Luxembourg…. .

Luxembourg.  A new country.  A new day.  A new sticker.  A little sticker.

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Luxembourg ready to go on the map!

In our quest to get to Germany……Tim was eager to get to Germany…..we stopped for just one night in Luxembourg.  Being one of the smallest countries in Europe and only thirty five miles across west to east it wasn’t a big drive.  The free aire at Dudelange was ideal as a base to reach Luxembourg City by train.  €4 gets you a ‘day’ ticket lasting until 4am the next morning and can be used on the trains and buses.

It was our first experience of a double decker train.  Clean and efficient.  It was still clean on the way back but not quite as efficient as it was delayed by thirty minutes.  But we’re used to that.   Waiting for trains was one of Tim’s not so favourite sports before giving up his job last year.

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Double decker train into Luxembourg city.

Having arrived to the city in a bit of a grump (no other reason than it was a grey day…………it doesn’t take much for me) Luxembourg soon won me over.  Over one third of the surface of the city is made up of beautifully landscaped green spaces.

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Luxembourg is very green.

Its situation is pretty spectacular perched on high cliffs lying above two narrow valleys carved by the rivers Alzette and Pétrusse.

P1040116.JPGThe old town and the fortifications were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.  It really is worth a visit.

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Palace of the Grand Dukes, fully restored from 1992 to 1995.

We picked up two walking trail leaflets from the tourist information which would guide us round the old town, the fortress walls and the best views.  However, my Poundland reading glasses were no match for the tiny map on the back of one of the leaflets.  Tim took over, scanned the map, gave it back and we did our own walking tour instead.

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Looking over the Grund (lower town)

The old town is pretty compact so fairly easy to navigate and The Grund (lower town) is wedged in between the fortifications so hard to get lost.

P1040118.JPGEven though the higher old town was heaving with people the lower town, by comparison, was like being in an oasis of calm.

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Hardly anyone was in the lower town.

Trees, formal and informal gardens, riverside paths, fortifications and parkland.

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River Alzette.

I’m presuming that most visitors don’t venture down to the lower town, even though there is a lift, as it was very quiet.

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The old blending with the new – this, as far as we could see, was a nursing home.  The views were spectacular.

So that was our whirlwind trip to Luxembourg.  We may well hop back over the border again as diesel is cheaper there than in Germany or visit Northern Luxembourg on our way back to the UK next year.

Gutt neucht!

 

Finally letting go…. .

It won’t have escaped the notice of the handful of regular readers to this blog that I have been having somewhat of a blog sabbatical over the last few weeks.  The reasons for this have been many and varied.  It’s been a bit of an emotional time returning to the normal and the familiar after a year away and I’ve found it harder than I expected.  After all, we’ve been living in a little bubble for the last twelve months not needing to make many decisions beyond the day to day perusing of the guidebooks and maps deciding on where to go and what to do.  Simples.  Few stresses, other than narrow roads and manic drivers.

Coming back though, alongside seeing family and friends, I knew we would have to confront a few things that, well, needed confronting!  Our intention when we left on our adventure, over a year ago, was to see it as a lifestyle change and something we would continue to do for a few years at least if not longer.  However, being cautious by nature we didn’t burn all our bridges by selling up in the UK and getting rid of all our stuff before we left.  Oh no, that ‘just in case’ refrain was always in the back of our minds when deciding what to do.  Even though we had donated and given away lots of our possessions before we left we still kept a significant amount of it stored in a container whilst our house is rented out, you know,  ‘just in case’.

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Here we are again revisiting the question of ‘our stuff’!

‘Just in case’ living in a small space got too much and we wanted a UK base to return to.  ‘Just in case’ we fell out of love with the lifestyle and wanted to resume ‘normal’ life again.  ‘Just in case’ we both fell out with each other completely and we could enjoy a mud fight over who was having what on our separation (that’s not going to happen by the way as poor Tim signed up to a life sentence a very long time ago)!  You get the picture.

So, I’m back here again after a whole year still talking about ‘stuff’.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  I won’t be offended if you skip over this post, bored, having read my musings before about ‘stuff’ because, frankly, I am bored too.  If ‘procrastination’ was an Olympic sport I’d be lining up there in Tokyo, 2020!  But, procrastinate, justify, philosophise, reason, dillydally, put off, postpone, defer, call it what you will, a decision had to be made about what to do with our ‘stuff’.  End of.

