30 November 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Palm Trees at Night

A cold, windy night in Torremolinos.

27 November 2015

Stepping Back to the 50s in Torremolinos

Having popped down to the Costa del Sol and Malaga's airport in Torremolinos no end of times to catch a flight or pick up family we realised never actually stayed there. So when a family birthday weekend occurred with members from the UK wanting nothing more than to step off the plane and unpack their bag it was obvious where our overnight stay would be.

The family chose an apartment one line back from the beach, no parking, pedestrianised, shops and busy. I wanted a small, quiet hotel with parking outside town, a car park and small being my priorities, stars and beach not so important. Those are not as easy to find as you might think in one of the busiest and most popular towns on the southern Spains's Costa del Sol.

Back to the 50s

I got to work. Planning is a huge part of my escapes and almost as much fun as the trip itself. It turned out that I didn't really have a lot of choice. Be in large, faceless chain hotels close to the others or a small, unique, independent hotel far away from the maddening crowd spots.

I found it,  2*s, out-of -the-way with a car park, and stepped back in time too at the unusual Hotel Anos 50. Not only a themed-boutique hotel with movie stars and décor of the 50s but quite amazingly very Spanish with only a smattering of English spoken, Spanish clientele and complete with a live singer on the Saturday night.

Famous Names

Having been greeted by large, portraits of a young Elvis Presley, Gene Kelly and Marilyn Monroe amongst red and black flower wallpaper we were shown to our room down a corridor bedecked by more famous names. Our room, rather surprisingly as we were quite far back from the beach, had a sea-over-rooftops view. While our room wasn't large, nor too compact we discovered we did have a huge jacuzzi bath and being only two (hubby and I) found there was room for more.

Wallow at Will

When presented with a large bath after an early start, longish drive and boozy lunch we chose to wallow rather than siesta. Well wallow and be bubble massaged and wallow some more. All too soon it was time to meet and eat with the family again and we chose a much needed twenty minute walk to join them on the promenade.

Had we not been meeting family we'd have had cocktails at the hotel cocktail bar and dined in the charming restaurant and reminisced with music from yesteryear.

Late Night Entertainment

Returning by taxi, I'm not sure we have found the hotel again on foot, our thought was to retire, we didn't need to partake of anything more but stepping into the bar we were seduced by its atmosphere and singer – it would have be rude to walk through and not have a night cap or two or sing along to songs of our youth.

Location Matters

A hotel with a difference, it may have been glamorous in its day ( which wasn't the 50s) now it's a little worn but with lots of charm and is very close to the airport for a convenient late-night or early morning flight stop-over.

For me it's miles away from the 'Costa del Sol' image and in every way was just the small, unique, independent spot I wanted for the night and I can say I've slept with many famous faces too.

12 November 2015

Via Verdes in Jaen, Andalucia

There are over 2,000 kms of Via Verde tracks or Greenways in Spain and more than 500km in Andalucia. These old railway tracks, now surfaced for bikes, pushchairs and walkers are a fabulous way to see parts of the interior that can't be seen by car. Since 1993 the Environmental Agency, local government and the Spanish Railway Foundation have worked together reclaiming and reconditioning these routes.

Weave between whitewashed villages, passed ancient railway stations and over some beautiful old bridges through gorgeous scenery, wonderful wild flowers and incredible peace. Being railway tracks the inclines are barely noticeable and great exercise for everybody.

Via Verdes in Jaen

Via Verde del Aceite - 54 Km

Via Verde del Guadalimar - 15.3 Km

Via Verde de Linares - 6.6 Km

Via Verde de Vadollano - 6.7 Km

Via Verde de Segura - 27.6 Km

More information, maps and routes can be found on Via Verdes in Andalucia

05 November 2015

Andalucia's Gastro Markets - Cordoba, Granada and Malaga

Victoria Market or Mercado Victoria in Cordoba was the Andalucia's first gastro-market with almost thirty stalls serving freshly prepared and cooked food to order.

