The Seamstress ~ by María Dueñas

Friday, December 27The Seamstress is a Spanish woman who finds herself in Morocco at the start of the Spanish Civil War. Left high and dry by a lover who whisked her away from Madrid, she fends for herself by becoming a high-class seamstress to wives of some of the most powerful German and Spanish men in Tétouan, the Spanish protectorate in Morocco.

Because of her close friendship with an independent Englishwoman, Rosalinda, and due to her worries about her country and her family, she becomes increasingly involved in the British attempts to keep Spain from allying themselves with the Axis powers in what is slowly but surely becoming World War II. The novel takes place in Madrid, Tétouan & Tangiers in Morocco, and in Lisbon. After having spent a month in Spain and Portugal last summer, I found this book fascinating.

The novel also goes by the name of The Time In Between; I’m not sure of the reason for this, but it is confusing.  I actually already had The Time In Between on my Kindle; after downloading it, I continued to search high and low for The Seamstress, thinking it was a different book.  I finally bought it from Amazon upon my return to the U.S.  If I’m going to own two copies of a book, I guess this is one to have, doubled. 🙂

This seamstress-turned-spy novel, by María Dueñas, which is also historical fiction, is an amazing book that I couldn’t put down. Well-written, enthralling and even educational!

travel theme: architecture

Monday, August 12:  Ailsa’s Travel Theme (Where’s my backpack?) for this week is architecture.  I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with this one because it’s such a broad theme.  As a matter of fact, I would say my entire trip through Spain and Portugal this summer was about the architecture (and the food!), so you could look at my entire travelogue to see some amazing architecture.  For this challenge, I’m going to limit myself to three places, four photos.  These are some of my favorites, but are of course not all-inclusive!

First choice, hands down, Cordoba’s Mezquita.  To see lots more pictures, you can check out my post: andalucía: córdoba’s stunning mezquita.

Cordoba's Mezquita
Cordoba’s Mezquita

Second choice, Seville’s Alcázar.  If you’d like to see more, you can visit: the alcázar in seville.

Seville's Alcázar
Seville’s Alcázar
Seville's Alcázar
Seville’s Alcázar

And finally, I have to include at least one place from beautiful Sintra, in Portugal: the gorgeous Palace of Monserrate.

Palace of Monserrate
Palace of Monserrate

travel theme: wild

Thursday, August 8:  I didn’t get to many natural places during my trip to Spain and Portugal this summer, but in the few places I did go, I found some wild flowers that I thought were pretty crazy-looking.   I also found a wild bird here and there, and some wild street art in Lisbon.  So for Ailsa’s travel theme this week, just under the wire, here are some pictures. (Where’s my backpack? Travel Theme: Wild)

wild flower in El Torcal, Spain
wild flowers in El Torcal, Spain
wildflowers in El Torcal, Spain
wildflowers in El Torcal, Spain
Scottish thistle in El Torcal, Spain
Scottish thistle in El Torcal, Spain
Scottish thistle in Teba, Spain
Scottish thistle in Teba, Spain
wildflowers in Teba, Spain
wildflowers in Teba, Spain
wildflowers in Teba, Spain
wildflowers in Teba, Spain
A wild bird in Teba
A wild bird in Teba
Scottish thistle in Teba, Spain
Scottish thistle in Teba, Spain
Wild street art in Lisbon, Portugal
Wild street art in Lisbon, Portugal
more wild street art in Lisbon
more wild street art in Lisbon

weekly photo challenge: masterpiece

Sunday, July 28:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is Masterpiece.

Writes Cheri Lucas: Masterpiece. No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.

One thing you can never really “stumble upon” is a ceiling.  Often, you can miss the wonders of ceilings simply by forgetting to look up.  During my travels this summer, I saw some beautiful ceilings in cathedrals and palaces, but in order to see them I had to remember to look up. 🙂

Ceilings are often artistic masterpieces that can be vastly under-appreciated or ignored completely.  A viewer can’t even study ceilings for very long without getting a crick in the neck. And think of what the artist had to endure to create them.  I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to design and create a beautiful ceiling by holding one’s arms overhead and one’s face looking up for extended periods of time.  Unless an artist can lie on a platform on his back, I can’t imagine it could be very easy work.

Here are some masterpiece ceilings I found throughout Spain and Portugal this summer.

