The Set Meravelles of Málaga Provincia.

Some places in Spain are so special that they merit a closer look. My recent visit to Málaga showed me there are many more than Seven Wonders (Set Meravelles in English!).  So I am dedicating a separate entry for Málaga Capital and Málaga Provincia. Last week I wrote about the city, and now it’s time for the province. Algunos sitios son tan especial que merece la pena hacer otra mirada. Mi visita en febrero a Málaga me mostró que hay muchas más que Siete Maravillas  (¡Set Meravelles en castellano!). Por eso, he decidido escribir dos entradas distintas para Málaga Capital y Málaga Provincia. La semana pasada escribí de la ciudad, y ahora toca la provincia. 

Set Meravelles Málaga Province

1. Caminito del Rey (Yet to discover)

Located in a steep gorge in El Chorro near Ardales, the Caminito del Rey, once known as the world’s most dangerous walkway after five people died between 1999 and 2000, is reopen to the public as of 2015. It received its name when Alfonso XIII walked it to inaugurate a nearby dam. It was closed in 2000, and in 2011, extensive construction to make it safer for hikers began. It’s extremely hard to get tickets, so make sure you check the web site in advance to get yours. (I checked two months in advance and they were already gone.) Ubicado en un cañón profundo en El Chorro cerca de Ardales, el Caminito del Rey, conocido en el pasado como el Caminito Más Peligroso del Mundo después de la muerte de 5 personas entre 1999 y 2000, reabrió al público en 2015. Recibió su nombre cuando Alfonso XIII caminó por allí para inaugurar una presa en la zona. Cerró en 2000, y empezaron obras en 2011 para hacer el Caminito seguro para senderistas. Las entradas suelen estar agotadas (miré con dos meses de antelación y ya estaban agotadas), entonces, si quieres ir, hay que mirar con much antelación. 

2. Ronda
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Located 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Málaga capital, Ronda is a small city of 35,000 inhabitants most famous for its Puente Nuevo, completed in 1793. It attracted writers like Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway in the past. It’s been around since the Neolithic Age, and its current situation has been around since the Romans. Ubicado a 100 kilometros desde Málaga capital, Ronda es una ciudad pequeña de 35.000 habitantes y es conocido por su Puente Nuevo, terminado en 1793. En el pasado, tenía su encanto para escritores como Orson Welles y Ernest Hemingway. Existió en la Edad Neolithico, y la situación actual ha existido desde los Romanos.

3. Nerja and surrounding villages
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Nerja, a small city of 21,000 inhabitants 50 kilometres east of Málaga, has a name meaning “abundant source. In addition to the caves with primitive paintings discovered in 1959, there is a famous 19th century aqueduct nearby. The highlight of the village, for me, is the view from El Balcón de Europa, a lookout in the centre of town. Nearby villages of Maro and Frigiliana are also worth the visit. Nerja, una ciudad pequeña de 21.000 habitantes situado unos 50 kilometros este de Málaga, significa “fuente abundante”. Además a sus cuevas con pinturas primitivas descubiertas en 1959, hay un aceducto famoso del Siglo XIX. Lo mejor del pueblo, para mi, es la vista desde El Balcón de Europa, un mirado en el centro del pueblo. Los pueblos de los alrededores Maro y Frigiliana también merecen la pena. 

4. Antequera (Yet to discover)

Antequera, known as the heart of Andalucía due to its central location between Málaga, Córdoba, Granada and Sevilla, has nearly 42,000 residents and is located 45 kilometres (27 miles) from Málaga capital. It features an alcazaba (citadel), many churches, Roman baths, the Arco de los Gigantes (Giants’ Arch), the Palace of Nájera and is also one of the hottest places in the summer in the Iberian Peninsula. Antequera, conocido como el corazón de Andalucía dado a su ubicación centra entre Málaga, Córdoba, Granada y Sevilla, tiene casí 42.000 habitantes y está situado a 45 kilometres de la capital de Málaga. Hay una alcazaba, muchas iglesias, baños romanos, el Arco de Gigantes, el Palacio de Nájera. También es uno de los sitios más calorsos de España en la Península Iberíca en el verano.

5. El Torcal (Antequera) (Yet to discover)

Located near Antequera, El Torcal is a nature reserve with several unusual and beautiful rock formations and a ton of hiking trails. The Sierra de Torcal separates Antequera and Málaga capital, and the highest point is Camorro de las Siete Mesas at 1336 metres (around 4000 feet).  The Tornillo (Screw) is the most famous rock formation, and there are also caves. Situado cerca de Antequera, El Torcal es una reserva natural con muchas formaciones de roca raras y hermosas. También dispone de muchas rutas de senderismo. La Sierra de Torcal separa Antequera y Málaga capital, y el cima más alta es Camorro de las Siete Mesas con 1336 metros de altura. El Tornillo es la formación de roca más conocida, y también hay muchas cuevas. 

6. Marbella (Yet to discover)

Eva Longoria and Michelle Obama both have talked about the beauty of Marbella, a city of 140,000 located between Málaga capital and Gibraltar. It’s at the foothills of the Sierra Blanca and attracts thousands of tourists every year thanks to its beauty. It’s famous for its Golden Mile, a four mile (6.4 km) stretch of luxury estates and hotels. Eva Longoria y Michelle Obama hablan de la belleza de Marbella, una ciudad de 140.000 habitantes ubicado entre Málaga capital y Gibraltar. Está al pie de la Sierra Blanca y atrae miles de turistas cada año dado a su belleza. Es conocido por su Golden Mile, 6,4 kilometres de casas grandes y hoteles pijos. 

7. Vélez-Málaga (Yet to Discover)

A city of 75,000 people is located 4 kilometres (2.4 miles) inland, Vélez-Málaga is a market city with beautiful views and a quaint Old Town. It has castle ruins, several churches, and remains of the old walls. It looked amazing from the bus from Málaga to Nerja, and I nearly got off in Torre del Mar to be able to visit this town. Una ciudad de 75.000 personas que está situado a 4 kilometros del mar, Vélez-Málaga es una ciudad con un mercado famoso y ofrece muchas vistas preciosas y un Casco Viejo pintoresco. Tiene ruinas de un castillo, unas iglesias, y ruinas de su muralla. Me pareció superbonito desde el autobus de Málaga hasta Nerja, y tenía ganas de bajar en Torre del Mar para visitar este pueblo. 

Málaga City. SetMeravelles revisited.

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After my recent visit to Málaga, I decided that as both the city and the province have so much to offer that I should revisit the Setmeravelles for Málaga and dedicate an entry to both of them. First up, the city. You can still read the original Setmeravelles entry for Málaga here. Después de mi visita reciente a Málaga, he decidido que la ciudad y la provincia ofrecen tantas maravillas que debería mirar de nueva a las Setmeravelles de Málaga y hacer una entrada separada por la provincia y la ciudad. Primero, la ciudad. Todavía puedes leer la entrada original aquí. 

Málaga has a population of 569,000 people, making it the second largest city in Andalucía after Sevilla and the sixth largest in Spain. It’s home to two of the most famous Spaniards outside Spain, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. It also has a lot to offer tourists and malagueños alike. Malága tiene una población de 569.000 habitantes y es la segunda ciudad de Andalucía después de Sevilla y la sexta ciudad más grande en España. Es el lugar de nacimiento de dos españoles conocidos en todo el mundo, Pablo Picasso y Antonio Banderas. Ofrece mucho para los turistas y también para los malagueños.

