Phew! The last couple of weeks have been quite an adventure. I mentioned in my last post about a scratchcard ( Edith, please don't tell me you have never bought one. Sometimes us mere mortals stake our hopes and dreams on them). I very rarely bother with the cards that one gets inside the daily newspaper, considering them to be as useless as the many pages of advertising literature that must be discarded before being able to read the paper itself. However, on this occasion I thought I might chance my luck, and hey presto, we won a week in Marbella, and no, not the Puerto Banus end where the rich and famous parade their wares (as you will see later), but near the old town end.
Firstly though, as some of you are aware, the start of the year wasn't exactly the best, what with health problems putting a hold on Christmas, birthday and our wedding anniversary celebrations. But, as things have improved, the latter was taken care of with a trip to London so that we could be let loose in the big city herself, and also buy Amanda some of her favourite perfume whilst we were there.
The perfume, Jo Malone, is obtained from an outlet that, from a mans point of view, simply must be experienced. I sit transfixed with my complimentary glass of bubbly as Amanda has her arms massaged with delicate creams, and her selected scents are then gently applied. Normally, Amandas weapon of choice used to be Chanel No 5, a fragrance unlike any other and quite intoxicating. Her selected Jo Malone scents are however so much more pleasant.
Me, well I had a pint of my favourite beer, in my favourite London pub The Salisbury Arms in Leicester Square. If ever any of you are in London then give this place a go.....quite something!
We like to just stroll for hours and see what comes up, and in this case, after having a brief snack in the Kings Road, we happened upon The Saatchi Gallery, and it was free!
The theme was somewhat abstract, with the works being taken very seriously indeed by some. I on the other hand do not take them seriously and found it all quite amusing. Once when in The Tate Modern, and coming across Andy Warhols 'Toilet' being studied very deeply by very important arty people, I let out an almighty laugh that wasn't exactly appreciated. But what do you expect.....it was just a toilet on a plinth.
The work below was made up of old boxes and various broken furniture, the black bin bags being inflated by a pump cleverly hidden with the masterpiece. It even had a deep and meaningful description about what was going through the artists mind prior to and during it's design.....gosh! (I think the only thing going through his mind was probably LSD)
The wonderful day was rounded off with an evening meal in a persian restaurant, all very scrummy and romantic.
A few days later, on the night before our holiday away, the evening was spent in our local The Westbourne, a good pub that has all of the main sporting events showing. It fills to the brim with people, all out to support one team or another, and on this occasion in was The Six Nations Rugby, and England V France. Needless to say that France were thrashed, beer and cheer flowed, and all left with a fantastic mood in the air.
Sunday morning, a 4.ooam wake up call from a vicious alarm clock, and a 6.30am flight to Malaga.
I don't know if anyone is the same, but for me the flight is one of the best parts, especially if you can get this window. No matter what the weather is doing on the ground, once you are above the clouds then everything is sunny.
Malaga airport , although nothing special, is nonetheless efficient, and within thirty minutes we had collected our bags and hired a car for the week.....ah, but not just any car......a Mini Cooper! Really looking forward to driving this little beauty around.
I don't like to use satnav, considering it an unreliable curse on the modern day adventurer. No, for me it's the trusty map and co-driver, and between us can usually work things out just fine. And as a consequence found that we had turned right instead of left somewhere, and instead of a 30 minute motorway drive to the resort, found ourselves taking a very leisurely two hour tour of the spanish mountains and villages. But arrive we did, and were given the keys to our apartment, a rather nice one by spanish standards with the lounge as you can see, along with a very large bedroom, rather classy marble bathroom, and a seperate kitchen......not bad!
We spent a couple of hours in the bar discussing the next days plans, whilst perusing the various local maps etc, and then got ourselves an early night. The following morning, the sun is shining, and some breakfast.
Our little paradise for the next week was stunning, and it's hard to describe in just a couple of pictures. For a gardener it was fascinating as the whole place was simply heaving with plant life of all sorts. I won't post any of the exhaustive amount of arty and close up shots that I took of just about every plant, but just give a glimpse as a whole.
The view from our apartment was just lovely, and magical at night.
A good nights sleep, and not being the types to let the proverbial grass grow, we spent the next few days checking out places in general, as well as spending time doing absolutely nothing by the pool......well, you are forced to are you not?
Often thought of as the yachty place where the mega-rich hang out, which instead is Puerto Banus just along the coast a bit, Marbella is an absolute gem. Although it's obviously geared up for tourists, it still retains an underlying style that is really quite pleasant. Beautifully kept parks and gardens abound, the main avenue to the seafront, Almeda, is home to ten Salvador Dali bronze sculptures.
The walk along the seafront.
Parque de la Alameda....very nice and cool with it's various fountains, ornamental tiled seats and shade.
One of the many beautiful streets in the old town.
'La Cuisine' restaurant in the old town. A perfect place to sit and watch the world go by for hours whilst sipping your beer or coffee. The food is top notch as well.
And just one of the many lovely squares.
