Monday, August 8, 2011

España Part Dos: Costa del Sol and Andalucia

Next stop, Granada (with a quick drive through La Mancha, as seen pictured above). Granada is home to the great Alhambra, the last standing Moorish castle in Spain.  The castle was certainly interesting  but two nights was two too many.  I think it would have been better as a day trip on our way from Toledo to the coast. 

We did get some great pics though.

The landscape of mountains surrounding Grenada was truly beautiful.  

I did really love the gardens at the Alhambra.  Water was a rare gem to the Moors so they used it everywhere on the Alhambra grounds.

Free of Granada (finally), we were on our way to the coast.  Next stop, Nerja.  Only an hour and half from Granada, we couldn't wait.....five hours later, we finally arrived.  (Five hours? Yes, five hours. España decided to close the interstate (with no detour) that leads from Granada to Nerja in the middle of the two the middle of nowhere.  It wouldn't have been such a big deal had either the iphone map or the hard copy google map been aware of this closure, but of course they were not). Hot, tired, and directioned out,  I rounded out the five hours of fun by insisting the Mr. drive down a street with a clearly marked "Do Not Enter" sign because the iphone told me we could.  Several near pedestrian collisions and a very angry resident later, we finally made it to our hotel in Nerja.  The paradise of Spain.


The "Balcony of Europe"

Nestled on the coast between the mountains, Nerja is our new favorite beach town in the world.  Small and charming yet full of restaurants that have been able to maintain excellent low prices and of course fabulous beaches.  We were a little weary of the Costa del Sol having heard several comparisons to Panama City, Florida, but Nerja turned out to be the perfect hidden gem.  It's a mecca for Brits who are tired of the ritzy and overly-priced French Riviera, so everyone speaks English as well.  Our boutique hotel, Hotel Carabeo, couldn't have been more perfect.  Run by two English ladies, it came with a beautiful pool overlooking the ocean and a perfect location (again, for what you would pay for a lunch for two in Paris).

Caught him!! Reading his French Harry Potter book.

And then, there was the paella at Ayo's.  Rick told us about Ayo's, a restaurant on the beach that serves up a paella feast everyday at lunch, and it sounded too good to be true.  We had been looking for the best paella in Spain throughout the trip, and we finally found it.  It was actually our favorite experience in Spain overall.  A huge pot of paella cooked over a fire by a local who had been doing it that way for 30 years.  It was an experience to relish.  

After saying goodbye to our new best friend, we headed up to the white hill towns of Andalucia.  First stop, Ronda.  Well, actually, the Mr. threw in a detour on our way to Ronda with a sudden unquenchable desire to see Gibraltar.  Here he is hanging out with the monkeys on top of the mountain looking out to Africa.

After my initial resistance (flexibility isn't my strong suit), I was glad we took a quick detour in Gibraltar.  Although it was insanely hot and was covered with tourists, the view to Africa from the top of the mountain was pretty cool (and they had a Topshop, where I found a great jean jacket...that alone made the stop worth it).

The Mr. having just conquered his fear (riding to the top of a mountain on a cable car) and happy to be on the way down. 

Now we were Ronda bound.  A quiet Spanish village with white-washed houses hanging over a dramatic gorge and some of the best tapas we had had yet.

The last stop in Andalucia was Sevilla.  The heat really did a number on us here, but we enjoyed more tapas crawls, a Flamenco show and a bull fight.  It was the perfect ending to our Andalucian tour.

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