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Yippee! We are off on another trip. Not an epic adventure somewhere far-flung or “exotic” (which winds Ness up when I say that), but a couple of weeks of R&R in Andalucia. The plan is to tour around the region a bit, get off the beaten track. The original plan had been for two weeks together with Mark and Elisa but with calendar confusion they ended up re-booking to come out a week later, and will return to the UK together with us. Ness had been very busy the past few days to get everything ready, while I was working as usual. This morning we were all set and made an early start. It felt like our usual Monday morning routine as we drove to the airport. The check-in was very smooth and the Flyglobespan flight very comfortable. I did some Chinese lessons (Linguaphone) on the flight – see back of my diary!

We had nice views of bits of the coast of France, with the cliffs and coves of Normandy or Brittany, and after a stretch over the water we came to the northern coast of Spain, with some dramatic mountains. Real mountains, not just hills that think they’re mountains! Spain’s interior was dry and yellow. Malaga airport was a little dated. At the Hertz desk we collected the keys for the hire car, which turned out to be a Mercedes C200, a bigger car than we had bargained on, a very comfortable “grand-dad” car. We fiddled with the navigation computer and set a route for Tarifa, following the coastal road (even if the car kept trying to get us to go on the toll motorway). Out of curiosity we drove into some of the resort towns – Fuengirola, Marbella? whatever – a sad sight of unchecked overdevelopment which has resulted in dense touristic developments and characterless strips of development all along this coast. We continued along the coast. Further along we saw the Rock of Gibraltar. At first it loomed in front of us like a mountain, then it was off to our left and in the foreground was the commercial town of La Linea, and beyond it the dramatic silhouette/profile of Gibraltar, which was far steeper than I had imagined, also due to the fact that it was surrounded by flat terrain and so stood out all the more.

Still further we passed the industrial town of Algeciras, which looked unendearing and ugly, and smelled of chemicals. A major centre for the African drugs trade according to Lonely Planet. Across the water, the Mediterranean that is, we could clearly see Africa in the not too distant distance. It was an unusual realisation to see how close Europe and Africa are at this point. The mountains of northern Morocco stood high and tall. On our shore meanwhile we were now driving through more scenic surroundings, on a coastal road high above the sea, heading for the Atlantic coast. On the ridges there were many wind turbines. Almost wherever you looked there were large groups of turbines. The landscape was arid, dry, scrubby. We descended on the other side of the ridge down towards the small town of Tarifa, which lies at the southernmost point of Europe. We drove into the centre, the “old town”, and had to circle around a few times before finding a spot to park the car.

The centre of Tarifa looked charming, a “typical” old town with touristic cafés and bars, of course, but with a slightly more hip and bohemian feeling to it. This was a surfers spot, not a sun-sea-sand type of place. Our hotel, the Posada La Sacristia, was set back from the main street along a narrow pedestrian alley and oozed trendiness and boutique charm, in a hip Lonely Planet global kind of way. Outside, along the main street, the cafés and bars were full of bikers, a Spanish bikers “meet”. And at the solid old church at the end of the street a wedding was in full swing, with lots of women dressed in colourful fiesta dresses, making for a very colourful and noisy spectacle. We checked in and hauled our trusty packs up the steep steps to the top floor where our room was, and then we headed downstairs to have a cooling beer in the hotel bar area, served in what we have since come to call Tarifa-style glasses, rather like whisky tumblers.

We changed into more summery clothes and went for a walk (and bought some tasty empanadas along the way) around Tarifa, around the characterful narrow streets of the old town, with their white-washed houses. We climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the harbour/port below and across the Mediterranean to Morocco. The tall mountain was lit up in the late afternoon sunlight. There was a fresh wind blowing from the east, the levante wind. Tarifa is a very windy place where the wind always blows, whether from the east – the levante – or from the west – the poniente wind. The levante felt clear and fresh. Below us we could see the catamaran ferry for Tangiers, and more bustle in the harbour. We walked on round, up to the spruced up ayuntamiento (next to it was a similar building which had been left to deteriorate and crumble). We remembered seeing the same shade of yellow used here to mark out window frames and more. The same shade was used in Lima and elsewhere in colonial Latin America. In front, a lovely square with palm trees, flowers, a gardener, and a group of drunks, one of them expansively waving his hands as he was explaining/talking.

We turned back into the streets and little plazas of the old town, across a lovely plaza with frogs squirting water as fountains, and generally meandered through until we came to a square on the edge of the old town where a small festival was in progress, with reggae music. Coming out of the old town we turned left and walked along the harbour and up to the point at the headland, where there was a small rocky promontory on which there was a closed off military area, with a very small sandy beach to our left. A surfer was flying across the water, going as fast as any surfer I’ve seen, and behind him was the harbour entrance and the Tarifa-Tangiers ferry. To our right, the Atlantic beaches stretched away, with low wooden palissades erected to stop the sand from overwhelming the roads and the town. We strolled to the plaque which said “southernmost point in Europe”, and there were two other signs, one for “Mediterranean”, the other for “Atlantic”.

From here we returned to the old town and “reggae square”. Along the way, kids playing war games on a ruined old building – from a distance it looked like men with real guns for a moment. There were several cafés and restaurants here (at “reggae square”) and we stopped at the first one for a drink. It was still too early for dinner and we still had to adjust our mental clocks to a different rhythm. We continued to stroll through the narrow streets, looking for a choice for dinner. We went back and forth a few times and eventually settled on one of the places at “reggae square” as they looked more lively and atmospheric. Ness had tasty fried fish, I had a less successful (for me) monkfish with cous-cous (lots of sultanas L) and followed by chocolate and maracuya mousse. As we were leaving, an older German man at a table next to ours asked us where we were from and I said “Holland” and he won his bet with his fellow diners.

To walk off a bit of dinner we strolled around town and up to the plaza in front of the ayuntamiento, in the hope of seeing the twinkling lights of Tangiers ahead of us, and the stars above us, but the sea mist and haze obscured all lights. We returned to the hotel and had showers before hitting the sack. Usual reflections on the odd sense of displacement, having started the day in one place and ending it somewhere very different, and already feeling as if we have been here for far longer than just half (not even!) a day. A promising start to the holiday!

