25 July 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Comares Spanish White Village View

I'd never before been to the area of Axarquia let alone one of the highest white village, Comares. Go, the views are amazing...

.. and the roads too! This photo is from one of the many view points looking north -ish, looking south is stunning too.

18 July 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Ronda Bridge, Cliff and Drop

The Bridge, cliff-top houses and the sheer drop is just one of the sites that make Ronda a fascinating, historical town worthy of a few days or in my case a few trips.

Other great places to visit if in Ronda:

To stay Hotel Los Castanos in one of the nearby white villages

Setenil de las Bodegas my favourite and one of the most fascinating White Villages with houses built on, into and on top of rock.

See the Monday Morning Photo list for inspiration

11 July 2016

Monday Morning Photo - 4x4 Land Rover Tour in Granada Province

Some of the stunning scenery from a fabulous 4x4 excursion with Sports Adventure and Garnata Tours covering mountain tracks and dry river beds in the mountains around Guadix, Granada.

07 July 2016

An Overview - GRXperience in Granada

I've been to Granada several times but considering it's only 1.5 hours from home that's very few. I feel fortunate and honoured to have taken part in the GRXperience to promote Granada both city and province. Now after many fabulous experiences in the few days I was there I've a lot to tell!

So this is a brief peep into day one of my experience, each part of it will be written about individually and that might take some time!

Day One -  Around Guadix

Arriving in Granada city, we (the group of Social Media experts and Travel Bloggers) were taken to Guadix a lovely city in itself but with stunning surrroundings and a long-history of cave-dwellers.

Guadix from Hot Air Balloon

Our first stop (and my night's stay) was the beautiful 16th century Mudejar-style working olive oil mill, Almazara de Paulenca, for a superb lunch in the working olive oil mill restaurant, which we also had a tour of and saw the ancient machinery in action. It also hosts flamenco nights with the owner/guitarist playing and a dancer in the restaurant, something I plan on going back to see.

Almazara de Paulenca

After a dunking in the pool  a 'slow trekking' experience in Balneario de Alicun with fabulous scenery, learning about the history and discovering ancient stone built tomb - dolmens - of which Andalucia has several sites.

Balneario de Alicun


Then to dinner or should I say a banquet, laid out on the grassy area next to the outdoor natural swimming pool, fit for a wedding with local dishes and wines provided by Catering La Azucarera and still the day hadn't ended.

Dinner under the stars - Catering La Azucarera

Azimuth a company offering science tourism and star gazing were on hand with an incredible knowledge and huge telescope bringing the nights sky into our sight and (a little more ) our understanding.

Late to bed and early to rise makes for a long and exciting day two....... coming soon.

All photos are mine except the last one of the stargazing experience which is copyright +Ana Santos.

Stay tuned for Day Two and some of the amazing day trips and activities in Granada province.

04 July 2016

Monday Morning Photo - The Mirador de San Nicolas, Granada

There's one place along with the Alhambra that you have to visit in Granada - The Mirador de San Nicolas which has plenty of charm and huge views.

This photo was taken about 10.15 am if it had been 10.15 at night it would be heaving  yet somehow when the daylight fades and the illumination in the Alhambra twinkles it converts from a beautiful view to a magical, mysterious fairytale setting.

Don't think for a minute that this is Granada, it's an incredible, haunting city, one that draws me back again and again. Yes, the Alhambra needs visiting, so does San  Nicolas, but take time, take it slow and lose yourself in the streets, the history and its people. Granada cannot be done in a day.

27 June 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Burgalimar Castle, Baños de la Encina

Burgalimar Castle is enormous and oval in shape a superb example of Al-Andalus architecture in Baños de la Encina, Jaen a lovely small town.

Where to stay in Jaen province to explore? My holiday home Casa El Reguelo of course!

25 June 2016

Hotel Los Castaños in Cartajma an Unspoilt White Village

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the lovely town of Ronda behind we felt ourselves slow down, breathing in the mountain air and relaxing. Slowing down because of the narrowing, winding roads. Breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air with the car windows open. The hugeness of the mountain range - Serrania de Ronda unfolded in all directions until we were immersed within 360 degrees of wild and unspoilt views, with the odd cluster of houses forming small, white villages as smudged dots on the landscape.

Then we found our destination - Cartajama, one of the 'pueblos blancos' in the Alto Genal Valley, and the lovely, little Hotel Los Castaños. We'd been advised to phone on reaching Cartajma but decided on a nosey-mosey around the charming streets with balcony and views to rival Ronda itself. Finding parking we grabbed our bag and arrived at a gorgeous old wooden door (I guess you know by now I love wooden doors) surrounded by plants.

With a warm welcome from resident owner Di we were shown around the lovely, cosy Hotel and I was instantly itching to take photos, whereas hubby was happy to siesta-test the bed. Peace reigned both outside and in. In the mid-afternoon I sat on the lovely roof terrace (between leaping up and taking photos) and heard nothing - not a thing. No cars or motorbikes, dogs or (loud, as they ususally are) Spanish voices.

