North America, Europe · 82 Days · 57 Moments · January 2019

Wintering in Spain 2019


1 April 2019

With only a week left in Spain, we enjoyed spending a sunny day wandering around Nerja. Our coffee stop was at the Parador, which has a stunning cliff top location. At the Balcón, two of our favorite street musicians were playing. A young woman played classical music on her violin at the plaza, and after she finished, a young man began playing flamenco music on his acoustic guitar at the sea end. We even spotted a dolphin jumping in the sea! We walked into town again in the evening and ate outside at a restaurant with sunset views to the Balcón. It was a beautiful day!

30 March 2019

After hearing the flower expert on our walk to Acebuchal rave about the botanical garden in Malaga, we drove there to see it ourselves. A family started collecting plant specimens from all over the world on their estate in the 1850s, and the city of Malaga eventually took over the gardens and opened them to the public in the 1990s. This is a good time of year to visit because the wisteria is blooming, The wisteria forms a gorgeous canopy on a wrought iron arch next to the former owners’ main house. Other sections of the garden featured palm trees, cacti, bamboo (including black bamboo), tropical plants, and a section called “Around the World in 80 Trees.” There is also a small museum where old photos of the family from the 1800s are recreated with Barbie dolls and the Spanish version of Ken known as Madelman.

29 March 2019

We went with members of the Nerja History Group to the village of Acebuchal for the end of the season lunch. Acebuchal is known as the “Lost Village” because it was deserted for 50 years. The village is in an isolated valley surrounded by mountains. In 1948, Franco’s military suspected the residents were aiding the resistance guerrillas who lived in the mountains so they ordered the 200 inhabitants to leave with just a few hours notice. The village remained uninhabited until 1998 when a former resident moved back and began restoring houses. His son now runs the restaurant where we dined on local specialties: wild boar, patatas pobre, salad with fruits and lettuce, and ice cream flavored with miel de caña, a sugarcane honey similar to molasses. Transportation was by coach, and we chose to walk part of the way down with a flower expert who was very excited to point out numerous species of wild orchids.

27 March 2019

We drove into the mountains with our friends Linda and Petter for a hike to a peak named Pico de Lopera. Although only 20 miles inland from the city of Almuñécar, it took almost an hour on the curvy mountain roads to reach the trailhead. The trail followed fire breaks up to the peak at almost 5000 feet where there was a fire lookout hut (The arrow in the first picture points to the white roof of the hut.) Blooming rosemary bushes and gorse were prominent in the low vegetation along the path, and the trees were mostly pines. The views of the surrounding mountains were stunning, including snow-capped peaks in the nearby Sierra Nevadas. On reaching the lookout hut, we sat for a while to enjoy the vista down to the sea. Either the hut wasn’t manned out of season or it uses remote sensors. The terrain in this area of Spain is so diverse and beautiful!

25 March 2019

The highlight of our trip to Alfarnatejo was lunch cooked by one of the village women. The four chefs (ours is on the right) took 10 people each to their homes for a home-cooked meal with local ingredients. The traditional meal included: cheese and cured meats for starters, lentil soup with chorizo, green salad with tuna fish, pork cutlets with mushroom sauce, and patatas a lo pobre (potatoes cooked in olive oil with onions and green peppers). Dessert was fresh fruit followed by almond cake and a merengue cookie. We had wine with the meal, and a homemade quince and anise liqueur with dessert. The food was delicious and our hostess was delightful! On our way back to Nerja we passed a curious sight: a circus village that school groups go to for a fun day in the mountains.
Our local guide Miguel invited us into his house in the village of Alfarnatejo (population 400) for a tasting of sweet Malaga wine, almonds, and a fig cake that is a regional specialty. His family previously lived in the house, but it is now more of a museum. One section of the house was a stable, and the animals provided some warmth in the colder months. This was typical in rural Spain until housing livestock with humans was banned in the late 1980s. Miguel still lives in the village, but in a different house. Miguel is quite a character, and he donned a frilly apron as he welcomed us in. The last picture is Alfarnatejo as seen from the road in, which gives you an idea of its isolated setting.
The olive mill we visited is in the village of Alfarnate, which is surrounded by high mountains. While waiting for the tour, we saw a shepherd and his flock walking through the streets on their way to pasture. Later we saw a goatherd and his herd of goats up in the mountains. It is always surprising that such ancient occupations still exist in this modern age.
We took a lovely trip into the mountains with the International Club for “lunch with the locals.” After about an hour’s drive on the coach, we stopped in Colmenar for a traditional Spanish mid-morning snack of churros and chocolate. The churros are cooked in olive oil so are almost a health food! Sufficiently fortified, we journeyed onward, passing olive groves and almond orchards, two main products of the area. We saw many ancient olive trees, including the one pictured that is said to be 1455 years old. The old branches are regularly pruned so the new growth will produce olives. Our comical guide Miguel requested a picture with the ladies and the tree. Our next stop was at a modern olive mill for a tour and tasting. Fun fact: Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil.