20060417_P_0004
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Yippee! We are off on another trip. Not an epic adventure somewhere far-flung or “exotic” (which winds Ness up when I say that), but a couple of weeks of R&R in Andalucia. The plan is to tour around the region a bit, get off the beaten track. The original plan had been for two weeks together with Mark and Elisa but with calendar confusion they ended up re-booking to come out a week later, and will return to the UK together with us. Ness had been very busy the past few days to get everything ready, while I was working as usual. This morning we were all set and made an early start. It felt like our usual Monday morning routine as we drove to the airport. The check-in was very smooth and the Flyglobespan flight very comfortable. I did some Chinese lessons (Linguaphone) on the flight – see back of my diary!

We had nice views of bits of the coast of France, with the cliffs and coves of Normandy or Brittany, and after a stretch over the water we came to the northern coast of Spain, with some dramatic mountains. Real mountains, not just hills that think they’re mountains! Spain’s interior was dry and yellow. Malaga airport was a little dated. At the Hertz desk we collected the keys for the hire car, which turned out to be a Mercedes C200, a bigger car than we had bargained on, a very comfortable “grand-dad” car. We fiddled with the navigation computer and set a route for Tarifa, following the coastal road (even if the car kept trying to get us to go on the toll motorway). Out of curiosity we drove into some of the resort towns – Fuengirola, Marbella? whatever – a sad sight of unchecked overdevelopment which has resulted in dense touristic developments and characterless strips of development all along this coast. We continued along the coast. Further along we saw the Rock of Gibraltar. At first it loomed in front of us like a mountain, then it was off to our left and in the foreground was the commercial town of La Linea, and beyond it the dramatic silhouette/profile of Gibraltar, which was far steeper than I had imagined, also due to the fact that it was surrounded by flat terrain and so stood out all the more.

Still further we passed the industrial town of Algeciras, which looked unendearing and ugly, and smelled of chemicals. A major centre for the African drugs trade according to Lonely Planet. Across the water, the Mediterranean that is, we could clearly see Africa in the not too distant distance. It was an unusual realisation to see how close Europe and Africa are at this point. The mountains of northern Morocco stood high and tall. On our shore meanwhile we were now driving through more scenic surroundings, on a coastal road high above the sea, heading for the Atlantic coast. On the ridges there were many wind turbines. Almost wherever you looked there were large groups of turbines. The landscape was arid, dry, scrubby. We descended on the other side of the ridge down towards the small town of Tarifa, which lies at the southernmost point of Europe. We drove into the centre, the “old town”, and had to circle around a few times before finding a spot to park the car.

The centre of Tarifa looked charming, a “typical” old town with touristic cafés and bars, of course, but with a slightly more hip and bohemian feeling to it. This was a surfers spot, not a sun-sea-sand type of place. Our hotel, the Posada La Sacristia, was set back from the main street along a narrow pedestrian alley and oozed trendiness and boutique charm, in a hip Lonely Planet global kind of way. Outside, along the main street, the cafés and bars were full of bikers, a Spanish bikers “meet”. And at the solid old church at the end of the street a wedding was in full swing, with lots of women dressed in colourful fiesta dresses, making for a very colourful and noisy spectacle. We checked in and hauled our trusty packs up the steep steps to the top floor where our room was, and then we headed downstairs to have a cooling beer in the hotel bar area, served in what we have since come to call Tarifa-style glasses, rather like whisky tumblers.

We changed into more summery clothes and went for a walk (and bought some tasty empanadas along the way) around Tarifa, around the characterful narrow streets of the old town, with their white-washed houses. We climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the harbour/port below and across the Mediterranean to Morocco. The tall mountain was lit up in the late afternoon sunlight. There was a fresh wind blowing from the east, the levante wind. Tarifa is a very windy place where the wind always blows, whether from the east – the levante – or from the west – the poniente wind. The levante felt clear and fresh. Below us we could see the catamaran ferry for Tangiers, and more bustle in the harbour. We walked on round, up to the spruced up ayuntamiento (next to it was a similar building which had been left to deteriorate and crumble). We remembered seeing the same shade of yellow used here to mark out window frames and more. The same shade was used in Lima and elsewhere in colonial Latin America. In front, a lovely square with palm trees, flowers, a gardener, and a group of drunks, one of them expansively waving his hands as he was explaining/talking.

We turned back into the streets and little plazas of the old town, across a lovely plaza with frogs squirting water as fountains, and generally meandered through until we came to a square on the edge of the old town where a small festival was in progress, with reggae music. Coming out of the old town we turned left and walked along the harbour and up to the point at the headland, where there was a small rocky promontory on which there was a closed off military area, with a very small sandy beach to our left. A surfer was flying across the water, going as fast as any surfer I’ve seen, and behind him was the harbour entrance and the Tarifa-Tangiers ferry. To our right, the Atlantic beaches stretched away, with low wooden palissades erected to stop the sand from overwhelming the roads and the town. We strolled to the plaque which said “southernmost point in Europe”, and there were two other signs, one for “Mediterranean”, the other for “Atlantic”.

From here we returned to the old town and “reggae square”. Along the way, kids playing war games on a ruined old building – from a distance it looked like men with real guns for a moment. There were several cafés and restaurants here (at “reggae square”) and we stopped at the first one for a drink. It was still too early for dinner and we still had to adjust our mental clocks to a different rhythm. We continued to stroll through the narrow streets, looking for a choice for dinner. We went back and forth a few times and eventually settled on one of the places at “reggae square” as they looked more lively and atmospheric. Ness had tasty fried fish, I had a less successful (for me) monkfish with cous-cous (lots of sultanas L) and followed by chocolate and maracuya mousse. As we were leaving, an older German man at a table next to ours asked us where we were from and I said “Holland” and he won his bet with his fellow diners.

To walk off a bit of dinner we strolled around town and up to the plaza in front of the ayuntamiento, in the hope of seeing the twinkling lights of Tangiers ahead of us, and the stars above us, but the sea mist and haze obscured all lights. We returned to the hotel and had showers before hitting the sack. Usual reflections on the odd sense of displacement, having started the day in one place and ending it somewhere very different, and already feeling as if we have been here for far longer than just half (not even!) a day. A promising start to the holiday!

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A chilled start to the day and another tasty “continental” Andalucian breakfast. It was warm and sunny today. We had decided to visit Gibraltar today. It might be the obvious touristic thing to do but we reasoned that we would not really have a better opportunity to visit this quirky place than on this trip. We drove out of Tarifa and headed east, past Algeciras and on to La Linea, the Spanish town which lies at the other side of the “border”.

