On Monday we took ourselves off to have a look at a typical local village, Moclin. Hilltop, former Moorish residence with castle on a crag and watchtowers on surrounding crags; quaint. Cobbled streets, extremely clean and litter free - that would please Maffi, - whitewashed and very, very quiet.
On Sunday things were a tad overcast and chilly (Hee, Hee I can hear ..) so togged up with overcoats, but no gloves or hats, to set off in search for a walking trail that is one of the Vias Verde trails here in Spain. They are trails established along what are now redundant railway tracks. The nearest I could find to where we are staying is north of us on the way to Cordoba near a town called Alcaudete. I could only find some information about the trails on the tinternet and with nothing resembling a map or leaflet finding the trail was going to be potluck. We headed north on our chosen route looking out for a brown tourist sign that might indicate the trail....there was a dearth of brown tourist signs...nice drive though. As we were about to give up the road passed under a footbridge..."That's it!" I cried, " the trail crosses this road." So a U turn was executed and we headed back under the footbridge and took the next right and a mile down the track through olive groves and we found the Vias verde.
We set off south along the trail, deciding to walk for 45 minutes before turning and walking the 45 minutes back to the car. The trail passes Lake Salanbrol, above.
Arriving back at the car and the skies have darkened, are we going to have a deluge?
And at last, we spot mechanised Olive harvesting. We watched while two tracked vehicles set to and harvested olives. The harvester has something like a giant inverted-broken-umbrella fixed to the front in hydraulic arms. Approaching the olive tree, the arms are lowered and the umbrella unfurled around the base of the tree and then the harvester shakes the tree. The olives fall off into the waiting umbrella which furls up again and gathers the crop..simples.
And spotted on our walk, how about miniature Iris's as wild flowers?
After a couple of hours out and about we headed south again under louring skies but no rain. We decided that we will take a pack-up (packed lunch) next time, perhaps later in the week and head north along the Vias Verde now we have located it..
I am probably setting us for a deluge of Biblical proportions by writing this but we haven't had any more rain since our first weekend here, just oodles sunshine. The clear skies at night mean things are bitterly cold overnight with a hard frost in the morning but by mid morning, there is wall to wall sunshine and it is sufficiently warm enough to be comfortable just wearing t-shirts, so we are pleasantly surprised. Most days we have been able to enjoy lunch on the terrace and sit for a couple of hours reading in the sunshine.
We are smack bang in the middle of olive growing country here and the olive harvest is well underway but unlike the UK there is a noticeable lack of mechanisation employed. Your ears are assaulted with the melody of a two-stroke engine powering a hand held 'twig- wobbler' that shakes the olives from the branches. The olives are then either raked into piles and dumped in a trailer or they use leaf blowers to achieve the same aim...but with more noise. The harvest is very labour intensive and I wondered how the crop could be economic but it seems that olive trees attract an annual EU subsidy of 700 euros per hectare (2.47 acres)....
In another part of the old farm that we are staying on are six young Bulgarians that come every year for the olive harvest, in fact they travel across Europe picking crops in season in various Countries to earn a living. They are working seven days a week, leaving at 7.30am and returning at 5.30pm and they are paid about £50 per day each to harvest olives; Respect!! Given the terrible level of youth unemployment in Spain one wonders why foreign labour is needed but I have nothing but admiration for those that are prepared to travel and put in the hours that these Bulgarians are prepared to deliver.
Have a lovely Christmas everyone..
For those of you that have been mightily pee'd off by my reports of sunshine, al fresco lunches etc. this weekend it has rained, a little, been overcast, a little, and overcoat's were required today...there you all feel so much better now don't you?
We took ourselves off this afternoon to Alcala la Real to visit the Fortaleza de la Mota...the Fortress of the Hill which dominates Alcala and all the surrounding countryside. This is the Moorish 'castle' that you can see for miles before arriving at Alcala. The Moslem rulers were established in the 7th century and held out against the 'Christian' rulers of the remainder of Castille until the mid 14thCentury ( 1341) when Alcala fell to Alphonso XI. The fortress is developed and an Abbey founded there by the new Spanish rulers. Napoleon fired the Abbey when he and his army was rampaging there in the Peninsula wars and it finally disappeared in the 19thC.
Fortaleza De La Mota
View of modern Alcala from the ramparts
Medieval structures within the fortress, winery's, butchery's and Poundland etc.
A modern representation of a Trebuchet..rock slinging anti-siege kit.
Yesterday we decided to have a drive south some 100 miles and have a look at Nerja on the Med. The guidebooks said that it was one of the quieter resorts on the Cost del Sol and with that in mind we went exploring. Apart from one holiday in Granada in 1992 I have never been to mainland Spain and Joe has never been here at all so hands up, we are pretty ignorant of what this enormous Country has to offer.
The journey south was pretty straightforward, The A44 motorway and the A7 and that was it. The roads are a pleasure to drive on and I am seriously impressed with the Spanish civil engineers and what they have managed to do in such a mountainous country. Cutting through the Sierra Nevada mountains the roads go across no end of soaring viaducts and closer to the coast, a plethora of tunnels.
On the road and heading south
Joe, beach combing
It's fun, fun, fun...Labradors and water...it comes only second to Labradors and food!
We are going for a swim Mum
Stone throwing..hours of entertainment
Nerja town..on the cliffs above
Awaiting lunch at a beachside restaurant
After lunch we wandered up into town and had a look around before setting off again north.
Oh look another tunnel
Coming down hill we are about to swing right across yet another viaduct
It was a lovely day, easy journey, good weather and pleasant but simple lunch and the best bit...the silly grins on our faces watching Fletcher and Floyd cavorting in the sea.