23 March 2019

On March 20th we took a bus to Málaga with friends Linda and Petter. We took a look at the market. (By Mark)
We walked around to view some of the street art.
We were all impressed by the Museo Automovilístico y de la Moda, a museum of automobiles and fashion.
They had cars of the same model and year as those Hitler and Mussolini tooled around in.
And an Aston Martin like James Bond drove in the movie Goldfinger.
And one built after WWI from a surplus airplane engine.
Here’s a three wheeled racer powered by only a two cylinder engine placed right at the front of the car. Small but fast for it’s time.
And a small sample of the rest.
Finally we visited the Centre Pompidou, which was featuring works by Henri Matisse. Most of the building is underground except for a colorful cube above.
My favorite exhibit were 24 sheep (14 of which have no heads) by François Javier Lalanne. Those with heads seem to be gazing at paintings by Joan Miró and other artists.

11 March 2019

Afternoon café con leche on the Balcón de Europa. We always pick coffee spots with great views. The palm trees are full of monk parakeets, an 11-inch bright green parrot species introduced from Argentina.

10 March 2019

Goat Cheese Festival and lunch in Torre Del Mar. The giant flip-flop is actually a shower.

4 March 2019

Hiking in the mountains just north of Nerja. The hiking group has grown so large that there were 62 people on this walk.

3 March 2019

The last Carnaval parade in Nerja is a mock funeral procession for the sardine Chanquete. Originally the procession was on Fat Tuesday, but Spaniards love a good party and are not as religious so now it’s held the weekend before Ash Wednesday. The paraders are mourners so wear black, although with very colorful accents. Some pretend to cry, but most are as happy as usual. The parade ends on the beach where the sardine (actually a huge replica) is set afire and launched into the sea. We didn’t stay for this part but were able to see the accompanying fireworks from our rooftop deck. The first picture is the sardine standing next to stalagmites from the beautiful Nerja cave.

2 March 2019

All ages participate in pre-Lent Carnaval parades that wind through the narrow streets of Nerja. The Saturday parade was joyous with colorful costumes accompanied by energetic bands. It took two hours for the procession to pass us near the beginning of the route. It seemed like all the Spanish people in town must be participating, but there were lots of onlookers that paraders stopped to greet and kiss. I don’t know how long the tiniest marchers lasted, but one little girl on a float had already had enough.

28 February 2019

We took a four-day trip to the city of Valencia with the International Club. It’s almost 300 miles from Nerja on Spain’s east coast. Valencia has long, wide, white-sand beaches, an historic old town, and a very modern section called the City of Arts and Sciences (CAC). The largest aquarium in Europe is in the CAC, and it has a wonderful dolphin show and huge tanks of sea creatures from around the world. We also visited the science museum housed in another futuristic building. The weather was warm - reaching 80 one day!

26 February 2019

The old town of Valencia has two gates remaining from when it was surrounded by a wall. The highlight in the old cathedral is the Holy Grail, the chalice Jesus used at the last supper (according to their legend). Three popes have used the chalice when celebrating mass in the cathedral A long park connects the old town with the modern City of Arts and Sciences and the beach. The park was previously the path of a river, but the river was diverted after devastating floods in the 1950s, and the park was created in the former riverbed. We rented bikes one day to ride the length of the park. We ended at the beach, where we had traditional Valenciano paella with chicken, rabbit, and snails.

