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.

 

 

 

 

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

Ca’n Llimona, Soller, Mallorca

This restaurant is probably known, and frequented by, all of our friends who’ve ever been to Sóller, but just in case you, like us, didn’t know about it, here’s the low-down on Ca’n Llimona.

Tucked away down a side street called Carrer de la Victoria, just off the main drag, Carrer de sa Lluna, it could be easy to miss. The frontage is pretty but it it’s quite a small frontage and so doesn’t really stand out, especially if you pass by when it’s closed. However, we were recommended that we eat here, by the hotel we were staying in – more about them in next blog – and so we decided to have dinner here. We stayed in Soller in mid-May so still quite early in the season, and the restaurant wasn’t busy but this gave us a much better chance to have a mooch and actually speak to Claudia, the owner and head chef. Her passion for what she does is palpable, as she explains the menu, the methods and the inspiration and design for the restaurant. Which, interiors-wise, is beautiful, with a real fusion feel of being in both Spain and Morocco.

Everything is mix & match, which when done well, is just lovely. Painted wooden chairs and tables, display crates, fresh lemons on tables, an apothecary cabinet to display the wines, Spanish tiles, candles, glass lanterns. Everything that I just love in one place.

When life gives you lemons, the place to go to is Ca’n Limona…

The menu is very small – home made pasta dishes and sauces only, and a small range of home made desserts. Do not let this put you off, as you will be missing out on an amazing gastronomic experience. The pasta is freshly made every day by Claudia, and she then cooks it and serves it. What a woman! When you make your choice, the uncooked pasta is presented to you on wooden trays, prior to cooking. A really nice touch, I think. We chose the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a rich tomato based sauce and the lemon tagliatelle with pesto and parmesan, both served with the juiciest, freshest tomato salad. Incredibly simple, but so well executed and the taste was out of this world…

The wine we chose was La Sastreria, a very Spanish palatable dry white – perfect with the pasta and with prettiest label I’ve seen…

All in all, an exceptional dining experience, which just goes to show you don’t need to be all fancy-pants. Sometimes, simple is best. Or, as we always say over at We Are Life Design, less is more

la concha soul boutique hotel : paguera : Mallorca

la concha soul boutique hotel : paguera : Mallorca

It’s hard to imagine that there could really be anywhere to avoid on Mallorca. We’d discounted Magaluf, as unfortunately we’re no longer in our early twenties, and so, when booking places to stay, we were pretty confident that every place we chose, would be a winner. When we travel we do our homework. We read reviews, check out websites, look at the area etc. My rule of thumb is, if it’s not at least as good as our own home, we’re not staying there. So, Brondo Architect Hotel in Palma, Lluna Aqua Hotel in Sóller and Petit Sant Miquel Hotel in Calonge were all amazing, and we’d highly recommend.

We decided that we wanted to have a few days doing absolutely nothing, apart from lazing around a pool. We quite fancied a hotel on the western side of the island, so we could catch the sunsets. We definitely wanted a pool. Somewhere that played quiet, chilled out music. Somewhere a bit funky. And we definitely thought we’d found all of this when we discovered La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel, in Paguera.

Now, we’d not been to Mallorca before and so had no idea what Paguera was like. Not that it really mattered when we were looking for accomm0dation, as the plan was to pool lounge for a few days. For those of you who know Mallorca well, you’ll probably know what’s coming, as we checked out of the beautiful Lluna Aqua in Sóller after two amazing days, and set off for Paguera. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it?

The website certainly suggested it was a cool, laid back, chilled out kind of place and the photography certainly reinforced this. Reviews were promising. Just what we’d been looking for.

The first sign that things weren’t going to be as expected, was as we entered Paguera. Gone were the beautiful Mallorcan townhouses, and individuality and beauty, of Sóller and Palma. Instead, a long beach front strip of fairly down-at-heel hotels, souvenir shops, bars, fast food joints and hoardes of tourists. Now, nothing wrong with any of this, IF this is what you’ve come for. But we hadn’t. And I was already beginning to wish I was somewhere else.