So it all went.

Poof!

Just like that.

 

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The final letting go!  It’s gone.

We called Dorothy House, a local charity which has provided excellent end of life care in the past to Rita, one of our very good friends, and to Eve our elderly neighbour, and they kindly took the whole lot yesterday in one fell swoop.  The money we save in storage costs will now be invested in our future life instead of continually paying for our past life.

The key to the container has been returned and a weight has been lifted.  We don’t have to revisit the ‘stuff’ question again.  Ever!   Draw a line Jane.  Draw. A. Line.  __________!

Until next time!

Heading north to Santander…. .

It’s been a long time coming this blog post.  Not because it’s particularly interesting but because we haven’t picked up any wifi for what seems like ages.  Today we have finally got some wifi, in a Wetherspoons in Plymouth in the UK no less, so I can finally update the blog at the end of our first year of living our new life whilst supping my first pint of real ale from the nearby brewery at Salcombe.

Here was our last week or so:

The journey north couldn’t be put off for any longer as we needed to be in Santander for our ferry to Plymouth on 12th April.  In keeping with our slow travel methods of the last year we allocated a week or so for the 600 mile trip.  Our plan was to drive just two to two and a half hours in the mornings which would then give us time to stop and explore some key places on the way.

Ubeda, which was recommended to us and we had missed on our drive over to Cordoba in October last year, was our first stop.  There is a very good free aire there which looked pretty new and was only a ten minute stroll into the old town.  And what a lovely old town it was.

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Ubeda.

Built on an escarpment overlooking the valley of the Guadalquivir, Ubeda packs in more historic buildings than many much larger towns and cities and has some beautiful Plazas. Our guide book describes it as a showcase of Renaissance magnificence which is no doubt why it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Ubeda.

Following the A4 northwards took us into the Castilla-La Mancha region made famous by Cervantes tales of Don Quixote de La Mancha.  We stopped for the night at the small village of Puerto Lapice which had a free aire on its outskirts.

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Puerto Lapice.

The tiny village has a small museum dedicated to Don Quixote which took us ten minutes to go round followed by ten minutes being funnelled through the extensive shop selling anything and everything relating to Don Quixote.  They were trying very hard to push the Don Quixote theme I think!

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As the village provides a free aire it would be rude not to support it!

We stopped off the next morning at Consuegra to have a gander at the eleven restored windmills on the ridge above the town before driving on to Toledo for our nights stop.

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Seven of the eleven restored windmills in Consuegra.

Toledo, another UNESCO site, which sits on a rocky mound at a bend in the river Tagus, definitely has curb appeal as you approach it from the east side as we did.  It is really quite a sight and very compact.

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Toledo taken from our walk in along the river.

There is an aire in a car park just outside the old town but it was rammed with cars and vans so we opted to stay at the campsite which was a little further away from the town but was in a beautiful setting and nice and quiet.

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View of Toledo on our approach from the east.

There was a bus service from outside the campsite to get into the old town but, after consulting the Maps.Me app, we discovered a path that took us, along the river, all around the outside of the town with some fantastic views along the way.

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If you look carefully you can see someone dangling from a zip wire just above the arch of the bridge.

The old town is a maze of narrow streets which we found hard to get our bearings in but it’s not very big so it didn’t really matter that we had to double back on ourselves a few times.  I think it is probably the most touristy place we have been to so far or it may be it just felt like that as it is so compact.  After an hour or so of dodging speeding cars coming along the narrow streets and weaving around school groups we made our way back to the campsite.

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Crowded narrow streets of Toledo.

We had planned to stay two nights in Toledo but felt a bit overwhelmed with the crowds so we hit the road the next morning heading for Ávila.

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Part of the 2km walls around Avila.

Ávila old town is completely surrounded by 2km of 11th Century walls, built by Alfonso VI, when he captured the town from the Moors in 1090. Constructed by the Muslim prisoners, the walls took nine years to complete. It’s €5 to walk the top of the walls so we made do with walking them at the bottom which cost us €4 in ice creams instead.

Next up was Segovia which didn’t disappoint.  It was a twenty minute walk into the town from the free aire by following the aqueduct.   Thought to have been constructed by the Romans during the 1st Century AD, the water was transported underground from the mountains for 13km before flowing into the aqueduct.