Cordoba's Mezquita
Cordoba’s Mezquita
Cordoba's Mezquita
Cordoba’s Mezquita
Granada's Cathedral
Granada’s Cathedral
the Alhambra
the Alhambra in Granada, Spain
ceiling and lamp in Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
ceiling and lamp in Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
swans on the ceiling in the National Palace, Sintra, Portugal
swans on the ceiling in the National Palace, Sintra, Portugal
more painted ceilings at the National Palace in Sintra
more painted ceilings at the National Palace in Sintra
Ceilings in the National Palace, Sintra
Ceilings in the National Palace, Sintra
Basilica dos Martires in Lisbon
Basilica dos Martires in Lisbon

And this, my friends, is only a tiny glimpse of heaven. 🙂

travel theme: sweet

Friday, July 26:  This week, Ailsa of Where’s my backpack? challenges us to come up with something sweet.   She asks us to: Whisper a sweet nothing and send it my way.

On my trip through Spain and Portugal, I sampled delectable sweets all along the way.  I have a few extra bulges around my waist as a result.  Here’s to you, Ailsa, some sweet nothings coming your way.

The Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona is a colorful feast of sweets: fruit juices, fruits, and candies galore.

sweet fruit juices at the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
sweet fruit juices at the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
sweet fruit at Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
sweet fruit at Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
candies at Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona
candies at Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona

One sweet treat that beckons from nearly every street in Spain and Portugal is gelato.  I tried to sample as much as I could. 🙂  This gelato cart was on the street in Tavira, Portugal.  Jo of restlessjo and I were in search of fig and almond gelato, which she raves about.  Sadly for me, though this cart usually sells Jo’s favorite flavor, they are out of it on this night.

gelato in Tavira, Portugal
gelato in Tavira, Portugal

Toledo, Spain is famous for its marzipan.  Of course, I had to sample some.

marzipan in Toledo, Spain
marzipan in Toledo, Spain

A churro, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut, is a fried-dough pastry-based snack. It is normally eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or cafe con leche.  It’s delicious!

churros and chocolate in Granada, Spain
churros and chocolate in Granada, Spain

And finally, one of Portugal’s great culinary wonders is the cinnamon-dusted pastel de nata (custard tart), with its flaky crust and creamy center.  I tasted lots of these throughout Portugal, but this one was at Cafe Pielas In Sintra.

cinnamon-dusted pastel de nata in Portugal
cinnamon-dusted pastel de nata in Portugal

I have to say that some of the best sweets to be found are in Europe! 🙂

two bus rides from spain to portugal: meeting restlessjo in tavira

Sunday, July 14:  This morning, I wake up before sunrise to get showered and ready to go to Torrox to catch the 7:20 a.m. ALSA bus to Seville. Poor Marianne and Michael, who have been the perfect hosts, also have to get up early, as they are driving me to the bus stop.

The bus stop is not in a terminal, but just a covered stop along the route.   I feel bad about them having to get up so early to drive me nearly a half hour to the bus stop, so I encourage them to just drop me and head back home.  They are too kind to leave me, and they insist on standing with me until I’m situated on the bus.  It’s so funny how I’ve just let myself fall into their hands during my stay here.  I’m used to traveling alone, and I normally function perfectly well when I have to, but when someone steps in and offers to take care of me, I can easily allow them to do that.  It has been lovely for me to be in someone’s capable and caring hands for a few days.  What a welcome respite from some of the logistical worries encountered in traveling. 🙂

The bus arrives right on time; we put my bag into the hold, give hugs all around and then I’m off.  The bus is filled with teenagers all dressed up as if they’ve been out all night at a party.  They’re quite boisterous at this hour of the morning.  The first half of the bus trip involves lots of joking, laughter and general loudness until they start getting off the bus in twos and threes at various stops along the way.  Finally, after we pass through Malaga and a few other larger towns, we’re on the highway to Seville.

I arrive in Seville at 11:45 and have to wait nearly two hours in the bus terminal for the 1:30 p.m. departure of the EVA Transportes bus to the Algarve, which is to arrive in Tavira at 2:50.  Taking into account the one hour time difference between Spain and Portugal, the bus ride should be about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

on the EVA bus from Seville to Tavira: note the Algarve sign on the bus reflected in the window
on the EVA bus from Seville to Tavira: note the Algarve sign on the bus reflected in the window

On the bus ride, I listen, as I’ve taken to doing on this trip, to Brett Dennen’s “Lover Boy” on my iPod Nano.  I come across a song, “I Want to Feel Free,” and the lyrics speak to where I am right now.