As we drove round Algeciras on the motorway, we got good views of the massive rock, “the Rock”, en profil. At La Linea we parked the Merc in an underground car park a short walking distance from the border. Lonely Planet warned against the Gibraltar traffic and we weren’t sure whether we could take the hire car out of Spain. There were other tourists doing the same. All looked like they were Brits. Crossing the border was a somewhat chaotic affair. Across the busy road, past a police checkpoint, past immigration (we were simply waved through) and then we were in Gibraltar, but we still had a bit of a way to go to the town centre. First we had to cross the runway – for the airport! The runway has been built “behind” the Rock, i.e. close to the landside and effectively cuts across the only road that leads in and out of Gibraltar.

We tried to figure out which bus to get into town but it was all rather chaotic and in the hurry we got on a hop-on/hop-off bus which we thought would let us jumpt off and on at the main points of interest. It slowly made its way into town. First we had to wait for the runway to be clear, which meant waiting for three Monarch flights to come and go, and then the bus made what seemed a rather circuitous tour of parts of Gibraltar, through densely packed streets. The whole place, the town at least, felt very tightly built up, with everything hemmed into a small space, and it reminded us of Hong Kong, or even more so of Singapore. There seemed to be no spare room anywhere. Lots of development was taking place, but on the whole the place felt rather grubby. Signs in English and familiar road traffic signs. This was neither Britain nor Spain but a different place of its own. It was hard to define but I was already glad that we had come here to see the place for ourselves.

After a meandering tour the bus stopped somewhere and everyone got off. We asked and then learned that we had to change and get a different bus to get to where we wanted to go, the cable car station. Advised by a local woman, we caught a number three bus, for free as all buses are free today for some reason (though not the hop-on/hop-off bus we had taken). We got to see a bit more of the town and got off at the cable car station and queued briefly to buy one-way tickets for the cable car and for the apes den on the rock. Gibraltar reminded us of Cape Town, with its high rock behind the city. The ride to the top was steep and quick, with views of the large natural harbour, at the opposite end of which lies Algeciras, opening up below us, and some obvious signs of the wealth here, such as the massive yachts in the marina.

The rock did look tall before we went up, especially the view “face on” as seen from the border crossing, but it was only now that we realised quite how high and sheer it really was! The book said 426 metres, but the dramatic ascent on the “sloping” side, and the even more dramatic sheer drops on the other, eastern, side made it appear taller. We got off at the top and entered the visitors centre. I had expected it not to be too flash and a bit on the tacky side – viz. Hong Kong, Cape Town, etc. – but this was a big disappointment. The concrete visitors centre which sat on top of the rock was dirty, poorly maintained, outdated, and generally a big sign of not being cared for. However, the views and dramatic impact of the place were still very impressive.

Wherever you looked there seemd to be the barbary apes, in all sizes, and they looked like they were up to all sorts of tricks. Signs warned tourists against touching the apes (they weren’t “monkeys”) and to be wary of loose items. We climbed to the viewing platform at the top, where you had the biggest impact of all. The platform sat perched right on top of the narrow ridge. On one side you looked down the green western side, which slopes “gradually” (by comparison), but on the other side there seemed to be noting below you but space, as the platform hung over the vertical drop. Off to the north you could see how the ridge continued up to the radar station at the far end.

We looked around for a while here and at the other viewing platforms and then went to the café where we had thought of spending some time to catch up on our diaries while sat here, high above everything, but the café was another big disappointment. The coffee machine was broken and the only things on offer were “fish and chips” and gluppy pasta bake. Instead we decided to carry on walking and started the descent along the road. There were lots of flies up here. It was good to walk along the road and paths that gradually led down along the western face. Outside it now reminded us of somewhere different again, of Malaysia. The plants looked different, more tropical and lush, and there was a mixture of scrubby thorny bushes along with vines and bromeliads and others. At the top there many more apes at various places, wherever people gathered, but along the path you tended not to see any. After a short walk we cam to St. Michael’s Cave, at a hairpin bend in the road. There was a shop and a café/bar here. The latter looked much more convivial, with lots of wood inside and a certain snugness, like a log cabin. There was a display hot stand on the counter with pies and sausage rolls, but fortunately there was also better food on offer and we each had a plate of tasty paella. Next we visited the caves. They weren’t massive, nothing like Aggtelek in Hungary or Han in Belgium, or even stunningly beautiful, but still worth a visit. We meandered around inside and sat for a few minutes in the seats in the “concert hall” inside the caves and listened to the music.

After St. Michael’s Cave we continued to follow the path, enjoying the walk, and at the northern end we stopped to visit the siege tunnels. These had been dug in the eighteenth century and their place in history has something to do with the War of the Spanish Succession … best look it up on wikipedia! At any rate, there was a siege here, the British besieged in/on the rock by the Spanish. The tunnels went deep inside, along the northern and eastern side. Inside there were gun emplacements. How they got these heavy things up here … ah, reminds me: the thick heavy rungs we saw in the road served for that purpose, for hauling the guns up the hill. There were puppets in period costume dotted in various places. We came back out of the tunnels and tried to remember some of the incredible statistics that had been mentioned. Ah, another thing – earlier on, there had been a story of a shepherd who had led a Spanish expedition to surprise the rock’s defenders by climbing up the easter – sheer! – side, an incredible feat. Back outside we continued our walk and stopped to visit the Siege Exhibition, which consisted of a few ruined old buildings with some puppets and sound effects and information panels which described the conditions on the rock during the siege. Further on again, back at the northern end, we came to the Moorish Tower. Before this we had passed some of the entrances to the houses that were dotted here and there on this side of the rock. They looked like little isolated cottages where retired majors would tend their gardens, roses, cacti (along the road) and look after birds. More memories of Malaysia, Bukt Fraser and so on. The Moorish Tower was the last of the sights on our way down. A solid squat heavy building, built to withstand besiegers and provide a place of hiding as a last resort, to wait until the reinforcements came. We went inside and climbed to the top. This was from an earlier period in Gibraltar’s history than we had so far learned about.

From here the road now led into the upper parts of town, with apartment blocks and generally feeling a little grubby. We followed the steps which led down into the centre of town, through the densely built up parts, and we stopped at a small pub, The Aragon, to have a Fanta Limón, and I took the opportunity to change some money for Gibraltar notes and coins. My Scottish notes weren’t very welcome! In the centre of town we now followed the main street, with its British stores – Next, M&S and so on – and some pretty balconies and houses. Further along the shops were more touristic, with cuddly apes and more. We decided to catch a bus to head for Europa Point, at the end of the peninsula, where we thought there was some monument to indicate the Pillars of Hercules. Just beyond the old city gates we waited for a while for the next bus, plagued by little flies, but a local woman said we would be better off walking to the next stop (the cable-car station) as all tourists would get off there (and easier for us to get on). We walked the couple of streets and waited for the bus opposite the ageing Queens Hotel. We didn’t have to wait for long and after a few stops we were the only passengers along with a few other tourists. We passed the large mosque at the far end of the peninsula, and got off at the last stop. There was nothing to here though, just some barren grounds, an abandoned café, a round square, and a few teenagers with souped up cars. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait very long for the next bus, and we returned all the way to the airport, where we got off.