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Segovia’s aqueduct.

It runs for over 700m reaching a height of 28.5m above the Plaza de Diaz Sanz where it is supported by single and double arches.

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It’s impressive.

It was definitely worth seeing there is no doubt.  The Alcazar in Segovia is rumoured to be the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle at Disney World and stands on a rocky promontory above the river.

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View of Segovia’s Alcazar from our walk along the river.

There’s a lovely walk which drops down to the river below the town giving excellent views of the Alcazar from all sides.

Feeling we had had enough of sightseeing after a busy few days we had a peruse around a large Carrefour at our next stop in Palencia.  Tim looking at tablets, me looking in the homewear department!  I found some beach mats that would be ideal for seat covers to replace the outdoor towels, which were supposed to be temporary covers, but have been in place for nearly ten months.   At €3 each they were a bargain.  They do have a potential migraine inducing stripe to them so Tim may well have to wear dark glasses inside from now on.  Oh lordy though, was I pleased as Ollie was starting to look like a student bed-sit!

So having had an action packed week driving across Spain from south to north we decided to stop at an aire that had been recommended to us not far from Santander.  This aire was free but we would have gladly paid for it as it has an added attraction in that it is situated directly outside a safari park.

A minutes walk from the aire we were able to while away an hour or two watching the elephants do their thing which was a lovely end to our week.

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An added bonus to the aire at the Caberceno Nature Park near Santander.
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There’s a  newly installed cable car that goes around the park (you can just see one of the cable cars to the right of the picture).
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‘Teen’ elephants playing 🙂

So that’s it, our first year on the road is now complete.  We are back in the UK for the next few weeks to see family and friends and to sort some things out at home before turning around again to head for Germany for Season 2!

Laters!

Las Alpujarras…. .

Walking, walking, walking.  We’re in the valleys of the Alpujarras region, made famous by Chris Stewart’s books, which nestle in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the north and the little sierras of Lujar, La Contraviesa and Gador to the south.  It is a truly beautiful area for walking and we feel like we are on holiday!

DSC01925.JPGOh, I know that those of you reading this, especially if you’re reading whilst at work, will have just snorted, thrown your arms aloft and muttered a few expletives at that last statement but we’ve been pitched up, stationary, on a campsite for the past week tootling about the area on the bus, with warm weather, enjoying a laid back week.  So, like a holiday!

We felt a bit flat arriving in Lanjaron on the west side of the Alpujarras after having had a great couple of days in Granada.   We stopped at the tourist information office there to ask about walking routes:

‘Habla ingles’, I asked the lady behind the desk;

‘siyouwannamep’, she replied.

Before I could even  decipher what she’d said, or think about an answer to her question, she’d ripped a map of the town off the large pad on the desk and was furiously circling points of interest whilst belting out a running commentary in such a thick accent, and at such speed, I almost felt physically assaulted!  I looked at Tim with one eyebrow raised to infer ‘did you get all that’, but, judging by his smirk, I thought it was highly unlikely.

That little encounter picked our spirits up no end.  We emerged from the office, blinking into the sunlight, grinning from ear to ear, each exclaiming that we hadn’t understood a word she’d said but what a nice lady she was!  Along with the town map, with all its scribblings, we at least also came away with a leaflet detailing a couple of walks starting from the town.

We spent the next couple of days winding our way up the steep hillsides around Lanjaron marvelling at the views across the hills towards the coast.

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One of the walking trails from Lajaron.

The Moors, settling here in the 8th century, gradually transformed the landscape.  Small hillside villages were created in a style akin to that found in North Africa at the time.  Narrow streets with flat roofed houses, built in terraces, almost sink into the hillsides.  It’s quite different to the Pueblo blancos we visited around Ronda but equally, if not more so, interesting and picturesque.   Our second walk from Lanjaron climbed steeply up the hillside above the river before following one of the acequias for several kilometres.

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Footpath above Lanjaron along one of the Acequias.

The acequias, developed by the Berber settlers, are an ingenious and efficient water irrigation system.  The snow run-off from the surrounding mountains in spring and summer provides the water that rises up into natural springs where it is then guided, via the acequias, to where it needs to be.  The whole area is lush and green thanks to this ancient system.

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It was a sheer drop on the other side of the path!

