Marvellous Marbella

Last trip of our Spanish holiday now, a return to the lovely little town of Marbella.

Despite it’s reputation as the go to place for vacuous reality stars it’s actually a wonderful place.

Its beautiful old town is crammed full of character, whitewashed walls and splashes of hot pink bougainvillea draped across every surface.

As usual you find a plethora of colourful details tiles on every wall and surface.

Again I enjoy the wonderful displays of red geraniums all mounted in pale blue plant pots.

We take a brief stop for some tasty tapas at the lovely Virgin of the Balcony restaurant.

So named because it is literally underneath this ornate pale blue shrine of the Virgin Mary.

Then its onto the hub of Marbella old town – Plaza de los Naranjos or the Orange Square, named for the fruit trees that fill the square.

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Orange Square dates back to 1485 and is laid out in a typical Spanish Christian design, with whitewashed houses and a town hall, a governor’s house and a chapel on the corners.

After getting out fill of traditional architecture we get our feet wet at the beach.

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Then it’s back to Malaga for a final potter on Malagueta beach before heading home.

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Another superb Spanish trip completed! Fantastic food and beautiful sights. Next up Kos and terrifying earthquakes . . .

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Tonnes of tiles

This post is mainly dedicated to the joy that is the Azulejo. This is a form of Spanish and Portuguese painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework.

Ornate Azulejos are found everywhere – on churches, palaces, homes, restaurants, bars and even subway stations.

They are not only used as an ornamental art form but also act as a form of temperature control in homes, keeping them cool in the hot summers.

The word azulejo is derived from the Arabic az-zulayj meaning “polished stone”.

Seville became a hotbed for the tile industry with potters from Italy established workshops there in the 16th century.

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Over the centuries the Spanish love affair with these highly decorative tiles has grown and grown until they are a ubiquitous sight around the country.

 

Malaga moments

After sating my need to snap mountains of fruit and veg we head into Malaga town to check out some sights.

I’ve previously only seen Malaga cathedral from the outside but as the mum enjoys a good church potter we headed inside!

Original plans would have seen the structure with two towers but funds ran out.

The fact that only one tower has been finished led to the cathedral being called “La Manquita” AKA “The One-Armed Lady”.

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The cathedral is a mix of diverse architectural styles including Gothic in the ground floor, Renaissance and Baroque.

The cathedral was built between 1528 and 1782 near to the site of a former mosque.

Once we’ve had our fill of inspiring religious architecture we mooch around to the Picasso museum (not to visit obviously – that costs money!)

But I snap a few souvenir pics so I feel that i have seen the main bits anyway!!

Then it’s off for a spot of tapas and sangria but en-route I am entranced by some epic scale wall art.

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These fantastic rainbow murals depict a variety of traditional Spanish themes including sultry dancing ladies.

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These fantastic creations are the work of artist Jonathan Morillas and adorn the square of the Jewish quarter.

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Mum acts as a measuring scale to show the epic proportions of these colourful images.

Meanwhile I get a bit freaked out by how many eyes are in this pictures! A bit creepy. . .

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That’s the joy of exploring different cities and countries, so many details to discover!

Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Malaga central market is another foodie heaven, crammed to the rafters with a veritable cornocopia of fresh goods, meats and jars of anything you can imagine.

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Malaga Central Market, also known as The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is a gorgeous piece of architecture as well as a haven for nibbles and tasty treats.

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The gorgeous stained glass window portrays the history of the building before its current incarnation as a market.

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The now land locked market was once the city’s shipyard, a place where the ruling Moors used to repair their ships 600 years ago. The water once made it all the way to the market’s entrance

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Whether you’re after a selection of olives or a dollop of greased up meat, this is the place to come.

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Iberian pork loin covered in an oily looking orange grease. Apparently it comes from special, acorn fed piggies!

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There’s lots of by products too. Above is the Chorizo iberico – a cured sausage made from chopped pork, pork fat and paprika. There are hundreds of regional varieties, some containing garlic and herbs.

Lomo Iberico is the cured tenderloin of the pig covered in lard made from the fat surrounding the pig’s kidneys.

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However as a life long vegetarian I prefer to loiter in the less meaty aisles with the amazing piles of fresh produce.

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From onions the size of your head to all types of leafy salads, spices and garnishes. There’s a mouth watering selection to chose from.

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Of course the market would grind to a halt if it wasn’t for the stall holders. Above are just two of the colourful characters we encountered.

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Below are some of the famous Malaga almonds. Almonds were one of Malaga’s major exports, in addition to being highly popular in local cuisine.