Sunday morning after a lie in, a leisurely breakfast, for those that didn't cook it that is, we scrubbed up and took a drive into the nearest town which is Alcala la Real. We knew that nothing would be open because unlike England, where Sunday trading restrictions have been all but lifted, Spain is to all intents and purposes the 1950's/1960's England that I grew up in where everything was closed and Sunday's were BORING! Not so Alcala... nothing open but the towns folk were out and about in best bib and tucker, including one lady in a fur coat, the children were scrubbed and out with Mum and Dad and Grandma and Grandad.
Our first sight of Alcala la Real, the Moorish Citadel that overlooks the current town can be seen from miles away as it guards the surrounding countryside
The fountain in the town square
We headed into town and parked the car and went walk about stopping in the town square for a couple of coffees, dos café con leche por favour..
My three boys., Himself, Floyd and Fletcher
Heading back to base after a couple of hours we came around a bend and there in front of us was SNOW!! It wasn't there yesterday but now the mountains are wearing their winter robes.
This morning we went into the local town to get in some supplies, we followed a local lady called Concha who was going to lead us to the nearest large supermarket. I managed to say 'hello and good morning' in Spanish and tomorrow I am hoping to say 'hello, good morning, how are you?' but I am a bit worried about the reply and the speed it is delivered...
Arriving back at base with a week's plus worth of shopping I packed it away and prepared a light lunch of super crusty Spanish bread with ham for Himself and houmous for me. Leaving Joe to prepare the log burner for the evening I set off with the dogs for a walk up through the olive groves to the ridge surrounding the village.
A magnificent example of a Holm, also known as a Holly Oak, growing in amongst the Olive trees. This oak is evergreen with tiny leaves the shape an amalgam of the oak and holly.
Look at the bole on this tree...how old is that do you think?
The lower slopes were just fine but by the time I had scrambled towards the top my heart was beating a route out of my rib cage and I was beginning to wonder about the possibility of a little cardiac episode... then I thought sod it, you've got to go some way carry on you wuss. As soon as I made the summit and 'level' ground the old ticker returned to its normal plod and all was well.
Towards the top of our climb I came across this ruin...a project for Joe perhaps but only if a Stena stair lift is included!
We disembarked our ferry at 7am on Tuesday morning having been up since 5am to get the dogs ready for an early confinement in the car, a reversal of the embarkation process where we are escorted through the non public parts of the ship. It was just getting light as we headed out of Bilbao towards Madrid and just beyond.
Nothing much about on these new EU funded roads
A map to hand just to get a sense of where we are going and a valuable back up if the GPS fell out of the sky and made the Tom Tom redundant!
We arrived in Aranjuez, pronounced something like A-ran-hewer with a lisp employed on the hewer bit, at lunch time and after checking out the new one way system three, or was it four times , it might have been five times actually...we finally located our hotel. We had decided to break our 750 mile journey from Bilbao to Trujillos and settled for somewhere just south of Madrid.. Aranjuez was enroute so we had pre-booked the accommodation in the UK making sure that they were happy to have the dogs. We booked in and carted all our overnight gear into the room; travelling with the dogs is like having a baby with you, dog beds, dog food, dog bowls, chews, poo bags, just no buggy! Once the room was sorted we took advantage of the fantastic weather and went walk about.
Just across the road from the hotel is the Royal Palace...pink brick and ivory stone embellishments. It was quite stunning and enhanced by a couple of fine looking Labs posing in front of it.
The avenue to the Palace
Leaving town the next morning, more one-way exploration, we passed the Plaza del Torros, a bloody great Bull Ring that seats 9000..least said I think. This next stage of our journey was some 225 miles or thereabouts. We crossed through a number of mountain ranges all on excellent roads, through remarkable tunnels, crossed extensive crop filled plains and gradually the countryside started to change and the miles and miles of olive trees stretched before us.
Turning off of the impressive main drags we are now heading towards the tiny settlement that is going to be home for the next few months
And here we have it, a traditional farm building now converted to holiday accommodation. We are in the midst of acres and acres of olive groves that we can walk the dogs in which was part of the attraction. Tomorrow will start to explore so for now Adios, Buenas tarde.
Yes, we have abandoned the good ship narrowboat Yarwood in Northamptonshire, visited family, had an extended stay with my dear Mother, stayed overnight with blogging friends on the South Coast and finally left the Country. Sunday evening saw Joe driving the 'Clampet' wagon to Portsmouth where we boarded the Brittany Ferry Cap Finistere and set sail for Bilbao in northern Spain. We had booked a 'pet cabin' that allowed the two dogs to share our four berth cabin.
On boarding the ferry we had to leave the dogs in the back of the car (yes, there was a tear in my eye I believe.. what a wuss I am) but after taking our overnight bags to our cabin we were summoned 40 minutes later to reception where the dog owners were gathered to be escorted through the bowels of the ship, away from public areas, back to our vehicles. The assorted canines were retrieved, muzzles fitted to reluctant snouts and then we were escorted back through the ship's innards to our respective cabins. We fitted the boys new bed under the desk and shoved the 'resident' chair in the shower cubicle.
We pulled out of Portsmouth at 10.50pm and prepared ourselves to settle down and hit the sack. However, Fletcher was utterly disdainful of the dog walking/toilet facilities provided and managed to 'hold himself' for some 26 hours despite Joe and I spending a number of hours walking up and down, up and down the dog exercise area trying to encourage a reluctant Labrador to go. Every time we encountered another dog owner we were asked 'Has he been yet?' Come Tuesday morning the bunting was hoisted as Fletcher finally gave in just before we disembarked and started the long trek overland to our winter retreat in southern Spain of which more tomorrow.