Monday, 25 March 2013

Y Viva Espana

Two posts in the same day!

Ann & I decided that we would clear off to Spain for February and rented a very nice apartment in Estepona, Costa del Sol. you can see details of it here Costa del Sol Apartment

We took the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao in the worst winter storms for some time. Cap Finistere is a great ship and the deluxe cabins are very comfortable - even in a Force 10 gale!

So we just had 4 weeks at the apartment travelling around and chilling out. Our route took us via Segovia, Toledo and Cordoba - a few "en route pictures" below:

 The Roman aqueduct in Segovia



Estepona lies to the southwest of Marbella and is famous as being in the Costa del Golf.  Courses everywhere you look!  It was February when we were there, so rather quiet, but even so, there was still stuff happening and the place was still alive.  The weather was mostly good, too.  18 Celsius on average most days, although a few chilly days and a high of 23 degrees on the day we went to Gibraltar
The whole area lies in the region of the pueblos blancos - the white towns.  Traditional Andalusian villages dating back hundreds of years where life appears to go on in the same old way. Actually, not quite because many are modern "urbanisaciones" - they just blend in so well you wouldn't know...

This is the beach area at Marbella.  Developed with US funds in the 60's by Franco's Government, it features much of the worst of Spanish Costa over development. The old town is quite nice to walk around, once you actually find it!  Probably very different at night in high season!  And why did the US fund it? A deal put together to allow US forward bases to be located in Spain.

Much more traditional is Cadiz. Apparently  not much visited by tourists - probably because it isn't that easy to get to, the modern city, virtually just a single main road, is like driving through Manhatten. Suddenly you come across the old town, just as it would have been when Columbus sailed off in 1492 and home to the merchants who made their fortune from trade with the New World.  Interesting concept - "trade". I suppose it isn't good for the national ego to use a word like "plunder"??? Not that us English were any better, I hasten to add.
Then we have the famous little town of Ronda. Up in the mountains and cleft in two by a huge gorge that runs through the town.  We went there twice.  The first time was bitterly cold with snow threatening.  The second time, the sun was out as you can see.  This is the "new bridge", joining the new and old towns together across the gorge. Ronda is also the home to modern bullfighting and has a bullring that has a particular claim to fame.  We were impressed for such a small place, but then found everywhere has a bullring that has the largest / widest / tallest / smallest / oldest / newest something or other. All we know is that Birmingham's has the most shops

We couldn't be this close and not go to Gibraltar for a day trip. Entry is slow, as Gibraltar is not part of the EU and is a tax haven, passport and customs formalities are required at the border. And the road crosses over the main runway of the airport, so everything grinds to a halt whenever a plane arrives or takes off.  Other than the fact that we were still driving on the "wrong side" of the road, we could have been back in England.  Policemen in traditional uniform with tall hats, red phone boxes and English style street furniture 
And of course, lots of apes running about all over the place.  They are a thieving bunch, too. So don't leave anything around or they will pinch it. Coming down from the Rock, the main street is like any English High Street with plenty of familiar names.  Prices are good too - no duty and no VAT, so a bottle of brand name spirit is around £8. Pity you are limited to just one bottle to bring back...
The queue to get out wasn't quite as tedious, but still took maybe 45 minutes.

We had a weekend in Seville while we were there.  In my very humble opinion, Spain has three Premier "must see" cities; in order Barcelona, Seville and Madrid. There are plenty of others, but these are the ones to visit.  The guide book reckons in a week you can just about take in all of Seville - we managed the Alcazar, the Giralda (Cathedral) and a pony & trap ride and were there for 2 days. Fantastic city; well worth a long weekend!

And finally somewhere that people usually rush through en route to or from the airport - Malaga. Birthplace of Picasso, who is the subject of several museums and an amazing Roman castle / Moorish Alcazar, plus a modern shopping district and a green urban environment. Green as in lots of parks.

And that, as they say, is your lot for this time

We'll get back onto the subject of cars soon

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