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)
Tuesday, July 9: On the way to Málaga this morning, we visit the spectacular El Torcal Nature Reserve. On our way we see a crop being harvested and Australian Barry asks Scottish Barry what it is. Scottish Barry guesses it might be onions or garlic, but he keeps reminding Australian Barry that he really doesn’t know much about botany. That doesn’t stop Australian Barry from asking him a lot of questions about trees, flowers, plants and crops in the farmland of southern Spain.
We also pass fields and fields of happy sunflowers, turning their faces to the sun.
Located about 30 km north of Málaga, near Antequera and the village of Villanueva de la Concepción, within El Torcal Park’s 17 square km are some of the most beautiful and impressive limestone landscapes in Europe. The whole area was under the sea until one hundred million years ago.
Antequera is a town of 40,000 people and has more amenities, such as a hospital, than the sleepy town of Mollina where we’re staying.
Violent movements of the Earth’s crust forced it upward into hills and mountains up to 1.300 meters; at that time, the limestone still kept its layered horizontal formation. Over millions of years, the rain and wind have chiseled away at these layers to form incredible shapes. (El Torcal Nature Reserve)
The blocks of stone have been subjected to both dissolution by water (karstification) and freeze-thaw splitting action which, working on the limestone’s horizontal beds, resulted in the various shapes visible today, many of which resemble, and have been named after, everyday objects such as the Sphinx, the Jug, the Camel, the Screw, etc. Other flat surfaces have been karstified into rugged, rocky lands where travel on foot is difficult (Wikipedia: Torcal de Antequera).
We take a 45 minute walk through the amazing limestone formations. It’s a cool breezy respite from the heat we experienced yesterday in Seville. Before leaving, we walk to a viewpoint where we can see, through a hazy sky, Villanueva de la Concepción, Málaga and the Mediterranean Sea. Then we head on the road to visit Málaga.
Tuesday, June 11: I’ve planned my time in Spain, but, so far, I haven’t even begun to think of Portugal. I know I better start thinking about it soon because I have to fly out of Lisbon on July 25.
Here’s my itinerary so far.
June 28-July 3: Barcelona, Spain, including Montserrat. I’m staying at BCN Fashion House: (bcn fashion house)
I decided to skip Madrid altogether.
July 3-6: Toledo, Spain. I’ll be staying at La Posada de Manolo. Last summer when I was traveling in Greece, I met an inspiring South African lady, Marie-Claire. She had come to Greece after traveling all over Europe, but especially in Spain and Portugal. She highly recommended I stay more than one day in Toledo. Since I have a small group tour lined up in Andalucia from July 6-12, I booked 3 days/4 nights in Toledo.
July 6-12: I will head straight from Toledo to Malaga Airport, where I will meet Tour Andalucia: Tour Andalucia: Villa Tour
The small group tour includes the following:
- Meet at Malaga Airport and subject to arrival time, spend a few hours in Mijas, a lovely mountain village overlooking the Mediterranean, then travel and check in to the Villa.
- Breakfast and travel to Seville. Visit the Santa Maria Park to see the amazing Plaza Espana, the site of the American Exhibition of 1929. Walk from the park past some of Seville’s most historic buildings to the Barrio Santa Cruz. Wander through the narrow lanes of the Barrio and take a delicious tapas lunch ‘Seville style’ in one of the lovely small Plazas. In the afternoon visit the largest Cathedral in the world followed by the fabulous Alcazar, one of the oldest Royal Palaces in Europe. An elegant City, Seville was once one of the wealthiest in Europe.
- Breakfast and travel to Ronda. One the way, we stop at the historic site of Teba Castle, scene of a famous battle with the Moors. In Ronda we walk you into the town and leave you by the magnificent bridge over the gorge to explore and sightsee on your own. Maybe take a ride around the old town in horse-drawn carriages and wonder at the sheer magnificence of the town perched along the cliff top of the Tajo gorge. Wander through the elegant narrow streets of the old town and visit some of the magnificent houses and the museum of Ronda. Visit the famous Ronda bullring home of the Matador and the oldest in Spain, now a museum.
- Breakfast and travel to Malaga. On the way we visit the spectacular El Torcal National Park. Set high in the mountains there is a 45 minute walk through the amazing limestone formations. Arriving in Malaga at lunch hour we go to one of the great value seafood Chiringuitos by the sea. Sample fantastic sardines barbequed on an olive wood fire next to the Mediterranean. We take you into the centre of Malaga near the Cathedral and leave you to explore the town, maybe visiting the magnificent Cathedral, the large Moorish Alcazaba and Roman Theatre. And don’t forget the Picasso Museum since Picasso was born locally and his parents’ house is now the Picasso Foundation and open for visits.
- Breakfast and travel to Cordoba. We walk through the old City Walls and into the pretty Barrio San Basilio and see one of the typical patios that Cordoba is famous for. The Royal Stables shows us some of the famous Andalucian horses in a lovely set of buildings. Onto the Christian Alcazar, nowhere near as grand as Seville, but designed in the Mudajar style, a fusion of Moorish and Christian Gothic and the scene of famous historic events including the planning of the voyage of Columbus. The 1,000 year old Arab baths built for the Caliphs remind us of a society long gone and we wander through the Juderia visiting the old Jewish Market & the Synagogue. A great tapas lunch in the Bodega Mesquita followed by the highlight of the day, the spectacular Mesquita, the greatest Mosque in the Western World and the only one with a Cathedral right in the centre of it. The famous Puente Romano bridge awaits demonstrating why Cordoba was the capital of the Roman empire in the Iberian Peninsula.
- Breakfast and travel to Granada. Normally the highlight of our tour, we walk into the Bib Rambla, part of the old Silk Market and now the Flower Market of Granada. Here we suggest you sample some of the best Chocolate and Churros in Andalucia. Walking through the square we pass the Bishops Palace and walk into the Alcaiceria, the well-preserved old silk market. The Royal Chapel, commissioned as the burial site for the famous ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Ferdinand and Isabella, is now a museum and worth a visit. The beautiful Cathedral is one of the lightest inside that you will see. Have a light lunch and then we drive up to the Alhambra to spend a few hours wandering the gardens and buildings before entering the amazing Nasrid Palaces. After the visit we drive around the City and up to the top of the atmospheric Albaycin where we have dinner at Jardines de Zoraya who host an excellent Flamenco performance with local talented young musicians and dancers. A five-minute ‘after dinner’ walk takes us to the viewing point at San Nichols where we see the beauty of the Alhambra lit up at night set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Breakfast and, subject to departure flight times, we visit the historic City of Antequera, home of the impressive 5,000 year old Dolmens and the first Alcazaba to fall in the reconquest of the kingdom of Granada. Return to Malaga Airport.
July 12-14: After my tour, I’ve been invited to spend two nights with Marianne, and her husband, of East of Málaga …. and more!. She lives in the countryside (el campo), in a beautiful area east of Málaga, known as La Axarquía. I’m really excited to meet a fellow blogger who now makes her home in the south of Spain.
July 14-25: Heading to Portugal. I think I will try to rent a car in Malaga and just take off toward Portugal, ending up my last four nights around Lisbon. While in Lisbon, I want to go to Obidos and Sintra, both highly recommended by my friend and fellow traveler, Marie-Claire. I also want to explore the Alfama in Lisbon. No specific plans for Portugal yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something before I leave Oman. 🙂