which ferry people around to much clanking and bell ringing, often whistle blowing to the amusement of the locals. I always considered them as the ultimate tourist trap; why would you trundle around in a train if you can explore on foot. I thought of the trains as just plain silly, fit only for fun if you are traveling with kids.
It just so happened that, as soon as the coach was parked and we started to disembark our very nice guide mentioned that indeed, there was just one such little train waiting for those of us who fancied a whirl in it around town.’ Only 3 EUROS and Jose, the driver, is a very knowledgeable guide who will explain all the history of Frigilania to you. Half an hour and after that you can explore on your own.’
I don’t know what possessed me, but I though to myself: you can’t judge a thing until you have tried it at least once. Let’s have a go. See what it is like.
And so, I boarded the little train together with the majority of my fellow travelers from the coach. To much bell ringing the little train chugged off and,to cut a long story short, I will not do it again.
First, I’m sure our guide gave fabulous explanations, but over all the noise I couldn’t hear a word. What is even worse is that you see next to nothong. For starters, you sit quite low to the ground and then the roof and windows are in the way. I has to crane my neck so much, I nearly fell out of the open side.
The train crawls along, but it’s still too fast to take a decent picture. Videaos may be fine, but as you can’t see much, what’s the point? There was one stop at a promontory overlooking the deep ravine formed by the Sierra Almijara but that wasn’t really what I wanted to see.
So, lesson learned, done it, won’t do it again.
Luckily there was time enough to set out on foot after the train ride, a thing I should have done in the first place. Frigilana was once upon a time the center of the production of molasses and honey made from sugar cane. The factory is still in evidence and worth a visit.
The old factory
Forays into side streets revealed little shops with beautiful ceramics also made locally. And then, of course, there is Vino Dulce, a very sweet wine made in the region which is only drunk for desert.
I love the frogs
If you come to the south of Spain, don’t miss out on a visit to Frigilana.
Posted by inka on Mar 6, 2013 in Day trips
Nerja is a very pretty coastal town about an hour’s drive east of Malaga. It was the destination of yet another of my day trips from Benalmadena Costa of which I have become so very fond. I did however not feel the need to look at another Mediterranean holiday resort of which there are so many all along the Costa del Sol. No, what attracted me were the famous caves. Where ever in the world I find out that there are caves, I just have to go and look. The incredible formations of a secrt underworld never fail to fascinate me. Nerja’s caves have the added attraction of featuring the world’s largest stalagmite: 50m high and 45m wide.
Off we went and after a stop in Frigilania of which I’ll write later it was time for a descent inot the world of stalagmites and stalactites.
As is often the case, the caves were discovered by chance. Five boys were kicking around a football when, all of a sudden, the ball disappeared into unfathomable depths. Thus the caves were discovered and to this day, only 25% are open to the public. Believe me, there 25% are already huge, so when the rest is laid bare in a few years time, I’ll be back. Right now it’s geologists and archaeologists, who chip away at the formations in search of even more prehistoric discoveries.
Statue outside to illustrate the discovery of the caves
The caves are divided into four huge chambers, each with another theme, inspired by the formations of nature. The second hall forms a natural stage and is often used for concerts of classical music.
The most impressive one is chamber four, called The Chaos because of the wildly jutting stalagmites and stalactites, not only vertically but also horizontally. You have to climb many, many steps, up and down to wind your way around the caves, but they are comfortable and the route is well marked by white arrows on the floor, so you don’t get lost.
Not only do the minerals from columns but also ‘statues’ like this face which seemed to me to be the image of an old toothless man. Nature is indeed the best artist.
As on all the other daytrips before – and those yet to come – it’s a great advantage that we are off season. The caves were not crowded at all and one can walk backwards or forwards and do the round trip as often as one wants.
Luckily, photography is allowed, albeit with the flash off.
Walking and cycling holidays in style
When you think of cycling or walking holidays, what comes to mind? Are the first images that pop into your consciousness those of camping in leaking tents, traipsing through muddy fields with damp, blistered feet and re-fuelling intermittently on drab boil-in-the-bag ‘food’?
If so, let me tell you here and now: walking and cycling holidays have changed. No longer the sole preserve of lovers of the simple life, it is very possible to explore the great outdoors, breathe the fresh air and take in the stunning scenery by day, while by night enjoying everything that boutique B&Bs or stylish country inns have to offer.
You can get off the beaten track, explore some of the most remote regions in the world and genuinely have that oft-sought feeling of isolation and solitude. But you can also have an ice cold glass of wine, a freestanding roll-top bath and 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets too. In short, you can have your cake; your cake can be iced; there can be a cherry on top; and best of all you can even eat it. Talking of eating, with all the energy you’re likely to expend during the day, I think that seven-course Michelin-starred tasting menu is well within your calorific budget!
Walking in a vineyard
Welcome to the world of luxury walking and cycling holidays.
Take a break and enjoy the view
With enough research you could plan and organise such a trip yourself. The UK, France, Spain or Italy are all countries that lend themselves extremely well to a holiday of this nature. You’ve probably got megabytes of information stored somewhere in the recesses of your memory of all the majestic spots you’ve ever seen on TV or read about. Simply pick one, research the route, locate and book the suitably refined and decadent accommodation, and get going. You’ll need to buy the relevant maps and guidebooks and figure out the necessary time frames but the planning itself can be a tantalising and enjoyable part of the holiday.
Alternatively, for those who, like me, prefer to have their cake and eat it but also have someone else bake it in the first place, there are some exceptionally good pre-arranged, organised travel options. These are suitable whether you are a lone traveller looking to walk or cycle as part of a group or if you are on your honeymoon and want as much privacy as possible.
Guided walking tours, usually in groups of 5-12 are ideal for people who want to have an expert guide on hand at all times and also want to enjoy the company of others. Whilst there is sure to be some time for private exploration, the majority of the trip will be as part of the group.
For many, the shared experiences and extra security of having the tour leader make these holidays the ideal trip. However, for many others an independent trip would be preferable. This option gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and walk or cycle alone (or with whomever you choose to holiday with). You decide whether to lie-in until 11am or set off at sunrise, whether to have lunch in the country pub or pack your own and carry it with you, or indeed whether or not the slight detour to the nearby monastery/vineyard/town is a good idea.
At the same time though, you also get the benefit of having your main route organised for you and detailed maps and notes provided to you in advance. In addition you get the same huge perks you would get on a fully guided tour, for example having your luggage transported ahead of you. Some companies even offer a wine service, whereby should any of the bottles at a local vineyard take your fancy, you can arrange to have those collected and sent on ahead.
If you’re cycling the advantages can be even more marked, with no need to worry about equipment, either in terms of transporting it or maintaining it. More challenging routes may even come complete with vehicular support teams, meaning you can leave the serious ascents to more seasoned cyclists whilst you relax in the bus. Cheating? Maybe, but you don’t need to tell your friends you didn’t power up the mountains Bradley Wiggins-style!
Combining this simple, stress-free approach to the boring jobs of logistics and planning with breathtaking scenery, fascinating historical attractions and cultural immersion is a sure way to total relaxation and a fantastic holiday. Add impeccable service, outstanding food and drink, big fluffy towels and a deep, soothing bath and you’re transported to a blissful state of relaxation. A wet weekend in Norfolk it isn’t!
Article provided by Headwater.com – offering luxury walking and cycling holidays in locations across the World. Find out more at their website:
This guest post was written by Harry Lawrence on behalf of headwater and reflects a type of activity which I would love to participate in. What’s even more to my liking is that the comapny has recently added a few other tours which focus on history and culture. Take a look.