Cabo de Gata.

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Cabo de Gata is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located in the southeastern part of Spain and is the only mainland part of Europe with a true desert climate. Cabo de Gata es un Reserva de Biosfera de UNESCO situado en la parte suereste de España y es la única parte del continente de Europa con una clima de desierto verdadera. 

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Of course, when I was there, it rained. Leave it to me and my streak of always bringing rain to Andalucía. I succeeded in making it rain in the driest part of Europe, where a typical year brings less than 200 mm (7.9) inches. Desde luego, cuando estaba allí, me llovió. La racha de estar en Andalucía con lluvia sigue. Tenía éxito en llevar lluvia en la parte más seca de Europa en un sitio donde, en un año típico,  llueve menos de 200 mm. 

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The name comes from the agate mineral that was once mined there, not for any female cat. I did see a lot of cats, but my Spanish friends weren’t too amused with my double-meaning joke when I sent them a picture saying that it’s the female cat that the cape is named for. El nombre viene del mineral gata que antes excavaban allí y no por una gata hembra. Si, vi muchos gatos, pero mis colegas españoles no encontraban la gracia con mi broma de doble sentido cuando les mandé una foto diciendo que era la gata que daba nombre al cabo. 

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The declaration of it as a natural park means that it won’t become like the rest of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, overdeveloped and such. Como es un parque natural, no van a desarrollarlo como el resto de la costa mediterránea de España. 

I’ve already written about how I got to Cabo de Gata last week. Now it’s time to write about the three hikes I did there. Ya había escrito sobre la llegada al Cabo de Gata la semana pasada. Ahora toca escribir sobre las tres rutas de senderismo que hice allí. 

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After arriving around 11 a.m. and checking in, I packed my smaller backpack and hit the road. I decided to go to the Playa de los Genoveses as it was close and I could return to San José for lunch. It was only about 7 km round trip. I thought about going further, but the wind made me rethink that. Después de llegar sobre las 11 de la mañana y registrarme, hice la mochila pequeña y empecé a caminar. Decidí ir a la Playa de los Genoveses como estaba cerca y podía volver a San José para comer. Solo eran unos 7 kilómetros ida y vuelta. Pensé en caminar más, pero como había mucho viento, cambié de mente. 

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Right outside San José is an interesting windmill, and then you see the beautiful views of los Genoveses. I took a lot of photos. I went back around a mountain and the wind was so fierce, at one point I was hit by a tumbleweed. Yeah. I’m not kidding. Justo fuera de San José hay un molino interesante, y después, las vistas bonitas de los Genoveses. Hice muchas fotos. Volví por el otro lado del monte y el viento era tan feroz que un planta corredora me golpeó. No, no es broma. 

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After lunch, I was going to try another one, but the wind was really bad and it looked like rain, so I didn’t get very far. I would rather rest and catch up on Jane the Virgin than be blown into the sea. Después de comer, iba a hacer otra ruta cortita, pero el viento se había empeorado y parecía que iba a llover, y no caminé mucho. Pensaba que descansar y ver Jane the Virgin era mejor opción que ser llevado al mar por el viento. 

I woke up Sunday morning ready to hike. I had an all-too expensive breakfast of tostada and café con leche (nearly 4€) and was on my way to Los Escullos. I asked a couple of people so I didn’t get lost, and soon enough, I was climbing El Fraile to see views of San José and Los Genoveses. Domingo, me desperté con ganas de senderismo. Desayuné tostada con tomate y café con leche bastante caro (casí 4€) y fui hacía Los Escullos. Tenía que preguntar un par de veces para no perderme, y muy pronto, estaba subiendo El Fraile para ser premiado con vistas preciosas de San José y Los Genoveses. 

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The path went between the mountains and the sea and offered stunning views. I came across an abandoned house or something in ruins, and I now have a dream of buying it and fixing it up for myself. I didn’t see many hikers. El sendero iba entre los montes y el mar, siempre con vistas impresionantes. Había una casa abandonada (o algo) en ruinas, y ahora tengo un sueño de comprarla y restaurarla para mí. No vi a muchos senderistas. 