23 February 2019

The Tabernas desert looks similar to the American Southwest, and it was used as a filming location for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and many spaghetti westerns. A set of an entire town was built, and it is now a theme park that we enjoyed visiting. It seemed a little strange to see Spanish children dressed up in cowboy hats and carrying toy pistols and rifles. A poster even advertised that it was a good place to celebrate First Communions. A show in the center of town featured a bad guy escaping from jail and a shootout with the sheriff. Half of the park is a beautiful zoo with views of the nearby mountains.
The only desert in Europe is near the city of Almería, which is east about a 2 1/2 hour drive east of Nerja. After visiting the Oasys western theme park, we went into the desert in a Land Rover. Our guide explained about the unusual rock formations that resulted when tectonic plates smashed together eons ago. The desert was once covered by a sea, and areas where water rose to the surface are still powdered white with salt. The Tabernas desert was used as a set for many popular films, including Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones & the Lost Crusade, and Game of Thrones, and the guide showed stills of movie scenes in the same place where they were shot.

22 February 2019

We walked along the coast to the neighboring village of Maro for lunch. Along the way we walked by some chickens feasting on tomatoes. Some produce here is so cheap here that it isn’t profitable to harvest it. We are guessing that is the reason the chickens got the tomatoes.

17 February 2019

The Kitty Harri Sculpture Garden is on a mountain ridge about 45 minutes from Nerja. The garden has incredible views across the valleys, and the natural setting is enhanced by sculptures placed amid tropical plants. Kitty created half the sculptures in the garden, and artists from around the world created the rest. She also is a bestselling author under the name Kitty Sewell. The garden is open two Sundays per month and usually has musical performances for the guests. We got to hear a small orchestra with harpsichord play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons plus other Baroque pieces. Seating nooks throughout the garden entice you to relax and enjoy the beauty with a nice glass of Spanish wine, which we did, of course.

15 February 2019

On Friday, February 15th, we went by bus with the Nerja Art Society to Málaga, Spain. After a stop at a cafe for coffee and toast, we walked to Calle Lagunillas, a starting point to stroll through the Lagunillas Barrio This is a poor barrio (neighborhood) of Málaga still struggling from the economic downturn eleven years ago. Lately it’s residents have been fighting against creeping gentrification since it’s adjacent to a main tourist section of Málaga, and nearby the Pablo Picasso Birthplace Museum. Protests ensued after the city demolished some of the barrio’s housing, and speculators remodeled some houses for tourist rentals via Airbnb. Community organizations sprung up to help stem building decline, and to provide art workshops and educational support to the local children. Street artists painted elaborate scenes on buildings walls. A painting on Calle Lagunillas, stating: “A neighborhood in struggle. We do not stop being a neighborhood.” - Mark
Other street paintings protest gentrification. “We stayed in the neighborhood.”
But many paintings express hope (esperanza) for the future for the residents.
We met one of the most prominent painters, Jonathan Morillas, who signs his works and goes by the name Doger.
And here are just a few more of the many paintings in barrio.
We next toured the Soho area, a more prosperous part of Málaga where an urban art society sponsored large paintings by well known international artists such as American Shepherd Fairy aka Obey, British D*Face and Ben Eine, French Remed, and Spanish Okuda and Pantone.
We had a lunch food tasting at Snack Jerusalem, an interesting small eatery serving Middle Eastern foods, and finished the day with a private tour of the Ifergan Collection, a small museum opened less than one year ago. It displays collections from ancient Mesopotamia, Canaan, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia and more. Its star exhibit is the nearly complete contents of a Phoenician ship discovered in 1958 off the coast of Lebanon. It sank in a storm 2500 years earlier, carrying terra-cotta sculptures which the Phoenicians of Tyre tried to save from Alexander the Great. A small sample:

12 February 2019

We took a nice coastal walk with friends that began in the city of Almuñécar. The wide promenade of the city soon gave way to beaches tucked into coves. One of them was a nude beach, where we felt very overdressed. We then ascended, partly on steps, to the top of the cliff, passing along the abandoned terraces where olive trees were once cultivated. Our break for lunch was at a marina where many yachts were parked. The walk ended in the beachfront town of La Herradura (the horseshoe), named for the shape of its harbor.