Alcazaba
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The Alcazaba of Málaga was built by the Hammudid Dynasty in the 11th century and is the best-preserved alcazaba (Arabic for “citadel”) in Spain. It offers some amazing views of the city, and entrance is 2,20€, or 3,30€ for a combined ticket with the Castle of Gibralfaro. La Alcazaba de Málaga fue construido por la Dinastía Hammudid en Siglo XI y es la alcazaba mejor conversada en España. Tiene vistas preciosas de la ciudad, y la entrada es 2.20€ o 3.30€ para una entrada combinada con el Castillo de Gibralfaro. 

  Castillo de Gibralfaro
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130 metres above the city of Málaga lies the Castillo (Castle) de Gibralfaro. It was built at the beginning of the 14th century by Yusuf I of the Kingdom of Granada. It’s located next to the Alcazaba and costs 2,20 to enter, or 3,30 with a combined ticket to the Alcazaba. It also has spectacular views of the city. Situado a 130 metros sobre la ciudad de Málaga es el Castillo de Gibralfaro. Fue construido al principios del Siglo XIV por Yusuf I del Reino de Granada. Está ubicado a lado de la Alcazaba y cuesta 2.20€ para entrar. Una entrada combinada con la Alcazaba cuesta 3.30€. También tiene vistas espectaculares de la ciudad. 

Catedral
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The Cathedral of Málaga dates back to the Renaissance, although it has a Baroque appearance. The tower is 84 metres/276 feet high and the church is technically unfinished, which gives it the nickname “La Manquita”, or “One-Armed Lady.” La Catedral de Málaga es del Renacimiento, aunque el edificio es de la epóca barroca. El torre tiene altura de 84 metros y la iglesia todavía no es completa de construir, que le da el apodo “La Manquita”.

Teatro Romano
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In 1951, they discovered the old Roman Theatre, which is at the steps of the Alcazaba. It dates back to the First Century B.C. En 1951, descubrieron el Teatro Romano antiguo, que está ubicado al pie de la Alcazaba. Fue construido en el Siglo I a. C.

Museo y Casa Natal de Picasso

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in the Plaza de Merced in 1881. Although the artist moved away from Málaga when he was only 10, the city still boasts of his fame today. His birthplace is now a Museum, and there is another Picasso Museum in the Palacio de Buenavista. The Museo Picasso Málaga opened in 2003. Pablo Picasso nació en Málaga en la Plaza de Merced en 1881. Aunque el artista se trasladó de Málaga cuando tenía 10, la ciudad todavía habla de su fama hoy. Su casa natal ahora es un museo, y hay otro Museo de Picasso en el Palacio de Buenavista. El Museo Picasso Málaga abrió en 2003. 

Museo Carmen Thyssen (Yet to discover)

The Carmen Thyssen Museum focuses on 19th century works from Andalusian artists. It opened in March 2011 and features many items from Carmen Thyssen’s personal collection.  El Museo Carmen Thyssen es el hogar de obras de Siglo XIX de artistas andaluzas. Abrió en marzo de 2011 y tiene muchas obras de la colección personal de Carmen Thyssen. 

Centre Georges Pompidou (Yet to discover)

The French Centre Pompidou opened a temporary branch in Málaga, El Cubo (The Cube) that houses about 100 works from the Pompidou 20th and 21st century collection. It opened in 2015. The permanent display will study the influence of Picasso. El Centre Pompidou francés abrió un museo temporal en Málaga, El Cubo, que es el hogar de unas 100 obras del la colección de Siglo XX y XXI del Centre Pompidou. La colección permanente estudiará la influencia de Picasso. 

Nerja.

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One of the reasons I wanted to return to Málaga was to do some incredible hiking that I’ve heard about. When the tickets to do the Caminito del Rey were all gone, I had to think about what my backup plan was. I was eyeing Antequera, but the forecast was rain for Sunday morning. I asked at the Málaga Oficina de Turismo for some alternative trails to the Caminito del Rey, and they gave me a ton of information. I settled on the Río Chillar near Nerja. Una de las razones que quería volver a Málaga era para hacer una de las rutas de senderismo increíbles que todos me hablan. Cuando las entradas al Caminito del Rey estaban agotados, tenía que pensar en un Plan B. Estaba pensando en Antequera, pero daba la posibilidad de lluvia por la mañana. Pregunté en la Oficina de Turismo de Málaga para algunas rutas alternativas al Caminito del Rey, y me han dado un montón de información. He decidido hacer una ruta por el Río Chillar cerca de Nerja. 

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Nerja is a popular coastal village of  21,800 people 50 kilometres (30 miles for the yanks) east of Málaga capital. It’s most famous tourist destination are the caves, where in 1959 numerous cave paintings were discovered. It also has an aqueduct that was built in the 19th century. However, I missed out on both of these destinations, giving me a fantastic reason to return to this precious town. Nerja es un pueblo costero popular. Tiene 28.800 habitantes y está ubicado unos 50 kilometros al este de Málaga capital. Hay unas cuevas famosas a lado del pueblo que fueron descubiertos en 1959 que tienen dibujos antiguos. También hay un acueducto construido en Siglo XIX. Pero perdí los dos destinos famosos, que me da una razón volver a este pueblo precioso. 

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My reason to go was to do part of the Route of the River Chillar/Cahorros. After getting off the bus, I decided to explore the town and doublecheck Wikiloc, which one day I will master, from a café with wifi. I was curious about El Balcón de Europa, and I found my way there. Aunque fui a Nerja para hacer parte de la ruta del Río Chillar/Cahorros, decedí ir al pueblo primero para mirar Wikiloc otra vez antes de comenzar con la ruta. Tenía curiosidad del Balcón de Europa, y fui por allá. 

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El Balcón de Europa

I was blown away by the incredible views of the sea and mountains. I suddenly understood while Nerja was so popular and talked about. It reminded me a lot of Hawaii. The water was blue, the sun was bright, and I wanted to enjoy the views a bit. I had an early lunch about 13:30 and went off to hike. Me encantó las vistas maravillosas del mar y monte desde El Balcón de Europa. Por fin, entendí porque todo el mundo habla de Nerja. Me recordaba de Hawaii. El agua azul, el sol brillante…Quería disfrutar de las vistas un rato. Comí pronto, sobre las 13:30, y empecé la ruta del senderismo. 

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I walked toward the Río Chillar riverbed and followed a dirt path along the river. Although it wasn’t the official hike, it was a nice one that had incredible views of the mountains. There was another path that went to nearby villages. I wanted to catch the bus back to Málaga at 16:25, so I had to turn around way too early. Caminé hacía el Río Chillar y su cauce y seguí un sendero a lado del río. Aunque no era el sendero oficial, era un sendero bonito con ofrecío vistas bonitas de la sierra. Había otra ruta que fui a los pueblos cercanos. Quería coger el autobus a las 16.25 a Málaga, y tenía que acabar la ruta demasiado pronto. 

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Usually when I travel, I don’t have the opportunity to hike, but I may have to look for more opportunities. Wherever you are, there’s a world just waiting to be discovered.  Usualmente cuando viajo, no tengo la oportunidad para hacer senderismo. Ahora tengo que buscar más oportunidades. No importa donde estés, hay un mundo esperandote desc DSCN0716

Hike #3 of 40 in 2016
Date: 7 de febrero de 2016
Kilometros: Around 10-11 in total.
Destino: Río Chillar, Nerja (Málaga)

Return to Málaga.