Before re-crossing the border we made another pitstop in the small airport, had a drink and sausage roll while sat in the lounge on the upper floor, in the open air, so we could look at the Easyjet flight boarding not far from us, and wrote postcards which we posted just outside and then walked back into Spain and La Linea. We were pretty knackered from all the walking and headed straight back to Tarifa from here. Back in Tarifa it was no surprise that there was something else going on at the church again. We climbed the steep steps up to our floor and showered and freshened up before going out for dinner. We had thought of the place round the back of the hotel but it was full, and instead we went for the restaurant across from the church, which was a good choice. Convivial inside, with a mixture of tourists and locals dining. We had a good meal, tried an unusual type of fish, not sure what it was. Lots of olive oil in the cooking! Back at our hotel a birthday party was in full swing, and pretty loud too, but we were so tired that we both nodded off promptly!

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A chilled start to the day. We headed downstairs for breakfast, again not the only couple in the breakfast/lounge area. It was that kind of place, for couples to enjoy a break away in comfortably trendy/hip surroundings. Very “boutique”. Outside it was raining gently, and had been during the the night, and everything felt fresh and clear. As usual the doors and windows were open, letting in the clear morning air. We sat by one of the doors/windows, with a bonsai tree dressing up the opening, and after breakfast we spent a little bit of time writing our diaries. Outside there was the occasional passer-by. Very chilled. We packed up and checked out and by eleven o’clock we were ready to leave Tarifa.

Ness helped a British couple we had met in the car park. Our Spanish may not be fluent but it was lot more advanced that most tourists’ and even simple explanations, such as those given by the car park attendant, can be too much for those whose Spanish isn’t up to it.

Soon after leaving Tarifa and climbing the cliffs along the coast towards the east we entered thick grey mist and clouds. It was pretty dreary weather which did not improve for the rest of the day as we drove to Capileira, in the Alpujarras. We passed Algeciras, Gibraltar and then the long strip of touristic developments along the south coast. Mile after mile of built up areas, full of “resorts”, apartments, hotels, etc. Not much else to say about this. The cruise control was on and we whizzed by.

Finally, a long way after Malaga, the touristic development became less intensive, though still sprawling. The coast was rocky with steep descents down to the waterline and various inlets. Small towns and constructions of apartments clung to the rocks and spread wherever there was a bit of space. In a way this stretch reminded us of the Italian coast around Genoa, especially as the main road we were following stayed high above the coast and we crossed many viaducts and tunnels in the rocks. The weather stayed overcast, grey, wet and dull. To our left were the mountains of the interior but they remained mostly hidden from view by the low clouds. We stopped to refuel at some point along the coast and swapped driving.

After following the coastal road for a little longer we turned off, north, inland, around Motril. At first, and for a long stretch, the road was smooth, modern and wide, but further inland it stopped – the rest of the modern road was still in construction – and we were back on the older road as it climbed into the hills and mountains. The countryside around here was empty and visibility was poor, so we didn’t get grand views of the Sierra Nevada as we headed towards the mountains. The sat nav showed the roads ahead beginning to curve more and more, especially beyond Orgíva, a rather scruffy town in the low hills. Beyond Orgíva the roads twisted more and the surroundings were more hilly and mountainous. With the low clouds and thick mist it made for a rather mysterious, atmospheric, erm… well, it was. We stopped at a cave and hut for picture and swapped driving again.

Around four o’clock we reached a roadside café which looked appealling and made a stop for lunch. Inside it was a traditional Spanish inn, with dark wood and a long counter, and a rather bemused looking barkeep. Outside signs had proclaimed “we speak …” in at least ten different languages, but don’t believe it! The menu was full of typical Alpujarran cooking, i.e. meat and potatoes and cheese, hearty mountain fare. We ordered longaniza (delicious fried sausage), patates a lo pobre (potatoes with onions and peppers) and mejillones a la Gallega. I had no idea but we looked it up … mussels, great for me, not so good for Ness. The dishes were enormous. We had the first two and hoped that he had forgotten about the mejillones but then he turned with a large oval serving dish full of mussels, shelled and in a rich tomato sauce. Ness helped me to make a decent dent in the massive dish. We have never eaten so many mussels in one sitting, but they were very tasty, in a delicious sauce.

We continued to head further into the mountains, passing first through Pampaneira, which looked very “typical” and had lots of tourism – restaurants, shops, apartments, etc. It looked very, erm, typical. In the thick cloud we couldn’t really get a feeling for our surroundings, but we guessed that by now we were well into the lower hills of the Sierra Nevada. We followed the twisting winding road and reached the small village of Capileira a little later. It felt like our trip up to Darjeeling, driving up to a place in the clouds. These actually were clouds, not just mist. We drove through the main street of the village as it curved its way up, with the whitewashed houses on either side, stacked up along the hillside. Our hotel, the Finca Los Llanos, was at the top of the village and had a great rustic mountain atmosphere, even if it did seem to be set up to welcome large groups, including Thomson/TUI as a poster in the reception announced. The lady at reception was English. We had a room at the front, with great views over the village and the valley below, and swapped it for an even better one on the next floor up. At the moment though the view was mostly of thick dense cloud and not much else! We had parked the Merc just by the gates on a steep slope and nearby you could hear the running water coursing through the open channels (acequias).

We sauntered into the village for a look around. There were many restaurants, all advertising typical cuisine and asados. From Artesania Tarek I bought a fine walking stick with a big knob at the top. We wandered through the narrow little streets of the village, which was like a wonderful little maze. We found a small plaza, Plaza del …, with a nice bar at the top, Bar El Tilo (named after the tree in front of the building) and stopped for a drink. The clouds pervaded the whole atmosphere of the town and as it gradually got darker the atmosphere became “gloomier” (in a nice sense). We spotted the odd group of hikers with their Berghaus gear, or more ordinary turistas as they sauntered around. After a drink here we carried on mooching and later stopped at another bar, this one more for the locals and with mostly just standing room, and we had a glass of the local tipple, costa, which rather tastes like some kind of light watered-down version of sherry. We got free tapas, as is the traditional custom, of bread and salami – or maybe we inadvertently helped ourselves to someone else’s by mistake. We found a third bar on the main street, and this one was more comfortable for lingering and we stayed here for a long while, drinking more costas and getting very good free tapas all night. At the end we had to climb the main street back up to our hotel, feeling very comfortable and satisfied, salud!