I want to feel free like I did when I was younger
When I was younger I was brave
………..
Now I’m lost in another language
Some words I know but I’m mostly confused…
…………
And I got home to Santa Monica
Below a blanket of clouds
My pockets filled with pretty Spanish coins
They have no value to me now.

I alternatively enjoy the scenery out the window and drift off to sleep.

on the EVA bus
on the EVA bus

I am meeting up with another blogger, Jo of restlessjo ~ Roaming, at home and abroad, who is British but has a vacation home in Tavira.  It just so happens she is on vacation during my time here in Spain and Portugal, and she has kindly invited me to stay with her for two nights.  I am touched by her offer, as she and her husband Mick only have a short time on their vacation, and they have invited me to be an interloper during their precious holiday time!   I know Jo loses a couple of nights’ sleep worrying over having a stranger in her house before I arrive; I feel so bad about that!

the EVA bus at the Tavira bus terminal
the EVA bus at the Tavira bus terminal

I’m surprised when the bus pulls off the exit ramp at about 2:10 and I see the sign for Tavira!  I’ve told Jo I’ll arrive at 2:50, so it will be a bit of a wait in the bus terminal.   When I arrive, there is no sign of Jo, as I wouldn’t expect there to be at this early time.  I don’t have any money left on my phone to text her, and there is no one manning the bus station whose phone I can use.  It’s obviously siesta time.  So I just wander around waiting and watching for Jo.

While waiting, I get my first glimpse of the Ponte Romana. This seven-arched bridge probably predates the Romans, but it was so named because it linked the Roman road from Castro Marim to Tavira.  According to Lonely Planet Portugal, the current structure dates from a 17th-century reconstruction.  The bridge was also touched up in 1989, after floods knocked down one of its pillars.  The bridge spans the Gilão River.

my first glimpse of Jo's famous bridge, the Ponte Romana, in Tavira
my first glimpse of Jo’s famous bridge, the Ponte Romana, in Tavira

I finally see Jo, who I easily recognize from her blog, wandering down the street toward the bus terminal.  She’s tall and thin, with beautiful skin and a lovely smile, and her manner is really adorable.  She has an incredible warmth about her.   She introduces me to her husband Mick and he kindly welcomes me.  I feel really bad for him having to put up with this stranger for a couple of nights.  At least Jo and I have read each other’s blogs and know something about each other, but poor Mick doesn’t have a clue who I am!

Jo describes herself as thus on her blog: Hi!  I’m Jo!  Johanna when I’m feeling posh, Jan to my Dad, and Joasiu to my Polish family.  A bit of a mix-up, I guess.  The one definite, however, is my restless nature.  I can’t be still for too long, unless of course it’s sunny and I’ve got a good book.  I love to travel and to explore our world.  It doesn’t have to be the big wide world- I can be ridiculously happy not too far from home, so long as I’m out there, just embracing life.  To read more about Jo, see Restless Jo: About.  She’s definitely an energetic and restless lady who embraces life with gusto; I pick that up about her quickly.  I can certainly identify with that restless nature as I have it myself. 🙂

We put my bags in the trunk of the car and then stroll through the town, stopping along the way at Cafe Anazu to have some chilled white wine (Jo and I) and beer (Mick).  Jo and Mick harken from Hartlepool in northeast England, where Jo says it rains too incessantly for her taste.  They love coming to the Algarve about four times each year to escape the dreary weather and to explore the Algarve’s sunny and warm beaches.  Mick works as a landscape architect at his home and Jo is retired.

Jo and Mick at a little riverside cafe where we stop for wine
Jo and Mick at a little riverside cafe where we stop for wine

Then we go to Jo’s house, where she helps me settle in to her lovely guest room. Then  Jo and I escape to her rooftop, where she has a swinging rope hammock-seat; we share glasses of wine and chat for a long time.  She’s easy-going and companionable; we comfortably open up to each other and share all kinds of stories about our histories, our current lives, our children and our struggles.

Jo's back porch
Jo’s back patio

I take a little rest, and then we take a long walk into the charming Old Town.  The buildings are a little more scruffy than Spain’s pristine whitewashed buildings, but that only adds to their charm.  Many of the buildings have ceramic-tiled facades, which are lovely.