9 February 2019

The neighboring town of Torrox Costa has a long promenade along the beach that is nice for a stroll. On one end is a lighthouse with Roman ruins beneath the surrounding area. We walked to the opposite end for lunch at a chiringuito (beach restaurant) that grills over an open fire. The fresh grilled fish was delicious! An unusual thing about Torrox is that it attracts mainly German tourists. Many restaurants advertise German favorites such as schnitzel, and a lot of signs are in German.

7 February 2019

The Torre del Maro is one of the many old Moorish watchtowers that dot the coast of Spain. It’s one of my favorite places to go for a walk because of the sense of peacefulness and incredible views. From the tower’s vantage point you can see Nerja several coves away, mountains inland, and the wide expanse of the sea. The water looked crystal clear from above. Along the path leading to the tower you see rosemary bushes and lavender in bloom.

4 February 2019

Granada is a beautiful city surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains and is a little over an hour’s drive from Nerja. Our day trip included a walking tour with a very knowledgeable guide we have had the pleasure of listening to on other trips and talks. The walk began in the high Albaicin quarter and continued through narrow lanes dating back to Moorish times. The Moors were driven out of Granada on January 2, 1492, by the armies of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, and three months later they agreed to finance Columbus’ quest for a western route to India. Both monarchs are buried in Granada, and one of the main squares has a huge monument of Isabella and Columbus signing their agreement. The pictures are various scenes from around the city.
The Alhambra towers over the city of Granada. The complex was the home of the Moorish rulers and then later the Spanish kings and queens. We didn’t visit the Alhambra on this trip, but we had views of it throughout our walking tour of Granada. The snow-covered mountains provided a beautiful backdrop contrasted by the cloudless blue sky.

2 February 2019

Narrow winding roads took us to the white village of Cómpeta, nestled in the mountains about 13 miles inland from the coast. It’s almond blossom time, so our goal was to view the pretty pink blossoms en route and then explore the hill town. The day was sunny, but the temperature was definitely colder than in Nerja. Cómpeta can trace its history back to the Romans, but its layout is typical of the Moorish era with labyrinthine streets and walkways designed to confuse invaders. Nowadays the invaders are likely to be Northern Europeans or the occasional Americans like us. From the center of the village, you could see the Mediterranean shimmering in the distance. Further inland the mountains were snow-capped, best seen from afar.

1 February 2019

Last night we went with British friends to a jazz concert at Hotel Plaza Cavana, a hotel in Nerja. The Miguel Rodríguez Trio played (piano, bass, drums) accompanied by Enrique Oliver, a tenor saxophone player from Malaga. Pianist Rodríguez, from Madrid, trained in Amsterdam and New York. They played two sets including “I’ve got it bad and that ain’t good”, by Duke Ellington, “Ain’t misbehaving” by Fats Waller, and “Blue Monk” by Thelonious Monk. All four musicians were excellent, especially the pianist. Mark

28 January 2019

Our group walk today took us along an old Roman road into the Sierra de Tejeda National Park. The trail led through a gorge than up again along paths lined with pine trees with views to the mountains. The final stretch into Nerja went past an old sugar cane factory and an agricultural aqueduct. The distance was about eight miles so we had a much needed rest afterwards.

24 January 2019

The highlight of our trip to Jerez was the horse show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The beautiful animals performed dance-like dressage moves to music in a perfectly groomed arena. We were not allowed to take pictures during the show, but I’ve included one stock photo of the horses. In the picture of the stables (building that has the Sandeman sign), you can see one horse peeking out and the stork nests on the chimneys.
A surprisingly interesting museum in Jerez is the Palace of Time, which houses a collection of valuable French and English clocks from the 17th to 19th centuries. Most still work so it was delightful to hear them chime on the hour.

23 January 2019

Flamenco originated in Jerez so of course we needed to see a show. A guitarist, singer, and dancer performed for us in a small bodega in the old city. Flamenco is usually about strong emotions, and most seem very angry.
Scenes from our walking tour of Jerez. The tour culminated at Bodega Tradicion where we tasted some very expensive sherries.