For the last week we’ve been at the Orgiva Campsite about 2km south of the bustling bohemian town of Orgiva.  I don’t think it’s too unkind to say that Orgiva is best viewed from the mountain road a few km above the town as, up close, apart from the 16th Century church, it’s none too pretty!  The surrounding area is fabulous but the town is a bit unloved in places and only really appealed to us as a source for a few provisions and to board the bus that took us into the much more picturesque High Alpujarras villages.

A little more about that bus though.  We thought we’d stay at the campsite whilst visiting this area, making use of the bus to get about, to give Tim a break from the stress of driving the narrow, winding roads that were sure to plague this region.  We were right about the roads but I was wrong about the stress.

We boarded that bus in Orgiva, like lambs to the slaughter, brimming with excitement at a day out in the three villages of Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira.  The smile was soon wiped off my face as the driver took off up the mountain road like a rat up a drainpipe.  The road up to these three villages, whilst not too narrow, was very windy, steep and, once we started to enter the Poqueira gorge, had near vertical drop offs at its edges.

I’m sure the bus driver knows the roads and knows his bus but he was driving twice as fast as I would have driven a small car on that road.  Our previous days walk had involved high up vertical drops from the footpath at many places but, as I was in charge of my own legs, I didn’t feel in the least bit uncomfortable about it.  I wasn’t, however, in charge of that bus and that kind of put the heebie jeebies up me.  My mind started idly mulling over the statistics of fatalities down that gorge but, either it’s not a common occurrence, or the authorities clear the wreckage away promptly so as not to upset the tourists.  It also didn’t help once I’d noticed the small crucifix gaily swinging to and fro from the driver’s rear view mirror.  I sincerely hope the driver was absolutely confident in his driving abilities and not leaving the safety of himself and his passengers up to a higher source.

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I was 20 minutes into the journey before I noticed the little crucifix swinging from the drivers rear view mirror.

Well, I haven’t had a drink since my Sangria binge in Gibraltar but I sure felt like one after I got off that ruddy bus!  Tim had no such qualms and enjoyed every minute of the journey grinning like a simpleton at my obvious discomfort.  I could see the words ‘pay back’ written behind his eyes.

The friendly, colourful villages and stunning scenery were worth it though so I endured another two days on the bus. By the third day I was relaxed enough to almost enjoy it and trust the driver…….almost!

Here’s a sample of pictures from our walks over the week.

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Colourful rugs for sale in Pampaneira.
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Narrow street in Pampaneira.
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View to the snow capped Sierra Nevada above Capileira.
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Looking back to Pampineira from Bubion.
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Capileira.
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Free range cows cross the Rio Trevelez above Trevelez, the highest village in Spain.
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A walk up the valley above Trevelez.
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Looking across to Chris Stewart’s farm on the other side of the river.
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Heading back to Orgiva on one of the GR routes.
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Beautiful flowers along the route.
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Walking from Pitres to Orgiva.
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The views were spectacular from Pitres to Orgiva.

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Looking down over El Valero, Chris Stewart’s farm.

After reading the first three of Chris Stewart’s books some years ago the Alpujarras has lived up to my expectations.  The walks we have done have been some of the best of the last year and we’d definitely like to come here again.  Alas, our ferry from Santander back to the UK is booked for the 12th April so we need to press on a little north.

Next stop Ubeda.

A luego!

El Torcal to Granada…. .

The Parque Natural de El Torcal, a huge expanse of limestone upland, lies about 10km south of Antequera and is famed for its rock sculptures.  The drive up there was as picturesque as can be with far reaching views across lush farmland and rocky peaks.  We passed several rural restaurants on the way up and, it being Fathers day in Spain, they were packed to the gunnels with Spanish families enjoying a leisurely lunch in the sunshine.  As we climbed the last 3km before reaching the visitor centre the sheer enormity of the rock formations suddenly hits you.  We’ve never seen anything like it on this scale before.

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Parque Natural de El Torcal.

There are a couple of trails leading from the visitor centre and we opted for the 2hr one which winds its way up, over and around parts of the parque giving some excellent vantage points to view the limestone outcrops.  Once away from the visitor centre, and the shorter trail, which most people seemed to be following, it was eerily quiet.  It was quite hard going and not ideal if you have dodgy knees or hips but took us about 90 minutes with plenty of stops for photos.

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The limestone is weathered into bizarre shapes.