The Moorish occupation of Tavira between the 8th and 13th centuries left its mark on the agriculture, architecture and culture of the area. That influence can still be seen in Tavira today with its whitewashed buildings, Moorish-style doors and rooftops.  A castle, two mosques and palaces were built by the Moors.  During this time, Tavira established itself as an important port for sailors and fishermen.

In 1242, the Christians took Tavira back from the Moors in a bloody conflict.  The population of the town was decimated during this battle. Though most Muslims left the town, some remained in a Moorish quarter.

In the 17th century, the port on its river was of considerable importance, shipping produce such as salt, dried fish and wine. Like most of the Algarve, its buildings were virtually destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. This earthquake is thought to have reached a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale and caused extensive damage throughout the Algarve due to shock waves and tsunamis. The earthquake is referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake due to its terrible effects on the capital city, although the epicentre was some 200 km west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent in the Algarve (Wikipedia: Tavira Municipality).

We pass by the pretty Church of Carmo, or Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, all decked out for some festival.
Igreja de Santiago
Church of Carmo

This solemn church was constructed to promote the Carmelite ideal of attaining Christian perfection, fostering the good of the Church and the salvation of souls, with special devotion and prayer to the Virgin of Carmen.  Started in 1747, the church is one of the most sumptuous in the Algarve and took 43 years to complete.  The church is renowned for its exceptional acoustics and is often the venue of classical concerts held here throughout the year.  (Tavira-Today.com: Tavira Churches)

Igreja de Santiago
Church of Carmo

Many Portuguese houses and buildings have facades of pretty ceramic tiles.  I love these!

tiled facades on buildings ~ these are all over Portugal
tiled facades on buildings ~ these are all over Portugal

We head for dinner at Restaurante Bica, where we share a carafe of red wine, hearty bread, cheese and olives;  I order Salmão Grelhado, or Grilled Salmon.  This is a small and bustling Portuguese family run business with delicious food.  It’s a lovely place but since it’s so loud, I have a little trouble hearing Jo and Mick in order to have a proper conversation.

It’s funny, Jo and Mick are British, so of course they have British accents.  I have a little trouble understanding Mick’s soft-spoken accent in particular.   It’s the same on their side as well; Jo mentions that the first time I called her, she was baffled by my American accent and thought: Who is this lady!??  It’s funny the assumptions we make about people when we read their writing in a blog as opposed to hearing them speak.  I was equally surprised by Marianne’s and by Jo’s British accents!

cheese appetizer at Restaurante Bica
cheese appetizer at Restaurante Bica
Salmao Grelhado, or Grilled Salmon at Restaurante Bica
Salmao Grelhado, or Grilled Salmon at Restaurante Bica

After dinner, we take a long walk through the town, where we see the lights of Tavira reflected in the Gilão River.

a night view of the River Gilão
a night view of the River Gilão
 The River Gilão in Tavira
The River Gilão in Tavira
 The River Gilão in Tavira
The River Gilão in Tavira

We stroll through an outdoor market with booths selling all kinds of crafts and clothing.  Mick takes a picture of Jo and me, which isn’t too great in the poor lighting.

me with Jo, walking around in Tavira
me with Jo, walking around in Tavira

Jo comments, as Marianne did in Spain, that she loves seeing entire Portuguese families out strolling, dining and laughing into the late hours of the night.

In one little square, we come across a crowd gathered around something or someone emanating a loud peeping sound.  When we finally push our way to a vantage point, we see a grown woman dressed like a baby in a baby stroller, making loud peeping sounds like an angry bird.   I’m totally baffled as to how these street performers think of these things.   Later, as we walk across the Ponte Romana, we come across this trio of colorful be-wigged and polka-dot faced ladies in a box, making similar peeping noises.  Wow!  There are certainly some creative street performers in these parts!

some strange peeping street performers
some strange peeping street performers

We walk back through the streets toward Jo’s house, where we plan to make a stop for a glass of Port.  However, the place where Jo and Mick usually go is closed tonight; once we discover this, we’ve left the center of town where we might find other options, so we give up and go home.  Jo promises that tomorrow night we will have a glass of Port.  She also gets my mouth watering over mention of a delicious fig and almond gelato, which we must sample tomorrow.