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The beds were very comfortable and combined with the fresh mountain air meant that we had a very good night’s sleep and enjoyed a bit of a lie-in, scandalous behaviour on our holiday! After breakfast we returned to our room and got ourselves ready to go for a walk. My North Face trousers felt very tight! We had been marking pages in the “Walk! The Alpujarras” book by Charles Davis and differed a little on choice of walks but we settled on an easy/moderate walk for today (walk no.17, to La Cebadilla).

The forecast the hotel receptionist gave us yesterday was for decent weather today, turning cloudy and wet again from Thursday on. Having picked the walk, I now spent a few minutes carefully entering the waypoints in my GPS. It was a sunny day, with clouds hanging in the valley lower down, below us. We now got our first proper impressions of the pretty village. We walked into the centre of the village and found a small supermercado to buy some ingredients for a picnic lunch (bread, local cheese, sausage/longaniza, a tasty pepper, water and some biscuits). We weren’t the only tourists or hikers and bumped into a group of Dutch women doing the same, although with less success at Spanish than we had. They were most impressed by my near-fluent questioning as to which of the cheeses was the strongest. Then we started our walk.

First we had to find the starting point on the edge of the village, which we did easily enough, by chance more than by map-reading! The path started to climb quite steadily along the sides of the valley as we made our way out of the village and through the scenic fields and trees. We started to sweat quite quickly, especially as the sun was still out. Early on in the walk we came across a local man leading two donkeys back to the village. I noticed that my GPS wasn’t showing us as being anywhere near any of the waypoints I had so carefully entered, and then realised that I had entered a set for a different walk altogether. Ness said she had been wondering why I was keying in a set of numbers for a totally different walk but had assumed that I knew what I was doing! Since we were going to rely quite a bit on this information, we spent the next couple of minutes re-entering the correct coordinates and then continued.

Coming back our way was an older couple, who we asked to take a picture of us together. We heard the Scottish accent and learned they came from Dumfries. We settled into the rhythm of the walk and it was a pleasure to be walking in these surroundings. We were still at relatively low altitude, not really in dramatic mountain scenery but in more pleasant woodlands and sun-dappled fields. We climbed further and further into the valley and it became more wooded, pines etc., and rocky. We turned onto a wide track or path and continued to head north. All around us were lovely woodland scents of pine and more. The clouds parted now and then to leave gaps through which we could see the clear blue sky. The air was lovely and fresh and it felt great to get lungfuls of mountain air. At some point the path started to descend as it made its way to the far end of the valley, to La Cebadilla, where there now was a small power station.

At this point we had to start heading back, following a path which climbed back up along the other side of the valley, the western side. This track was much narrower than the one before which was more like a small road. La Cebadilla itself consisted of a collection of abandoned buildings and houses. A small picturesque church, not much larger than a chapel, was a sad sight inside as it had been thoroughly vandalised. The track back climbed quite steeply, with some dramatic views across the edges of the corners as the path turned out of sight, and we worked up quite a sweat as we puffed our way up and up. Heading this way we of course got to see the valley ahead of us and the views were all the better, with the fields, the old stone cottages and the typical grain threshing circles. We bumped into several Dutch people, including one group of twenty or so which included the two women we had seen in the supermercado earlier on. They were all puffing and sweating away. After our steep climb up it was now mostly a gentle downhill for most of the way, on a path through the trees and fields. We descended down to the river at the centre of the valley, where there was a recommended picnic spot on the rocks by the river under the poplars. Sounded idyllic, but when we got there the best spot, a large flat rock by the bridge, had already been taken by two locals who looked comfortably settled, and it was a bit too hard to clamber over the rocks on the other side to reach the spot the author of the walks book had suggested. Instead we faffed a bit over where to sit and eventually settled on the wall of the bridge. We had our picnic lunch but were bothered by pesky flies. Not quite as idyllic as the surroundings might have suggested. Still, it was a nice break and much needed before we tackled the climb back up on the other, eastern, side of the valley towards Capileira.

Across the bridge, Puente Buchile, the rocky path now climbed steeply, with quite sharp drops to our right, and I had to think of Barry and his vertigo. I was ok with it, but at one point I did rather hug the inside of the path! Ahead of us we had stunning views over the valley, with its green trees, including poplars and looked to me like cypresses, as well as chestnut trees, with their bright green chestnut balls (like baubles in a Christmas tree) against the yellow/brown of the fields, and the sun dappling the scenery between the clouds. On the way up we were passed by a group of four mountain bikers (walking!) We continued to climb all the way up to the village, Capileira, and had to ask for some help from a local woman for directions to the Plaza, the one with the Bar El Tilo, and she was helped out by the two locals who we had seen by the bridge earlier, and who had caught up with us now, and who led the way for us through the maze of twisting streets. At the bar we had some very welcome beers! We were both very sweaty and we quickly headed for showers at the hotel next, and felt greatly refreshed afterwards.

From our hotel room balcony we had stunning views over the valley, now withouth clouds (which still lingered but lower down now, and they seemed to come and go, as if the earth was breathing in and out). We spent some time writing our diaries. Later (by now our body clocks have adapted to having dinner at a later time!) we went back out for dinner. We couldn’t quite decide which of the many places to go for but one near our hotel at the top of town, Ruta de las Nieves, looked very convivial and the upstairs room with its dark wood and peppers hung to dry (many freshly hung) looked spot on, and so was the hearty food. Ness had an excellent rabbit stew, conejo …, and I had a portion of espinacas (spinach) and asparagus with a fried egg, and the plato alpujarreño, which had a bit of everything: morcilla – very tasty black pudding but unlike the British variety in texture, longaniza, pork belly, etc. Very filling and very satisfying. We finished it off with delicious home-made ice-cream (with honey!) and then toddled up the hill and into bed!