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I stopped to meditate for a while in a cove near the Castillo de San Felipe, near Los Escullos. The castle was closed, but there was a disco nearby still going strong at 11:30 on a Sunday morning. I was hoping to go to La Isleta del Moro, but it would have added an additional 2 hours to my day according to Google Maps. It looked closer. I continued on my path. Paré para meditar un rato en una cala cerca del Castillo de San Felipe, cerca de Los Escullos. El castillo estaba cerrado, pero había una discoteca a lado que todavía seguía en marcha a las 11.30 del domingo. Estaba esperando llegar hasta La Isleta del Moro, pero me habría añadido dos horas mas a la ruta, según Google Maps. Parecía más cerca. Seguía el sendero. 

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The hike went inland a bit through an abandoned village with a water-mill (noria). I got lost again, but someone showed me the posts I had to look for and the path became much easier. I found my way to Pozo de los Frailes, population 429. They had a bar open so I could have a café, and I bought an Aquarius de Naranja to take along with me. La ruta iba más al interior por un pueblo abandonado con una noria. Me perdí otra vez, pero alguien me mostró las indicadores que tenía que buscar, y la ruta se hizó más fácil. Encontré el camino a Pozo de los Frailes, población 429. Había un bar abierto y tomé un café y compré un Aquarius de naranja para llevar conmigo. 

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Then the skies opened. No cats or dogs were injured despite how heavy it was raining them. I had a nice new poncho which will go with me to Santiago next time, as it kept me mostly dry (my hiking trousers were the exception.) Y se abrieron los cielos y me cayó un diluvio. Tenía un chubasquero nuevo que me protegió bastante que me llevaré conmigo a Santiago la próxima vez. Salvo los pantalones de senderismo, me quedé seco. 

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I had lunch and rested up for Monday, a third straight day of hiking. I had a bit of a lie in before beginning my day, since I didn’t have to check out until 12. I ended up leaving about 10 in the direction of the Genoveses. This time, however, I went along the beach to climb the Cerro del Morrón, which is only 73 metres but feels taller. Comí y descansé para lunes, un tercer día seguida de aminar. Dormí más tarde como no tenía que irme del hotel hasta las 12. Al final empecé el día sobre las 10 en la dirección hacía los Genoveses. Esta vez, caminé por la playa para subir el Cerro de Morrón y sus 73 metros (parecía más alto). 

I had wanted to find a trail that took me to the lighthouse, but they told me one didn’t exist. One trail went along the side of a cliff, but it looked too dangerous. An older German man agreed with me on that, so I went along the other side of the mountain where there was an X painted. There was a trail, however, that did take me to the road to the Playa de Monsúl. Quería encontrar un sendero que me llevó hasta el faro, pero me dijieron que no había. Había un sendero que fue por un acantilado, pero me parecía demasiado peligroso. Un alemán mayor estaba de acuerdo conmigo, y fui por el otro lado del monte donde había una “X” pintada. Pero había un sendero que me llevó a la carretera que me llevó hasta la Playa de Monsúl. 

I got lost, and I had fun getting to the road, but all ended well…except the wind had started back up again. I didn’t stay long at the Monsúl Beach and went along another trail for a bit, climbing to see beautiful views from the cliff. I consulted Google Maps and saw there was still an hour to the lighthouse, and I would have to climb quite a bit. I elected to go back to San José along the road. Me perdí, y lo pasé bien buscando la carretera. Cuando llegué a la Playa de Monsúl, el viento ya había vuelto y no me quedé mucho tiempo. Fui por otro sendero un rato, subiendo para apreciar las vistas preciosas desde el acantilado. Consulté Google Maps para ver que me quedaba una hora hasta el faro, y todo pendiente arriba. Decidí volver a San José por la carretera. 

I ate at a restaurant in town the best meal of the trip (15€ total) at El Emigrante and had some coffee and meditated on the beach before more coffee and writing in my travel journal until it was time to head back to Almería. Cené en un restaurante en el pueblo y era la mejor comida del viaje (15€ total) en El Emigrante y después tomé un café y medité por la playa antes de otro café y escribir en mi diario de viajes, perdiendo tiempo hasta el autobús a Almería. 