 

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You know a place is special when you just returned and you already want to go back because there was just too much to see and do. Sabes que un sitio es especial cuando acabas de volver y ya tienes ganas de volver porque había tanto ver y hacer.

I had previously been to Málaga capital in 2009, when I went to Gibraltar for the day. I was back to go to Ronda in 2013, and I’ve been wanting to go back to do the Caminito del Rey. My plans for the trip changed a LOT these past two weeks, as my original plan fell through (road trip through Jaén to Toledo, where I could make my way back to Bilbao, capital del mundo), and I had to buy the cheapest flight back to Bilbao at the last minute. I wish I had gone for Wednesday instead of Monday as I was NOT ready to come back to two weeks forecast of rain from a place where the sun shines 300 days a year. Había estado en Málaga capital una vez antes en 2009, cuando también fui a Gibraltar por el día. Volví a la provincia para visitar Ronda en 2013, y he querido volver a Málaga provincia para hacer el Caminito del Rey. Los planes por el viaje cambiaron mucho durante los últimos dos semanas, como el plan original me cambió y tenía que comprar el vuelo más barato a Bilbao en el último minuto en lugar de hacer un roadtrip por Jaén y Castilla La Mancha antes de volver a Bilbao, capital del mundo. Ojalá comprara el vuelo de miércoles en lugar de lunes porque no quería volver a la dilluvia que me esperaba en Bilbao desde un sitio donde hay 300 días de sol cada año. 

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My plan to walk the Caminito del Rey also fell through, as when I went to get tickets in early January, they were already “agotados” (sold out). I was torn between Antequera and Nerja for my backup plan. Tampoco pude hacer el Caminito del Rey, porque cuando fui a conseguir entradas en enero, ya estaban agotados. No sabía si iba a ir a Antequera o Nerja como mi Plan B.

I’m just going to have to go back to Málaga, folks. Voy a tener que volver a Málaga, chicos.

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I caught a Vueling flight from Bilbao too early Saturday morning, and after switching places with a mother so she could sit with her two kids, I got an exit row to myself. Score. They were quite happy to have a bilingual person there anyway, even if I did sleep the entire flight. I arrived in Málaga about 10, and I caught Cercanías into Málaga capital without problem. Having carry-on baggage meant they did not lose my baggage this time! Cogí un vuelo de Vueling desde Bilbao demasiado pronto el sábado, y después de cambiar asientos con una madre para que pudiera sentarse con sus hijos, tenía una fila de salida para mí mismo. ¡Toma! Estaban contentos tener una persona bilingüe en esa fila por si en caso…aunque dormí durante todo el vuelo. Llegué en Málaga sobre las 10 de la mañana, y cogí Cercanías al centro de Málaga sin problema. Como solo tenía equipaje de mano, no perdieron el equipaje esta vez.

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As my AirBNB host had some commitments spring up on him last-minute, I spent the morning meandering the mean streets of Málaga. I had a “pitufo”, what they call tostadas, con tomate, of course. I found one of my favourite cafés in all of the Greatest Península of the World, Café con Libros, is still open. I remember spending some time there with wifi back when there was little wifi in Spain to be found. (I found Málaga not to be as connected as Bilbao, where we even have public free wifi in most of the plazas). It still remains one of my faves, and it has a great location in Plaza de Merced, the same plaza where that famous painter Pablo Picasso was born. (His birthplace is 3€ to enter. I went before, so this time I skipped it.) Mi anfitrión de AirBNB tenía unas cosas de hacer de último momento, y por eso pasé la mañana explorando las calles de Málaga. Me tomé un “pitufo” con tomate, el nombre los malagueños dan a tostada. Después, encontré uno de mis cafés preferidos en toda la mejor península del mundo, Café con Libros. Recuerdo pasar tiempo allí usando su wifi cuando España no estaba muy conectado al mundo de wifi. (Tengo que decir que Málaga no es tan conectado como Bilbao, donde hay wifi libre en casí todas las plazas). Todavía es un café estupendo, y está situado en la Plaza de Merced, la misma plaza donde nació el gran artista Pablo Picasso. Su casa natal cuesta 3€ de entrar, y como había estado antes, he decidido saltarlo esta vez. 

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After a tapas lunch, I checked in AirBNB, and things went great. I caught a siesta before heading to the alcazaba. I only had 40 minutes to explore it, but they were 40 minutes well spent. For those interested, it is free on Sunday afternoons after 2 pm. It normally costs 2.20 or 3.30 for a combined entrance to the castle. Después de una comida de tapas, fui al piso de AirBNB, y era genial. Me eché una siesta antes de ir a la alcazaba. Solo tenía unos 40 minutos para explorar, pero era 40 minutos bien pasados. Para los interesados, cuesta 2,20, o 3,30€ con entrada combinada con el castillo, y la entrada es gratis los domingos a partir de las 14.00. 

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I had another coffee at an overpriced, overrated Café de Viajeros (Travelers café) and watched some of the Carnival parade before having an early dinner at a tapas restaurant I would return to on Sunday evening called Mesón La Alegría. I highly recommend it. Me tomé otro relaxing café con leche en un sitio caro y sobrevalorado, el Café de Viajeros, y vi parte del desfile de Carnival antes de cenar pronto en un buen restaurante de tapas donde también cené domingo. Se llama Mesón La Alegría, y os recomiendo. 

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Sunday morning I woke up, had my pitufo con tomate, and caught the 10:35 bus to Nerja from the Puerto de Málaga bus stop. I will write more about Nerja in a separate entry, but it was a great visit. My original plan to hike got changed when I saw how incredible the views from El Balcón de Europa were. (Nerja photos will be uploaded with that entry). Domingo por la mañana me desperté, me tomé mi pitufo con tomate, y cogí el autobus a las 10.35 a Nerja desde la parada de autobuses en el Puerto de Málaga. Ya escribiré sobre Nerja en otra entrada, pero era una buena visita. Mi plan original para hacer una ruta larga de senderismo cambió cuando vi las vistas desde El Balcón de Europa. (Ya subiré fotos de Nerja con esta entrada)

Monday I slept in a bit before heading to the Castillo de Gibralfaro. Amazing views of the entire city of Málaga. I went for another café at Café con Libros, checked out the market, found a few cool churches, and soaked up the environment and as much Vitamin D as I could. Lunes, dormí tarde antes de ir al Castillo de Gibralfaro, que ofrece vistas preciosas de la ciudad de Málaga. Fui a tomar otro café en el Café con Libros, fui al Mercado de Merced, vi unas iglesias chulas, y pasé por las calles y intenté tomar tanta Vitamina D como posible. 

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I had the best salmorejo in my life at Don Bosé, along with “lagrimas de pollo” (Chicken tears just doesn’t sound appetizing, but they were good.) I’m not a foodie at all, but I do like salmorejo more than gazpacho. Comí el mejor salmorejo de mi vida en Don Bosé, con lagrimas de pollo. No soy un foodie, pero prefiero salmorejo al gazpacho. 

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I was sad to catch the flight to Bilbao Monday afternoon. The flight actually arrived 15 minutes early, so good for Vueling. Estaba triste coger el vuelo a Bilbao lunes por el tarde. El vuelo llegó 15 minutos antes de hora previsto. Enhorabuena y Zorionak Vueling. 