This is a fabulous way to 'tapear' literally a verb - to have tapas, or to try different international dishes. They range from Argentinian to Japanese, oysters to steaks or a very local one, Salmorejeria which serves umpteen different types of Salmorejo, one of my favourite dishes.

You can have one tapa from one stall and something else from another. Separate beer bars and wine bars serve drinks, eat near your chosen stall or there are plenty of tables both inside and outside. Chose the more sedate tables and chairs section or the noisier bar with music and tall tables.

Mercado Victoria

My second vist and hubby's first happened to be on Halloween. What did we have?

Prawns & Kingclip 

Bacon, Green Pepper and Quail egg on bread

Deep fried camembert with tomato jam and cheese and potato cake with ham & egg

And some very good chicken kebabs, one spicy and one with garlic which we obviously ate before taking any photos! All washed down with several beers and an excellent Lan Reserva at 4€ a glass.

About Mercado Victoria and When to Visit

Since opening in 2013 as a gastro market it has become extremely popular and now hosts many events, tasting and gastronomic competitions. The best time to visit for prices is Monday - Wednesday when very often a tapas + beer is 2€. Of course there is more atmosphere at the weekends and prices are higher.

It's opening hours are 9am - midnight Sunday - Wednesday and 9am - 2am Thursday - Saturday.

This beautiful forged metal structure from the XIX century was originally built in 1877 by the Circle of Friends as their base during the Feria de Cordoba, which at that time was held in the Jardines de la Victoria in the centre of town. Nowadays the much larger Feria is held on the outskirts of the city.

Gastronomy Markets in Andalucia

There are plenty of markets across Spain and Andalucia that are food markets with some eating stalls too such as Granada's Mercado de San Agustin on C/ Cuesta del Águila, covering five floors.

Mercado de San Anton, Granada

Malaga's Mercado Central now the new gastro market Mercado Merced is set to be a huge hit with 22 stalls at it's opening in Ocotber 2015. It's very central and near The Picasso Museum.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of options from hostals to 5* hotels in Cordoba. My favourite so far is the gorgeous Hotel Balcon de Cordoba. In Granada I like the old, quirky central Boutique Hotel Gar Anat and in Malaga the Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina, not exactly central but a short walk out of town and up hill.

26 October 2015

Cordoba's Gastro Market - Mercado Victoria

Andalucia’s first gastro market is a 19-century, wrought-iron pavilion with over 20+ stall serving a variety of food from Gazpacho to Oysters.

12 October 2015

Jaen Feria - Fiesta de San Lucas

This week is the Feria and Fiesta of San Lucas in  Jaen which started on 10th October and finishes on 18th October with events and shows across the city. A week of partying and dressing up in your best in honour of San Lucas.

A full agenda stretches across the fiesta week, with  the obligatory feria - fair, and many other shows, bands and flamenco performances. To see the full programme go to Feria de San Lucas

28 September 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Alcaudete Castle

Castillo de Alcaudete. One of the many castles in the air and landmarks when travelling in the Sierra Sur de Jaen, the southern corner of Jaen province.

21 September 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Red Peppers Drying

It's September and all around in bright red clusters bunches of red peppers are being harvested and hung out to dry. These were in a local mountainside bar, not in direct sunshine but with plenty of warm dry air flowing around them.

10 August 2015

Monday Morning Photo - Cimbarra, Aldeaquemada.

The summer-dry waterfall of Cimbarra in the village of Aldeaquemada, Despenaperros Natural Park.

06 June 2015

Gar Anat Boutique Hotel, Granada Review

The Gar Anat is a small hotel with a big soul and a long history. In the XVII it was a pilgrim hospital, giving rest and recuperation to weary travellers in the heart of the city. After years of neglect the famous architect Carlos Sánchez brought it back to life and its doors opened as the charming Gar Anat Boutique Hotel in 2008.