Once I'd had a photo session, written a bit and thought hubby had had quite long enough as a bed-tester I made my presence known in our beautifully decorated, mountain-view bedroom and put the kettle on for him. The click didn't bring him round (my only grumble - a whistling kettle to wake husbands needed!)

We then set out to explore the next sugar-cube white village visible from our quaint terrace, Parauta. Another set of time-warped houses and village streets and again it was like a ghost town, nobody around. Charm oozes here and it's the first time I've ever photographed a rubbish bin - charming isn't it? And it's locked? Just in case you fancy pinching the rubbish?

Returning to  Los Castaños, after a welcome, roomy and solar-heated shower and more than ready for refreshment we went down to the large lounge, honesty bar, comfy sofas and a host of games (including some lovely wooden ones) and books. After a beer and losing four, stylish-wooden  games of Connect Four  we were joined by some other couples and led through to the open-plan restaurant with French doors and a plant-filled Moorish patio to rival the best of the Cordoba competition ones.

Dinner, cooked by Di, was very good indeed, a great wine list (or gin list if that's your tipple) leisurely served. Everything really was tiptop and beautifully cooked. What more can I say - Hotel Los Castaños is a treat. Welcoming, homely, well-decorated, eco-friendly, gorgeous surroundings, comfortable rooms, and great food. And then there was the breakfast spread....

Hotel Los Castaños - A lovely hotel, smart, small and personal.

Visit the Hotel Los Castaños website or see it on OnlySpain ~ Boutique Hotels.

See the Monday Morning Photos

 - Cave Paintings in Malaga that we visited while at Los Castaños

-  Cartajima, Serrania de Ronda

14 June 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Cave Paintings in Malaga

One weekend recently while staying at the lovely Hotel Los Castaños I asked resident owners Di & John where they would take family visiting for the first time and the incredible cave Pilate with paleolithic and neolithic cave paintings was one of the top choices - so we went.

What a place, such a shame that no photos are allowed to be taken inside, we spent an incredible hour marvelling at the ornate, sculpture-like stalagtite and stalagmite formations and paintings. Really worth a visit when staying in the area near Ronda or at Los Castaños.

Hotel Los Castaños is in the small white village of Cartajima in the Serrania de Ronda mountains near the stunning town of Ronda in Malaga province.

See more Monday Morning Photos.

06 June 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Cartajima, Serrania de Ronda Mountains

This was my weekend landscape the incredibly beautiful and unspoilt mountain range of Serrania de Ronda. Only about 50 minutes inland from Marbella but world's away from glitz and glammer. This is peace and quiet walking country. A real escape from the hustle and bustle and a spot where it's impossible not to relax and take things at a slower pace.

Cartijama is one of the White Villages of Alto Genal Valley with only around 100 permanent inhabitants, our hotel was in the middle of the village but very quiet and those views.....

Where we stayed - Hotel Los Castaños write-up coming soon.

23 May 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Osuna quarry, Game of Thrones Setting

Hardly a normal place to visit when exploring towns but the Osuna quarries or Canteras de Osuna kept cropping up in my research, even before Game of Thrones was filmed there. Typcially, for us, they were closed when we arrived but still quite remarkable.

I haven't yet written about Osuna but have a post on my other blog about where we stayed - the 18th century Baroque Palace - Hotel Palacio Marques de la Gomera

20 May 2016

Are these Spain's Narrowest Streets?

When exploring towns large and small around Spain there's often been very narrow streets and I often wonder - why so narrow? To keep out the heat? Lack of space within enclosed, protective walls?

Seville has an incredible maze of narrow, some barely passable by two people. Here's a couple I came across in smaller Andalucian towns. The first one is the quirky white village of Setenil de las Bodegas just over the Malaga border into Cadiz. A fabulous small town with houses built into and on rock.

The second another lovely town, Priego de Cordoba just over the border from my home province Jaen into Cordoba. Another town with a long history, lovely monuments and a balcony that I think is far better than that of Ronda.

See other related posts.

Setenil de las Bodegas

White Villages

A Visit to Priego de Cordoba

Renaissance King's Fountain in Priego de Cordoba

16 May 2016

Decorating the Streets with Flowers for Corpus Cristi

A year or two ago, at the end of May we, quite by chance, came across these amazing scenes. Flowery carpets being prepared for the processions to walk on in the little Cordoba town of Bujalance.

Bujalance is a small town packed with monuments which we discovered on the way back from a getaway in Montoro and staying in the fabulous converted olive oil mill Hotel Molino la Nava, both of which we'd return to.

14 May 2016

Salmorejo on the Streets of Cordoba

A city that's fascinating and fast becoming my favourite. Cordoba. As vast as its history but the heart of the old town, the site of the Mezquita and the narrow cobbled streets of the Jewish quarter are those I love.