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I was super impressed with Málaga once again. It has a lot to offer travellers, and I don’t think I will ever be able to see all the meravelles of the province. When I have time, I plan on separating the Set Meravelles page for Málaga into Málaga City and Málaga Province. Maybe that’s cheating, but there is so much to see and do here that it deserves more attention. I may not be a museum person, as I prefer nature and history, but there are a ton of museums. The presence of Picasso is still felt today. It was also great being in Andalucía after nearly three years since my last visit. The price of living in the north of Spain. Me impresionó mucho Málaga otra vez. Tiene mucho ofrecer a los viajadores, y creo que nunca podré llegar a ver todas les meravelles de la provincia. Cuando tenga tiempo, voy a rehacer la entrada de Málaga para poner Set Meravelles para la ciudad y otro siete para la provincia. Igual es hacer trampa, pero hay mucho ver y hacer en Málaga que merece más atención. No soy muy de museos, como prefiero la naturaleza y la historia, pero hay muchos museos en Málaga. Todavía se siente la presencia de Picasso hoy en día. También era genial estar en Andalucía otra vez después de casí tres años de mi última visita. Es el precio que pago por vivir en el norte de España. 

Date of trip/fechas de viaje: 6-8 de febrero, 2016

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Selfie de Alcazaba

Finding a Spanish home.

After deciding to move to another country, you have to find a place to live. After the rainiest winter ever, I am about to start the look for a new place to live in Bilbao, munduko hiriburua da (Capital of the World in Euskera de Bizkaia, surely something more rude in Euskera de Gipuzkoa) due to the amount of “humedad” (humidity) that my current place has. Después de decidir trasladarse a otro país, hay que encontrar un sitio para vivir. Después del invierno más lluvioso de historia (exagerando), ya estoy a punto de comenzar otra busqueda de un sitio para vivir en Bilbao, munduko hiriburua da (Capital del mundo en Euskera de Bizkaia, seguramente algo más maleducado en Euskera de Gipuzkoa) dado de la humedad en mi piso durante el año pasado.

This frightens me, considering some of the places I’ve lived in Spain. Usually it’s been more a problem with the flatmates, but a lot of times it (like right now) has been a problem with the actual flat. (For Americans (and Canadians?), flat is “apartment”, but my brain translates “piso” to “flat”, not “apartment”). Eso me asusto, tomando en consideración algunos de los pisos donde he vivido en España. Suele ser más un problema con los compañeros de piso que el piso, pero también muchas veces ha sido el piso.

The first place I lived was a recently renovated piso in the heart of Linares. It was a good walking distance from the school, and it had nice wooden floors and new appliances. However, they were unable to install Internet in the place due to the lack of a phone line. (This was 2008-2009). There was also a round sink whi ch created problems whenever we tried to wash the dishes. There was also no heat, typical of Andalucía. Why install heat for the three days of “frío” that they have a year? Also, about halfway through the year, we discovered mold in my roommate’s room. El primer piso donde viví era un piso “recién renovado en el corazón de Linares. Estaba cerca al colegio donde trabajaba, y tenía suelos de madera y todo del piso era nuevo. Sin embargo, no podían instalar internet en el piso dado que no había una línea de teléfono. (Este era 2008-2009). También había un fregadero circular que causó muchos problemas cuando intentabamos fregar los platos. Tampoco había calefacción, que es típico de Andalucía. ¿Por qué hace falta calefacción cuando solo hay tres días de “frío” durante el año? (Recuerda que soy de Ohio, que hace más frío que Burgos.) Además, en febrero, descrubimos un hongo en el cuarto de mi compañera de piso.

The first time around in Madrid, it was a problem with the flatmates. The kitchen was very small, and my roommates were big jerks who would find Monica Gellar’s apartment on Friends filthy. I made the mistake of living far away from the centro (about 25 minutes on the metro). And it was a horrible commute to my job that year. And then the bathroom sort of exploded, which jerkfaces blamed entirely on me. I was so glad to leave that place. And the one never gave me back my English as a Second Language book either! Mi primera vez viviendo en Madrid, el problema era con los compañeros de piso. La cocina era muy pequeña, y los compañeros de pisos eran gilipollas que pensarían que el piso de Mónica Gellar de Friends era sucio. Hice el error de vivir lejos del centro (unos 25 minutos en el metro). También tenía mala comunicación con mi trabajo. Y después, el baño desarrolló muchos problemas, y los gilipollas me echaron la culpa. Que feliz estaba marcharme de este piso. Encima, presté un libro de aprender inglés a uno de los compañeros que nunca me devolví.

Learning from that experience, when I moved to Valencia, I wanted things to be perfect. The temporary flat was okay, but lacking a shower curtain which I bought. No major problems until I was kicked out two days before the end of the month due to one of the people returning from holidays early. I then took a piso from an ad on Couchsurfing. Aprendí de esta experencia cuando me trasladé a Valencia. Quería que las cosas sean perfectas. El piso temporal no estaba mal, pero faltó una curtina de la ducha que compré yo. No había problemas hasta que me echaron dos días antes del final del mes porque uno se volvió de sus vacaciones pronto. Tenía que elegir un piso de un anuncio de Couchsurfing.

I found out I’m not too keen on the actual practice of Couchsurfing, though I still like the idea of it. There was one bathroom for four people (two Italians and a German), and the one Italian constantly complained about how gays were disgusting and ruining the world. There was a constant parade of Couchsurfers, and I was never really informed of when they would be coming in or leaving. It wasn’t the nicest place, but it had a nice, sunny living room. Not that I ever had the chance to watch television in Spanish like I wanted. There was also a nice gaping hole between the window and wall that I didn’t notice until it started getting cold. I got out of there after three months and lived with a friend who then got a job in Paris, so I was paying the same rent to his parents for having the place to myself. Best place ever! (I really need to live on my own now, or at least find a nice principe azul to move in with!) Descrubí que no me mola mucho la práctica de CouchSurfing, aunque todavía me gusta la idea de Couchsurfing. Solo había un baño para cuatro personas (dos italianos y un aleman). Uno de los italianos siempre estaba quejandose de los gays y como los gays somos asquerosos y responsibles para destruir el mundo. Siempre había Couchsurfers llegando y saliendo, y nunca me dijieron cuando uno de los CSers iba a llegar o marcharse. No era un buen piso, pero tenía una sala de estar soleado. Nunca tenía la oportunidad para aprovecharlo y ver la tele en castellano como quería. También había un agujero grande entre la ventana y pared que no noté hasta que empezó a hacer frío. Me fui de este piso después de tres meses y viví con un colega que después se marchó a París. Estaba pagando el mismo aquiler a sus padres para tener el piso para mí solo. ¡Mejor piso! (Ahora me hace falta vivir solo o al menos conocer mi principe azul y vivir con él.))

