Posts Tagged ‘Alozaina’

To Ronda and Beyond on our ‘Tapas Tour’

April 25th, 2008 at 5:38 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After enjoying our repast of Iberian ham and cheese from the supermarket as our breakfast we said goodbye to Peter and Nice, and posed for a Bonaire Reporter ‘shot’ (holding up a copy of the bi-monthly Bonaire Reporter newspaper in an exotic locale) to send back home to Bonaire. The Lensvelts were great hosts and we regret only having been able to spend two nights at their place. However, as Peter so eloquently put it, we are on a ‘Tapas Tour’ – one where we taste a little bit of each place to see where we might like to revisit in the future. I see it as a sort of self-designed ‘tasting menu’ myself.

We headed out through Alozaina in The Beast, along twisty turning narrow roads high above deadly precipices (no joke), surviving the trip along route A-366 with nary a scratch but a lot more adrenaline in our systems. The scenery was gorgeous – changing from hilly and verdant to mountainous and stark and then back again. The most curious thing we saw along the way was a flock of vultures on the ground in a field – probably about 30 of them, hopping about (they don’t walk, they hop). Alas we were not quick enough with the camera.

We also learned – actually, we confirmed – that our GPS has a sense of humor. We have it set for fastest driving time mode, and somehow it has determined, incorrectly, that this means the most direct route should be chosen. Yesterday we found ourselves in a maze of narrow streets in La Linie near Gibraltar that The Beast barely made it through, and today the GPS took us up a thousand year old footpath the back way into Ronda. We managed to avoid damaging any tourists or The Beast along the way, but it was a very close thing.

Amusingly, we later saw several other GPS users coming up the same way. Someone at Garmin sure has a strange sense of humor.

Ronda was beautiful, with an ancient bridge rising hundreds of feet above a water filled gorge still in active use today (we drove over it in The Beast and walked over it a couple of times too).

After locating a parking facility – and let me tell you, parking in old cities and villages, especially with something as large as The Beast, is miserable – we made our way to the Bull Fighting Arena (see photo above), which serves as a museum when there’s not a bull fight going on. The kids were not wild about the idea at first, but I think they gradually came to understand the cultural, and dare I say artistic, roots that make up Spanish bull fighting. They are understandably still perturbed by the thought of killing a bull for entertainment, but also understand it’s not nearly as simplistic as it seems. In a way, it’s a performance and show, where almost always the bull dies, but not before making a stand of his own (and yes, a matador has actually been killed by the bull in Ronda, but it was a long tim ago – and matadors do get hurt too, although the odds are weighed pretty heavily against the bull, of course).

We then had lunch (the kids had a mixel grill with beef, ironically) at a posh restaurant outside the Arena, and went on to spend several more hours exploring Ronda’s history and quaint streets.

By 7pm we were on our way to Seville, dropped our rental car off at the train station – Good riddance to The Beast!, and took a taxi to our hotel.

Our plan for tomorrow is unclear for the most part. We are booked to see an authentic Flamenco show in the evening (with Tapas), and may go visit the Alcazar – a Moorish castle across the street from our hotel. But most importantly, we are going to try and sleep in!


We Enjoy a Piece of the Rock – Gibraltar

April 24th, 2008 at 5:19 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As the villa here at Finca Morelajo is self-catered and we had not planned appropriately yesterday, we found ourselves a bit shy of breakfast supplies. So we hit the first restaurant we found on our way south past Tolox and had a great country meal consisting of fresh sandwiches and eggs and bacon.

The drive to the country of Gibraltar took about two hours, part of which involved navigating ‘The Beast’ (my pet name for the Mercedes family delivery van we’ve been saddled with) through some very narrow alleys and streets. The Beast survived unscathed, but my adrenaline levels were beyond safe levels most of the time.

We parked at a secure underground parking garage in La Liene – just north of the crossing into Gibraltar, and walked across the border. On the other we signed onto a taxi based tour of the island, and our driver Jaydon, a Gibraltar native, gave us a bit of history of his country and then took us to see St. Michaels caves (where an underground wedding was being set up), the macaques monkeys native to the island, the top of the ‘rock’ from where we could see the north coast of Africa (specifically Morocco), only about 23km away, and the great siege tunnels dug as part of the defense of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar is of key strategic importance as it is the closest point of Europe to Africa, and it is said that whomever controls Gibraltar controls all traffic in and out of the Mediterranean.

