Sunday, 23 February 2014

Colorful blossom in Júzcar and Faraján mountain areas

Coat of Arms, Faraján

Almond trees blossom at Faraján, south of Ronda.

As spring time is approaching in Andalucia we reserved time this week-end first visiting Granada / Sierra Nevada and then on Sunday the mountain areas just south of Ronda. A newspaper article by Javier Almellones about Faraján prompted us to visit this small village with only 246 inhabitants. The name is said to mean "the place of delight". The soil is fertile as fresh water is supplied by a stream passing the village. As in Istán the local people Faraján have their own plots for vegetables and citrus trees grow in abundance. Chestnut trees and oak forest the area and add to the beautiful vegetative scenery. Right now it is time for the almond trees to blossom. Driving along the MA7306 is an adventure per se as the road is extremely narrow following the hillsides, going up and down. We assume that it is more or less following ancient mule & donkey tracks. 

Scenery along the MA7306.

A local bus making its way from village to village.

We passed the village of Cartajima with beautiful surroundings.

Before reaching Faraján we discovered another small village, Júzcar or "Pueblo Pitufo" as it is also called after the blue Smurffs. This town has 239 inhabitants and is peculiar because it is painted all in blue, see below. Júzcar is according to Wikipedia, since 1731, the number one sheet metal producer in Spain. But why is the village painted in blue? In 2011 Sony proposed that Júzcar be painted blue in order to promote the new Smurff movie. Sony paid for the paint and now all village except one building is blue. This incident turned Júzcar from a hidden village of Serrania de Ronda to a renowned Smurff-village that initially was visited by 200.000 visitors that year.

Júzcar - The Smurff Village.

All in blue except the house of "Gargamel".

In the outskirts of Júzcar - first came noises and later the explanation.

It happens from time to time that we loose our tracks and so we did once leaving Júzcar. A tiny path of a "road" connects Júzcar with Pujerra region. It is not only narrow but also steep and it seemed to us that in a few places it might, during heavy rain, become blocked due to high water or similar circumstances. The scenery was stunning and we are used to such "adventure" so the excitement added some extra flavor to our day out. Anyway, we wanted to reach Faraján and this was not the road. The road we should have taken from Júzcar is built right through the village but from the look of it, it was more like a dead-end lane. Just drive straight on but be mindful of the pedestrians in the village. Locals seem to move on foot from one place to another.

Entrance to Faraján.

Almond blossom at Faraján.

Garden gate.

We reached Faraján fairly late and first looked for the lovely blossoming almond trees before entering the local bar for a beer and some tapas. Well, no tapas available so we had queso and jamon sandwiches instead. We ordered for one large (Mrs T who deserved this after all the excitement) and one small beer for Mr. T ("Alonso-the driver"). Beers delivered seemed to be of same size but the glass for Mr. T was taller. Maybe this was a prudent suggestion from the villagers. Now, having finished our light and late lunch we started our return via Ronda and down the A-397 to Marbella, then A7 back to Fuengirola. 

Almond Blossom.

A great day out, all six hours, discovering new places with a strong local flavor. Thank you Mrs. T for your patience and photographic support!!!

Snow covered Sierra Nevada

On the road to Granada and Sierra Nevada

Our previous visit to Granada last summer (see the blog) was a small adventure with narrow one way streets and a scooter bumping into us. So Mrs. T more or less felt no more driving into Granada. This time I knew what to expect and must say there was no problems (almost). Anyway, Mrs T opted to stay at home so I left on my own just to get some shots of the snowy Sierra Nevada and in a way end the circle taking white pictures to complement the summer pictures from our previous visit. The above picture is taken from a pedestrian way across the A-92 giving a beautiful view over the area. Not far from Granada now. Having reached the city I knew what I wanted. A picture with Alhambra in the front and the Sierra Nevadas in the background. The only thing was I had very little idea how to find the right spot for this picture of my dreams. 

Could not remove the Puleva milk lorry - it was parked there.

