nerja : andalusia : spain

nerja : andalusia : spain

We’ve not visited Nerja for a while, but when we still lived in Didsbury, we did visit often. We were very lucky that we had a friend with a family apartment there, and so if there was availability, we could make a booking and do a quick getaway from Manchester. We tended to visit in the spring and autumn, as we found it to be much less crowded and temperatures were much better for exploring the region of Andalusia. When we go abroad, we’re not keen on two weeks on a sunbed. Although we do relax, we also like to get to know places, and Nerja is a great base for getting out and about. From here, we’ve explored Almeria, Granada, the Sierra Nevada, Malaga, Seville, Cadiz and Tarifa. All not to be missed.

But, we’ve also made sure we’ve explored Nerja and got to know it well. And, the more we’ve got to know it, the more we’ve really grown to like it. Initially, we thought it would largely be an ex-pat community, and so not somewhere we’d keep going back to. It obviously does have a large Brit community, but it’s also much loved by Scandinavians, Dutch and Germans – if licence plates are anything to go by – bringing a much more cross-cultural feel. And whilst there are bars by the beach, showing football and serving all day breakfasts and Sunday roasts, these don’t dominate. If you want this you can have it, but there’s also so, so much more. And that’s what we like about Nerja. It’s easy if you want it to be, but if you want to absorb a bit more of Spain, you can do that too.

There are lots of urbanisations, up on the surrounding hills – typical modern, white washed town houses, with balconies and roof terraces if you are high enough. And, because they are built on hills, most aren’t overlooked and all will have some kind of a view of the sea, even if you need to stand on your tip toes and squint. But, from wherever you are if you are up here, it’s only a shortish walk down to the beach and the old town. There are buses, and if you take the car, plenty of car parks. The old town, with its large plaza, winding cobbled streets, white washed buildings and the famous Balcon de Europa, is very, very beautiful.

Balcon de Europa

Balcón de Europa is a beautiful pedetrianized balcony, from where you can look over the Mediterranean sea, and is one of the most popular places in Andalucía. It has spectacular panoramic views of the Sierra Almijara mountain range and the coast with its beautiful beaches, sandy coves and rocky outcrops.

Beach Life

The main beach in Nerja seems to be Burriana. It’s extensive and is large enough to accommodate lots of people without the feeling of being hemmed in. Multiple bars, restaurants, shops (selling everything you could need for a day at the beach as well as many, many clothing stores) and estate agencies, line the road along the beach. And, on the beach, there are even more bars and restaurants. Our favourite part of Burriana is to the far right as you look in from the sea. The bars are a bit more chilled and laid back, and the restaurants not lined with staff trying to persuade you to come in. The kind of places where if you do come in, great. If not, you’ll probably come in, on your next visit. The final bar is definitely our preferred one – very Moroccan in feel, with big sofas, lanterns, throws and a feeling of space. The added advantage is that just in front, but far enough away to stop you feeling over-crowded, are super comfy sun loungers and big cabana beds, with billowing curtains. Maybe because this is right at the end of the beach, and so not in the melee of volleyball nets and water sport hire cabins, it always seems quite empty when we go. Perfect!

It’s definitely not always sunshine on Burriana Beach – we have experienced torrential rain and flooding, too…

There is another beach – Calahonda –  underneath Balcon de Europa, which is very pretty, although more of a large cove than a beach.

Nerja Old Town

Like all Andalucian towns and villages, white is the predominant colour for buildings, with the odd pop of colour here and there. And, like all Andalucian towns and villages, once off the main plaza. the streets wind up and around and down, making them a pleasure to explore, especially when it’s cooler. As Nerja is quite large, there are a lot of shops and restaurants, so if you want retail therapy followed by a slap up meal, it’s the place for you.

 

 

frigiliana : pueblo blanco : andalusia

frigiliana : pueblo blanco : andalusia

The small white village of Frigiliana – one of the famous pueblo blancos – is in the Axarquia region of the Costa del Sol, and regularly features in lists of Spain’s most beautiful villages.

This pueblo blanco is distinctively Moorish in appearance, with the old quarter made up of narrow, winding, cobblestone streets full of small shops, tapas bars and restaurants well worth exploring. The village is actually divided into two neighbourhoods, with the upper quarter – the Barrio Alto – being where you will find the winding maze of cobbled streets filled with Mudéjar and Moorish architecture. Mudéjar is an architectural style produced by Christians but with heavy Islamic influence, and it is evident around every corner.

This upper part of town is really only accessible on foot, so trainers – or very comfy footwear – is much recommended. Your feet won’t thank your strappy holiday sandals if your wear them to explore. Allow for at least several hours to visit, because although it is small, there is endless history, a labyrinth of white washed streets and unique places to discover throughout the town. And you will keep stopping to photograph the beautiful Andalusian house and shop facades, decorated with ceramic pots and tumbling flowers in bright colours which pop against the white-wash. Arriving by car is easy, because Frigiliana is well sign-posted and the roads to the village are very accessible. There is a large underground car park at the foot of the village, so you will need to do a climb to get to the top.