We then walked down to see the Moorish Castle (the above photo was taken along the way), wander about the downtown, and have a very late lunch (around 5pm) at a British pub.

We then walked back to our Beast, crossing Gibraltar’s airport runway (which is between the border and the rest of Gibraltar), survived narrow roads again, and after a terrifying (because of the driving issues) but succesful attempt to purchase breakfast supplies in the town of Coin, we got back to our villa, still in one piece.

Dinner was at the Bar Canario in Alozaina, where we had the only two meal options available – pork or rabbit with eggs and french fries. The fries were limp, but the eggs and meat were excellent. We had a bottle of Rioja (still a bit green, but a reasonable red table wine) to accompany the meal.

The plan for tomorrow is to visit Ronda and then drop off The Beast in Seville before checking into our hotel there.


Granada and The Alhambra

April 24th, 2008 at 3:09 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We arrived in Granada Tuesday night, and tried to take a taxi to our hotel, the Hotel Guadalupe. However the taxi driver we spoke to sent us back towards a bus (or so I thought – Linda later suggested he waved us to a different taxi stand).

The bus driver told us the closest stop to our hotel was Cathedral, so there we got off even though our GPS (love that gadget!) told us it was still a bit of a way off. Turns out our hotel was adjacent to the Alhambra, the old Moorish palace we had come to Granada to see. And the Alhambra is on top of a rather tall hill. To us it felt like a mountain. That’s because it was 11pm at night, we each our one piece of luggage and our carry-ons and had to lug all that and our sorry, tired selves up all the way.

It was a very pretty hike, but still unanticipated, and rather tiring. By the time we got to our hotel I had somehow ended up with three of the four pieces of luggage, and it was only thanks to our GPS (a battery-powered Garmin Nuvi 350) that we actually found our hotel, almost 2 miles away, all uphill.

We ultimately collapsed in our beds at 1:30am.

The next day, Wednesday (yesterday) was beautiful. After dining in the hotel restaurant we headed to the Alhambra – the entry gate was only a 5 minute walk away (all downhill), and we had wisely prepurchased/pre-reservered our tickets on-line otherwise we would probably have not gotten in – the line was huge and day-of tickets were in short supply. Next tip, get your physical tickets from your on-line ticket order at the automated kiosks to the far right of the purchase line.

With tickets in hand we spent the next six and a half hours tourings the Alhambra, including the Alcazaba (featured as the backdrop for the above photo), the palace of Emperor Charles V (Carlos V), the Nazarid Palace (your ticket provides a specific time of access and you cannot miss this part of the Alhambra – it is the most stunning and splendid!), and the Generalife.

We also had a late lunch during our visit at the restaurant at Hotel America, where, ironically, they don’t take American Express, but served excellent food included pheasant, hare, and garlic Gaszpacho.

While it involved a lot walking we were all pleased with our visit and found it to be very worthwhile, long uphill walk to our hotel notwithstanding.

After getting a taxi from our hotel to the train station, we picked up our rental vehicle. We had prepaid for a minivan (family vehicle). We got a Mercedes mini-van, which Europecar swore was a family vehicle because it could seat six people even though it was basically a retrofitted delivery van with no back window and bare metal floors. All for about $300/day not including the expensive insurance we declined. Ouch! And the vehicle handles like a donkey in heat (or at least how I imagine that would be).

With our wonderful GPS guiding our way, we drove for about two hours, finally going past the village of Alozaina and ending up at Finca Morelajo, a set of villas and apartments operated by Peter and Nice Lensvelt, old friends of ours from Bonaire who moved here to Andulusia six years ago to start this new business.

We had reserved a small villa for our two nights here and Peter put us into the Vincent villa, named after Vincent van Gogh, whose is (not the originals though) is featured throughout.

We spent the rest of the evening reminiscing and trading stories and rumors over a fine Rioja and food Nice whipped up for us.