It was a fantastic three days, even if the weather didn’t always cooperate. Sure, if I had a car, I could have seen more, but I enjoyed immensely what I did see. Me lo pasó muy bien estos tres días, aunque el tiempo no era el mejor. Si tuviera coche, habría podido ver más cosas, pero disfruté mucho de lo que vi. 

Hikes/Rutas #6, 7,8/30 of 2018
Date/Fecha: 17, 18, 19 de marzo de 2018
Kilometres hiked: Sábado: 7/Domingo: 18/Lunes 15
Mountain/Route/Monte/Ruta: San José-Genoveses, San José-Los Escullos-Pozo Los Frailes, San José-El Morrón-El Monsúl-San José
Difficulty: Facíl, Media, Media

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Escape from Fallas 2018.

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Las Fallas is València’s most famous festival and is one of the most popular festivals in the entire country, attracting thousands if not millions of visitors every year. Las Fallas son las fiestas más famosas de València y es una de las fiestas más popular en España. Atrae miles si no millones de turistas cada año.

That means schools are holiday and I had an opportunity to flee the chaotic madness that is Fallas. Eso quiere decir que los colegios e institutos no tienen clase y tenía la oportunidad huir de la locura y caos que es Fallas. 

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This year, I finally checked off Cabo de Gata in Almería from my Bucket List. I’ll write more in-depth about this amazing area on the south coast of Spain next week in an entry dedicated to the hikes I did there. Este año, taché Cabo de Gata en la próvíncia de Almería de mi lista de cosas que quiero ver antes de morir. La semana que viene, ya escribiré más sobre esta zona increíble de la costa sur de España en una entrada dedicada a las rutas de senderismo que hice. 

I left Thursday afternoon for Alicante, the capital of the province south of València with a population of 330,525 people. I had been there three times before, the last time being in 2012. I didn’t have much time there, as my bus arrived at 8 p.m. and I was leaving the next morning. Dinner, breakfast and a stroll through town before leaving was quite nice though. Empecé el viaje jueves por la tarde. La primera parada era Alicante, la capital de la provincia al sur de València. La ciudad tiene un población de 330.525 personas. Ya había estado tres veces antes, la última vez en 2012. No tenía mucho tiempo para disfrutar de la ciudad, como el autobús llegó a las 20 y me fui la mañana siguiente. Me daba tiempo para cenar, desayunar y pasear por la ciudad antes de irme. 

The bus to Almería took about four hours and arrived 20 minutes late. Almería, population 195,389, is a coastal city that has an impressive fortress above the city. I had been once before in 2012. El autobús a Almería tardó sobre cuatro horas y llegó 20 minutos tarde. Almería, población 195.398, es una ciudad de costa que tiene una alcazaba famosa. Había estado una vez antes, en 2012. 

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I had lunch and took off to the village Roquetas de Mar, population 91, 965. It had begun to rain, but by the time the bus arrived, it had stopped. It took about 40 minutes. Comí y me piré a visitar el pueblo Roquetas de Mar, población 91.965. Estaba lloviendo, pero cuando el autobús llegó, había parado de llover. El viaje tardó sobre 40 minutos. 

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Roquetas de Mar had beautiful views, an old castle (Castillo Santa Ana) and a lighthouse. It’s a tourist resort in the summer, but in March, it was quiet and enchanting. I’m a sucker for beautiful coastal views. Roquetas de Mar tenía vistas preciosas, un castillo antiguo (Castilla Santa Ana) y un faro. Es un sitio turístico en el verano, pero en marzo, era tranquilo y encantador. Como me encanta estas vistas preciosas del mar. 

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Beautiful coastal views was the purpose of the trip, as on Saturday morning I woke up and went to San Jóse, the touristic capital of Cabo de Gata, population 1012. I went on three hiking routes over the weekend, which I will write about soon, I promise. Las vistas preciosas del mar era la razón del viaje. El sábado por la mañana, me desperté y fui a San José, la capital turística de Cabo de Gata, población 1012. Hice tres rutas de senderismo, de que voy a escribir pronto, os prometo. 

