Saturday, July 13: After leaving Frigiliana, we head to the town of Nerja, a tourist town with a large foreign population, including over 2,000 Brits. The white villages climbing the mountains around Nerja are relatively new and inhabited by hordes of foreigners. In the summer months, tourists swell the population even more. The town sits on a steep hill and has several small beaches set in coves beneath cliffs.
Nerja and its surrounds used to produce sugar cane, but now there are widespread plantations of semi-tropical fruits such as mango, papaya and avocado. The sugar cane factory is still on the eastern edge of town but is now empty, as the main industry is tourism. (Wikipedia: Nerja)
Marianne wrote about the abandoned sugar cane factory in Sweet memories: San Joaquín sugar mill, but we don’t have time to see it today. We do however make a stop, after lunch, at the Acueducto del Águila (Eagle Aqueduct), which supplied the sugar cane factory with water.
We head straight for the Balcón de Europa, a mirador or viewpoint which gives panoramic views across the sea and along the coastline, with its sandy coves and cliffs. It’s in the center of the old town.
Its name is popularly believed to have been coined by King Alfonso XII, who visited the area in 1885 following a disastrous earthquake and was captivated by the scene. Local folklore says that he stood upon the site where the Balcón now stands, and said “This is the balcony of Europe.” Local archive documents are said to show that its name predated this visit, but this has not prevented the authorities from placing a life-sized (and much photographed) statue of the king standing by the railing. Of course, I get a picture of myself standing with King Alfonso XII.
The Balcón area was originally known as La Batería, a reference to the gun battery which existed there in a fortified tower. This emplacement and a similar tower nearby were destroyed during the Peninsular War. In May 1812, three British vessels supported Spanish guerrillas on the coast of Granada, against the French. On 20 May, two of the vessels opened fire and the forts were destroyed. Two rusty guns positioned at the end of the Balcón are reminders of these violent times. (Wikipedia: Nerja)
We walk back through the little town of Nerja, where we come across the picturesque 17th century Church of El Salvador, or Iglesia El Salvador. It sits opposite the Balcón de Europa and close to what used to be the old Guards Tower.
The original church was erected in 1505, although the existing structure was not actually built until later, in 1697, and it was then further extended during the period 1776 – 1792.
Marianne tells me some of the statues inside the church are carried through the streets by parishioners during festivals.
Right in front of the church is a huge Norfolk Island Pine, brought back from South America at the beginning of the century. (Nerja: El Salvador Church).
We walk back through the town to head to the beach, but first we make a stop at Marianne’s favorite store, La Cueva. She is very restrained, but I end up buying two cute long knit “Spanish-looking” skirts, one coral and one white. 🙂 More stuff to add to my already heavy luggage!
Then we head to Playa de Burriana to have lunch at one of Marianne’s favorite beachside paella restaurants, El Chiringuito de Ayo. which has been a presence on that beach since 1969. Before we can eat, though, we must find a parking spot, which is no easy feat. Marianne calls for her “parking angels” to come to the rescue, and they don’t disappoint. She’s one of those lucky people who I would describe as having parking karma. 🙂
The restaurant describes itself thus on its website: Huge paellas prepared over wood fire under a thatched roof, during the whole day. It is not necessary to reserve them, because there is always a freshly prepared paella at your disposal. During the years, the restaurant often changed without loosing its excellent preparing and original touch, in order to offer the client the best and to satisfy the demand of the guests. Surrounded by palm trees , and covered by an immense thatched roof, this is the ideal location to enjoy a beautiful day on the beach.
Walking into the restaurant, we can see the huge pans of paella being prepared by the cooks in the sweltering heat.
The restaurant is packed and there is no one to seat us, because all the employees are frantically running around juggling plates of paella and drinks. Marianne and I split up and hover over the seated customers, waiting to pounce on a seat as soon as we see someone finishing up. We finally do find a little family paying their bill and as soon as they vacate, I’m all over those seats like honey on toast.
The paella is delicious, and the great thing is that you can go back for refills as many times as you like. I go back for a second helping even though I’m not that hungry, just because it tastes so good!
The lunch is lovely and lively, and the restaurant is great for people-watching. People come in right off the beach in their bathing suits, covered in sand and sunscreen and suntans. Whole families are out on this nice hot day.
After lunch, we head back to Marianne’s house to relax a bit before we go out for dinner tonight. Before we leave the area, we stop to take pictures of the Acueducto del Águila (Eagle Aqueduct), built between 1879 and 1880 (the exact date is not known) to aid the industrial revolution; it was intended to carry water from Nerja town to the local sugar refinery in Maro, Fábrica San Joaquin de Maro, built in 1884, for irrigation. The factory is now closed but the aqueduct continues to be used for local irrigation.
The design of the aqueduct is typical of the period of its construction (19th century), when the Mudejar style (copied from the ornamental architecture originally used by Muslim craftsmen in Spain between the 13th and 15th centuries) was very popular. The aqueduct is four stories high; each tier is constructed from a series of brick, horseshoe-shaped archways, of which there are 37 in total. These are topped with a mudejar-style spire, on top of which is a weather vane in the shape of a double-headed eagle, from which the aqueduct takes its name. The origin of the eagle symbol is not known for certain, but it is rumored that during the time of construction eagles were seen nesting in the hills of Maro. (Nerja — Acueducto del Águila)
When we get back to Marianne’s house, I put on my bathing suit and go for a dip. I lie on the chaise lounge and fall promptly asleep. This place is heaven. 🙂