I drove up to Alhambra from a southern direction and tried to look around. I needed a hillside east to north of Alhambra but Granada is a bustling city and strange to me so it was difficult. And I had not been allocated to much time;)  I drove up on a small patio kind of thing next to a church. There where other cars parked (illegally of course) so I spent considerable time thinking what to do. Stay or leave? Mrs. T (nicknamed "to be on the safe side") would have wanted to leave, but I was obsessed by my photographic dream. So when a youngish lady appeared, stepped into her car and left I saw my chance. HURRY! Because there is another car driving up and I am soon loosing this opportunity.   So without further hesitation I parked the car in front of this church below Alhambra. A small prayer "please do not clamp my car" before walking uphill on this warm and sunny day:) My reconnaissance of the area eventually proved futile so I returned to my pretend-to-be-fourwheeldrive KIA. ALAS! OF COURSE! A police car AND "the content". They where doing some "office work" leaving a note on every cars windscreen. I was JUST IN TIME (JIT) to explain myself.......I suppose it was my professional appearance with all the camera gear and my foreign accent that got me off the hook. Another chance to offer my appreciation to the Spanish culture and its hospitality!

Same region.
Pico Veleta I presume.

Happy to escape the fees I drove away, turned left and tried one more time to find another place I had seen that might be good for my intentions. The result was that I ended up on the very same main Alhambra parking area where I had already been so I decided it is time to find the A-44 and A-92 and return home. As we have a number of SPANISH READERS may I take this opportunity and ask for help? If anyone knows where I can find the right spot (hill) where I could take a picture with Alhambra in the foreground and the Sierras in the back, PLEASE GIVE ME A TIP. Much appreciated! I'll buy you a copa of tinto when we meet. 

Commercializing Sierra Nevada, Andalucia.

A Great Excursion Day to the Marvellous Sierra Nevada. Thank you!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Málaga (accidentally) By Night

Málaga main shopping street in the old town late at night

During our stay in Andalucia we have taken interest in cultural events all from Flamenco (see trip to Cadiz), open air opera at the Sohail Castle and cinematic opera (live from Metropolitan) at Plaza Mayor and at the local Alfil Cinemas. We particularly fancied the concert by SOTO that was given at the Peace Palace in Fuengirola. A real rhythmic show that left nobody cool. Málaga offer splendid theatre, opera and concerts, too. We have visited Teatro Cervantes several times but this time we chose a piano concert by Paula Coronas at Teatro Echegaray just behind the Cathedral. We had a busy day, finished our late lunch without dessert and left with hurry from Fuengirola to the concert that I KNEW would begin at 19.00 hours. We arrived just on time to have a cup of coffee and dessert before the concert. We asked the waiter to bring the coffee, dessert AND BILL all at the same time. She looked at me slightly confused almost like she was trying to say "we do not operate here like that". Anyway, we were served and set off for the theatre. We found the nice building all right, the "taquilla" was open but there was no people around and doors where CLOSED. What now? Is this the wrong day, wrong door or what.......? Mrs T looked at me wanting to say something like "what have you been up to?". It took me a short moment to understand that the time I KNEW would be 19.00 maybe was not so obvious. In fact the weekly concerts in Málaga tend to start at 21.00 hours and so did also this piano concert. What can you say? I get older and sloppier.......this time we were lucky to arrive 2 hours early and as I did bring my camera we used the time photographing the Málaga evening. BUT BECAUSE this was not a photographic mission per se I DID NOT BRING MY TRIPOD with me. Hence I must apology for the poor quality of the pictures shot at large aperture leaving part of them a little blurry. I have had better days but, then, this is only life.

Entrance to Teatro Echegaray at 21.00 hours.

Teatro Echegaray behind the Cathedral.

Interior from the theatre.

Unfortunately we where not allowed to photograph the performance itself but if you are interested in Paula Coronas she has a website at  Briefly she is a talented lady from Málaga where she studied and finished with the highest grades. She has been competing actively winning her first prize when she was twelve and many others since then. She now holds the professorship of piano in Málaga and combines her teaching with national and international concerts. This evening she performed Liszt, Schubert, Debussy, Scriabin and Spanish composers Turina, de Falla, Ocón and Granados.

