Andalucia, the highs and the lows

We had such a good time in Barcelona in June that we decided a return visit to Spain was needed, so we organised a workaway in the Malaga region of Andalucia and decided to use this as a base for further adventures.

We have spent two weeks working with a family in Benalmadena helping them with their English. Benalmadena is an arabic name meaning ‘son of the mines’, however there is little mining done here now. Apart from the local Spanish people it is largely populated by the British, many on holiday and quite a large number who now live here. Huge numbers of these Brits are retired so Mike and I were feeling quite young! The only sirens you hear are ambulances going to the local hospital. The seafront at Benalamadena is very commercial and full of multi-story accommodation and eateries along the seafront. Not our kind of place but pleasant enough for a walk and a wander.

We also found the local homes interesting but were somewhat disconcerted by the very high walls surrounding homes and the multiple locks required to enter them.

Andalucia is a very mixed area, cities, small villages, rugged mountains, long flat plains, miles of olive trees and miles of citrus trees. Parts are very run down and in other places it seems quite afluent.

During our first weekend we went to Mijas, a small village in the hills full of white houses and small lanes. Lots of tourists but still very worthwhile  to visit; spectacular views to the coast, lovely houses, flamenco dancers and little eateries, what’s not to enjoy?

We also visited an old church in the town and a church in a rock called Chapel of Virgen de la Pena, in both churches Mary is VERY dressed up, to us it was more like a barbie doll or an angel for the top of your Christmas tree than the woman of Nazareth in the Bible. Try as we might we couldn’t find out why she was so dressed up. Local custom was the most common answer.

The old town of Malaga, like many old towns we have visited, was charming, again the small lanes, old churches but Malaga has a Picasso Museum and sunshine and warm weather.

We visited Seville for a day and saw the Alcazar which is magnificent. The strong moorish infulence mixed with a Christian flavour has resulted in the most magnificent building and gardens. It would be so easy to spend a whole day in this attraction. We had also planned to visit Granada, specifically to see Alhambra but tickets were sold out until October 22nd. You could go on a guided tour but those tickets were out of our price range, you could also just turn up and try for cancelled tickets, our friends Kathy and Roland did that mid-week and were successful but we were going on a weekend and it is too far to go and to not be able to get tickets. What interested us is that when we put up photos of Alcazar on Facebook some people saw them and thought we had been to Alhambra so maybe they are so similar it is ok that we didn’t go.

The highlight would have to be the weekend we spent in Ronda. Some of the best scenery we have seen anywhere. The views literally take your breath away. It is hard to photograph but we have tried! The most popular tourist attraction here is the Puente Nueve (new bridge) built in 1793. Quite a feat!  It was very easy to while away a weekend here as it seemed that every corner we took resulted in something else to see, lovely piazzas, old, old churches and of course that view.

On the Saturday we walked the town and on Sunday morning we became adventurous and walked down  into the gully. Much of the pathways are narrow and steep, in places it was extremely narrow – 70mm according to me, 70 cm according to Mike. Even though it challenged my ‘height issues’ it was really worthwhile, of course all that walking down meant we had to walk back up.

Ronda was busy with tourists and it is October so it must be heaving in July/August. Some people ‘do’ Ronda with speed, we were having a leisurely lunch on the Sunday when we saw a tour group move down the road towards the bridge where they obviously looked at the view, took the required photos, walked back up to their bus and left. All this done in less time than we took to eat lunch!

As always we are glad we came but we are now looking forward to swapping the dry land filled with olive trees for the green land of Ireland.

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