As I write, I’m looking out over rows and rows of waist-high hedges lining empty camping pitches. Each pitch has two or three forlorn-looking trees, most of their leaves gone, and the remaining few are yellow or brown. The rain is dripping off them and forming muddy puddles below. But let’s talk about Toledo and plummeting temperatures next time… This post is all sunshine and holiday hotspot – Nerja!
HWAH! Yes that’s right, I said HWAH! Not my Boris Johnson impression; I’m referring to my shorthand version of our latest escapade, our Holiday Within A Holiday. The reason there’s been a bit of a gap since our last post is that we booked into a site in Nerja for two nights – then ended up staying nine! We’d noted from Instagram recommendations and reading other blogs that Nerja is a must-visit town in this part of the world. We didn’t realise quite what a lovely place it was until we eased Vince’s rather broad back side between an avocado tree and a banana tree and switched off his engine for nine whole days.
Nerja is on the Costa del Sol, with Malaga and Marbella to the west, and Almeria to the east. You might imagine wall-to-wall high-rise holiday hotels, and all-night clubs & bars full of drunk Brits, but no! Nerja has largely escaped the beady eye of the get-rich-quick developers. It’s certainly a tourist destination but still retains some dignity with narrow streets full of proper tapas bars and restaurants. There may be shops selling tourist tat, sunglasses and flip-flops but these are next door to mini-supermarkets, bakers and florists where the locals still shop. All roads lead to the Balcon de Europa. This is a marble-tiled and balustraded terrace overlooking two beautiful beaches, and with spectacular views over the Med. The Hotel de Balcon sits proudly on one side, with outside tables for coffees and people-watching.
The only drunk Brits we encountered were er… ourselves on our first day there. We walked along the seafront, stopped to admire the sun shining through the palm trees beside a bar and decided to have a beer. Or two. It wasn’t until we stood up that we remembered hot sun, dehydration and cold beer can creep up on you a little. Luckily there was a long walk back to Vince to help us sober up a bit.
We stayed at Camping Cortijo San Miguel, a twenty minute walk from the town centre, and just across the main road from the sandy beach. Most of the reviews said that it was a bit pricey for what you get, and we had to agree. The location however, was unbeatable. Set in an avocado orchard, (we have three avocados ripening on the dashboard as I write!) the site had seen better days in terms of its facilities, but there was a pleasant family atmosphere there and the owners couldn’t have been more helpful. We enjoyed getting a cheery ¡Hola! from their pet parrot every time we walked past!
Our nine days gave us time to really get to know the place and to try lots of different restaurants for tapas and for full meals. We lost count of how many different types of fish we tried, although I still maintain you can’t beat a plate of sardines covered in sea salt fresh from the grill. I also developed quite a taste for Berenjenas con miel de caña – thinly sliced aubergine dipped in seasoned flour and fried to a crisp. You then drench it in the locally produced cane syrup. It’s so nice you can’t quite make your mind up if it’s a starter or a dessert!
During our Hol Within a Hol we decided to visit one of Spain’s top five Pueblos Blancos, Frigiliana. Spain’s White Villages are just that. Situated mostly in the northern part of Cadiz and Malaga provinces around the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, they consist of well-kept whitewashed houses tumbling down steep valley slopes. Not literally of course.
In our last post I mentioned we planned to do some serious hiking. The idea was to climb up to the village in ninety minutes or so using a winding and rocky dry river bed. As it turned out the bus stop was closer so we went the easy way instead! Even the bus struggled a bit on the climb, slowing to let oncoming traffic go by on the hairpin bends. Or not. There were one or two drivers who only just squeezed past.
At the top we rewarded ourselves with a café con leche on a terrace, and just drank in the views of the white houses, the olive and avocado groves and the sea sparkling in the distance. So good for the soul, but not as good as yet more grilled sardines for lunch. We wandered the steep, narrow streets and paid a visit to La Fuente Vieja – the old fountain built in 1640. The stones around it have grooves worn into them by the necks of all the cattle & donkeys taking a drink over three and a half centuries.
Speaking of taking a drink, we also went to see the local brewer of artisan beers, but the shop was closed! The owner saw me looking all sad outside the shuttered door and took pity on us. He opened up just for us and showed us round. It would have been rude not to buy anything after such politeness, wouldn’t it? So I invested in half a dozen bottles of his own brew – aXarca. That’s how they spell it, with a capital X. When I asked how it was pronounced the owner said in Spain the X can be like Xmas, or like a J as in Juan, or even like the SH in shoe. Any of those would do. So glad he cleared that up then.
We set off on this trip to try a different way of travelling to our previous adventures. Sometimes we’ve been guilty of moving on and moving on just to get to a specific destination then racing home again. It can mean by-passing some amazing locations or just scratching the surface of the places we only see for a day or two. This time we’ve had longer stays in Peñíscola, Valencia and Nerja and we feel better for it. It means we won’t get as far as Cadiz, where we were originally going to turn round, but that’s ok!
We’ve already made that u-turn to start heading north for the ferry next week – hence the opening paragraph. There’s still lots to see and do before we leave Spain though. We’ll just have to do it in jumpers and hats instead of shorts and T-shirts!
Chat soon 🙂