22 January 2019

We are on a 3-day trip to the city of Jerez with the Nerja History Group. Jerez is famous for three things: sherry, Andalusian horses, and flamenco. Our tour began at the Fundador bodega, the oldest sherry bodega in Jerez. The word “sherry” originated from the city’s name, pronounced similar to “hareth”. Sherry is only made in this region and was developed with more alcohol content than wine to preserve it for transport to England. The aging barrels are stored in naturally cooled buildings with characteristic black mold on the walls from the high humidity. Many celebrities from Princess Anne to Caroline Kennedy to Bo Derek have signed barrels during their visit to the bodega. One impressive visitor was Alexander Fleming. We were then treated to a tapas lunch with sherry paired with each course at the bodega. In the evening the Count of Andes gave us a tour through the palace he lives in, and then we enjoyed a seafood dinner with plenty of wine at a local restaurant. Great first day!

21 January 2019

Celebrating Mark’s birthday with a delicious lunch by the sea with friends.

18 January 2019

We walked with friends to the neighboring village of Maro for the fiesta of San Antón Abad. He is the patron saint of animals. It’s a little fuzzy why the celebration consists of bonfires in the streets with outdoor grilling, music and dancing, but then the Spanish don’t need much of an excuse to party. Animals may have been blessed the previous evening. The village only has 8 streets, and bonfires were lit all along each of them. One even included an effigy of a woman. A brass band played in some sections, and a group of women with a guitarist and percussionist strolled from street to street singing flamenco songs. Some people danced along with the music while others drank liberally from a goatskin flask. We were offered some delicious kabobs at one fire, and then enjoyed a glass of vino tints in the town square. We didn’t stick around until midnight when a huge bonfire (sticks and brush were piled at least 10 feet high in front of the church) was lit and the main dancing began.

16 January 2019

Laundry with a view! After searching for a while, I finally found where our washing machine is - in a closet on the rooftop deck! It only takes 2 1/2 hours to wash a load, and then you hang the clothes up to dry in the sun. We have time to go down to the beach for a cup of café con leche and then enjoy the view of the Mediterranean from the deck while waiting for a load to finish washing.

14 January 2019

Last year we went on many hikes with a local walking group, and we joined them again for a walk in the hills above Frigiliana, a white village in the mountains a few miles north of Nerja. The group has grown, and we had 35 people on this walk. After nine months in the flatland of Ohio, the hills could be a challenge. Luckily the starting point was in Frigiliana, which we rode to, avoiding the most strenuous uphill climb. From there the route wound upward past a goat farm, where we stopped for a group photo. Wild thyme and rosemary scented our way, and there were great views to the Mediterranean shimmering below. We then began the long downhill trek to the coast then walked along a beach into Nerja. The end was at a Scottish bar for refreshments. (We had no idea that a Scottish bar existed in a Nerja.) The total distance was about 10 miles. The weather was warm and the sky cloudless - a perfect first hike in Spain.

13 January 2019

The Balcón de Europa is a wide plaza in the center of town that we like to stop at for the views and to listen to the street musicians. Today an American Indian (quite unusual) played pipes while a powered paraglider swooped over the sea. A statue of a Spanish king stands stiffly by the railing of the Balcón. The king, Alfonso XII, allegedly named the area when he visited after an earthquake in the 1880s. The earthquake demolished a fort that previously stood on the site. While we listened to the music, Mark, the cat whisperer, worked his magic on a local cat. For those of you who like food pictures, the last picture is our lunch of grilled sea bass at Torrecilla Beach.
Our home for the winter is a three bedroom townhouse just up the hill from the biggest beach in Nerja. It has three levels with a balcony on each floor. It is built into the side of a ravine so the street level entry is a rooftop deck. External stairs lead down to the main living area, and the bedrooms are on the two lower floors. The bottom level has a short flight of stairs to the outdoor pool and garden. Our walk into town has sweeping views of the coast and mountains. Our place is circled in the second picture. Walls along our route are covered in beautiful flowers. The last picture is Mark reading in the sun on the rooftop deck.

10 January 2019

Nerja greeted us with brilliant sunshine as we had breakfast on the beach while waiting for our condo to be ready.

9 January 2019

We left Cleveland in a snowstorm headed for another winter in the south of Spain. We will be back in April when the weather will be warmer (at least on some days!).