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We had the alarm set for an earlier start today but we were both so snug in bed (cuddled up with N & J respecively) that we still had a nice lie-in before finally making it up and out and down to breakfast. The forecast had been for worse weather again but it looked perfectly serviceable, white clouds lying in the valley lower down but otherwise looking very good walking weather. We tried to pick a walk from the book. After breakfast, when I brought down a bag of laundry, I asked at reception for some tips for a walk. The English receptionist was very quick to suggest a walk higher up in the valley and she described the route, and I bought a more detailed map of the Alpujarras and Siera Nevada from her. Back in our room we quickly established that this more or less corresponded with walk number 22 in our guidebook, a challenging (“off the scale”) itinerary, first up to a refugio and then on up to the tallest mountain on the Spanish mainland, Mulhacén (3,479 metres), although the full climb of the mountain was not quite in the scope of the walk (but need to check). The receptionist had described it as an easy walk, in high mountain territory, after an initial climb up through pine forest. I spent a bit of time entering the waypoints in the GPS while Ness went to the supermercado in the village to get the ingredients for a picnic. The clouds were close to the town, lying in the valley, but they weren’t enveloping it and there as plenty of sunshine around.

We drove to the start of the walk, which was further on up the valley and hills, first following the potholed tarmac road out of the village as it climbed and snaked its way up and up until it eventually turned into a gravel track which passed through pine forest. We really thought we had got far away from it all, until we came to the small clearing where there was a barrier and guard hut, inside the Sierra Nevada national, and where four or five other cars were parked. We put our walking boots on and shouldered our packs and set off.

It was already around noon but we had plenty of time left for a good walk and the sun was now shining beautifully. Combined with the coolness of the weekly clouds it made for perfect walking conditions. The first part was through lovely pine forest, snaking our way uphill along the narrow path which became steeper further up the hill and also more varied with some other types of trees and plants. It was a delight to walk. Ness did find it quite hard going but we were both looking forward to a nice long flat stretch after this. We continued to climb until the forest thinned out and the hill started to level off … though not entirely! Beneath us, in the valley below, we could see the clouds. Around us was a delicate scent of pines.

Out of the forest and above the clouds, we now followed the path further up the valley. On either side of us the valley was still covered with trees. The path was more level and we could walk more easily with good strides. We passed some bemused cows and I hurried Ness along just as she wanted to stop to catch her breath as I was worried about a bull being around. We had plenty of water with us and drank lots to keep replenishing all the liquid we were losing through sweat. The further and higher we went, the wilder, more open and more mountainous the scenery became. The waypoints were very accurate, down to a few metres. Eventually the territory was much more like Scottish hills, with grasses and similar kinds of flora, and rocks. The long “flat” stretch turned out to still be uphill, though not so dramatically. It was pretty tough going though, and Ness had to battle to keep going. Fortunately her stubborn side won and she kept her spirits from flagging. The surroundings were simply stunning and we were really enjoying this walk.

Earlier we had been passed by two British men who were headed all the way to the Poqueira refugio, which they wanted to reach before the kitchen closed at three o’clock according to their (and our) information. We also decided to try and reach the refugio – so far we had only been aiming for “waypoint 6” but the refugio was not very much further on … we thought. The stretch up to waypoint 6 was the longest and toughest. Although it was only a gradual climb it was very long. Waypoint 6 was the highest point of our walk, at 2,608 metres, only marked by a fork in the path and a post. We took the path down from here, leading to the refugio, still a good two kilometres and we didn’t think we would make it by three o’clock. Also, the long downhill stretch meant we would have to face the steep uphill on the way back! Both our walking sticks did good service. We got to the large refugio around twenty past three. Inside it looked dark and closed at first but then we found the main room, where our two Brits from earlier were sat tucking into pasta. The place was full of atmosphere, a proper mountain refugio. There was a small counter at a door and a woman turned up … and my face must have just lit up when she explained that the kitchen was still open, “after all, I’m here!” Excellent. We both ordered the daily menu, pasta carbonara, but we said no to the hamburguesas, but changed our minds when we saw the delicious bowl of hot stew that came out for the two Brits, and then asked for a portion too. We spent a nice bit of time enjoying our lunch, resting our legs and recovering a bit. On the way here the clouds had been coming and going. Before leaving the refugio we both took a look around the rooms. There were about ten different rooms, each one full of bunk beds stacked close together, rather in the same way as we had seen in pictures and in the concentration camps of Poland. Just try to imagine these rooms full of sweaty socks and walkers! But they were empty at the moment and no-one was staying here.

We set off again at around four o’clock and tackled the climb back up to waypoint 6. Now the clouds had come in and totally enveloped us. From waypoint 6 on it was all downhill, all the way, and a sheer delight to walk. It did feel “level” now! The clouds pulled back from time to time and we had great views over the realy mountains all around us. Most of the time we were in clouds though. We made good progress on the way back, back into the forested section, and we could hear the cowbells lower down in the valley. The final section, through the pine forest, was now in clouds, which created a hushed atmosphere, the “haunted woods”! It was quite a contrast to the sunny weather we had on the way up. We finally got back to the car a bit after seven o’clock, having completed the fifteen kilometre round trip.

We both felt bloody good, knackered and proud of ourselves. It had been exactly the sort of walking I had been hoping we would do here. We drove back to Capileira, the sat nav display showing the twisty winding road ahead of us. At the hotel, after negotiating the final climb up the stairs to our room, we showered and refreshed, and then went out for dinner. We picked a convivial looking place along the main street, with a group of locals huddled at the bar at the back. The menu held promise of tasty local dishes but it wasn’t quite as good as yesterday’s. I had “roast kid” (i.e. goat!) but it came with standard “fries” and nothing else, and Ness had a slightly more successful prensa (shoulder). Then we headed back to our hotel room – last climb of the day – and collapsed in our snug beds. A fantastic day!

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After such an excellent day yesterday it was going to be a tough act to follow today but we both felt up for another good walk, preferably a somewhat easier one. We enjoyed a bit of a lie-in in our snug beds and I still had snuffles and poppped some more Ibuprofen (lingering signs of a cold these days but it has yet to appear). After breakfast we tried to plan another walk and figured the helpful lady at reception might be able to advise, but there was only a Spanish-speaking receptionist who did not come across as the outdoor enthusiast type, so we had to rely on our own book. We went back to our room, picked a walk, a more gentle one through the lower parts of the Alpujarras, starting at Busquista, in the next valley along. We spent a few minutes entering the waypoints in the GPS while sat on our balcony looking our over the village, valley and clouds, and Ness did a supermercado run. Then we set off for Busquista, a drive first down from Capileira and then “across” (east).