Then it was back to Madrid. The first year was another old place, but I had a nice big room with a big bed and what, at first, was two calm roommates. The one moved in with his boyfriend, and the new one was also nice and probably the one I’ve gotten along with best due to our interests in television shows and film. When he moved out, the problems began. A Brasilian party boy moved in, and they decided to convert the study into a fourth bedroom to pay “lower rent”. Like 10 Euros less a month, and I had to pay for the renovation of this room and a new refrigerator. I found a new place to live after two months of this hell where they made me feel like the odd one out. I just felt like an intruder in my own house. Después, volví a vivir en Madrid. El primer año era otro piso antiguo, pero tenía una habitación grande con una cama grande y, al principio, dos compañeros tranquilos. Uno se fue a vivir con su novio, y el nuevo también era majo y probablemente tenía mejor rollo con él que cualquier otro compañero de piso dado de nuestro interes en cine y series. Cuando se fue para vivir con sus padres, los problemas empezaron. Un brasileño fiestero entró, y sin consultarme, decidieron convertir el estudio en una cuatra habitación para pagar menos en aquiler. Como 10€ menos al mes. Además, tenía que pagar para un frigorífico nuevo y para renovar el estudio. Encontré otro piso después de dos meses de aguantar este infierno donde me sentí como un bicho raro. Siempre me sentí como si fuera un intruso en mi propia casa.

I moved in when a gay couple who were nice people, but I felt weird living with a couple. My schedule was so weird, but I still had my fave gym and my Catalán classes within walking distance. The place was a bit small, and the washing machine kept breaking down. However, Pedro Almodóvar and the late Duchess of Alba lived in the same barrio. It was also a ground floor flat, which meant having the caretaker enter the patio every single day. I also didn’t quite have room for all my stuff, which meant a very messy room. Después, viví con una pareja gay quien eran super majos, pero me sentí un poco raro viviendo con una pareja. Mi horario era complicado, pero todavía viví cerca a mi gimnasio y mis clases de catalán. El piso era pequeño, y la lavadora siempre se rompió. Pero mis vecinos incluyeron Pedro Almódovar y la Duquesa de Alba (D.E.P.) Otro problema fue el hecho que estaba en el piso bajo, que significaba que el portero siempre entró el patio todos los días a las 8 para fregar y limpiar.

My current flat is in a decent location, close to the Casco Viejo, Zubizuri and Moyua. The location is quite nice, and the German Shepherd is a bonus. But I’m not convinced by a room where we can’t turn on the heat in the winter (this isn’t Andalucía. Bilbao, sí, hace frío y LLUVIA), the dampness, the bed that broke, the lack of writing space, no television, and oh, crap internet. Ahora vivo en un piso centrico, cerca del Casco Viejo, el Zubizuri y Moyua. El hecho que viene con un pastor aleman es genial. Pero no me convence de un piso donde no podemos encender la calefacción durante el invierno. (No es Andalucía. Bilbao, yes, has cold and rainy winters), la humedad, la cama rota, la falta de espacio de escribir, la falta de televisón, y internet de mierda.

It’s time to move again in September (as I get along with my flatmate, I know that there’ll be more people looking then and more places for me to choose from). I need a non-smoking gay-friendly flatmate (who respects INFP style introverts like myself), affordable housing, heat, internet, television, a washing machine that won’t break down, an adequate number of cooking utensils and dishes, a balcony of some sort would be nice. If it came with a dog, perfect! I’d love to live in the Casco Viejo itself where I could just walk to work in 20 minutes or so next fall. Ya me toca trasladar a otro piso en septiembre (como tenemos buen rollo mi compañero de piso y yo, no quiero dejarle plantando y sé que habrá más gente buscando en septiembre y más pisos para elegir). Necesito un compañero que sea NO fumador, gay-friendly, quien respete los INFP introvertidos) y un piso que tenga un precio asquesible, calefacción, internet, una tele, una lavadora que no se rompa cada dos por tres, un numéro adecuado de cosas para cocinar y platos, y un balcón si posible. Si viene con un perro, ¡perfecto! Me encantaría vivir en el Casco Viejo donde podría caminar a trabajo en unos 20 minutos en el otoño.

Is that too much to ask for? ¿Es demasiado pedir?

Mmmmm…we’ll see! ¡Ya veremos!

Cádiz and some relaxing Sherry for not such a high tarifa.

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Tucked away in the southwest part of Spain, between Huelva, Sevilla and Gibraltar with views of Morocco, Cádiz is, like every Spanish province, a contrast of many things. And as a Pearls Before Swine fan, I just had to make a pun out of this entry’s title.

Cádiz is known for its beautiful pueblos blancos (villages with white architecture), beautiful beaches and being home of Jerez de la Frontera, where they make sherry (Jerez is Spanish for “sherry”. It’s also home of the rainiest part of the peninsula, the Sierra de Grazelema. I’m not even going to ask how a place could be rainier than Bilbao because I don’t even want to consider that possibility.

I spent two summers working at a summer camp in Jerez, a beautiful andaluz city famous for its horses and for its sherry. It wasn’t as hot as some places in Andalucía (in fact, some nights I needed a jacket). The less said about the camp, the better, but I do have fond memories of the city. My favourite was my afternoon off when I was able to visit Cádiz, the province capital city. I walked all around the town, imagining Havana in Cuba (which is said to be very similar). I remember having a very cheap café con leche and admiring a beautiful sunset over the beach. On the train back to Jerez, there were some lovely fireworks.

I also got to tour Tío Pepe, one of the sherry bodegas in Jerez. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I ever made it to El Puerto de Santa María or not. I do know I was in charge of a bunch of rowdy teens most of the time (which included supervising them playing golf, of all sports)    and had no time to explore this beautiful province…although with the winter I’m still recovering from, I’m not wanting to go to the rainiest point of the peninsula any time soon.

By the way, the people of Jerez strongly feel that flamenco was born in Jerez and not Sevilla. I asked my amigo andaluz from the east part of Andalucía who has no stake in this debate, and he says it is from the north part of Cádiz and the south part of Sevilla, so both are correct.

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Cádiz

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Cádiz is the oldest continuously lived in city in Spain and comes complete with an old town and old city walls. Nearly 124,000 people call the city home. The metropolitan area is over 600,000 habitants. The Phonetians called it “Gadir”/”Agadir”. It’s located on a sand spit of land, which causes development problems. Today, besides the beaches and the Bay of Cádiz, the city has a cathedral, many beautiful plazas and churches, the monument to the 1812 Spanish Constitution, the Tavira watchtower, a Roman theatre and the Castle of Santa Catalina. It also has Carnivales.

Carnivales

Río is not the only place in the world with Carnival. Every year, Carnivales become more popular in Spain as people dress in costumes. (As Halloween has been adopted into Spanish culture, the Spanish differentiate between Carnival and Halloween by only wearing scary costumes on Halloween. I’ve been called a liar when I explain that in the United States people wear any type of costume for Halloween. I digress). One of the most important Carnivals (if not the most important) is the Carnival of Cádiz. Cádiz has special groups called “chirigotas” who provide satirical music and performances as everyone dresses up in costume/fancy dress.  The “comparsas” work all year on their satire, and there are also “coros” providing music.

Jerez de la Frontera

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Jerez is the largest city of the province with 215,000 habitants and is the fifth-largest city in Andalucía. Located 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean, it is included in the Cádiz metropolitan population of over 600,000. They have a cathedral, la Cartuja de Jerez de la Frontera monastery (a Bien de Interés Cultural), an alcázar (fortress), many churches and plazas, sherry and horses. Despite having lived there six weeks, I didn’t have much of a time to explore the city. I was left with a favourable impression from what little I did see.

Los pueblo blancos (to be discovered)

The pueblos blancos are villages where the houses all have white walls and red/brown tiled roofs. There are a series of connected villages with this look in Cádiz and Málaga. The towns all have a Catholic church and narrow, winding streets. They were first painted white during the Miguel Primo de Rivera dictatorship in the 1920s. There are a ton of hiking and other outdoor activity opportunities here.

