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.

 

 

alhambra : granada : andalusia

alhambra : granada : andalusia

The absolute beauty of Andalusia. One moment, you can be lying on a beach – this was in November – and the next, up in the snow of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With a trip to the Alhambra, in between.

the alhambra palace and generalife gardens

So, a bit about the history of the Alhambra, from alhambradegranada.org

The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighbourhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba. 

The Alhambra is located on a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and the meadow (la Vega), and this fact leads to believe that other buildings were already on that site before the Muslims arrived. The complex is surrounded by ramparts and has an irregular shape. It limits with the valley of the river Darro on its northern side, with the valley of al-Sabika on its southern side and with the street Cuesta del Rey Chico on the eastern side. The Cuesta del Rey Chico is also the border between the neighbourhood of the Albaicin and the gardens of the Generalife, located on top of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol). 

The first historical documents known about the Alhambra date from the 9th century and they refer to Sawwar ben Hamdun who, in the year 889, had to seek refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress, and had to repair it due to the civil fights that were destroying the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated, although not yet as much as it would be later on, because the Ziri kings established their residence on the hill of the Albaicin. 

The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city’s area within the ramparts in the 9th century, which implied that the castle became a military fortress with a view over the whole city. In spite of this, it was not until the arrival of the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), in the 13th century, that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This event marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period. 

First of all, the old part of the Alcazaba was reinforced and the Watch Tower (Torre de la Vela) and the Keep (Torre del Homenaje) were built. Water was canalised from the river Darro, warehouses and deposits were built and the palace and the ramparts were started. These two elements were carried on by Mohammed II (1273-1302) and Mohammed III (1302-1309), who apparently also built public baths and the Mosque (Mezquita), on the site of which the current Church of Saint Mary was later built. 

Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391) are responsible for most of the constructions of the Alhambra that we can still admire today. From the improvements of the Alcazaba and the palaces, to the Patio of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and its annexed rooms, including the extension of the area within the ramparts, the Justice Gate (Puerta de la Justicia), the extension and decoration of the towers, the building of the Baths (Baños), the Comares Room (Cuarto de Comares) and the Hall of the Boat (Sala de la Barca). Hardly anything remains from what the later Nasrid Kings did. 

From the time of the Catholic Monarchs until today we must underline that Charles V ordered the demolition of a part of the complex in order to build the palace which bears his name. We must also remember the construction of the Emperor’s Chambers (habitaciones del Emperador) and the Queen’s Dressing Room (Peinador de la Reina) and that from the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned. During the French domination part of the fortress was blown up and it was not until the 19th century that the process of repairing, restoring and preserving the complex started and is still maintained nowadays.

Our visit took place in November and we guessed it wouldn’t be quite as packed as in the summer, so chanced tickets when we arrived, and bought General Day Tickets which were approximately €15 each. These gave us access to a lot of the site, including Alcazaba, the Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife and Gardens.You can purchase a separate, less expensive ticket for just the gardens, but as the one we bought included the Gardens, we could also visit the Walk of the Cypresses (Paseo de los Cipreses), Unirrigated Land (Secano) and Saint Francis´Gardens (Jardines de San Francisco.). Your ticket will give you a time of entry and there is queuing system to enter – although obviously in November this was quite short. If you intend to visit in the summer months, come prepared for the heat and a long wait.

Once inside, the site is extensive and can be a bit overwhelming. Even if you’re not a history buff, it’s probably advisable to know a little bit about the Alhambra so that it makes sense. However, it is awe-inspiring and around every turn, your jaw will drop,

These photographs were taken in NOVEMBER. And, right at the end of November, too. A time of year when we’re used to it being grey and overcast – and even if sunny, there’s no colour to speak of. But not in Granada. The gardens are still full of colour and life and vibrancy. The sky, blue and cloudless. Perfect autumn weather. And a perfect time of year to visit this stunning Moorish site, which will make your jaw drop regularly, as you take in its vast splendour and beauty.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

puerto banus : andalusia : spain

puerto banus : andalusia : spain

Puerto Banus was built in May 1970 by José Banús, a local property developer, as a luxury marina and shopping complex. And, as we were staying in the area, we decided to check it out – depsite our reservations. And, my goodness, it was EVERYTHING we expected it to be. And more. It was totally over the top and ridiculously hideous, attracting everything that we dislike. The actual town is mostly pretty – but it’s around the harbour that it is just gross. The displays of wealth are totally over the top and everything just seemed designed to be flashy and to impress the kind of people who’d be impressed by flashy shows of extravagence. It was truly, truly awful. From the designer menswear boutique called “Billionaire”, to Jimmy Choo & D&G, to the tosser who screeched around the harbour, repeatedly, in a vile red sports car. Whilst it may well have been his, I do hope he was the kind of idiot who rented it out for a short timeframe for stupid amounts of money. I suspect it – and dearly hope – it was the latter. I still remember this ridiculous show pony, who is still presumably behaving like an A-grade idiot. The harbour is awful – rows and rows of super expensive yachts, sometimes dispensing the people on board. And strangely enough, often glamorous (plastic) young women and much older, highly unattractive men. Maybe they were their fathers, but I don’t think so…

Anyway, we beat a hasty retreat from the harbour and headed away from the throngs of people who just wanted to be seen. I’ve never disliked a place quite as much, and so glad that I can have a whale of a time, in places that are authentic, rough around the edges, unpolished and visited by more real, authentic people. Anyway, I’ve done it, can tick it off my list, and NEVER return.

But, just a short walk away from the super yachts and super rich, we found the real Puerto Banus. And the real people. Families walking together. People of all shapes and sizes. People who seemed to be very happy to be with friends and family, rather than preening like peacocks. From this part of the beach, we could still see the playground of the rich – but we were so relieved to be back in amongst “normal” people…

So, there you go. An awful place, which we will always avoid in the future. Definitely not for us…

 

casa 1800 : granada : andalusia

casa 1800 : granada : andalusia

Casa 1800 are hotels I’ve had an eye on for some time. With one in Seville and in one Granada, I figured that some way we’d find a way to visit one of them, at least, but I also assumed that price may be prohibitive. So, when we decided to visit The Alhambra again, we investigated Casa 1800. Not only is this particular hotel almost underneath the walls of the beautiful Moorish fort, we also got a night for a really decent price. Booked. There & then.

Located in a historic and fully refurbished 16th-century building that used to be the barracks of the militia, known as “Casa de los Migueletes”, this boutique hotel is in the historic centre of Granada, in the district of Albaicín. It’s in a pedestrianised area, but the hotel senr clear directions to the nearest car park and it was a relatively short distance to walk. Although – we did visit in April so it wasn’t stifling, and we only had an overnight bag. I assume the hotel has a transport service – but if not, be prepared in hotter months and if you have more luggage, for a much slower walk than we did. Initially, it’s quite difficult to find, as the hotel is tucked up and away behind the main pedestrian street, and there are a few twists and turns to navigate, but once you arrive, it is absolute heaven on earth.

Our beautiful, spacious suite – with a bathroom with a bath! – overlooked the internal courtyard, where breakfast is served, and where in late afternoon, complimentary afternoon tea is served. What a fantastic idea, in such gorgeous location.

An utter class act of a hotel. Now to book Seville…