The next villages still looked picturesque because of their setting but not as “chocolate box” as Capileira, the most touristic of them all, which was quite understandable for all its scenery and setting. We pulled into Busquista, parked and pondered for a couple of minutes before both coming to the conclusion that this wasn’t quite the walk (starting point) we had in mind. Busquista looked much more “ordinary”, with shops, streets, houses. It also had a view over the valley below and the brown mountains across to the south, but nowhere as grand. As we both did feel a little more in the mood for mooching and exploring than a grand mountain adventure we decided instead to pick a walk around Trevélez, the town at the far end of the valley, and spent time putting the new set of waypoints in the GPS and then drove on to Trevélez. It all felt much more “normal” here, still a very enviable quality of life but also seeing that without the tourism life here was in essence one of rural quality. After meandering along the valley road for half an hour we reached Trevélez, which at first looked like a bigger town but that was only because it lay stretched on the side of the valley. It was definitely larger than Capileira. We parked on the central square, which was surrounded by tourist shops with rugs, plates, wicker things and especially with jamones, hams, the local speciality. It looked all set up to receive groups of tour buses but while we were there there were only a few other turistas around. We took a bit of a look around, popped into a supermercado to buy some deodorant for Ness, and sat at one of the cafés on the square where we had a cofee and ice tea (ordered by mistake).

We left Trevélez and drove back to Capileira, heading back up into the high valley. Staying in a place such as Capileira, or for that matter Darjeeling, you live high above the rest of the world, which feels so remote as to barely exist. It is only when you come down that you realise that this other world still exists. Anyway, for now we headed back up to our village in the clouds. At Trevélez we had picked another walk, a “figure of eight” route around Capileira but when we got back we just felt like a bit of relaxation and returned to our hotel room. All day it had been very cloudy again, although the clouds did lift from time to time. We had our picnic lunch sat on our balcony and then Ness went to have a kip for about an hour while I sat on the balcony and wrote my diary.

After this we went out for another walk around Capileira, just strolling through the little streets of the picturesque village. We generally headed downwards, following the steep curving narrow streets and steps, and just following wherever our noses went. The village proper, away from the touristic main streets, was incredibly picturesque, with its whitewashed buildings and abundance of plants, red geraniums, grapevines trailing down and shaped into overhanging roofs for balconies. There was no shortage of surprising angles. Around each corner there was another bend and decorative black street lamps. We carried on down to the bottom of the village, which felt a long way away from the touristic restaurants. From here it was a slow climb back up to the top of the village. I was glad we had done this. Without taking a stroll through the rest of the village you would have had a very one-sided impression of Capileira. Having said that, it did still feel like a place where people owned houses they either only occupied while visiting on vacation or rented out, and not like a totally genuine village. It did though have its own school and all the rest of it. Charmant. While we were out the sun had come out and lit up the colours of the village – the white walls, the red flowers and green plants. We ended up back at the square where bar El Tilo was, and sat on the terrace and had a costa – local drink – and briefly spoke with a trio of British women who had somehow managed to acquire a following of a pack of three rather vicious dogs who followed them when they set off to continue their hike. We crossed to the main street, on the lookout for a place to write our diaries and settled at a café on the upper level of a building on the high street, where we had coffee and excellent ice cream, and wrote for some time. We watched the comings and goings on the high street – tourists and hikers, the bus coming and going, the odd car trundling up. Finally we returned to our hotel and the clouds had now started to roll into the village.

At times the whole place was completely enveloped in the cold haze and mist of clouds. An odd sensation to realise that we were actually right inside the clouds themselves. The temperature dropped quite drastically as soon as the clouds rolled in. We headed uphill a bit to check out the places there as potential choices for dinner and went into the smart-looking Casa Paco, which had nice gardens and a feeling of being a “cut above”. Poking my head inside at first I thought we had walked into the private family part of the house but we were ushered in and shown to the small room at the back, a convivial room, overlooking the valley – well, if the clouds had not obscured all views! A bit of confusion as to whether we were staying for just a drink (we were after a place to write diaries for a while before going for dinner) or for dinner, and we settled on the latter as it was quite clear that this was what was required of us. Dinner was tasty, ok, not superb – I had migas: bread crumbs and olive oil with sausage etc. and Ness had a somewhat more successful prensa (again) with patates a lo pobre, and for desert Ness had cold custard and I had a big piece of cheesecake from “Iceland”, i.e. from a packet, yuck. Never mind, it was a nice evening. It was just a shame that we were the only ones in the restaurant for the entire time we were there. It did have the advantage of a walk downhill back to our hotel, still in the thick clouds which totally enveloped Capileira.

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In the morning neither of us felt like we had really slept, just for short fits. But on the positive side, the weather had cleared up and it looked like a nice bright sunny day. We managed to make the early start we had agreed and after breakfast we set off for the Alhambra. This involved a walk uphill, from behind the hotel. First we had to go to the ticket office to collect our tickets. Along the way we came across many houses and walls decorated with graffiti art, not the usual squiggles but more imaginative illustrations. I took some pictures. When we started to climb we both quickly started to sweat and wishing we had gone for our backpacker gear instead of the more ordinary sightseeing clothes. Mark and Elisa of course felt the hill and heat much less than us. Still, it was good to walk in the warm summery weather.

At the top the road led through tree-lined avenues. We were a little dismayed to see a no. 23 bus trundle past us on the way up, ah well. Even though we had set off quite early there was already a long queue for the tickets, but no-one in the queue for pre-booked tickets. Good move by us! We collected our tickets and paid for audio guides, except for Elisa who preferred to just mooch. I grabbed a quick coffee from a little kiosk near the ticket office, and on the radio a track of La Dolce Vita was being played. It just stuck in my mind but I could not remember who sang it. It was a bit of 80’s europop. (Ryan Paris, 1983!)

Now we walked through the gardens towards the other end of the Alhambra, to the Palacio Navarro (?). The Alhambra is basically a collection of buildings, palaces, fortress, houses, gardens, all set on a hill which overlooks the rest of the city. The Muslim rulers had their residences and palaces here, in the fresh air and greenery above the busy city below. They built a world of elegant courtyards, waterponds and balconies, ornate reception halls, and they loved their peaceful gardens too.

A visit to the Alhambra now basically involves getting a timed ticket to the visit the main palace and before/after this you are free to wander around and visit the other parts at your leisure. We had gone for half past nine entrance and made our way to the palace. We passed through the avenues lined with hedges, on either side of which were visible the excavated parts of the medina, the old city, the merchants quarters, etc. There was also a smart four star hotel on the top here, very convenient for the Alhambra itself but a bit out of the way for city sightseeing and going out. The tall box hedges had been trimmed and arches were cut in them which provided views and access.