While I loved Cabo de Gata, I wasn’t a fan of San José. It reeked of tourism and things were artificially high. A village in Andalucía should not have the same prices of Catalunya. I couldn’t even find a decent tapas bar. The typical menú del día, which can be found in València as low as 8#, was around 13-14€ and did not include a drink. I was not expecting the high prices. On Friday, the menú del día in the province capital was 9€ and included the drink, as do most menús del día throughout the Greatest Peninsula in the World. Aunque me encantó Cabo de Gata, no me gustó mucho San José. Olía de turismo y los precios eran altas, especialmente por la zona. Un pueblo andaluz no debería tener los mismos precios de Catalunya. Ni podía encontrar un bar de tapas en condiciones. El menú del día típico, que se puede encontrar en València, la tercera ciudad de España, por solo 8#, me costó unos 13-14€, y la bebida no era incluida. No estaba esperando precios altos. En viernes, el menú del día en Almería me costó 9€, bebida incluida, que es típico de un menú del día en cualquier sitio de la Mejor Península del Mundo. 

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Another example is the fact that the tourism office charged me 2.50€ for a map. Normally in Spain, general area maps are free. I think I may have had to pay a Euro a total of two times in ten years in Spain. Otro ejemplo de ser caro es el hecho que la oficina de turismo me cobró 2,50€ por un mapa. Normalmente en España, las mapas de la ciudad o zona son gratis. Creo que he pagado 1€ quizás solo dos veces durante mis 10 años en España. 

Outside the surprise expenses, the weekend was pretty awesome. The views were beautiful, and although I didn’t get to see everything I wanted in the cape, I enjoyed what I did get to see. Fuera de las sorpresas de dinero, el fin de semana era genial. Las vistas eran preciosas, y aunque no pude ver todo lo que quería ver en el cabo, disfruté mucho de lo que vi. 

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I caught the bus at 20:00 from San José to Almería, sad to leave. My bus left for València at 21:30, and I arrived home to València around 4 in the morning, the city still smelling of smoke from all the Fallas monuments that had met their demise a few hours before. Cogí el autobús a las 20 de San José a Almería. No quería irme. El autobús salía de Almería para València a las 21:30, y llegúe a València sobre las 4 de la mañana, la ciudad todavía con olores de humo de todos eses momentos de Falles que habían conocido la muerte unas horas antes. 

Fallas might be an interesting festival, but I know I had the better weekend, rejuvenating myself in nature. Quizás Fallas sea un festival interesante, pero sé que lo pasé mejor en Cabo de Gata, como la naturaleza me revitalizó. 

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800 Balas (2002).

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800 Balas (800 Bullets) is Basque director Álex de la Iglesia’s tribute to spaghetti westerns, many of which were filmed in Almería, Spain, where most of the film takes place. 800 Balas es un homenaje a películas del oeste del director vasco Álex de la Igelsia. Muchas de las películas del oeste rodaron en Almería, España, donde la mayoria del film tiene lugar.

Julián Torrabla (Sancho Gracia) is a former stuntman for the westerns filmed in Almería, and he still lives in the village where they were filmed. He, and the other stuntmen, now put on shows for the tourists visiting the sets. His son, another stuntman, was killed on the job and he no longer talks to his daughter-in-law or grandson. When the grandson, Carlos (Luis Castro), escapes to find him, Julián shows him the western village, a trip back to the Wild Wild American West. Carlos loves it, but his mom, Laura (Carmen Maura!) horrified that her son escaped and visited his grandfather, comes immediately to take her son back to Madrid and decides to have the town destroyed for a new tourist resort. Julián Torrabla (Sancho Gracia) es un ex doble de las películas del oeste que rodaron en Almería, y todavía vive en el pueblo donde rodaron las películas. Ahora, él y los otros dobles hacen espectáculos para los turistas. Su hijo, otro doble, se murió en el trabajo y ya no habla con su nuera o nieto. Cuando el nieto, Carlos (Luis Castro), huye de su casa para encontrarle, Julián presenta Carlos al pueblo del Oeste, una vuelta a los años del Oeste Americano. A Carlos le encanta, pero su madre, Laura (¡Carmen Maura!), está escandalizada que su hijo ha ido allí y ha visitado su abuelo. Va al pueblo para su hijo y volver a Madrid. Después, Laura decide destrozar el pueblo para poner apartamentos de turistas allí. 