Our Camper Connect App showed the car park to be an overnight stop but some of the reviews on it suggested that the Rangers had on occasions moved campers on.  We’d seen the ranger trawling about in a four wheel drive a few times and, as he hadn’t taken us to task by 7pm, we decided he probably wasn’t going to so we decided to stay the night.

Next morning we took another trail which took us about 3km down the hill to a lower car park giving us fabulous views across the valley, returning via the same way.

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Early morning walk.

We dropped back down again to the free aire at Antequera for the night to plan our next stop, Granada.  Being a city stop, with no motorhome aires, we planned to stay at a campsite outside the city.  There are those certain times that we think it’s definitely worth paying for a campsite over finding somewhere to wild camp.  Big cities are those times as, after a day of sightseeing, it’s always nice to have a van to return to!  We stayed at Reina Isabel campsite, which is in the ACSI book, about 7km outside the city with a bus stop almost outside the door which takes 20 minutes to reach the city centre.  All for €1.50 each.  Bargain!

Our guide book says ‘if you see only one town in Spain, it should be Granada’.   My Dad also said ‘Jane, you must do Granada’.  It was inevitable, then, that we would end up there at some point on our journey!

Having not opted to do History even to GCSE level (or O levels as it was in my day) I’ll leave you to peruse Google if you want to know more about Granada’s history!   All I’ll say is it was first occupied by the Moors in the 8th Century, had a golden period under the Nasrid dynasty from 1238 to 1492, fell to the Catholic monarchs in 1492, had a period of decline in the 19th Century but much has been restored since then to its former glory.

The Alhambra, the Albaicín district and the Sacromonte district were the three main areas of Granada we wanted to see.  The guitarist Andrés Segovia described Granada as ‘a place of dreams, where the Lord put the seed of music in my soul’.  Travelling into Granada on the bus I was questioning that statement as it all looked a bit ordinary and, well, uninspiring really.

We picked up a map from the tourist information, got our bearings, and made our way to the Rio Darro which separates the Alhambra on one side of the hill with the Albaicín and Sacromonte areas on the other.  Strolling along the river on the Carrera del Darro, with views of the vast Alhambra on the hill to my right, the steep narrow streets of the Albaicín to my left and glimpses of the cave houses of Sacromonte’s gypsy area straight ahead I revised my initial thoughts.  Ordinary and uninspiring this was not!

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Paseo de los Tristes along the river below the Alhambra..

Walking up the hill to the Sacromonte area we left all the people behind, which was great for us, but they were missing out as we thought it was a fascinating area and the views across to the Alhambra from several vantage points were superb.

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Views across to the Alhambra from Sacromonte.
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Sacromonte district of Granada.

This area was, in its heyday, Flamenco central where travellers would go to be wowed by impromptu performances.  Sadly though both our guide books warn that most of the flamenco shows put on today are of questionable quality.

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It might need a bit of work but the views are fantastic!
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Some people still live in the caves on the hillside.
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Sacromonte, home of Flamenco.

The Albaicín, the former Moorish town, is full of narrow alleyways and small squares where we whiled away another hour or so before dropping down to the Cathedral.

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The Albaicin.
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Granada Cathedral.

Yes, we’d been seduced by Granada with its backdrop of the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and we were two happy bunnies on the return bus to the campsite.

After several aborted attempts on the Alhambra website a week ago where I could only go so far with the booking before the whole thing crashed we decided to wait until we got to Granada to buy tickets.

We’d asked in the tourist information about booking tickets but were told that they were sold out until May but if we queued up early in the morning at the entrance we MIGHT be able to get a ticket then as lots are returned!  What sort of time would be best I asked?  Oh, 6.30am if you want to be sure of the best chance of getting one was the reply!  Aaaarrrrggghhh!  Neither of us fancied doing that as it would mean cycling in as the first bus wasn’t until 7.00am and even if we did get a ticket we would have to wait another couple of hours before the Alhambra opened to get in.

The chap did say to ask at where we were staying as the hotels and guesthouses have a certain number of tickets.  When we got back we asked the friendly guy at reception about tickets and he said ‘sure, how does 11.00am suit you?’   It cost us a €2.50 each admin cost but it was a small price to pay for a stress free day!

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Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel).

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Other end of the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel).
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Patio de la Sultana (Court of the Sultana).
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Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel).