Tarifa (to be discovered)

Tarifa, population of nearly 18,000, is located at the very south of the province on the Strait of Gibraltar. The word “tariff” comes from here as it was the first port to charge for its use. It’s home of the Guzmán Castle, the church of St. Matthew, the ferry to Tangier, Morroco, and many wind sports.

Sierra de Grazalema (to be discovered)

Grazalema is a village of 2200 people located in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. It is more or less the middle point of the Cádiz-Sevilla-Málaga triangle, allowing for easy access from any of the major cities. The park is home of many caves and vultures. It is said to be the rainiest part of the peninsula and has been a biosphere reserve since 1977. Nine Cádiz populations and five Málaga populations (including Ronda)  have territory within the park boundaries.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda (to be discovered)

Sanlúcar, population 68,000, is located in the northwest of the province on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, about 50 kilometres from Cádiz (30 miles). It is home to some beaches, the Santiago Castle and a few palaces (including city hall) and churches. It’s one of the cities that produces sherry. It’s also close to the Doñana National Park.

Spain. The Set Meravelles of the Greatest Peninsula in the World.

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Today is the one-year anniversary of Set Meravelles. Hoy marca el primer aniversario de Set Meravelles.

Thank you to my readers (averaging 300 hits a month! Yay!) and the people who support me and my crazy Quixote dream of staying in Spain in time of CRISIS. Gracias a todos mis lectores y las personas que me apoyan y mi sueño de locura de Quijote de quedarme en España en tiempos de crisis.

Originally, I was going to do a revisit to the Set Meravelles of Vizcaya, as it is unfair to have grouped Bilbao and Vizcaya in the same entry as there are so many Meravelles in the province. (That goes for every province though!) Estaba pensado en hacer otra vez las Set Meravelle de Vizcaya, como es injusto hacer en la misma la entrada con Bilbao y toda la provicina como hay tantas Meravelle en la provincia.

Then I thought, as I am running out of provinces to write about, and I was planning on writing up the Set Meravelles of Spain to conclude the series, perhaps I should go ahead and just name the Set Meravelles of Spain to celebrate the occasion. (Mallorca, León, Cádiz and Álava are coming, and then when I finally get to visit Lugo, Ourense, Zamora, Huesca, Albacete and Sta. Cruz de Tenerife, they will be done after I have at least spent more than 20 minutes at the bus station (Albacete, looking at you!) Después, me pensé, como ya me queda poco provincias, y estaba planficiando escribir un blog sobre las Set Meravelle de España para acabar con la serie, ya debería nombrar las Set Meravelle de España para celebrar el aniverario. (Mallorca, León, Cádiz y Álava ya vienen en entradas futuras, y cuando por fin visite Lugo, Ourense, Zamora, Huesca, Albacete y Sta. Cruz de Tenerife. Voy a esperar hasta que visitarlas (y no cuento Albacete hasta que haya estado más de 20 minutos en la estación de autobuses)

This is going to be hard. Impossible. In a country as amazing as Spain, you can not name just seven wonders. Impossible. So before I hear “You left out Lepe!”, keep that in mind. I tried to choose from a wide variety of interests for this list. I’m sorry for leaving out whichever wonder, but I can’t write about all  193829382938293918192383982495492 wonders of Spain.

Es imposible elegir solo siete maravillas. Por eso, no te quejas que se me olvidado Lepe o tu maravilla preferida. Lo siento mucho, pero no puedo escribir de todas las 193829382938293918192383982495492 maravillas que hay en este país tan espectacular. He intentando incluir cosas de todas las intereses para esta lista.

There are 17 autonomous communities in Spain, and each of them has a ton of history and amazing places to visit. I tried to spread the love, but the north seems to have more due to my love of the natural beauty found here. I also love Andalucía. Hay 17 comunidades autónomas en España, y cada uno tiene mucho historia y sitios preciosos para visitar. He intentando incluir un poco de todo, pero hay más en el norte porque me encanta la belleza natural del norte. Pero también me encanta Andalucía, tranquilos. 

What are your choices for the Meravelles of Spain? I’ll probably agree with whatever you write as long as it’s not Madrid city! ¿Cuáles sitios elegiría tu para las Meravelles de España? Probablemente voy a estar acuerdo, menos los que dicen Madrid capital xD. 

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Camino de Santiago

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No matter which Camino you take, how you do it, where you leave from, how much of it you do, the Camino de Santiago is a unique experience. Most people who have done it say it was one of the best experiences of their lives. I’ve only done about 120 kilometres so far, but I cannot wait to arrive in Santiago. No matter wherever you are in Spain, you’re not far from some Camino to Santiago.

Granada y La Alhambra

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Granada remains one of my favourite cities in the world. Although I’ve only been to the Alhambra once, I’ve been to the city four times, and I am looking forward to a fifth time in the future. For me, the best of the city lies directly opposite the Alhambra: Watching the sunset from Mirador de San Nicolas.

Valencia y las Fallas (y paella)

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Ay, mi Valencia (i la seua caloret). I wanted to include a festival on here, and after living through the Fallas in March 2011, no other Spanish (or any place) festival compares with the awesomness of the Fallas. And the paella is amazing for the foodies.

San Sebastián- Donostia

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Ay, Donosti. I agree with the guide I read during my first visit to this city. There may not be much to see, but it’s a place you have to see. I probably have offended every single person I know in Bilbao by listing it and not Donosti, but I will also remind them of Miguel de Unamuno’s quote about Donostia being beautiful but insignificant. Although it’s difficult to find good weather, their beaches are among the best in the peninsula for me. I love sitting along the rock along the river watching the wave crash into the shore.

Toledo,

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Segovia

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y Ávila:

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Tres capitales castellanas

The best thing about Madrid is its connection to three amazing Castillian province capital cities. Toledo is beautiful and medieval, Segovia has its Roman aqueduct and Alcázar that inspired Disney’s Cinderalla Castle, and Ávila is also a charm that’s a bit more off the beaten path.

Cangas de Onis y Covadonga

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When I saw this bridge with its cross where the Reconquista of Spain supposedly began, I felt moved. I can’t explain it. The nearby Basilica of Covadonga and the church in a cave are also jewels  of Asturias, and I can’t wait to see the lakes of Covadonga. But it is the bridge and the Asturian cross that somehow spoke to me most.

El Quijote

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 What would Spain be without Quijote? Although a fictional character, Don (Sir) Quijote says so much about Spain. I think my dream of staying in Spain long-term is becoming a bit quixotic itself. Many Spaniards boast of never actually having read this brilliant novel, but they are most definitely missing out.

Córdoba. Flower power!

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I am counting back, and it’s already been six years since my last visit to Córdoba. I regret that news, as it was always one of my favourite cities and one I’ve been wanting to get back to. But life gets in the way, and I’m closer to Paris than I am Córdoba these days.

When I first lived in Spain, Córdoba was my very first visit. It was only an hour and a half away from Linares, and I felt that I should be travelling and taking advantage of living in Spain. I didn’t think about saving money for longer and better trips. I was in a brand new country and wanted to see EVERYTHING. So I hoped a bus, which stopped just ten minutes outside of Linares for twenty minutes. I was lost, confused and not sure of what a “parada de 20 minutos” entailed. We got on the road again, and we were soon in Córdoba provincia and later the capital city. I got off the bus and wandered around lost, trying to get to the Casco Viejo to see what there was to see. I had done no research. I just knew Córdoba was a city we had often talked about in my Early and Medieval Spanish literature university course.