The Cathedral above the old town.

Plenty of restaurants and bars in the old town.

A place for a Perrito (local hot dog) and coke.

View towards a side street.

The above pictures are from the Málaga old town with all the museums, restaurants and shops. This is only a short walk from the Centro-Alameda train station. We have often enjoyed excellent dishes in the restaurants and it is a good idea to leave some pre-concert time if you fancy a tapas or a local dish before it. Shops are open until late evening. The Cathedral closes at 19.00 hours but up till now we have not found the right entrance for it. Will try again next time:) Although it cannot be seen from these pictures the old town is very busy almost any day / evening. This post ends with a picture from a small alley in the city centre where a caballero finishes his day.

Late night conversation.

Did you like the pictures? There is more at  Don´t be shy to leave your comments, too. They are all highly appreciated.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Nerja, Costa del Sol in February

La Herradura Beaches at sunset.

Today we decided with Mrs. M and Mrs T to drive east to the beautiful Nerja region to give Mrs. M a glimpse of the eastern parts of Costa del Sol. We had already been driving along the western seaside when returning from Jerez. And we have also seen parts of the mountain area north to northeast of Marbella. We have liked Nerja from the day we first visited it on our arrival to Spain in June last year.  
Also this time we decided to leave the caves for another time and instead we spent time in the town itself having lunch and taking more pictures from Nerja for future use.

Coastal view from the Balcon de Europa.

At the end of Balcon de Europa.

Mountains closing in on Nerja.

Nerja is only about an hours drive from Fuengirola and therefore suitable for a days excursion if you only want to see the town itself. There is a good parking lot near the sea with a good access in a town otherwise having rather steep hillsides. It was also nice to view the Sierra Nevada and it took us by a little surprise as we spotted only very small amounts of snow in one or two places. The southern slopes seem easily accessible this time of the year which was good news to us.

A Beach House at Nerja Beaches.

Next to the Beach house some activity going on.

Inside the town of Nerja.

Before returning home along the A-7 we drove towards the east from Nerja to reach La Herradura. This strip of coastline is really photographic and several miradors are placed for stopping for some pictures. This evening the sunset was beautiful with some haze and low clouds near the sun. The below pictures is taken towards the east and summarizes this blogpost.

Driving towards La Herradura. Coastline is picturesque, isn't it.

Thank you Andalucia for an excellent network of roads following one of the worlds most beautiful coastlines.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Jardin Botanico de La Concepcion, Málaga.

Bamboo trees in evening sun.

During my visit to the Inca gardens in Torremolinos another visitor kindly gave me the tip to visit the Botanical Gardens in Málaga. I was advised that this was a larger area with vegetation from around the world. And indeed this proved to be correct. These gardens date back to the mid 19th century and has gradually been extended. In 1994 it was again opened to the public as a historical botanical garden and cultural, didactic and scientific centre ( To find the place drive north from Málaga along the A-45 and take off at Ciudad Jardin. Then follow the signs to these historical-botanic gardens. The entrance fee is today eur 5,20 and one can easily spend a full day there. 

A variety of bushes and trees make a beautiful scenery.

Mrs. T and Mrs. M admire the blooming rosemary.

Several well designed paths makes walking easy and take you to the different sections of the park. Vuelta al Mundo en 80 Árboles is displaying different kind of trees from around the world. Along the  Ruta de los Miradores you can spot several photographic scenes and make a stop at the viewpoints to rest your feet. 

Blossom in February.

Insects have appeared throughout the cold season.

Flora is reach in this garden with some 2000 species reported and with a few specimens over 100 years of age. Also ornithologists are recommended to visit the place to spot some of the larger or smaller birds in the area.

Almond trees blossom this time up in the mountains.

Revert in early March and the place will be even greener.