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We had a brilliant day with cold but fine, clear sunny weather and we would absolutely recommend a visit. It is………….oh I can’t describe it.  Ok, I’ll describe it in one word………Sumptuous with a capital ‘S’.  You would have to go there yourself to get a true feel of it.

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Graffiti on the trees (looks like a tattooed elephants leg to me).
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The baths of the Mosque.
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Palacio de Carlos V (Palace of Charles V).

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View from the Torre de la Vela (Watch-Tower).
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Patio de Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles).

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Patio de los Leones (court of the lions).
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Palacio de Partal.

So, with the visit to Granada a resounding success we set off up the A395 to Pradollano, Europe’s most southerly ski resort in the Sierra Nevada.

 

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The drive up to Pradollano, Sierra Nevada.
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It was freezing at the ski resort!

We had intended to stay the night up there but, as it was freezing cold and with the weather closing in, we revised that idea and decided it was time to visit Las Alpujarras area south of Granada.

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Wild camping spot at Embalse de Beznar near Lanjaron, much warmer and more civilised!

In preparation, I’ve just started re-reading Chris Stewarts ‘Driving over lemons’.

Buenas noches!

 

 

 

El Caminito del Rey…. .

Ollie, our van, was riding high heading east out of Tarifa on four shiny new tyres.  Tim was equally riding high feeling like a dog with an extra appendage at having the said tyres fitted!  Oh the little things?!  To be fair it had been touch and go as to whether the tyres would be done as, when we duly arrived at the garage at our allotted time of 16.00hrs, the tyres had yet to be delivered.  Several phone calls confirmed they were on their way being couriered from Cordoba.  They finally arrived at 18.00 and we were on our way 90 minutes later.

We stopped for the night at the aire at Castellar de la Frontera where we’d stayed before which is conveniently located just 8km off the main A7 Algeciras to Malaga road.  Whilst there we popped over to the cafe across the road to pick up some wifi and saw on the news that in fact the whole south coast of Spain had been battered by severe gales for 24hours.  Maybe our experience in Tarifa had been on the extreme side then!

Our next destination was to be Garganta del Chorro, a huge canyon in the limestone massif above the Río Gualdalforce, 50km north west of Malaga.  It’s a major centre for rock climbers but we wanted to walk the Caminito del Rey, a walkway traversing halfway up the steep walls of the narrow limestone gorge.  The 3km long narrow path, clinging precipitously to the mountainside by pins driven into the rock, is set some 100 metres above the Guadalhorce river and is just a few feet wide. Just my kind of thing!  If you don’t really have a head for heights then I suggest you look away now!

Now a tourist attraction, the Caminito del Rey was originally built between 1901 and 1905.

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Building the walkway circa 1901.

With the construction of the El Chorro and Gaitanejo hydro electric powerplants, the path gave workers the ability to cross between two nearby waterfalls.  It effectively provided a shortcut so the workers didn’t have to climb down the mountain on one side to then have to climb up the other side.  After all, we all love a shortcut!

It wasn’t until 1921 that the path became known as El Caminito del Rey (the Kings pathway) after King Alfonso XIII crossed it to reach the dam for the inauguration ceremony.

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Inauguration day presided over by King Alfonso XIII in 1921.

Over the last century intrepid climbers used the path, also as a short cut, to reach Makindromo, a famous climbing sector of El Chorro.  Throughout the years the walkway fell into a serious state of disrepair with gaps in the guard rails and pavement areas which were completely missing but still the climbers came and risked life and limb to cross it.

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The condition of the path before the restoration.
However, after four fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000, the path was closed by demolishing the initial section to prevent any further fatalities.

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Yeah, I think I’d give that a miss!
Plans were afoot in the early 2000’s to restore the path but lack of the old wonga prevented the project going ahead.  Fast forward now to February 2014, the Provincial Deputation of Malaga finally had the cash to restore the path.  The new path was constructed one metre above the line of the old one and was reopened to the public in March 2015.

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The old path below the new one.

The actual path is now run by a private company but for €11.55 each for the walk and the return bus I don’t personally think they are ripping us off!

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The start of our journey almost opposite to where we were parked.

The whole route from where we parked the van at the North end to the finish at El Chorro is about 7km on a mixture of woodland path and board walks.

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Rock formations on the path down to the control cabin where we exchanged our tickets for hard hats.

So what did we think? Well, despite definitely feeling like a tourist attraction, we thought it was superb.

