Friday, 27 December 2013

Post Christmas Chat

Hello readers!

I hope that you all had a happy and peaceful Christmas and that Santa brought you all your wishes. Did Santa have enough room in his sack for all the chrome which no doubt our Gold Wing biker friends would have wished for?
The tales of flooding and storms which we have seen on the TV are horrendous. Thankfully, in our little corner of North Wales we have been very lucky. OH went into town this morning (Wrexham) and almost got blown away as he turned the corner from High Street to Hope Street. He is now sitting quietly with a newspaper as he recovers.
Today is a catch-up day and I have been very good. Washing, flicking a duster around, watering the flowers, checking the cupboards for a shopping trip - food etc. not clothes. The 'Sales' frenzy doesn't float my boat so to speak and we have resisted all the offers which have poured into the Inbox.
I have a manuscript to format for Kindle but no rush. Time to take a breath. The thing about digital publishing is that it is instant. When you push the button that is that and hey-ho all goes live. Timing is all important.
We are still reflecting on the wonderful trips we had during our stay in Andalucia, southern Spain a few weeks ago. There are lots more things in the memory box of adventures. In Spain, especially Nerja (east of Malaga) they don't start Christmas decorations until early December.  Many of the decorations in the streets and on roundabouts are masses and masses of the rich red Poinsettia plant. Our hotel the Marinas De Nerja excelled itself this year with the construction of two 'trees' made up of many pots of Poinsettias, one at either side of the hotel entrance.


And then they put up a magnificent tree in the foyer. The chap who had the task of decorating it not only had to satisfy the management but he also had free advice from guests. 
'You have missed a bit here. There is a gap there,' and so on. The photo shows the huge wall of glass with wonderful views out to blue skies and the sea.


 You can read more about Our trips to Ronda, Cordoba, Nerja, Granada, and Malaga in my two previous posts. We also went again to the Lecrin Valley and Almunecar.

We were talking to someone yesterday about Spain and Portugal as earlier in the year, we went to Galicia, north-east Spain and the Duoro Valley in Portugal. I wrote a little about these in June. If you haven't read these, they will inspire you. On reflection, with the help of wonderful Saga Holidays  we packed a lot in but our motto is,
'We will do what we can while you can and then we are not saying "if only".' Life is for living!

Enjoy the rest of the Christmas season and a happy and prosperous New Year to you all.

Rosalie
xx 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Another Sojurn in Andalucia -Part Two. Ronda and Cordoba

Ronda

With four included trips during our stay in Nerja, Andalucia, (or Costa Del Sol) we hadn't anticipated wanting to take in any optional ones. However, Ronda called to us and it was a better alternative to hiring a car.
We actually first visited Ronda many, many years ago when staying further along the coast in Fuengirola. It was two bus rides and lots of winding roads up the mountains from the coast. Then we had a wonderful four days when we rode there on the Honda Gold Wing in 2001 as part of our Andalucian Adventure*
It was time to re-visit to see the gorge again. We were met by a local guide. This is normal practice in large towns of cultural interest. He was so enthusiastic and explained about the bullring before taking us around the side from where we could see over the plains - as well as a statue of a huge bull.
Walking around the side of the Parador to the distant strains of someone playing a Spanish Guitar, we all looked over the wall into the depths of the gorge below. 
Rounding the side of the Parador we came to the huge square in front of it - by the bridge. The guide was to take our party over the bridge into the old part of Ronda which goes back to Roman and Arabian times. I elected to stay behind as I wanted to wander at will and perhaps have coffee.

I found that the hotel in which we had spent our time in 2001 had changed its name. It is down a narrow street which leads from the square to the bullring. Coming back to the bridge, I noticed that the Hotel San Miguel across the road had terraces going downwards as they overlooked the gorge from the other side of the bridge. Taking the lift down, I settled down for coffee and to absorb the wonderful timeless view. Meeting my husband later, he was full of the tour and we elected to have lunch in this hotel - again on the terrace down below - and savour the atmosphere.





Cordoba

Cordoba was an extra trip which the Saga Reps organised. Being part of the 'real' Spain with so much history attached, we could not let this opportunity pass. Cordoba was occupied by the Moors in 711AD until reclaimed by the Spanish in the 13th Century. It is famous for its Mosque-Cathedral or Mexaquita as it is still known. It is actually now a Cathedral. It was too large to pull down so they built the cathedral inside.
On entering you are rendered speechless in awe at the wonderful design of arch after arch, one behind the other, going into the distance.


As we walked around we could hear the sound of an organ in the distance and a choir singing. Entering the main chapel we were fortunate to experience this at closer quarters.
Leaving the Mexaquita through the Orange Tree Courtyard, our guide - again a local guide - took us into the old Jewish quarter with its narrow streets and alleyways crammed full of shops of all description. All in all, the time there was not long enough. You need a few days and more to really explore but it was wonderful to get a flavour of this important city. After lunch in a typical tapas bar/restaurant (which had a wonderful display of richly embroidered and embellished matador outfits belonging to famous matadors) where we devoured a huge pizza each, we strolled back to our pick-up point by the side of the Rio Guadalquivir.
Stopping by the Roman Bridge we captured more photographs and reflected how the buildings in those early days have lasted all this time.
 
 
Needless to say, after an early start we slept on the journey back to Nerja!

