Tag Archives: spain

Best of 2009

How do you define the “Best of 2009“? That’s this weeks PhotoFriday theme so that’s what I had to work with. It’s hard enough when you have a specific theme but something so broad makes it tricky. Best could mean personal favourite. Or most talked about. Most favourited on Flickr? Most views? Highest rated? (By some measure.)

In the end I went for the above shot, taken in Spain, because it ticks a number of boxes. It’s a bit different from the kind of thing I normally end up with; a few people commented on it; the simplicity makes it one of my favourites; and, finally, I’ve not used it for PhotoFriday yet this year!

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “Winter.” I’m entry number 187.

…Is In The Details

The obvious part of this weeks PhotoFriday theme, “…Is In The Details,” is details. It calls for something close-up, imperfections and all. But there’s a missing part, typically “the devil,” so I thought it was appropriate that the above picture is a close-up of some tiles on a church in Spain. Hopefully that means that no dæmons are present.

Please also vote for my entry in last weeks challenge, “Dawn.” I’m entry number 74.

Granada, Spain

I thought that I was doing well. Before I made the trip to Spain I had already been on the Internet and booked tickets for the Alhambra, Granada’s most famous site.

Two things, however, had escaped my attention. Firstly, Granada is about two hours by taxi from Canillas de Albaida, which meant getting up at an unsociable hour1.

Secondly, I hadn’t thought to print a map and the guide book that I’d brought didn’t have a map. This was unfortunate as I missed the path down from the Alhambra down to the town centre and ended up in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

By this point I was getting thirsty and hungry and so nipped into a promising looking cafe for a coffee and croissant. As luck would have it they also had free WiFi and I was able to find a map on my iPhone.

It turns out that I wasn’t too far from the centre after all and it only took ten minutes to get to the Cathedral. This immediately seemed more like it, with crowds of tourists trying to get in to see… something.

After staying in Canillas de Albaida, a town of only seven hundred people, the crowds came as a bit of shock2 and I wasn’t quite prepared to fight my way to the front to get in or even find out what the queue was for. Instead I went around the Cathedral, noting that there ware various shopping streets fanning out and, generally, lots of activity for a Wednesday.

Around one side of the Cathedral was a busker, at the back was another entrance to the church and service going on. I snuck around the side and surreptitiously took a few pictures, slightly embarrassed by the volume of the thunk as I released the shutter. A few minutes later another tourist burst in with a video camera and stood right in the middle taping the whole service.

I spent the next hour wandering around the town, down the shady shopping streets, by the river and, finally, into a cafe for a quick sandwich.

The walk back to the Alhambra in the afternoon was rather less confusing than the journey down into the town. I expected to see a large, obvious sign pointing downhill at the junction I missed but apparently the turn is so obvious that even tourists couldn’t possibly miss it and it therefore remains unlabelled.

The Alhambra is every bit as spectacular as you’ve probably heard. The scale is incredible. If the engravings had been only in one room it would have been impressive and you would have admired the workmanship. But these intricate designs are in pretty much every room over the whole complex.

It took all afternoon to wander around and as 6pm approached, the agreed taxi pick-up time, it became clear that there were likely bits that I’d missed but that I was too tired to try to find in any kind of hurry.

Overall, it was a long, tiring, fun day. I slept on my way back to Canillas de Albaida, please with what I’d seen.

  1. Why is it that I often end up setting my alarm earlier when on holiday that on a normal working week? []
  2. Just imagine the culture shock when I got back to London less than a week later. []

Walking in Andalucía, Spain

The main purpose of this trip was to get away from the hustle and bustle of London, get “back to nature” and go trekking in the Parque Natural Sierras De Tejeda, which is near to, but less hilly than, the more famous Sierra Nevada.

On that front there were absolutely no complaints. I was there for a week and went on four walks. They were fun and varied, passing through tiny, white-washed villages and abandoned inns.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any walking and so was wondering about my fitness levels before I set off but I didn’t have too much trouble — I got a little bit out of breath on some of the steeper uphill sections and my knees groaned when going downhill. The worst bits were the steep downhill on lose rocks and scree. Fortunately I stayed mostly upright with just a few minor scuffs to show for it.

Some of the hardest parts of the trekking were down to the weather. It had been an incredibly hot summer, even by the standards of southern Spain. Fortunately there was only one day where, shortly after lunch, I was wilting under the direct sun with little shade and a dwindling supply of water. A few weeks earlier and I would have had difficulties on most of the walks, even with factor fifty sun cream and more water than I would have been comfortable carrying!

On the plus side, the streams were almost dry which made the many crossings significantly easier; staying dry would have been much harder back in April or May.

Despite having enjoyed the walking, I did chicken out of the last day — an ascent of Cerro Lucero — in favour of a more thorough look around Competa and some well-deserved relaxation. This was, after all, a holiday!

Canillas de Albaida, Spain

I can’t say that it was a promising start. Malaga airport has maybe a dozen baggage carousels but only one of them seemed to be in use for the three flights that arrived around the same time as mine. This would have mattered more had my luggage been in any hurry to arrive from the hold.

Things quickly improved, though. As the bus headed east from Malaga and the roads got smaller and more hilly, the scenery also improved. Fewer Ikea’s and mobile phone stores and fast food restaurants, more white-wash and shady squares and hazy views back to the Mediterranean.

The bus dumped me near a building site — apparently the sewers were being replaced — but a few minutes uphill took me to a pleasant square and the hotel were I would be staying for the next week.

Canillas de Albaida has a population of only about seven hundred people and has the laid-back feel and community that you’d expect given that size. It’s nice to have total strangers say “Hola” as you pass; people actively avoid any eye contact in London.

It’s sat on the very edge of the Sierras De Tejeda Natural Park. The “natural” in Natural Park, incidentally, is not a typo. This region of Spain has decided to designate the area to be a park but this appellation is not recognised by the Spanish government and so cannot be called a National Park.

It didn’t take long to explore it fairly thoroughly. There’s the main square with the hotel and one of the three restaurants. Looking down over the town is the church of Santa Ana. To one side is the cemetery. And that’s about all. There are a couple of super-markets that are occasionally open, a pharmacy and hardware store that I didn’t visit but reportedly sells pretty much everything you can’t get at the other shops.

A thirty minute walk down a pleasant path was the “big” town, Competa. It’s all relative of course, as Competa only has a population of about four thousand.

The main feature of Competa is its square and church with a bell tower that at various points in its history has also been a minaret1. I was lucky to experience a couple of great sunsets over the church and an enormous ice-cream in a cafe in the square.

It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.

  1. Though perhaps not in its current form. It has fallen down and has been rebuilt a number of times over the centuries. []