Cordoba is a town to the north of Malaga. We arrived very early in the morning, it was freezing cold and we were dressed for warmer weather, and so first things first.....a coffee and cake at a little cafe to warm up. Then it was into town to buy a jumper for Amanda as things were still rather chilly.
The Great Mosque of Cordoba, what can I say but breathtaking. Gardeners working on the trees in it's courtyard, cool air inside, and a striking contrast in the use of different coloured stonework as you can see. A huge place that needed more time than we could allow.
A light lunch of cuttlefish in garlic, artichokes in wine, chorizo in red wine and cardoons in almond sauce with fresh bread and wine, was followed later on by a journey back in time in a maroccan tea house. Here Amanda sampled the thick and rich hot chocolate, whilst I had anise tea, all accompanied by an assortment of baklava. this was such a peaceful little haven amongst the hot and busy streets of Cordoba....if you go, then try it!
This is the place that everybody associates with Marbella, but it couldn't be further from the reality of Marbella itself. About two miles along the coast, it is simply a place where the uber wealthy go to 'connect' with one another and show off their toys. Colossal yachts, Lambourghinis, Ferraris and pink sports cars abound. The yachts sun terraces heaving with white chinos, dresses that are too short to be classy, and business being carried out on laptops. Quite a way to be earning a fortune, but not the place for us. Don't get me wrong, we spent a very enjoyable afternoon strolling along the quay and pretending to be rich, but give me an old cafe with decent coffee or wine any day.
Lambourghinis and power yachts all look ok, but are a little brash. For us it had to be the old steamer and the fiat 500....much cooler, more stylish.....and so much more fun!
This was a day that we had initially planned for a visit to Granada. We woke to torrential rain, and thunder and lightning as though the world was ending. The drive would have needed to start quite early so as not to waste too much of the day, and so because of the bad weather this particular trip was cancelled. By 10 am it was still raining heavily, and so we thought it a good idea to drive out, find a place to get some breakfast, and look at the map for new ideas. We got in the car, drove down the road, the sun came out, and it was decided on that spur of the moment to go the extra miles and see what Gibralter was all about. I am very blessed indeed to have a wife who is as up for unplanned adventures as I am.
The entry onto Gibralter itself is quite unnecessarily complicated. A long queue of traffic must be joined for about an hour before one then waves the old passport at some uninterested policeman, more out of ceremony I think. Cars, motorbikes and people on foot then make their way across the main runway of the airport, at the same time as keeping a watchful eye for any landing planes just in case!
Gibralter is a rather odd place to come across. Within the hour one is transported from the land of tapas and bull fighting to one of full english breakfasts and british bobbies. We enjoyed a brief lunch followed by a quick refresher in the main pub...the smallest on the island, before leaving the madding crowd behind and taking the car around the rest of the island.
Of course there were the monkies, fascinating, entertaining and charming. Amazing caves, which included one so large that full orchestras conduct concerts there. Fifty seven kilometeres of tunnels honeycomb the rock, some as wide as 500 metres, and originally used to move the heavy WW2 guns around. There is an underground military hospital and a ready to use war room as well, really quite a strange feeling to the place.
And a Moorish castle built around 711AD......and a big white mosque at the lower end of the rock.
And on top of all that, Africa in the distance across the Straights of Gibralter.
This extraordinary little town is a white gem perched on the mountainside. Discovered during our initial 'tour' after leaving the airport, it was now easy to find as navigation had become easier.
Not large by any standards, it is though packed with more than one can imagine for a small mountain town. Beautiful streets, a bullring, a botanical gardens that wrap around the outside at one end as you can see in the picture above, inside the gardens is an outside classical music/opera auditorium, several ornate churches and more places to eat than can be done in a week, let alone a day. We did however have a wonderful meal at the place below. We visited Mijas on our last day, and had intended to have a very light lunch here, and then a special evening dinner in Marbella of paella. What we didn't expect was for the portions here to be so large that the four we had ordered could not be finished....even by us! Octopus, salted white fish in wine. fried aubergine with molasses dribbled over and chicken in a lemon and garlic sauce. Two baskets of bread, olives and a beer and we were done for he rest of the day. As it turned out, although we didn't have paella on this trip, we did have one for lunch on our return to Bournemouth at our favourite tapas restaurant in town, and it was simply delish!
The last place we actually visited was Ojen. More on an impulse of Amandas, it was a lovely little place perched on the side of a hill inland from Marbella, that was rather interesting to get to. In the photo above it's not really clear just how high it is, but the road to it turned out to be a white knucle treat!
The road winds steeply up and up, with virtually no crash barriers to stop one going over the edge. Indeed, to this end we came across several strange motor powered contraptions next to the road that involved long lengths of steel cable to be lowered over the precipice.......very reassuring! The Mini Cooper was the perfect car for this drive, racing around the bends as though we were in an italian film, feeling very cosmopolitan and chique.
But alas, all good things come to an end, and it was with sad hearts that after only a week we had to leave for the airport the following morning.
And so it was one last drink in Marbella and a wave goodbye to the beach elephants looking out over Africa
And then the plane ride home.
Thanks for looking in, it's a long post but there was lot's to tell.