Tavira all abuzz at the cafes
Tavira all abuzz at the cafes

I’m exhausted by this time from my early start, my day of travel and all the walking, so I collapse in bed, dreaming of Port and fig and almond gelato, a literal feast of sweet dreams. 🙂

dinner & a promenade in torre del mar

Saturday, July 13:  This evening we head out to the town of Torre del Mar, a largish seaside town and busy summer beach resort on the Costa del Sol, boasting one of the longest and widest beaches along the coast.  We meet Ross and Daniella, Marianne and Michael’s neighbors, and wander along the streets of the town, trying to decide where to eat.  We come across some alien-looking plants along the way.

strange and ancient plant on the street of Torre del Mar
strange and ancient plant on the street of Torre del Mar
tree trunk on the street of Torre del Mar
tree trunk on the street of Torre del Mar

Marianne wants to go inside the bar section of El Yate, which means The Yacht, because it’s a lively place and has great ambiance.  Tonight it’s so lively, we can’t even find a table or a place at the bar.  Instead we opt to sit outdoors.

Daniella, Ross, Michael and Marianne at El Yate
Daniella, Ross, Michael and Marianne at El Yate

I’m wearing one of the new “Spanish skirts” I bought in Barcelona, which makes me feel like I fit right in.

Michael, me and Marianne at Al Yate
Michael, me and Marianne at Al Yate
Daniella, Ross, Michael and Marianne at El Yate
Daniella, Ross, Michael and Marianne at El Yate
Tinto de Verra at El Yate
Tinto de Verano at El Yate

El Yate is a marisqueria, which is an open-air seafood restaurant.  We order some tinto de verano and some seafood tapas, including Rosada.

the menu for El Yate, which means The Yacht
the menu for El Yate, which means The Yacht

Rosada is a white fish, flaky and juicy like cod but of denser texture.  The full name is Rosada del Cabo, which means “rosy thing of the cape.” The Cape refers to South Africa.  Tonight it is cooked á la plancha (gently braised in a persillage of finely chopped parsley and garlic in olive oil).  (Al-Andaloose: What is Rosada?)

Rosada del Cabo
Rosada del Cabo

I can’t remember the second type of fish we eat, but it’s slightly breaded and fried.  However, my favorite is the Rosada.

another fish
another fish

A man walks by selling some aromatic jasmine, heady in the cool night air.

sweet-scented jasmine
sweet-scented jasmine

For dessert, we have chocolate cups filled with a sweet liquor.  It’s delicious. 🙂

chocolate cups for dessert
chocolate cups for dessert

After dinner, we take a long stroll through the town, where we find whole Spanish families out having a grand time.  Everyone from elderly grandparents to little children are out gallivanting into the late hour.  We browse in the market stalls of the night market.

the outdoor night market in Torre del Mar
the outdoor night market in Torre del Mar
strolling on the promenade
strolling on the promenade
the beach promenade in Torre del Mar
the beach promenade in Torre del Mar

After stopping for a gelato, we drive back to the house.  I have to get up early tomorrow morning, as I’m catching a 7:20 bus from Torrox to Seville, and then from Seville to Tavira in Portugal.   It’s certainly been a lovely time visiting with Marianne and Michael in their whitewashed house perched on the mountainside in Andalucía. 🙂

nerja: balcón de europa, beachside paella & the acueducto del águila

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.

me on beneath some archways on the Balcón de Europa
me on beneath some archways on the Balcón de Europa
looking west from Balcón de Europa
looking east from Balcón de Europa
views of the coastline from Balcón de Europa
views of the coastline from Balcón de Europa
view from Balcón de Europa
view from Balcón de Europa

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.

me with King Alfonso XII
me with King Alfonso XII
plaque about the King
plaque about the King

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)

a cannon left from past
a cannon left from past
parting shot of the coastline from the Balcony
parting shot of the coastline from the Balcony

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.

Church of El Salvador
Church of El Salvador

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.

inside the Church of El Salvador
inside the Church of El Salvador

Marianne tells me some of the statues inside the church are carried through the streets by parishioners during festivals.

inside the Church of El Salvador
inside the Church of El Salvador
statues inside the Church of El Salvador
statues inside the Church of El Salvador

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).

the Norfolk Island Pine in front of Church of El Salvador
the Norfolk Island Pine in front of Church of El Salvador

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!

walking back through the town
walking back through the town

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. 🙂

looking for a parking spot
looking for a parking spot
The beach!
The beach!
beach volleyball :-)
beach volleyball 🙂

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.

huge pans of paella
huge pans of paella

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 restaurant is packed!
the restaurant is packed!
Marianne at Ayo
Marianne at Ayo

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!

Paella!!
Paella!!
me with paella :-)
me with paella 🙂

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.