Wish Tree, Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

Hubby and I spent two restful nights in the small yet oozing with character hotel two minutes walk away from the throbbing, dynamic heart of Granada. We loved both the hotel and its position. Deciding to leave the car on the city outskirts, mainly due to having found a good parking spot and a great bar for lunch, our weekend began with several beers so we caught the bus in and walked 5 minutes to the hotel. Parking is available if you'd rather drive there.

Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

We very much liked the quaint hotel with lots of original features and the domed-cellar breakfast room. Just a short walk from everything and everywhere we wanted to explore in the centre of Granada.

Gar Anat Hotel, Granada

The staff were very helpful, welcoming and friendly, this is a small hotel with a small team but with a high desire to make your stay as good as possible. It is somewhere I would return too (if there weren't so many others to try out) and recommend too.

22 April 2015

Bootcamp Fitness in Spain

A boot camp in the sun that encourages and supports without bullying or being too rigid. If you want to train hard, lose weight, learn how to improve your diet and have fun in the almost guaranteed sun then Aurora BootCamp should be your next fitness session, day or holiday.

Just a short drive from Malaga airport and a 15 minute walk to the nearest beach Aurora's offers fun in the sun with a wide array of activities. Yoga, boxing, Zumba and trekking, with a training day followed by an active rest day designed not to push but to keep up low level activity. Go for a week long camp, weekend, day or just a session to get you leaner, fitter and healthier as well as tanned by the end.

I had the pleasure of joining a new week-long course for a day. The group of 6 of us met on Friday evening with dinner (no-carb here) and an explanatory talk about the week, or in my case day, ahead.

Camp director Roseanna talked us through the diet, the accommodation, the planned activities and answered any questions we had. With no bans and few rules I was rather relieved when someone asked about alcohol and we were able to have a glass of Spanish Cava before retiring. I needed a good nights sleep, not knowing what was in store the following day - I already ached.

I'm overweight, over 50 (but only just,) and was apprehensive. This was my first bootcamp, first fitness day and first organised group fitness activity since my aerobic heyday 30+ years ago. It was definitely time to be more active, but could I stand the pace?

The morning started with a measuring session and weigh-in for those that wanted and whose aim for the week was weightloss. I declined. Breakfast of scrambled egg, fried onions, mushrooms and peppers set us up for the first and warm-up session with Ross a great motivator, incredibly knowledgable and obviously fit, tanned (and good-looking, young) chap.

With short sharp bursts of exercise and rest, stretching and rest, being to talked to and encouraged constantly the first two hour session flew by. This was not as hard and much more fun than I'd imagined. But only the start. After a snack break of lemon-water and spicy roasted walnuts we were pretty warm in the late February sun and very warm after a circuit session with weights, squats, pulls, jumps, sprints and swings. All short bursts (that seemed longer than the rests) and with a countdown which was a great incentive to keep going and pushing yourself a bit harder (or not!)

Lunchtime was a welcome relief from sun, exercise and groaning. A chance to get to know the group a little better, chat about what we'd done and wonder what was in store for us after lunch. I learnt a lot about bootcamps (and how strict some are) from some other veterans around the table and felt very relieved that this and no other had been my first experience.

The afternoon also flew by, no worries needed about keeping up. The pace is your own, no pressure (unless Ross thought you weren't working enough) but lots of encouragement.

I'm not sure how I'd have coped staying for the active recovery day (although I did go for a 5km walk) because I was in agony the next day. Sitting down on the loo hurt! Getting off it again hurt! Hanging out the washing was noisy but survived I did. Enjoy it? Yes, I did. Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. It was fun, enlightening and best of all I (more or less) kept up.

Fun in the sun - go for it.

Aurora Bootcamp is more like home. Based in a lovely villa with lounge and dining area we all felt comfortable leaving personal items around and having bedrooms without locks on the doors. A great place to lose weight (I should have stayed longer) to get fitter.