It so happens that it's home to one of my favourite Spanish dishes, especially in the summer - Salmorejo.

What is Salmorejo? I always says it's like a thicker, much richer version of Gazpacho. A gorgeous, creamy, garlicky,  dip garnished with hard-boiled egg and jamon to be spooned up or eaten with fresh, crusty bread. On a hot (and Cordoba gets very hot) day a bowl of chilled Salmorejo and an iced beer is just the job.

I also love tiles, ceramic tiles, old tiles, concrete tiles, any tiles, so imagine my delight and speed of whipping out the camera when rounding a corner in the backstreets of Cordoba I spotted this.

Not only a street named Cordoba Salmorejo but a recipe with instructions made of tiles. Gorgeous isn't it.

For my next batch, when it warms up a little, I'll try this is the recipe. Usually I just chuck the ingredients in the food processor, but I'll be happy to weigh and follow the experts recipe.

Here's a couple of old posts about Salmorejo

Cordoba Gastronomy Tapas Competition

Salmorejo - a typical dish from Cordoba

Where to stay in Cordoba? Here's two gorgeous hotels in and near the old quarter that I've stayed at.

Hotel Balcon de Cordoba  & Hotel Viento 10 (links go offsite to my Only Spain ~ Boutique Hotel site)

09 May 2016

Monday Morning Photo - Fabulous and Mysterious El Torcal

The incredible, mysterious, especially on this gray and misty day, El Torcal near Antequera in Malaga province.

A great spot to visit with loads of marked walks around. Where to stay? The lovely Hotel Fuente del Sol is where we stayed on this particular visit to El Torcal.

See the Monday Morning Photo List

03 May 2016

Gastronomy & Wine in Frailes, Sierra Sur de Jaen

With weeks rushing by we're now hurtling into spring, my favourite season and I realise it's three weeks since I popped over the hills of the Sierra Sur de Jaen, my home into the neighbouring small town of Frailes. As the crow flies it would have been much quicker but as the name suggests - Sierra is a mountain range and the long and winding road that led me to Frailes took over an hour - but an hour of beautiful scenery and peace. Hardly a car on the road, several Land Rovers in the olive groves but little sign of life. That's the glorious area I live in. I do know I'm lucky.

Fuensanta to Castillo de Locubin Road

Frailes, you may have heard of it before and wondering why, was the home of Michael Jacobs author of  'Factory of Light' amongst many other works. His widow still retains their home in the tiny whitewashed town. Tiny it may be but the people are big-hearted and generous and it was my pleasure to join a group of Spanish bloggers (all young enough to be my children) and explore the lovely town and meet some of its characters on this XX Jornada Vinícola y Gastronómica de Frailes or XX Wine & Gastronomy Day.

Michael Jacob's House and Tiny Chapel
I arrived in  Frailes, a town I'd only visited once before, and decided to stop at the first bar with parking that I saw for coffee before contacting the group to meet them. So on ordering coffee I contacted Rafa Frias from the blog Viajes con Humor, native of Frailes and guess what? I'd only chosen the same bar, a good omen for the day to come. So taking three steps out the back and I met up with the group of bloggers, two I'd met before others new to me.

Our first stop was the Plaza del Nacimiento, the spring water source with crystal clear drinking water straight from the surrounding mountains and feeding the once hub and women of the town's meeting place, the old wash-house. An impromptu act of drunken flirting and serenading from Rafa's father (and his mother) created much amusement.

With around 18 fountains around the town, the tinkling of water, tiny cascades and drinking fountains surrounds our wander through pretty, flower-filled narrow streets.

But my favourite part of all was the tiny, white-fronted, flower-dotted cavehouse. Both inside and out was charming, an almost life-size doll's house.

But to the main reason of the day - the gastronomy fiesta local wine and cheese, there is both a winery and cheese factory from where you can buy their products on the entrance to the town. Our first sample was a home-made offering from a charming couple whose local esparto crafts were on display and his own wine, not on display but  produced along with plastic beakers for a decent-sized sample!

I would have bought some if it was for sale and not personal consumption! A very good start to the sampling session and fabulous handmade creations too!

At last to the marquees and feeding time of the 3,000!

Locally prepared sausages, chorizos and black puddings of colours I'd not seen before, great cheeses and a great local red.

Followed by a real mountain dish for those cold, hungry workers - white bean stew, a huge plate of cooked over the coals pork and three different pastries all made with extra virgen olive oil for the dessert I couldn't possibly manage. An amazing achievement for a town of around 1,000 people, a great atmosphere and lots of fun. Look out for me at the 21st festival in April next year, I'm sure to be there.

You can of course sample Frailes and its cheese and wine any time of year, it's a lovely place to explore. Where to stay in the Sierra Sur de Jaen? My holiday rental Casa Rural El Reguelo of course!