Acueducto del Águila
Acueducto del Águila
looking from the bridge south of the aqueduct to the sea
looking from the bridge south of the aqueduct to the sea

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)

Acueducto del Águila
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. 🙂

a morning with marianne in frigiliana

Saturday, July 13:  This morning, Marianne and I head off for a girl’s outing to a number of places, the first of which is the lovely whitewashed village of Frigiliana, nestled in the mountains in the easternmost region of Andalucia.

First glimpse of Frigiliana
First glimpse of Frigiliana

She takes me for a scenic drive along the back road from Torrox pueblo to the village.

Me with Frigiliana in the background
Me with Frigiliana in the background

We make a stop at the snail-shaped bungalows of Los Caracoles Restaurant & Hotel for views of the village, blurred slightly today by a haze.

the view of Frigiliana from Los Caracoles Hotel
the view of Frigiliana from Los Caracoles Hotel

As we approach the village, the haze seems to burn off and we get a better view.

getting close to Frigiliana
getting close to Frigiliana

We walk into the old district inhabited by the Moors before and after the Reconquista. The name Mudéjar is used to describe not only the Moors or Muslims who remained behind after the Reconquista without converting to Christianity but also the architectural style used by Arab craftsmen working in Christian territory. The quarter is made up of steep cobbled alleyways winding past white houses resplendent with flowers. (Wikipedia: Frigiliana)

We begin the uphill climb into the old district.  I love the pebbled walkways with their interesting patterns.

walking up the streets of Frigiliana
walking up the streets of Frigiliana

Many of the houses have door knockers in the shape of the hand of Fatima. Usually depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. The symbol predates Christianity and Islam. In Islam, it is also known as the hand of Fatima, so named to commemorate Muhammad’s daughter Fatima Zahra (Wikipedia: Hamsa).   The door knockers in Frigiliana don’t quite fit the profile of the open right hand, as these seem to be a closed left hand.

Hand of Fatima door knocker
Hand of Fatima door knocker
hand of Fatima on a bright blue door
hand of Fatima on a bright blue door
hand of Fatima
hand of Fatima

Door knockers also have other interesting shapes.

Foxy door knocker
Foxy door knocker

We also see some interesting door bells.

interesting doorbell
interesting doorbell

Most charming and pleasing are the doorways, patios and windows decked out with flowers and greenery.

pretty entry
pretty entry
interesting flower
interesting flower
Frigiliana
Frigiliana
Frigiliana
Frigiliana
pretty entryway in Frigiliana
pretty entryway in Frigiliana
pretty window in Frigiliana
pretty window in Frigiliana

This is Calle El Zacatin, one of the most photographed streets in Frigiliana.  This view is taken from the top.  According to Marianne herself, in her blog, the steep street reveals “the original Arab layout of the village – winding streets, secret corners and adarves (little squares shared by a few houses and belonging only to them).”  The street “is the original site of a Moorish street market, filled with merchants and artisans, over a thousand years ago.” (Photographs I love …. and why! [Part 9])

El Zacatin in Frigiliana
El Zacatin in Frigiliana

Calle Alta is another steep narrow street in the old district.  Too bad the shadows make the street a little difficult to see.

Calle Alta in Frigiliana
Calle Alta in Frigiliana
sunflower at an entryway in Frigiliana
sunflower at an entryway in Frigiliana

Plaques along the walls of the streets tell the history of the village, in Spanish of course.

a plaque telling the history of the village
a plaque telling the history of the village
another pretty doorway in Frigiliana
another pretty doorway in Frigiliana

We stop at an overlook and admire the terra-cotta rooftops of the village.  Here’s Marianne. 🙂

Marianne in Frigiliana
Marianne in Frigiliana
rooftops of Frigiliana
rooftops of Frigiliana
Frigiliana
Frigiliana
Frigiliana
Frigiliana

Here’s me at a convergence of two streets, a great metaphor for my life right now.

me in Frigiliana
me in Frigiliana
Frigiliana cafe
Frigiliana cafe

We stop at a little wine shop to sample Vino Dulce Moscatel, a sweet Muscat wine.

two glasses of Vino Dulce Moscatel (Sweet Muscat wine)
two glasses of Vino Dulce Moscatel (Sweet Muscat wine)

And I enjoy looking at the colorful jams, sauces and dressings on the shelves.

sweets for sale in the wine shop
sweets for sale in the wine shop
more jars of sweets
more jars of sweets
dressings in pretty bottles
dressings in pretty bottles