Julián decides to fight back, buys 800 bullets and the set of so many westerns becomes a “real-life” western, complete with a final duel with the good guy in white and bad guy in black. Julián decide luchar para lo suyo y compra 800 balas. El sitio de tantos pelís de oeste se hace una escena de Oeste “real”, incluso con un duelo a la muerte con el bueno en blanco y el malo en negro.

I’m not a fan of westerns at all, but I loved this film. I couldn’t tell you how accurate the topes of Westerns are in the film. Carmen Maura is amazing as usual, and I am surprised Luis Castro hasn’t done more things than Hospital Central . Sancho Gracia, who died in 2012, put in a superb performance as the grandfather who didn’t want to let go of the past. No soy muy fan de películas del Oeste, pero me encanta esta película. No puedo decir si es muy exacto en su representación del género. Carmen Maura, como siempre, es genial, y me extraña que no hayamos visto más de Luis Castro fuera de Hospital Central. Sancho Gracia, quien se murió en 2012, era estupendo en su papel como el abuelo que no quería dejar del pasado. 

The film comes with de la Iglesia’s usual symbiotic excess of sex and violence (we didn’t really need to see a 10-year-old being taught things by a prostitute!) . The usual voyeurism aspect is there too, with the reporters trying to get the story on film and people jumping in and out of their cameras for a brief second of news fame. El film viene con el symbiotic excess de sexo y violencia de siempre en las pelis de Álex de la Iglesia. (¡No hace falta ver una prostituta enseñarle a un niño de 10 años cosas de adultos!) También hay el aspecto de voyerismo que suele ser en las pelis de Iglesia, con los periodistas luchando a grabar la historia y las personas intentando atraer atención a si mismos enfrente de las cameras para un segundo de fama. 

The best part was the scene with the man from Cádiz who was convinced he was from Bilbao, de pura cepa. Dressed in Athletic’s colours and screaming “hostia” and “bacalao a pil pil” (Bilbao’s famous dish), this character refused to believe that he was actually born in a Cádiz village. La mejor parte era la escena con el gaditano que era convencido que era bilbaíno de pura cepa. Se viste con la camiste de Athletic y grita “hostia” y “bacalao a pil pil” (el plato típico de Bilbao), ese personaje rechaza creer que nació en un pueblo de Cádiz. 

Rating: A-

How To Tell Álex de la Iglesia is from Bilbao: The character who thinks he is from Bilbao but is actually from Cádiz.

Almería. Disney, Beatles and a female cat’s cape.

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Gracias a mi amigo Rubén, un almeriense quien me ayudó elegir las maravillas. Más o menos, hemos coincindido en las maravillas/Thanks to my Almerian friend Rubén, who helped me pick the meravelles. We agreed on the meravelles…for the most part! 

Located in the very south of Spain, Almería is a forgotten about Andalucían province that boasts over 300 sunny days a year (the opposite of Bilbao in so many ways! Opposite side of the country, and it is sunny for every cloudy/rainy day in the Capital of the World). Much of the province is an arid desert, and many people skip over it for more touristy places like Málaga and Granada. They’re making a mistake. Almería is quaint and has a lot of beautiful places to see.

It also has a lot of mythology and rumours about it. There are rumours that Walt Disney was born in Mojácar and was adopted/his father died, his mother met a seaman who ran away with Walt to the States as a youth. Tom Hanks obviously did not play this urban legend up in Saving Mr. Banks. Another claim to fame for the province. Now immortalized in the 2014 Goya (Spanish Oscar) winning Vivir es más fácil con los ojos cerrados, John Lennon filmed How I Won the War in Almería province in 1966. It was here where he began writing “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A more current pop culture item is the sixth album from one of my favourite groups, Lifehouse. It was named for the province as the album has a more western theme and so many westerns were filmed in Almería.