I meandered the old city, crossing the Roman bridge a few times and admiring the horse and buggies that went through the cobblestone streets. I went in to this Mezquita Catedral thing that seemed to be the highlight of the city. I saw you had to pay, and I wasn’t in the best financial situation, so I didn’t go in. I had a quick lunch at Burger King, as I was too shy to go to an actual restaurant (How times have changed!) and later caught the bus back to Linares, vowing to return another day soon.

That day came sooner than I thought, as I was asked to help chaperone a school trip to Córdoba. I instantly said yes. On this fateful November day, I got to tour the Mezquita Catedral. Truly amazing. I regret that my Andalusian Spanish was so rusty during this time as I would’ve learned so much more. We then walked around the city and saw some more sites, including a deep well and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. We were left alone to watch the students as one of them had an emergency and the main teacher had to go to the hospital with her. They had their bocadillos, which we hadn’t known to take, and the students gave us a ton of food and kicked around some oranges that had fallen from the trees. They were quite happy. When the teacher came back, we were off again…to MEDIA MARKT! We spent an hour there. Looking back, I suppose it was because the ruins we were off to see were closed for siesta, but at the time, we were just questioning why so much time was spent at the European Best Buy. We then went to some ruins close to the city, la Medina Azahara, before heading back to Linares. Another sick student on the bus and a half hour at a petrol/gas station/cafetería. I still look back on this day as one of my favourite teaching days ever.

Later, in May of that year, I went back to Córdoba for a job fair where I got told I needed a UK passport a ton. I spent the rest of the day meandering the town.  I lamented that their famous flower festival had been the weekend prior. It would’ve made the city even more beautiful. However, there was a fair going on, which I did check out.

Like so many places those first few years in Spain, I haven’t had an opportunity to go back. If only I could just spend my entire life going from town to town in this amazing country.

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Mezquita Catedral

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Córdoba, once claimed to be the largest city in the world in the 10th century, has many roots to its centuries of Muslim rule. Today the population is around 330,000. It is one of the hottest cities in Spain with an average of 37ºC/99ºF in July and August. And the most famous landmark is the Mezquita Catedral located in the heart of the Jewish quarter and historic centre (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Visigoths built the original Cathedral, which was destroyed to rebuild a Mosque during the Muslim rules. After the Reconquista, it was converted into a Catholic Cathedral. It is amazingly beautiful inside and one of the Set Meravelles, for me, of Andalucía.

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos

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Also located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter of the historic centre is the fortress of the Christian Kings. This is a fortress that was a home of the Catholic Kings Fernindad and Isabel. It was the headquarters of the Reconquista during the final years of it, and the famous monarchs met with Christoper Columbus before that fateful voyage of 1492. Today you can still visit and admire the beautiful gardens. It has been a National Monument since the 1950s.

Puente Romano y la Torre de la Calahorra

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The Roman Bridge and the Calahorra gate Tower form (for me) the most impressive bridge of the seven current bridges crossing the Guadalquivir River. The tower protected the bridge. The bridge was built in the first century BC and is 247 metres long (741 feet).  It has been restored many times, the last time being in 2006, and the restoration efforts were awarded with the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in 2014.

Fiesta de los Patios, Cruzes y Feria

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While I did see the Feria de Mayo in Córdoba, I missed the fiestas of the patios and crosses.  At the beginning of May, there are crosses made of flowers placed throughout the city, and they have a contest to decide the most beautiful cross. Then they open up private patios throughout the city to choose the most beautiful patio. The patios are decorated with flowers. I saw some of the flowers, but I would’ve liked to have seen the whole thing.

Medina Azahara

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The Medina Azahara is 13 kilometres (8 miles) from Córdoba, located in the foothills of the Sierra Morena, and “the shining city” are ruins of a former Muslim palace city. The views of Córdoba are fantastic, and although only 10% of the original palace-city are visible today, they are well worth seeing. The once important place of al-Andalus was set on fire in the 11th Century.

Cabra y las Sierras Subbeticas (Yet to be discovered)

The rural town of Cabra is the gateway of the National Park of the Sierras Subbeticas and is a major source of red polished limestone. “Cabra” is Spanish for goat, and the goat city is located 72 km (45 miles) from the province capital. It has a medieval tower, some churches and the Castillo de los Condes. It’s central located in Andalucía.

Priego de Córdoba (Yet to be discovered)

 The town of 22,000 habitants, Priego de Córdoba, is located in the southeast of the province on the mountains of the Sierra de Priego. The views from the cliff Adarve are the subject of many paintings and photos. It is a city of “cien fuentes”, 100 fountains, and it also has a castle. I’m sure the best part of this small city are the views. I’m a sucker for beautiful scenery.

Huelva. A forgotten corner of Andalucía.

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Tucked away in the southwest corner of Spain between Sevilla and Portugal, Huelva is a province nearly forgotten by many. Sevilla dominates the western Andalucía scene, Cádiz has its famous pueblos blancos (villages full of white houses) and proximity to Gibraltar, and Portugal has the Algarve with its beautiful beaches and capes. Of course, like any place in the Greatest Peninsula in the World, forgotten does not mean it’s not worth visiting. Au contraire. Huelva has a lot to offer.

My visit to Huelva only consists of half a day returning to Madrid from the Algarve during the Puente de Mayo 2013, two years ago this week. I caught an all-too early bus from Lagos (6:30 if I remember correctly) so I could spend some time in the capital city before spending the night in Sevilla, the city where I always attract bad weather. I had just learned that I would be moving to the Basque Country and was super excited. I walked around the Casco Viejo (Old Town) with a map, just in case of getting lost, with no plan. I saw the buildings, had a cheap, not-so good lunch, walked down to the water front before catching the bus to Sevilla. I was a bit sad I wouldn’t have time to see more of the province, as the capital city doesn’t have a lot to offer. However, the mountains in the northern part of the province would have offered a lot of hiking. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to the Algarve and see more of the wonders the province has to offer.

A few factoids about Huelva. The football (soccer) club Recreativo de Huelva is the oldest football club in Spain. There are also various sites in the province related to Christopher Columbus (don’t hold that against the province) and his quest to “discover” the Americas. The capital city of Huelva has a population of 149,410 habitants as of 2010.

Set Meravelles

La Costa de Luz

The Atlantic Coast from Tarifa in Cádiz to the border with Portugal and Huelva is known as “La Costa de Luz“, the Coast of Light. The beaches are popular with Spanish, French and German tourists. The Parque Nacional de Doñana is an important natural park that protects the coastal ecosystems and is located on coasts here and also in the province of Sevilla.

Catedral de la Merced

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The Cathedral of Huelva was built in the 17th century and is a Bien de Interés Cultural of Spain (National Cultural Interest). The outside is Barroque and many other churches in Huelva province are based on this design.

Lepe

Ay, Lepe, the butt of so many Spanish jokes I just had to include it on here. Any time someone wants to make a joke about someone lacking in the intelligence department, they are said to be from Lepe. However, the city of 25,000 habitants is more than a joke. The wine from Lepe was mentioned in The Canterbury Tales, there is a beach and an old lookout tower (Torre del Catalán) that you can still climb that was originally built to warn of invasions from the Berber pirates.