Wall art is a big thing throughout the south of Spain, and Frigiliana has its share.  I am tempted by the geckos, and I end up buying two for my sons before we leave the village.

wall art in Frigiliana
wall art in Frigiliana
streets of Frigiliana
streets of Frigiliana

We drop into Frigiliana’s church where Marianne points out the statues that people actually carry through the streets during festival days.  People consider it an honor to carry these statues even though they are heavy and cumbersome.

church in Frigiliana
church in Frigiliana
church in Frigiliana
church in Frigiliana
one of the statues carried down the streets in festivals
one of the statues carried down the streets in festivals

We also stop in a little courtyard to admire La Fuente Vieja, the old fountain.

La Fuente Vieja (the old fountain)
La Fuente Vieja (the old fountain)

And Marianne points out the manhole covers that are engraved with the name of the village and a representative picture.

manhole cover with the city's name and picture
manhole cover with the city’s name and picture

Marianne has written much about Frigiliana.  Here are a few of her posts:

Photographs I love …. and why! [Part 9]

Looking across to Frigiliana

After leaving the village, we head to Nerja where we’re going to sample some paella at a seaside restaurant after we visit the Balcon de Europa.

meeting marianne: east of málaga to la axarquía

Friday, July 12:  After my tour, I’ve been invited to spend two nights with Marianne, and her husband Michael, of East of Málaga …. and more!.  They live in the countryside (el campo), in a beautiful area east of Málaga, known as La Axarquía.   This will be the first time I’ve met her, even though I’ve been reading her blog for some time.  Since she’s lived in Spain for about 8 years, her blog has great information about the area as well as beautiful photos.   She is so generous to offer me her hospitality for a couple of nights while I’m here in Spain.  I’m very excited to meet her because she obviously loves the country and the culture, and I’ve become quite fond of it myself.  Who is better than a local to give you the true feel for a place?

I get my first glimpse of Marianne standing outside the door of Hotel Lario in Málaga.  Wearing a gauzy coral top that’s very becoming on her, she’s looking in all directions for my arrival, as Barry has told her we’ll arrive at 1:00 and we’re a bit late.

We hug each other hello, and at the same time, I introduce her to Barry and Barry and Carole.  I give hugs all around to my traveling companions and tell the two Barrys and Carole that I’ll miss them, it was great to meet them, and parting will be such sweet sorrow. 😦

As all this is happening in front of the hotel where parking is prohibited, it’s all a blur.  Before I know it, Scottish Barry has driven off, Barry and Carole have disappeared into their hotel, and Marianne and I are hauling my suitcase and carry-on to a busy main street in Málaga.  Marianne texts Michael and in short order he drives up, we quickly throw my suitcases in the trunk, Marianne takes over the driving, and we head down the highway East of Málaga, following the title of Marianne’s blog, to their beautiful home perched on the side of a mountain between Torrox and Competa.

The house is perfectly situated for a stunning view; Marianne and Michael tell me if it weren’t so cloudy this afternoon, we could see Málaga and the sea.  They are baffled by the clouds as apparently they are a rare thing in the south of Spain.  For some reason the clouds, along with a cool breeze, have come to hang out today, but it’s fine by me as I haven’t seen many clouds in the two years I’ve lived in Oman.  Neither have I had any cloudy days since I arrived in Spain.  I’m not bothered by them at all and actually find them a welcome relief from the heat I’ve experienced during our tour of Andalucia.

the view from Marianne and Michael's house between Torrox and Competa in Spain
the view from Marianne and Michael’s house between Torrox and Competa in Spain

The whitewashed house is decorated beautifully but simply.  A patio with a swimming pool beckons;  Marianne says she often takes a dip right before bedtime; it helps her to cool down and she enjoys floating on her back and looking at the bright pinpoints of stars in the black sky.   Flowers and gardens are all abloom around the house and on the hillside.

Marianne and Michael have been happily married a long time.  It’s lovely to see how smitten Michael is with Marianne.  He brings her a flower every day and he’s always complimenting her on how she looks, how well she cooks, on everything.  I love how they keep their romance alive.  They make me feel hopeful.