My first and only visit to Almería came in 2011 during the Puente de Diciembre, that time of year that usually gives the Spanish 3-4 (some years even 5) days off from work and travel due to the holidays of el Día de la Constitución (Dec. 6) and an important Catholic Saint Day on the 8th. I caught a too-early Ryan Air flight on Thursday morning (the 8th). I slept the entire flight despite Ryan Air’s desperate pleas to sell electronic cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets and advertising another flight that actually arrived without incident on-time flight. I caught a taxi to the city (maybe 15-20€ if I remember correctly? It wasn’t too bad. I want to say only 11€, but it was three years ago and memory makes things better and cheaper most times.) and the taxi driver complemented me on my Barcelona wallet. It was nice being around another culé (Barça supporter) as I was living in Madrid at the time.

I was hit with a calmer pace of life immediately. I checked into the pensión and went for my fave breakfast, done better in Andalucía than anywhere else in the world, pan tostada con tomate (Baguette-style bread lightly toasted with olive oil and a tomato paste).

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Then it was time to explore. I went immediately to the alcazaba, which was free for being a Spanish holiday. It was a great visit with spectacular views of the city and Mediterranean. I later explored the city. I remember a little girl asking me why I was taking pictures of the city, and I told her I thought it was interesting. She was a bit shocked and thought I was “raro” (a weirdo). I saw the cathedral and had some cafés con leche in the plaza nearby (Ryan Air means little sleep and mucho caffeine, folks). I met up with my friend in the evening for tapas and mosto (a Spanish grape juice).

The next day, I really wanted to visit el Cabo de Gata. (Cape of the Female Cat for those wanting a translation) said to be one of the most beautiful natural areas in the Greatest Peninsula in the World. However, public transport to natural areas is not always the best, so with a sigh, I made a vow to return one day and made my way to Granada. Three years later, I would’ve found some way somehow to spend another night in Almería to have had time to get to the park. Hindsight is 20-20.

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Cabo de Gata (yet to discover)

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Cabo de Gata  is the only region in Europe with a warm desert climate. It has high cliffs and Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation, El Fraile. Although I have joked that “gata” female cat here (it is), it’s actually named for the mineral agate that was mined here in the past. There are numerous coral reefs and small islands off the coast. It has many wildlife and plant life species and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Alcazaba

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In the capital city (around 192,000 habitants), the Alcazaba and the ruins of San Cristobal castle are the main attraction. The Muslim fortress was began in the late 10th century and was expanded between 1012 and 1028. After the reconquista, King Carlos III added a wall and after the reconquista of the city, the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabel added a third castle. Today it offers some beautiful views of the city.

Catedral de la Encarnación de Almería

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The Cathedral of Incarnation of Almería is a Gothic/Renaissance-style cathedral built in the 16th century. It’s one of the most visited places in the capital city Almería.

Mojácar (Yet to discover)

Mojácar is a beautiful white village of nearly 8000 habitants boasting over 3000 hours of sun a year. (I’m going now. Agur, sirimiri!) Due it’s location on the sea, it has a bit milder weather than the interior of the province. A nearby village, Lucainena de las Torres, has recently been listed on “Los pueblos más bonitos de España” (The most beautiful villages/towns of Spain).

Calar Alto (Yet to discover)

The Calar Alto Observatory  is a German-Spanish astronomical observatory perched high on the Calar Alto mountain in Almería. It opened with a 1.2 metre/47 inches telescope and today has the largest telescope in Europe with an Equatorial mount, which is 3.5 metres/138-inches.

Desierto de Tabernas (Yet to discover)

The Tabernas Desert is a semi-desert located 30 kilometres/19 miles north of the capital. It usually has less than 200 millimetres of annual rain and offers 280 square kilometres of natural beauty. It was a popular location shoot for Western movies and is somewhat similar to the Badlands in the American Dakotas.

Parque Nacional de Sierra Nevada (compartido con Granada) (Yet to discover)

I’m cheating as I know I wrote about the Sierra Nevada when I wrote about Granada, but the Sierra Nevada is impressive enough to merit a second mention.  It’s the largest national park in Spain and is popular with skiers and people like me, hikers/trekkers.

And now I want to return to Almería to pick up all that I have yet to see.)