…. stays mainly … away.” Spain is enjoying a scorcher of a summer, one I can vouch for as Bunny and I, along with my two sisters, enjoyed ten marvellously hot days there at the beginning of last month; temperatures in the mid 30s. We were in Nerja, about an hour’s drive east of Malaga town, in a lovely hotel on the seafront. Our room was huge, each having our own proper bed – no put-u-ups or settee-beds here! – and two vast double wardrobes. The only thing missing was a decent fridge, having to make do with the tiny mini-bar to store our aftersun creams and odd bottle of gin or two. Oh, and no coffee making facility either; a good job we packed a travel kettle.
The past few years our holidays have consisted of just lazing around the pool the whole time. As we didn’t know the region, we decided we’d do what we always used to on holidays: every other day site-seeing, days in-between chilling out doing nothing. The first evening, we took the local road train. These trains seem unique to Spain and the Balearics; they might seem very touristy but we always have a ride on one to get our bearings. They are great fun. The one in Nerja gives a running commentary on the area, including a lot about its history.
Up in the mountains behind Nerja is a typical whitewashed Spanish village: Frigiliana. Lo and behold when we arrived, there was a road train. Needless to say, we got on. Frigiliana has very narrow, pretty cobbled streets that are steep and with lots of sharp bends. There were times I didn’t think it would make it up the steep climbs, but it did. The driver regaled us the town’s history, particularly about the war with Napoleon, and the Spanish Civil War. We later took a walk around the village, stopped for a cooling drink, continued on, and became lost. Siesta time: no one about to ask for directions, but eventually found our way back to the taxi rank and a waiting taxi.
A two-hour drive by coach inland from Nerja is the historic city of Cordoba. We entered on foot across the vast Roman bridge, noting the nearby medieval wooden waterwheel, the oldest in Spain. The historic quarter is small enough to explore in a day but our day was hot. Far too hot with temperatures hitting the 40s to do much walking. Cordoba is renowned for three things especially: its heat, its patio and flower festival, and the Mosque Cathedral.
It was a day of learning. Any word or place name in Spanish that begins “Al” is of Moorish origin – I never knew that. Also, what we Brits call patios – the paved area outside our houses for sitting and eating etc – is, in fact, the wrong term. Patio is an old Spanish word for an enclosed courtyard; Cordoba is full of them. Every year in May these patios are filled with pots of flowers and plants and opened to the public, they are judged (something like our Britain in Bloom contest), and plaques award. Streets are also hung with colourful arrangements. This takes place each May; we were there the last day of June. Most flowers had withered, but many patios were still open with their welcoming shade and bubbling fountains on show.
The Mosque Cathedral should be classed as a Wonder of the World, not just a World Heritage Site. It is vast, it is unique, and it is awe-inspiring. When you first enter the building, it takes your breath away, the feeling it evokes over-whelming, one I can’t explain, such is the history, colour, and majesty of the place. The original site of a basilica, it was destroyed in 785 by the Moors, who replaced it with a huge mosque, the most important sanctuary of Western Islam. Extended many times, including the building of a minaret, it wasn’t until 1236 King Ferdinand III reconquered the city for Spain and, not wanting such a beautiful building destroyed, ordered the cathedral be constructed inside it. And here it still stands in its fully glory, complete with main and side chapels, transept, choir, organ, treasury – the works. Well worth visiting, and apologies for my photos not doing it justice.
However, despite all the glorious things we saw and learnt during our holiday, the highlight for all three of us was the day we to Malaga city; the whole reason why we went to mainland Spain this year. It was to spend time with our brother who lives east of the city, about half an hour’s train ride away for him. With no train from Nerja to Malaga, we had to travel there bus, a lovely 90 minute ride along the coast road. It’d been 4 years since we’d last seen him, although we do speak often. We’d hoped to see a bit more of the city too but it was again far too hot to walk about much. We found a lovely restaurant, and over several cold beers and paella, caught up on all the news and gossip. Wonderful. Our waiter took a photograph of the four of us, one we wanted for our mum, and one we know she’ll love. Sadly, time went far to quickly and soon we had to make our way back to the bus station to catch the last one to Nerja at 5:00 pm.
It all seems so long ago now. It’s amazing how soon life gets back to normal again. But not for long. Yesterday, we booked another little trip. We’re off to Rhodes in September with my niece. Yippee! So keep on shining, sun.