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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Frigiliana.

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When I went to Nerja in 2016, I was hoping to do a hike to Frigiliana. My excuse for not doing it was either not finding it or the bus timetable (or both). Cuando fui a Nerja en 2016, quería hacer una ruta a Frigliana. Mi excusa por no hacerlo o no poder encontrarlo o el horario del autobús o ambos. 

This trip, I rectified the situation by stopping there on the way to Granada, taking advantage of having a car. Este viaje, rectifiqué la situación y paré allí por el camino a Granada, aprovechando tener un coche. 

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Frigliana is considered one of the most beautiful villages of Spain and is a pueblo blanco, despite being in Málaga and not Cádiz. It’s located 71 kilometres east of Málaga and 6 kilometres north of Nerja (44 miles and 4.7 miles for the Yanks). It has a population of 3071. Se considera Frigliana uno de los pueblos más bonitos de España y es un “pueblo blanco”, aunque está en Málaga y no Cádiz. Está ubicado a 71 kilómetros al este de Málaga y a 6 kilómetros al norte de Nerja. Tiene una población de 3071 personas. 

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We arrived about 10:30. My mom didn’t feel up to walking the hilly village, so she rested as I explored. I was hoping to find a cash machine from my bank to top up my phone, but they didn’t have my bank. No worries. I explored the village as much as I could, headed up to the castle and admiring the views. Llegamos sobre las 10.30. Mi madre no estaba en forma para subir las colinas del pueblo, y ella descansaba mientras exploraba yo. Estaba buscando un cajero de mi banco para cargar mi móvil, pero no había. No pasa nada. Exploré el pueblo tanto como posible, fui al castillo y admiré las vistas. 

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Frigiliana is next to a natural park (de las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama) with a ton of hiking trails that I could have explored on my own. It was threatening rain (and a few drops even fell), so I didn’t feel too bad about missing out on the hikes. Frigiliana está a lado de un parque natural (de Las Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara y Alhama) con muchas rutas de senderismo que me gustaría explorar. El cielo amenazaba lluvia (y cayeron unas gotas), y no me sentía tan mal de perder las rutas. 

The village was lively and even had a tour group visiting it on a November Tuesday morning. El pueblo estaba vivo y incluso había un grupo de turistas visitándolo esta mañana de martes de noviembre. 

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I stopped in a café for wifi so I could advise the hotel in Granada we would be late due to the parking. No problem. I also topped off the phone and enjoyed the mountain views. Fui a un cafetería para tomar un café y aprovechar el wifi para que pudiera avisar el hotel en Granada que íbamos a llegar tarde (tenía que hacerlo para que pudieran avisiar el parking). No problema. También recargué el móvil y disfruté de las vistas de la sierra. 

I was glad for the opportunity to visit Frigiliana. The province of Málaga keeps surprising me with its beautiful villages. I can’t say they’re all off the beaten path, but they’re popular with tourists for a reason. They’re quaint and beautiful. Estoy agradecido de haber podido visitar Frigiliana. La provincia de Málaga es una caja de sorpresas con sus pueblos bonitos. No puedo decir que son desconocidos, pero hay una razón que son tan populares con turistas. Son pintorescos y preciosos. 

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Málaga y Granada 2017.

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How do you follow Paris? Andalucía, in the south of Spain, of course. Después de París, ¿qué hay que hacer? Desde luego, Andalucía, el sur de España. 

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I have been to both Málaga and Granada many times before, and although I wanted to take my mom on a road trip from Cádiz to Almería, time wasn’t going to permit us. Granada is one of my favourite cities in Spain, and I hadn’t been since 2013. I thought my mom would like the mountains and coast aspect of Málaga as her favourite state is Hawaii and Málaga reminds me of Hawaii. Había estado en ambos Málaga y Granada en varias ocasiones anteriores, y aunque quería llevarle a mi madre en un viaje de coche desde Cádiz a Almería, el tiempo no nos permitió. Granada es una de mis ciudades preferidas de España, y la última vez que fui era en 2013. Pensaba que a mi madre le gustaría los montes y la costa de Málaga, como su estado favorito es Hawaii y Málaga me acuerda de Hawaii. 