* You can read more about Ronda and Spain in general in Just Us Two: Ned and Rosie's Gold Wing Discovery / Andalucian Adventure. Also follow the links above.

Rosalie xx
Just Us Two
Chasing Rainbows
ORANGES: A Journey



Friday, 13 December 2013

Another Sojurn in Andalucia. Part One. Nerja and Beyond.

I am a little shocked to see how long it is since my last post. But when you are enjoying Spain, and more importantly Andalucia, some things take second place to normal activities. 
Again basing ourselves in Nerja (Malaga) we settled in at the Marinas de Nerja Aparthotel on another all-inclusive deal with Saga, the over 50's holiday company. From our balcony,  with its wonderful picture postcard view framed by palm trees waving in the breeze, we had the benefit of the late afternoon sun and the most amazing sunsets.

Exploring Nerja once again was like coming home as we re-visited old haunts. This time we also went right into the centre of town to the wonderful Plaza Cantarero which is shaded by orange trees laden down with ripening oranges. The huge tree in the centre, sheltering the seats beneath its boughs, provided a welcome rest. The little Urban blue bus had once again brought us the short distance into town from where we strolled down the shady main street. From the tranquil plaza, as we rested in the early morning sunshine, we were soothed by a tinkling fountain which poured its water into a huge bowl. One of the main shopping streets, the Calle Pintada runs off this plaza right down to the Balcon de Europa. Strolling downhill from this direction we came across many shops which we hadn't seen when exploring from the other end. The good thing is that the shops are individual and not part of a chain - apart from the two supermarkets that is.

The houses which huddle together down the narrow streets have wonderful carved doors and wrought iron grilles over the windows. My husband explained that on of the guides had once said that the grilles were so that a young man could court his lady love - who was inside - without touching her and thus keep to tradition and convention.
From Calle Pintada many narrow streets cut across to Calle Arminta Fernandiz (which also leads up to the centre of town near the plaza); it was impossible not to take a peek and see what was around the inviting corners. Where they meet on their way to the Balcon de Europa there is a wonderful cafe tucked away in a corner. Venture through the door, make your way past the bar and enter the seating area where you can enjoy a wonderful sheltered view through the railings down to the beach (playa) as you sip a cold drink. Further on, a small archway leads to steps which wend their way down to the Playa Calahonda  far below. More about Nerja here.
Our included trips once again took us to the Lecrin Valley and Almunecar in glorious sunshine. 
Malaga and Granada were the other two included trips. Having been to both before we again looked forward to re-visiting.

Malaga.

It was a cold day in Malaga. Previously we had gone to see the Christmas Lights in the evening. Today, Malaga presented a different face. Firstly, we were taken down to the harbour to the ferry posts. The harbour was deepened some years ago to allow cruise ships to come in. Around the harbour were many cafes and shops - many were closed for the winter or simply not open so early in the morning (11 o'clock) but we found a nice kiosk near the steps and lift which served us with a warming drink. Many steps lead down to the harbour-side. There is a glass lift but we were
warned that it could be temperamental and that we used it at our peril. We took a chance as the many steps were hard for us both, and descended safely!
Back on the coach, we soon reached our dropping off point at the Cathedral. Malaga was in the last stages of preparing for the Christmas Lights switch-on before the bank holiday weekend in early December for Constitution Day and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. ( We saw these in 2008)
Our guide had helpfully given us all a map so that we could plot our own routes. By now it was nearing 'our' lunchtime. Unfortunately, the first cafe we went to were still serving breakfast and the kitchen didn't open until one o'clock - quarter to two. We rounded a corner and found a small cafe which served us  lovely pizza. So all was well.
Wrapped up in warm winter coats - you have to plan for all weathers even though there is a lot of sunshine in winter - we sauntered along the pedestrianised streets looking into shops as we went before finding a small park near the Cathedral to rest out of the wind as we waited for the coach pick-up time.
My husband was really pleased to see all the scooters parked up along the  surrounding streets. With all shapes and sizes, makes and models, he said it was better that the Bike Show in the UK!

Granada

This was our third visit to Granada. Again it was good to visit somewhere familiar. This time our guide and driver had a treat in store. Providing us with a map each our guide explained where we were to go and where all the major landmarks were. The coach wended its way along the main streets on a panoramic tour of the city. Not having seen this side of Granada before, we really appreciated this as we craned our necks to look at the fabulous building which reared into the sky. The different architecture was wonderful, as were the huge variety of wrought iron balconies and grilles which covered the windows. We were dropped off by the main park which was a short distance from the shopping centre and that wonderful store El Corte Ingles. As we had explored the city before on both previous occasions, including the market which spans many very old and narrow streets,
we rather boringly - to some - decided to stay put in this wonderful store and explore all there was on offer. Besides, I was on the lookout for a pair of soft Spanish leather gloves with a fur cuff, and a leather belt if possible. I also wanted a lace mat for my dining table at home. I found the gloves but not a belt of lace mat. 
In fact nowhere could I find a lace mat anywhere which is not really surprising as leather is the main industry.

I actually started this post whilst in Spain but didn't finish as other delights intervened. Not least a return to Ronda and an unexpected visit to Cordoba, both of which I will tell you about in Part Two of Another Sojurn in Andalucia.

(You can read more on Andalucia in ORANGES: A Journey.)

Rosalie xx