We have visited Frigiliana out of season – either April or October/November and these are perfect times of year. Temperatures are warm, but bearable and the village is so much less crowded that it would be in the height of summer. Meaning that at certain times, you can find yourself complete alone and able to drink everything in, with out anyone else around you. Perfect.

Of course, Frigiliana isn’t the only pueblo blanco in Andalusia, and this article gives some good guidance to others. We haven’t even scratched the surface of these beautiful white villages, but have every intention of getting to know them a whole lot better.

 

ayo : burriana beach : nerja

ayo : burriana beach : nerja

A chiringuito is usually a bar or a restaurant on a beach – and one of the most famous ones in Nerja, is called Ayo. Like most chiringuitos, outdoors, it is a simple construction with a partly roofed wooden terrace. On the menu, you will find tapas, fried and grilled food and paella – the paella being the star of the show. However, the fresh fish and seafood are also highly recommended. Located right on Burriana Beach, is not just a restaurant. It’s a theatrical experience – and we recommend you go early if you want to get a seat, because it is amazingly popular, almost from the minute it opens. For more than fifty years, this chiringuito has been famous for its paellas, cooked on open wooden fires. The owner, Francisco Ortega Olalla ‘Ayo’, is an almost legendary character in Nerja – as is his family run beachfront restaurant.

The great thing about Ayo is that it’s a paella buffet. You only pay once for the paella you have ordered and you can use your plate as often as you like to get another serving from the chef. Just right for those with a big appetite! The paella fires get stoked up at about noon.

Recommended to us by a friend, we’ve been every time we’ve visted Nerja. It’s completely laid back, in that you can stay as long as you wish, but there’s a real hustle and bustle as dishes are served and people go backwards and forwards to the paella pans for fill ups. It’s also in the perfect place if you fancy lunch on the beach – you can leave all of your belongings on your sunbeds, if you can see them, and have a leisurely time, under the vines, whilst the sun is at its most intense.

 

 

 

 

Tasty Tapas in Malaga

Tasty Tapas in Malaga

“Traditional” tapas restaurants and bars are abundant in Malaga and we’ve yet to experience one other than very good. Value is always exceptional with most providing complimentary tasters if you’re just having a pit-stop, rather than a full-on tapas session. There is one however, that we do find ourselves returning to (and recommending to travelling friends), and that is La Plaza, located on Plaza de la Merced. Whilst this square does not have the jaw-dropping wow factor of say, Plaza del Obispo where the magnificent cathedral is located, it has a feeling of being a haunt for locals, rather than tourists.

What we love about La Plaza is the style of the tapas – although the menu does have favourites such as tortilla and manchego, there’s a whole lot more, besides. Bet you wouldn’t expect to find an individual lentil shepherd’s pie as part of a tapas menu, but you will on this one. And this menu item is definitely worth ordering! Prices are very competitive, and portions are large.

The menu is quite extensive – and as I say, there are some unusual items on it. When we visited, there were plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, too. Although the restaurant is not slap bang in the middle of the action – it’s away from the coast and a walk away from the Cathedral, but it’s easy to get to – La Plaza, Plaza de la Merced № 18, 29012 Málaga – and well worth an explore of the side streets and parts of the city that aren’t on the tourist trail, as you walk up an appetite.

 

 

tarifa : andalusia : spain

tarifa : andalusia : spain

Tarifa lies on the Costa de la Luz, across the Strait of Gibraltar facing Morocco, in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia. Located at the southernmost end of the Iberian Peninsula, it is primarily known as one of the world’s most popular destinations for windsports. We took a detour to Tarifa on our way back from Seville to Malaga – and were sorely tempted to take a ferry across to Tangier, as we could actually see the North African city from the beach!

However, we decided that particular trip was for another day, and instead explored this Spanish town which we previously knew very little about.

We didn’t really hold out a lot of hope for Tarifa, as during the journey, the rain lashed down and the sky looked ominous, all the way. However, whether it’s because of its location, and so the weather was blown away, or it has a micro-climate, the day was bright and sunny when we arrived. Albeit, a bit on the breezy side.

The season hadn’t started when we visited, so the expansive beach was almost empty. And, wow – it was windy! It was easy to see why wind-surfing and kite-surfing and a plethora of other beach/wind related sports are so popular here. We spent a good couple of hours walking along the beach and then through the Puerta de Jerez – the only one of four medieval entrances remaining – into the densely packed maze of whitewashed houses and pretty squares that is Tarifa’s old town. Again, it was relatively uncrowded, but the bohemian, chilled vibe we’d read about was certainly in evidence. Surfer shops, shops selling ethnic and North African wares and small tapas bars and restaurants, which often looked nothing from the street, but were clearly very popular, even out of season. A rain shower drove us into one of these restaurants – not the best looking one, and perhaps a bit jaded decor wise, but wow, the food was amazing! Especially the patatas bravas with rocquefort dressing. No photographs, apart from one, as we forgot because once it all arrived we were utterly consumed by the tastiness and inventiveness of the dishes.