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The adventure begins!

You can only walk it in one direction, north to south, and the numbers are limited entering the path at different time slots to prevent overcrowding.

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It wasn’t too busy on the path.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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In parts the gorge is no more than 10m wide.

It felt all very safe but I imagine if you are a tiny bit wobbly about heights then I guess it wouldn’t be your idea of a dream day out!

P1010950.JPGIt’s also probably not advisable, like I did, to keep walking whilst gawping upwards at the vultures soaring across the top of the canyon which at some points is 700m high.  A sure recipe for vertigo and a tumble I think!

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One of Tims ‘art’ photos again!

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The train from Malaga runs through the gorge on the opposite side.
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After the first boardwalk section the path runs through pretty woodland.

The final part of the walk, which traverses the gorge at the southern end by way of a suspended (read MOVING!) bridge, continues on down and around the corner giving far reaching views down the valley from El Chorro.

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You can’t see it but it’s a loooooong drop down!
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The new suspended bridge replaced the old one behind.
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Coming out at the southern end of the gorge.

It was just fantastic.  It’s not until you look back at where you have been that you suddenly realise the sheer height and precariousness of it all.

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So that’s where we were – it looks higher up from this viewpoint than when you are actually on the path.
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Some intrepid soul has even cycled the route!

The whole thing took around four hours and we got back to the van at around 2pm for a rest and a regroup.  Whilst it did seem a shame to wake Tim up from his afternoon kip to go for a further walk I felt it was necessary as I’d hate to feel he was missing out!  It was worth the effort though for the views we had over the three reservoirs.

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Walking the hills around the reservoirs.

We would have ideally liked to have spent another day in the area but, due to the uncanny lack of others vans around, and it being in the natural park, we thought that wild camping here would be a no no and we’d risk a fine.

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Embalse del Guadalforce (one of the three).

We drove to the very good free aire at Altequera, a prosperous looking market town with several fine churches.  What it is most famous for is the three prehistoric dolmen caves dating from around 2500 BC.

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The Menga Dolmen.

Call me a heathen but I found it a little underwhelming but it was free!

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I quite liked the patterns made by people’s shoes in the sand inside the burial chamber!

Today we’re off to the Parque Natural de El Torcal, south of Antequera, to do some walking and look at some rock sculptures.

Hasta luego!

Gibraltar and the Costa de la Luz…. .

Boy we sure are ‘living the dream’.  We are currently hunkered down in between two blocks of flats on the outskirts of Tarifa trying to escape from the relentless wind.  Last night Ollie, our van, was blown hither and thither by a gusting, godawful  wind coming off the hills behind Tarifa beach.  The cover for the bikes, which was already in a sorry state with numerous patches, is now virtually shredded to bits!  The skylights on the roof of the van have just about held their own despite the wind trying its level best to remove them from their moorings.  So, after a restless night, we came to seek some refuge in between some flats in the town.  As I said, we are living the dream folks!

Tarifa is not called the kitesurfing and windsurfing capital of Europe for nothing it seems.  Our guidebook also happens to mention that Tarifa, before it was famous for kitesurfing, was a quiet village known only in Spain due to its unusually high suicide rate!  The reason for which is that unremitting wind, apparently.  After last night I can well believe it!  But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Back to last week.

We left the very pretty hilltop town of Casares (a brilliant place to watch the vultures) after three days of rain to drop back down to the coast to do a proper visit to Gibraltar.

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The hilltop town of Casares.
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It’s a great place to watch the vultures.

What can I say, I expect it’s a right of passage for most Brits who travel around Spain and we are no exception.   We stayed at the aire on the marina at La Linéa de la Concepción, just across the runway from Gib.

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The aire at the marina at La Linea de la Concepcion.

The aire is €12 per night, has a view of the boats in the harbour and is far enough away from the main road to be a quiet and peaceful stop.  It’s also only a five minute walk to the border.

After having nipped over to Gib two weeks ago we knew what to expect at the border.  We’d walked across to the town coming back at about 5.30pm and Tim had likened it to coming out of Devonport Dockyard 30 years ago when 3000+ employees would leave the base at the same time.  Cars, vans, scooters, mopeds, bikes and pedestrians were all rushing headlong for the exit!  I hadn’t realised that so many people work on Gibraltar but live in Spain.  Let’s just say it was an experience!  It did, however, confirm our thoughts that it wasn’t worth taking the van over to take advantage of the 75p per litre diesel to be had on the island.  Nope, too stressful in our opinion!

