Ambling through Andalucia

By | May 17, 2016

DSCN6399We left Seville on a lovely Sunday morning, heading South to take a look at the old port of Cadiz, from where so many Spanish journeys began, including the huge Spanish Armada which sailed in the late 1500s with the intent of invading England and providing them, amongst other things,  with a lesson in response to the despatch of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots.  For some time prior to this the Spanish had also been very miffed that privateers like Sir Francis Drake had been harrying their galleons returning from the ‘New World’ and relieving them of many of their valuable cargoes.

Word of the build up of the armada clearly reached Drake’s ears and he launched a bold raid on the harbour of Cadiz in 1587 in which he managed to destroy almost forty ships and, very tellingly, destroyed a huge number of wooden barrels and barrel staves for making barrels. Barrels were critical for storing salted meat and other foods as well as water. The result of this was that when the armada finally sailed in 1588 their supplies were in inferior barrels with unseasoned timbers which rotted and made rations spoil. Along with some other rather bad luck and some clever tactics from Drake and his ships, the Armada never achieved anything close to its objectives and ended up having to sail North of Scotland and limp home via Ireland, with many ships being wrecked and the survivors killed.

ORIANA_8Cadiz now plays host to cruise ships and flocks of tourists.  The P&O’s latest incarnation of the ‘Oriana’ lay alongside, getting into the swing of the upcoming summer cruising season.

We turned further to the South and headed for Gibraltar; still in British hands and still an amazing sight as one of the original ‘pillars of Hercules’ or as the place which has held such strategic significance for the entrance to the Mediterranean since the times of the Phoenicians.

DSCN6412The Rock of Gibraltar towers above the surrounding landscape and, after crossing the British frontier checkpoint we circle the rock; driving through tunnels in two places, excavated through the solid limestone.  Within the rock there are over 55 kilometres of tunnels of varying sizes; up to the ‘Great North Road,’ driven by British engineers during World War 2 to be large enough to drive lorries full of equipment and supplies from one end of the rock to the other.

After an unexpected queue to get back into Spain, we set the GPS on a course for our next AirBnB overnight accommodation at Benalmadena, near Malaga on the Costa del Sol.  We pass through 3 different toll points and are grateful that the Spanish tollroads still have a couple of lanes available where it’s possible to pay the toll with a credit card and be on our way. As we get nearer to our destination we are directed from the Autovia, or motorway, down a maze of small roads reminiscent of the Amalfi coast in Italy with holiday villas lining the hillsides in white and terracotta, and golf resorts taking up any space left over.

DSCN6413We find our apartment for the night and enjoy the great view back down the coast; the sea clear and fresh in the afternoon sun.

Down by the beach a group of Brits is celebrating a wedding and other bars and restaurants provide a spot for a quiet drink at the end of a long day’s driving. We climb back up to the main road past a huge hotel full of other Europeans getting in early for the summer package season and find a restaurant where we are able to enjoy a nice meal and the unusual opportunity to watch the final of the Eurovision song contest without getting up at some silly hour. The twitter stream keeps us amused, especially with the converted maps of the world demonstrating that Australia really is part of Europe.

DSCN6437Monday morning provides us with a chance to walk down by the beach where pebbles glisten and people rake and ready the sun-lounges for the day ahead.

Lynette can’t resist a paddle and collecting a few memento pebbles. We find a place to have some desayunas, (breakfast), and get ourselves ready for the next leg of our adventure which will take us inland again to Granada.

The drive takes us north east to Malaga and then turns away from the coast and up into the foothills before crossing the range and providing us with valley views full of olive groves and hillsides studded with wind turbines.  A side excursion off the Autovia finds us in a small town where families gather in the town square for lunch and young boys amuse themselves shooting goals and dreaming of playing for Barcelona FC who have just won La Liga; the premier football competition in Spain.

DSCN6440Despite our lack of Spanish, we manage to order and enjoy a nice meal of various seafood, include calamari, cuttlefish and cod cooked in a batter similar to tempura.  Washed down with the ubiquitous ‘cervesa; grande por favor’ – big beer please, we’re ready to head to Granada and find our next AirBnB accommodation in central Granada.

Granada has a really colourful past and is still dominated on the skyline by the Alhambra which shows the past as a frontier of Islam and then the reconquest with the addition, by Queen Isabella, of parts which demonstrate her commitment to Catholicism. Granada also played host  to much of the terror of the Spanish Inquisition and Bibarrambla square became the scene for lengthy ‘trials’ from which those accused were removed for burning or some other hideous fate.

It seems that, throughout history, this gross cruelty by some humans against others, in the name of religion, or in seeking to control or appropriate lands and possessions has served as ugly stain on our common good.

DSCN6447We check in and wander off for a look at Granada, finding the cathedral and the surrounding narrow lanes full of Arabic traders selling all sorts of good including, bizarrely, boomerangs!

Granada is also famous for its serving of tapas in a traditional way; as an accompaniment to a drink.  This was originally thought to be in the form of a small serving which could actually be served on top of the drink as a lid; or tapa, keeping flies or other nasties out of the drink.  Now, when each drink is purchased, you are served with a small tapa: a small serve of a Spanish style potato salad, arancini style balls, jamon with curried mushrooms; the list goes on. We wander to a few different bars seeking out ones which don’t appear to be quite as oriented to the tourist trade and finding that Granada certainly subscribes to the Spanish custom where people don’t actually go out to dine until around 10pm or later.

After navigating our way through narrow streets and lanes, grateful for the blue dot on Google Maps, we find our way home and get ready for our cycle tour of Granada which we’ve booked for Monday morning at 10am; starting from the Alhambra, high above the city.  This will be our first time that we’ve tried e-bikes, or electrically assisted bikes and we’re looking forward to the chance for a good look around.

You can see some shots from our cycle tour in the video below.  The e-bikes certainly make a huge difference, as we were able to climb hills which we’d probably baulk at walking up under usual circumstances and our ride profile shows that we climbed around 36o metres vertically reaching a total elevation of about 920 metres above sea level.  We’re very happy at the end of the trip, having ridden right back up the mountain to the Alahambra, to find a shady restaurant courtyard and enjoy a leisurely lunch.

Granada – Bike Tour – 16 May 2016 from Roger Pryor on Vimeo.

Now it’s time to decide where we head for tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Ambling through Andalucia

  1. Bryan campbell

    Great cyclic pics and others.
    Looks cool … Jackets …. Then warm tshirts

    1. Roger

      Hi Bryan
      It was a great experience although quite challenging due to the climbs involved. Once we got the hang of using the e-assist properly it was easier. It was cool at 10am when we began but quickly warmed up with a combination of energy exertion and the sun. There was still snow on the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas nearby however.


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