Marianne and Michael beside their pool
Marianne and Michael beside their pool

Marianne is warm and easy-going and makes me feel comfortable right away.  She invites me to settle into the guest room while she prepares a lunch of melon and prosciutto.  It’s the perfect lunch, light and cool and refreshing, a lovely counterpoint to all the large meals I’ve been eating lately.  Perfect.

melon and prosciutto
melon and prosciutto

We eat our lunch on the patio with the mountains unfolding before us and make a toast to our meeting with tinto de verano, a mixture of red wine and gaseosa (or Fanta) or lemonade.  We all have a great conversation about our love of travel.

Marianne and Michael have been spending about 4 months out of the year in Australia during the winter months and have come to love it.  One of the things that took them there was their love of motorsport.  They’re self-proclaimed “petrol-heads” and have been able to watch Formula 1 Grand Prix racing in Albert Park, Melbourne on a couple of occasions.  They have developed a great love for Australia and New Zealand and tell me I should really try to travel there.

I wonder how they are able to travel for 4 months out of a year, as I know travel can be expensive, but they manage it quite frugally by doing house-sitting.  Marianne tells me of a website, housecarers.com, where they are able to arrange some great house-sitting opportunities.  Sometimes they have to take care of pets, pools or gardens, but it enables them to travel for long periods of time.  I like the idea a lot and determine I must look into it myself.

me making a toast with Marianne
me making a toast with Marianne

Michael has brought Marianne some hibiscus today.  Two blossoms brighten up the table.

colorful hibiscus
colorful hibiscus

After lunch, we take a stroll around the garden, which grows abundantly and wildly on the hillside.  I fall in love with a delicate passion-flower.  The “Passion” in the name refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology.  In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Christ and especially his crucifixion.

passion flower
passion flower

There are fruit trees, cacti and aloe vera in abundance, among other things.

in Marianne's garden
in Marianne’s garden
cacti in the garden
cacti in the garden
Marianne's garden
Marianne’s garden
in Marianne's garden
in Marianne’s garden
view again
view again

Some Spaniards own a house down the road from Marianne’s, but they only come to the house periodically to work on their gardens and relax.  They leave their dog at the house, and he has taken to showing up at Marianne’s door.  Since she feeds him, he has become her loyal companion.  He’s not even her dog, but try telling him that.   He wouldn’t believe it for an instant.  He follows her faithfully everywhere and comes to greet her whenever she goes away and returns.  She calls him Spud, even though that’s not his real name.  Marianne’s a lucky lady, having a husband who obviously adores her, and someone else’s dog who loves her too. 🙂

Spud the dog
Spud the dog

After we take a walk around the garden, we walk to a neighbor’s house to meet them since we have plans to go out for dinner with them tomorrow night.  Ross and Daniella are Brits, as are Marianne and Michael; they offer us a glass of wine when we stop by.

Since I haven’t planned the next step of my trip to Tavira in Portugal’s Algarve, I don’t have a clue yet how I will get there.  I am thinking of taking the lazy man’s route and renting a car, but this will be very expensive.  I spent $446 just to rent a car for three days from Barcelona to Toledo to Malaga; I don’t want to spend a fortune on another rental car, although I love the freedom a car offers.  Luckily Marianne knows the ins and outs of the bus system and helps me to book bus tickets online.  Together, we book a 7:20 a.m. ALSA bus from Torrox (e) to Sevilla (Plaza de Armas).  I can’t book this leg of the trip online as the ALSA website won’t take my American credit card.  Luckily Marianne is able to put it on her charge card and I pay her 25 euros for it.  The second leg of the trip has to be booked through the EVA Transportes website. The EVA bus goes from Seville all through the Algarve.  I am able to book that ticket online with my credit card for another $25.  I’m so thankful that Marianne helps me book these tickets and figure this out, because it gives me a lot of confidence with the bus systems and saves me a lot of money.  I end up taking buses and trains for most of the rest of my trip through Portugal.

After booking my bus tickets, I lie down and take a nap for a bit.  When I wake up, Marianne is preparing a dinner of Moroccan chicken with dates and rice.  I wish now I had written the recipe, as now I’ve forgotten all the ingredients.  I hope she posts the recipe on her blog (soon!) because it is a most delightful meal.

looking out over the pool
looking out over the pool
view at dusk
view at dusk
Marianne's house and pool
Marianne’s house and pool
the patio
the patio
Marianne's special chicken and rice recipe: delicious!
Marianne’s special chicken and rice recipe: delicious!

We have more lively and interesting conversation about travel and cultures over dinner and wine. This is my first afternoon with this lovely couple and I go to sleep wondering what surprises tomorrow will bring. 🙂