However, we’d already decided that we wouldn’t really be investigating Paguera, as we were going to be relaxing around the pool, so all would be OK. Only, it wasn’t. The hotel, on arrival, definitely did not look as pristine as the one we’d been seeing online. A hunch told me that this wasn’t going to be a long stay, so the suitcases remained in the boot of the car as we went to reception. The main entrance – at least we think it was the main entrance, as we couldn’t find another – was around the back of the hotel, where the car park was located. Plus point – free parking. You’ve got to find these plus points somewhere. The entrance was in need of some TLC – peeling paint, scuffed door, neglected plants. However, we decided to give it a chance – even though the reception area had the feel of a youth hostel…

See, I wasn’t exaggerating. This is the main entrance. OK, that tree to the right looks OK, but I mean, look at the plants on the balconies…

We were advised we’d been allocated a superior room on the top floor, with a view of the pool area. Unfortunately, this was where it all started to go really wrong. There’s no lift in the hotel – not a problem at all, as we’d left our luggage in the car – but it did mean that we got to see the communal hallways in all their glory. Filthy. Scuffed walls and ripped wallpaper. Cleaning was still going on – a plus point, because at least we witnessed that cleaning of sorts happened – but on one of the landings, dirty towels were all over the floor. So many of them, that we couldn’t step over them. There was no way I was moving them, so we had to walk over them. The cleaner wasn’t arsed in the slightest. Unreal. And then, the room. The superior room…

Yep, this is what we walked into.

Above, was the window ledge. Below, the shower cubicle…

We weren’t sure if the bed had actually been properly made, or if this was how a previous guest had left it…

Word to the wise, guys. If you include the word “Boutique” in the name of your hotel, understand that there will be expectations from guests. Shoddy, shoddy paintwork…

Our superior room, with a view of the bins. Sorry, pool…

Safe to say, the receptionist seemed not in the least bit surprised when we headed back down and told her we wouldn’t be staying, and exactly why we wouldn’t be staying. Because we’d booked through Booking.Com, the payment for four nights had already been taken – at this point, we didn’t care. We just wanted out and away. She was very understanding regarding what we were saying about the filthiness of the room, and the hotel in general – she couldn’t really argue once we showed her the evidence. However, she did want us to give the hotel a chance and offered us another room. We politely declined. The manager was called. He too seemed completely unsurprised by what we were saying. Although he also wanted us to look at another room. There would also be a free BBQ that evening and if we left, we’d miss that. He (and the receptionist), to their credit, took everything we were saying on the chin, and finally accepted that we would absolutely not be staying. We were most surprised that the manager agreed to refund three nights – we definitely did not expect this, and certainly didn’t expect that he would do it as quickly as he did. So, another plus point for La Concha Soul Boutique Hotel – but unfortunately, a hotel which was not boutique, and with no soul. We’ve since looked back at the hotel website – and yes, it does make the hotel look better than it is, but look closely and the tell-tale signs are there. We just didn’t spot them, which is unusual – so maybe, good on whoever designed the website or took the photos. They’ve certainly done a good job of glossing over the fact that this is a pretty dire hotel. Although, we seem to be in the minority having this view – as rave reviews are still coming in for it. Maybe we’re over-fussy. Or prefer to stay somewhere that is clean and isn’t the standard of a hostel, but the price of a hotel. Or maybe, we just arrived on the wrong day, at the wrong time. But, we don’t think so. That grime on the window, and around the door and in the shower, had been sitting there, for quite some time.

But, all’s well that ends well – and very fortunately, the Lluna Aqua Hotel, back in Sóller, had one room left. Which unsurprisingly, we booked. And got out of La Concha and Paguera as fast as our car could take us! An hour after taking the above photographs, we were delighted to be back *home*…

The difference between that awful, slapdash paintwork and these beautiful Mallorcan tiles. Attention to detail = a boutique hotel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the Lluna Aqua Hotel would be a much more expensive a hotel to stay in. It was more pricey, but definitely not at the kind of prices you’d blanche at. And, it was very, very clear what you were paying for.

A real boutique hotel. Full of soul. The real deal.