Ayamonte

Ayamonte, population 18,000, is the last town on the Spanish border before crossing into Portugal. While there is a bridge north of the town to drive across today, for centuries there was only a ferry that crossed the Río (River) Guadiana. The town boasts of a medieval neighbourhood in the center that is pedestrian only. It also has a beach. A river, beach and Casco Viejo? I’m there one day. (I wish I had stopped here instead of Huelva capital.)

La Romería del Rocío y Almonte

Almonte is a small town of 23,000 denizens, and it’s more famous for the pilgrimage (Romería) to the ermita de El Rocío on the second day of Pentecost to honour the Virgin Rocío. The pilgrimage began in 1653 and today attracts around 1 million people. People usually wear traditional Andaluz costumes for the event. ¡Olé! (Please remember that people ONLY wear the traditional outfits for festivals.)

Parque Nacional de Aracena y Picos de Aroche

The National Park of Aracena and Picos de Aroche is part of the Sierra Moreno in the north of the province, and some 41,000 people live in the region near the park. It has been a protected area since 1989, and there are 28 villages within the park’s limits. Any place that is nature and mountains piques my interest.

Mezquita de Almonaster La Real

Although the village of Almonaster La Real has less than 2000 habitants (1800 for population geeks like me), it is home of an interesting trapezoid mezquita (mosque) that was built from a visigoth basilica. It was declared a national monument in 1931. While it isn’t as well-preserved as the more famous Mezquita in Córdoba, it is one of the few surviving rural mosques from Spain’s Muslim past.

I apologise for my lack of photos this entry! Being in only one city for a morning while running on fumes puts a damper on the photo taking!

Málaga…more than just beaches.

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I’ve postponed writing about Málaga as I know the people who live there are very passionate about their home, whether they were born there or moved there later in life. I hope I can do this justice, as I have only been to the capital city once, in 2009, and a return visit to one of the SetMeravelles of the entire country, Ronda, in 2013. It most definitely is NOT one of the worst cities to visit in Spain, as one blogger wrote last year. I know the province has more jewels than the capital city, but I really enjoyed my visit to the capital (much more than neighbouring gaybourhood Torremolinos!) in 2009.

I was ending my first year living in Spain, unsure if I was going to be able to continue and regretting a ton of opportunities I’d miss to travel. We had the “Puente de Mayo”, the “bank holiday” weekend of May 1st. I wanted to go back to Granada and felt I should visit Málaga as I heard so much about it. I caught an early bus from the Linares bus station (I sort of miss that place as it was one of the places with free wifi in 2009 small-town Andalucía and we had no internet). The bus stopped in Granada and then went on through some amazing scenery between Granada and Málaga capital. The bus arrived, as they tend to do, and I deboarded and found myself in a beautiful city. (It’s the sixth largest city in Spain with a population of 542,000). I loved the Roman ruins and the pedestrian tunnel to go to the beach. It was one of my first times going to the beach as an adult, sadly enough. It would become a favourite pastime, although I much prefer a sunset walk along the beach than barbecuing myself. I went to Gibraltar (Gibraltar español. I had to say it!) and then tried going out in Torremolinos, which is very connected to Málaga capital all night long. I wasn’t too impressed by Torremolinos.

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I did find a great café, whose wifi I never deleted until the computer died in 2011 and whose name escapes me today, to have my tostada con tomate. It was located in the plaza where the birthplace of Picasso is located. I had forgotten it, but I did go to the Picasso Museum (I remember going to the one in Barcelona in 2003). I had the opportunity to see some beautiful views of the city. The capital may not have the elegance of nearby Marbella or the Je ne sais quoi of Valencia, but Málaga capital does have a lot of things to see.

In 2013, knowing that I was about to move to Bilbao, I went on a trip to Ronda to cross it off my bucket list. This was sadly my last trip to Andalucía as of March 2015. (I hope to go back soon). Ronda impressed me a lot. I happened to coincide with a cool local festival, so everyone was dressed in the typical Andalucía outfits. I fell in love with the bridge and had a relaxing café con leche at their Parador (castle converted into a hotel). I lamented having to go on to Granada as Ronda was so full of charm and life, but Granada *is* Granada.

From my private journal in 2009 on Málaga: Thursday I woke up real early to catch the 7.15 bus to Málaga. The province of Málaga is beautiful. Málaga sort of reminds me of Honolulu. The hostel gave bad directions again, and it was annoying the way I had to make the reservations as I had to change rooms every morning. Ah well. I was in sort of a depressed mood the first day, from lack of sleep. I went to the cathedral, saw it was 4€ to get in, refused to pay it, then went to see the alcazaba (different word for alcázar or fortress) and castle, which combined were about 3€. The views were quite beautiful. There is an ancient Roman theatre next to the alcazaba. I then went under the tunnel to the Malagueta beach…it was okay, but I’ve seen better beaches……Saturday I went to the Picasso museum where I had my brilliant insight into cubism, Spain and Almodóvar. I went to the beach for a while. Lounged around mostly.

Sounds like a good Andalucían holiday to me!

Setmeravelles

1. Ronda

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Located 100 kilometres west (62 miles) of Málaga capital, this city of 36,000 people is one of my fave places I have been in Spain. It’s a typical Andalusian town full of charm enhanced by an amazing bridge. The Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge” is over 300 years old and is 120 metres high (390 feet or 120ish yards). It took 42 years to complete and both sides threw prisoners off it during the Spanish Civil War. There is a ton of natural beauty and hiking trails to explore around this incredible place.

2. Picasso

Pablo Picasso is from Málaga. His paintings are some of the most famous ever thanks to his Cubist style, and in 2003, a museum was opened in the Palacio Buenavista which is located on Calle San Agustín, 200 metres from his birthplace in Plaza de la Merced. After visiting Málaga, I had a greater appreciation for this artist.

3. Alcazaba de Málaga

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The Alcazaba (Moorish fortress/citadel) is one of the best-preserved in all of the Greatest Peninsula in the World and was constructed by the Hammudid Dynasty during the 11th Century. It’s built on a hill and offers beautiful views of the port and Málaga.

4. Málaga Romana

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Right next to the Alcazaba is a Roman theatre rediscovered in 1951 that dates back to the 1st Century BC. That’s right, Before Christ. As the photo shows, it is currently undergoing restoration.

5. Antequera (yet to be discovered)

The “heart of Andalucía”, 42,000 residents is located equally between Málaga, Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla. Antequera boasts an alcazaba of its own, churches, a palace, and two Bronze Age dolmens (ancient tombs).

6. Cuevas de Nerja (yet to be discovered)

The small town of Nerja is quite popular with tourists and ex-pats (who make up at least 30% of the population if not more) from the British Isles. The mountains have a ton of “pueblos blancos”, or villages with white houses and architecture. The most popular tourist destination (outside the beaches) are the caves, which are large enough to hold concerts in the summer. They were rediscovered in 1959. In 2012, possible Neanderthal paintings were discovered here.

7. Marbella (yet to be discovered)

Eva Longoria and Michelle Obama can’t be wrong, can they? The posh city of Marbella is the second-largest city of the province with nearly 150,000 habitants. The Casco Viejo has ancient walls and many monuments. Most people go straight for the Golden Mile, a 4-mile stretch of villas, hotels and resorts.