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We flew to Málaga from París Orly without any problems, and my huge backpack (that will not be part of Camino 2018 #lessonslearned) arrived too. We rented a car, and driving in Málaga was a bit of a nightmare. I am not a fan of driving in Spanish cities. Salimos de París Orly en un avión destinado a Málaga sin problemas, y la mochila grande (que ni pienso llevar en el Camino 2018 #lessonslearned) llegó también. Alquilamos un coche. Conducir en Málaga era una pesadilla. No me gusta conducir en las ciudades españolas. 

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We stayed in some tourist apartments. They needed a lot of small repairs. My mom stayed to rest (theme of the holiday) and I went for a sunset walk around the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro. It was a bit cloudy, and there were a lot of tourists doing the same. Nos alojamos en unos apartamentos turísticos que necesitaban muchas reparaciones pequeñas. Mi madre se quedó allí para descansar (como hizo durante todo el viaje) y fui por un paseo por la Alcazaba y el Castillo de Gibralfaro. Estaba nublado, y había bastante turistas haciendo lo mismo. 

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The Christmas lights were turned on in Málaga as it was late November. For dinner, I found my fave restaurant from my 2016 tripYa habían encendido las luces navideñas de Málaga como ya era finales de noviembre. Para cenar, encontré mi resturante favorito de mi viaje de 2016

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I wasn’t sure of the plan on Monday. Once again, I had planned on doing the Caminito del Rey, a famous hike through the mountains of Málaga, but alas, they’re not open on Mondays. I ended up staying in town exploring on my own. No tenía plan para el lunes. Quería hacer el Caminito del Rey, una ruta conocida por los montes de Málaga, pero no está abierto los lunes. Al final me quedé en Málaga para explorar más de la ciudad. 

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Around sunset, I found a short hike that I was originally going to count toward the 40 hikes, but it was only about 2 km total. It took me around the castle with beautiful views. Durante la hora de atardecer, encontré una ruta cortita que iba a contar con las 40 rutas, pero solo era una ruta de 2 kilómetros. Iba alrededor del castillo con vistas preciosas. 

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I had the opportunity to see the Christmas lights show. As I am more or less Valenciano, I did feel it was derivative of the Fallas Streets of Lights, but it was still fun to watch. Tenía la oportunidad para ver el espectáculo de luces navideñas de Málaga. Como ya soy más o menos valenciano verdadero, pensaba que era una copia de las Calles de Luces (Careers de Llum) de Fallas, pero era divertido. 

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On Tuesday, we headed to Granada with a stop in a Málaga pueblo, Frigiliana, which I will write about more later. The trip in total takes about two hours without stops. Martes, fuimos a Granada con una parada en un pueblo malagueño, Frigiliana. Voy a escribir de ello después. El viaje tarda unos dos horas sin paradas. 

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Granada, a city of 237,540 residents, is one of my favourite cities in Spain. It was the last city to be reconquered from the Moors in 1492 and the influence can still be seen today. The views of the Alhambra (and the Arab palace itself) are the highlight of an incredible city. Granada, una ciudad de 237.540 habitantes, es una de mis ciudades favoritas de España. Era la última ciudad para ser reconquistada de los mores en 1492, y todavía se nota la influencia hoy en día. Las vistas de la Alhambra (y el palacio) son uno de las mejores cosas de una ciudad increíble. 

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We stayed near the city centre. My mom had to rest, of course, so I went off to the Albaicin, one of my favourite barrios in all of Spain. It was an overcast day, so the sunset from San Nicolas wasn’t as spectacular as normal, but I wasn’t complaining. It still had the same vibrant atmosphere. Nos alojamos cerca del centro de la ciudad. Mi madre, como siempre, tenía que descansar, y fui al barrio del Albaicin, uno de mis barrios preferidos de todo España. Era un día nublado, y la puesta del sol desde San Nicolas no era tan espectacular como normal…pero no me quejé. Todavía tenía el mismo ambiente vibrante de siempre. 

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Do I wish my mom had seen more of the cities along the way? Definitely. I had been wanting to show her my home for nine years. It was frustrating and disappointing that her health wasn’t 100% to explore the cities like I had. Am I glad for the opportunity? Definitely. Ojalá que la salud de mi madre le permitiera explorar más de las ciudades que visitamos. Quería enseñarle mi hogar durante los últimos nueve años. Me puse frustrado y me decepcionó que no pudo explorar las ciudades como me gusta. ¿Me alegro haber tenido la oportunidad? Desde luego. 

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We still had the drive back to Valencia left. Todavía nos quedaba la vuelta a València. 

A continuación…

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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

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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Set Meravelles

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.

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.

Set Meravelles

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.