The historical part of the garden reminds of a rain forest at occasions. Other parts are e.g. an area with palms, primitive plants, bamboo garden, native region plants, an old lemon grow (where one of  the lemon trees also carried mandarins) and others to choose from.

Old section of the garden with lush vegetation.

Another section of the old gardens.

Late afternoon shadows.

This day was well spent in these historical-botanic gardens. If you do not have access to a car there is also a bus (line 61 from the main alameda boulevard) to take you from Málaga all the way to the entrance of the gardens.

At the entrance next to the water plants.

A worthwhile place for all nature enthusiasts!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sisters sightseeing Andalucia. Like to visit our new home?

Up in the skies over Fuengirola and Benalmadena.

As mentioned in our January blog we were expecting a faraway guest from our native Finland. Mrs. M is the sister of Mrs T and her family lives in the southeastern part of the country so we meet seldom. It is therefore most appropriate to take ample time to show parts of Andalucia to her. This blog show some pictures from the mountainside including Grazalema as well as the seaside including Marbella. We also promised to return to Jerez de la Frontera very soon after our first visit and now was the chance (also to experience our first ever Formula 1 testing episode). We also visited nearby mountain villages.

Istán main market and its outlets.

The Ermita and sisters in Mijas.

Benalmádena Pueblo overlooking the Mediterranean.

Marbella harbor 

"Thelma  and Louis" in Marbella.

We had not visited the beautiful white mountain village of Istán for some time and the day we went there was very warm and sunny. Having walked the narrow streets of the village and indicated key attractions to Mrs. M we sat down in the main square for a drink and followed the crowds go past. From Istán we followed the "curly road" to Marbella by the seaside where we had an Italian dinner at Carpaccio's (to be warmly recommended for its good food and service). The harbor was rather quiet but we did spot several unique cars, like the Cobra above that would have suited Thelma and Louis themselves. 

Later in the week we left for Jerez de la Frontera where we had been in December and promised ourselves to return soon again. We stayed for three days and reserved the first afternoon for the shops in the old town, the second for a visit to the Moorish Alcazar and one bodega. The rule is to visit several Bodegas to get a good understanding of the offerings of the sherry district. Last time we visited Tio Pepe that has a very nice visitor centre and programs for every day.  Having checked the internet we found a recommendation to visit the Lustau bodega if there is time for only one visit. They were said to offer more personalized visits. We checked again with the hotel and they kindly offered to book us a visit the following day. The bodega is in the city centre and the guide that received us was highly experienced in the products and could lead us a good way to understand the different sherry types. I believe there was some nine different brands to taste and food to go with them. A light Manzanilla and a heavy Pedro Ximenez stuck best in our minds. 

Grazalema mountains towards Jerez.

A low temperature of three degrees surprised "Thelma and Louis".

We then passed Arcos de la Frontera up on the high ridge.
An old pharmacy in the Alcazar.

Alcazar fire place / kitchen.

A well in the garden of the Alcazar.

Sherry tasting at Lustau bodega.

The third an final day was reserved for Jerez Circuito de Velocidad that still hosts testing venues for the Formula 1 cars. A new competitive year is about to start. We had not experienced any kind of Formula 1 Circus in the past so this was something new. The very long queues at the only open gate was a surprise but did not kill our eagerness for this event and we stayed long enough to see Fernando Alonso pass us in his car. 

The Ladies at the Jerez Circuito de Velocidad.

This was NOT Alonso but someone else taking a short cut.

Next we plan to visit the Garden of the Conception near Málaga, a botanical garden dating back to the 19th century and town of Écija south of Cordoba. But before finalizing this post a few shots over our new home in southern Sweden where we will now move on 1st April this year. We look forward to opening a new BLOG with a view over Skåne; its nature, castles and traditions.

A villa for writing our Skåne Blog. Courtesy Fastighetsbyrån Sophie Andersson.
With its garden. Courtesy Fastighetsbyrån Sophie Andersson.

Thank you for your continued interest in our Andalucian blog and in wanting to share our experience. The below blossom can be found in the Benalmadena Mariposario.