We spent a couple of hours wandering around the town, marina and Morrisons(!) on the Tuesday afternoon we had arrived.  Apart from Main Street, which is pedestrianised, it’s not a particularly pedestrian friendly place.  It’s so compact that virtually every space has now been built on and we only found one small park area. Usually when we explore a larger town or city we try to go through as many parks and green spaces as we can but Gibraltar town is a bit lacking in them!

Not to be deterred though the next day we had a brilliant day walking up to the top of the rock, over the other side down a steep rocky footpath called ‘Mediterranean steps’ to take in views of the east side of the island down towards Europa Point and then continuing on back around to our starting point.

It was quite a strenuous walk in the end and we were glad we wore our walking boots.

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A coffee break half way up the rock and time for a Morrisons Pork Pie!

When we set out a huge cloud had been hanging over ‘the rock’ but it miraculously cleared by the time we were half way up to the top and the views were superb.

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The view down to the town.

We weren’t disappointed on the ape front either.

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The apes were completely non plussed by us tourists taking photos.

We whiled away some time watching them at the top of the rock and at other points on our walk.

P1010875.JPGWe made sure we had our lunch where none were to be seen mind!

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View from the top of the rock.
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View back to La Linea from the east side of the top of the rock.
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Mediterranean Steps – the path that took us down the east side of the rock and around to the views of Europa Point.
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It was quite an adventure!
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Climbing up the path on the east side.
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The view towards Europa Point with the Morrocan hills peeping above the clouds..
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They look cold but it wasn’t cold!
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It’s not often you see a sign like this.

Our other reason for coming to Gibraltar was to meet up with my friend, Nik, who had lived on the island in the mid 1980’s as her Dad was posted there for three years with the Navy.  She’d come, with her Mum, on a reminiscing tour to see how things have changed.  We met up with them for some lunch and a catch up.  It was great to see them and we spent several happy hours chatting away over lunch whilst supping Sangria……..too much Sangria!  We both suffered for our over indulgence but, well, you live and learn………or not!  So thank you for lunch and a great afternoon Nik but I never want to see you again!!!!!!  Just kidding;)

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I won’t be drinking Sangria again for a while!

So that, then, brings us round to Tarifa, on the Costa de la Luz, which stretches from Tarifa to Cadiz, where we have been for the last few days.  This coastline is a complete contrast to the Costa del Sol.  It’s relatively undeveloped, backed by rolling green hills, with some beautiful beaches……..and plenty of wind!  Saturday and Sunday were glorious, weather wise, with temperatures up to the low twenties and a nice breeze that brought out probably in the region of 300 kite surfers.  It was quite a sight stretching across the 7km of Tarifa’s beach.

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Tarifa beach.

We were able to walk into Tarifa town at low tide along the beach and then returned over a boardwalk and some scrubland when the tide had advanced up the beach filling a lagoon which prevented us from retracing our steps.

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Tarifa old town.

We drove 10km up the coast to visit Bolonia which has a beautiful beach and the remains of a Roman settlement.

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Bolonia beach.

We met another British couple there, John and Sheila, who are doing a similar trip to us and invited us in for coffee where we exchanged stories on our experiences so far.  It’s always nice to chat to other people who are doing a similar thing, renting out their house, getting rid of most of their stuff and seeing where the road takes them,  just to confirm we’re not completely nuts choosing this lifestyle!

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Trust me when I say this thing was the size of a small dog (well maybe a gerbil)!

Coming full circle now, to where I started on this somewhat rambling post, we are sheltering from the wind in Tarifa instead of moving on today as Ollie is going to have four shiny new tyres fitted later.  We had thought we would wait until returning to the UK to get them done but the front ones are now pretty close to the lowest limit and with probably another 1500 or so miles to do before we get back to the UK it’s safest to get them done now.  They are Michelin somethingorothers (Tim has done all the research!) which will comply with the regulations of some European countries when travelling in winter.  Tim does van stuff.  I do cooking!!!

After the tyre fit our plan is to travel east again as we’ll eventually want to visit Granada.  We seem to be doing a backwards and forwards, zig zag, tour at the moment but that’s what you get when you don’t really have a plan!!

Buenas noches!