We joined the small queue at the main square outside the palace, with its orange trees providing greenery and softness. At this square there were also the other principal buildings, the Alcazar (fortress) with its square towers and tall walls, and the Palace of Carlos V, in the European Renaissance style. From here you could already get a view of the traditional Albayzin quarter below and opposite us. We did not have to wait for long and then entered the palace which consisted of a sequence of interlinked courtyards, with square waterponds, walkways and various rooms, with colourful and stylish tiled decorations, and highly ornamental archways and ceilings, and lots of delicate pillars. We slowly made our way through as we listened to the audio commentary and me snapping away. It was very impressive and with a bit of imagination you could picture the rooms with the exotically dressed oriental characters, the exotic smells and fragrances, etc. What let it down was the large number of tourists with their audio guides, which was hard to imagine away, and the fact that a lot of colour of the ceiling decorations had disappeared, leaving only traces of the many colours and gold leaf that must once have covered these halls.

Ah, yes, just remember … as we came up here Ness and I commented to each other that this reminded us of the Wawel in Krakow, in that this too was a hill full of palaces, churches and important buildings situated above the city. And another thing, the Italianate influence which was clear on many of the later, much more recent, buildings with sgraffito decorations. Back to the tour – I was listening to my audio guide in Flemish Dutch and this quoted in many parts from the American author Washington Irving who in the early nineteenth century had lived in the, then largely abandoned, palace. Looking at the palace it actually made less of an impression on us than we had been expecting, but I think we were confusing it with Córdoba’s Mezquita (later). The commentary did its best to fill in the missing bits, to romanticise the palace and call up the “Muslimanic” (my word) period. You actually had two leaps to make. First there was the author desribing the place as it was in the 1820’s, an abandoned place fallen into ruins and inhabited by no-one but perhaps some poor families. Perfect territory for a dreaming writer. Washington Irving then tried to describe how he imagined the place must have been at its height, with courtesans reposing on balconies, etc. Unfortunately the descriptions (maybe it was the Dutch translation?) did not quite evoke the atmosphere.

Anyway, we continued our leisurely tour of the Palace which ended with a series of “watered walks”, erm, a series of steps with water running in channels in the top of the “arms” on either side. We played a version of pooh sticks with a green leaf in one arm and a brown leaf in the other arm. Exotic kinds of trees, plants and fruit. After visiting the Palace Navarro (?) we emerged back on the main square. There was a little stand in the middle of the square. The only thing it really sold was Amstel beer. It was here that I noticed that quite a few of the pictures I had taken inside the Alhambra were displayed as “?” or “cannot display image” on my camera and I suspected a dodgy memory card. B*mmer, just when we had visited one of the highlights of Andalucia, if not of Spain as a whole. I swapped the card for the one in Nessie’s little camera and at least could carry on with that, but some nice pictures were probably lost (confirmed later, on our return to the UK).

Now we went on to visit the Alcazaba (or Alcazar?), the fortres with its heavy square towers, and inside it remained the ruins of the narrow streets of the merchant streets and shops. Good views of the Albayzin (as there had been in the palace) which made for a pretty scene, with the closely packed white buildings spread over the opposite hillside, the odd cypress here and there, red roofs. A scene for a painter. After the Alc… we visited the curious palace built and named after Carlos V, aka “Karel de Vijfde”. It was square on the outside but with a circular courtyard on the inside. The Renaissance architects loved these types of symmetries and shapes. Hard to get a picture of though! The top floor of the palace held a museum of art with a very good collection of paintings that related to Granada. I remember a few that really stood out, such as “the friends of the artist”, a collection of smart and very “typical” gentlemen.

Finally, we made our way back to the other end of the Alhambra hill to visit the Generalife, the gardens which were spread out over a large area, another area of delights and peaceful paths, fountains, etc. We saw lots of the curious flowers that had been in Nessie’s birthday bouquet (see picture – name?). Anyway, to sum up, the whole Alhambra hill had been a superb and unique place to see. Also made me realise how different Spain’s early medieval history had been compared to the rest of Europe, well, the bit I tend to think of. While the Dark Ages period in the rest of Europe was one of I imagine a rather rudimentary life of peasants and warlords, here there was a flourishing culture of arts and science, enlightened by comparison I reckoned.

Ness and I had been taking our time over the visit, and Mark too was following the audio guide and taking it all in, but Elisa seemed rather bored or indifferent to it. We returned the audio guides and by now there was a much longer queue at the ticket office, so we were very glad that we had booked ahead and done it early in the day. We walked back down the tree-covered hill and came out on the Plaza Nueva, which is at one end of the Albayzin area. We found a nice bodega for lunch. While there were many tourist it also seemed to be very popular with the locals, always a good sign! We had a table at the back and ordered some food to share. After lunch we walked back to the hotel where we took a break from all the walking and had a snooze for a while. I think Mark and Elisa went for a run. Elisa has committed to running a half marathon and needs to get into shape.

On the way back to the hotel we had noticed that chairs were being set up along the road and by asking the man who was arranging them we learned that there was to be a procession at six o’clock today. We left the hotel in time to go and watch it (Mark and Elisa stayed in the hotel though). On the busy main street, with a central pedestrian bit between the trees, like the “rambla”, there were hundreds, no, thousands of people. Nothing was happening yet but they were all waiting for something. For us the main spectacle was not the procession itself, whenever that would be, but the crowds of Spaniards and the atmosphere. We hovered near the big church and after a while we saw and heard the first of a number of bands which formed the bulk of the procession.

Well, as it turned out, we learned by asking one of the medallioned gentlemen who seemed to have some role, the procession itself never actually took place as the madonna would not be carried out of the church for fear of rain later on. Instead people tried to pile into the church to get a glimpse. We watched some of the bands and then slowly made our way up to the Plaza Bib Rambla, where we had arranged to meet up with Mark and Elisa later on. We found a nice café and wrote our diaries for a while and had some coffees and vino. Mark and Elisa came over later on and we carried on to the Plaza Nueva where we found a nice restaurant for dinner. A bit touristic, I remember the bull’s head above the kitchen door, but oodles of charm and very tasty food! We wrapped up the evening with a drink back at the café “by the rotunda”, near our hotel, sat on the covered terrace outside. An excellent day!

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