They are one of main ingredients in a variety of traditional recipes such as “ajoblanco”, a cold soup with crushed almonds.

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Has it got your mouth watering yet? if so why not head over to Spain and sample of few markets yourself!

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Into the interior – Cordoba

We decided to hire a car for a few days to explore further afield from Malaga and see what else Andalucia had to offer. First on the itinerary (in no small part due to Micheal Portillo!) is Cordoba.

About a two hour drive from Malaga this incredible city has a myriad of history seeping from every pore. From Roman bridges to Moorish mosques and a breath taking cathedral.

Cordoba has seen its fair share of history, being an Iberian and Roman city in ancient times and later the capital of an Islamic caliphate.

Surrounding the large old town are Roman walls with three of the original 13 gates remaining – Puerta de Almodóvar, the Puerta de Sevilla and Puerta del Puente.

Here Neil loiters near the castle walls where a picturesque canal flows alongside the imposing sandy coloured ediface.

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Next up we take a trot along the huge Roman bridge to view the impressive Puerta del Puente and city walls from a distance.

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Alongside the bridge you can see the remains of Albolafia mill, one of the eleven Mills of Guadalquivir in Cordoba.

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Its reconstructed water wheel rears up from the river bed like a wooden monster has been roused.

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The original wheel was dismantled by order of Queen Isabel ‘La Católica’ who disliked the noise it produced so close to the Castle, the royal residence.

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The bridge itself  was the only bridge of the city for twenty centuries, until the construction of the San Rafael Bridge in the mid-20th century.

Built in the early 1st century BC it has a length of about 250 m and consists of 16 arches.

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Next stop the awe inspiring Cathedral of Cordoba with its many incarnations and incredible interior.

Atarazanas Market, Malaga

There comes a time in every holiday when the lure of the market becomes just too much to resist . . . .  .

Malaga was no exception and we had the distinction of being a two minute walk away from Malaga’s main fresh market – Atarazanas Market.

There is a stunning stain glass window that depicts the city in glorious multi-colour, high above the rows of stalls, stacked with slippery fish, ridiculously large vegetables and vats of lardy meats.

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The market has beautiful Moorish architecture alongside the more contemporary 19th century building styles. The main entrance is a huge archway that is the only remaining part of what was once a seven-arched shipyard.

Apparently until the 18th century the sea reached right up to the present-day, middle of the city, land locked, market. Fishermen sat alongside the south-facing wall of the building and cast their lines into the waters.

Here’s a couple of the characters you can find at the market, a charming poser and a rather stern looking snail seller!

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As a vegetarian, a visit to the very visceral reality of continental markets can sometimes be a bit stomach churning but the way that every single piece of an animal is used, from head and tongue, to liver, lungs and wind pipe, is a very good example of waste not want not.

We seem very squeamish in the UK about utilising all of the fleshy bits available to the carnivore. Is it because the bits are actually identifiable that make people so adverse to scoffing them?

A case in point – a sheep’s head complete with glassy eyes, still a delicacy on the continent, boiled until the meat falls off the bone.

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Decades ago people in the UK would think nothing of plating up liver, tripe, pigs trotters and other, now almost defunct, meaty mouthfuls. What happened?

Why has a society that is still a meat eating majority, become so picky and so unwilling to be presented with the visual reality of the origins of their meal?

Given the current climate of ever decreasing resources, increasing population and more and more pressure on food production, isn’t it time that meat eaters started to embrace and eat all the bits of the animal, not just the unidentifiable, easy to mentally and physically digest, parts?

Rock the Alcazaba . . .

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The Alcazaba is a palatial fortification built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century.

This is the best-preserved alcazaba (from the Arabic al-qasbah meaning citadel) in Spain.

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There’s an abundance of beautiful Moorish architectural details including decorative archways, irrigation channels, ornate fountains and cool courtyards.

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I love this tiny little window arch, edged with decorative stone frills. These small details cover the structure.

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As you head up into the complex itself we were captivated by beautiful trees with purple blossoms that we’d never noticed before.

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The stunning violet flowers turned out to be those of the jacaranda tree.

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The Alcazaba is built on a hill in the centre of the city and has views overlooking the port, and comprises two walled enclosures.

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A series of courtyards and alleyways reveal ornate details and beautiful gardens. All perfectly designed to keep inhabitants cools even in the height of the summer heat.

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Here’s Neil about to take a bracing dip in one of the main water features dotted about!

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When the heat gets too much you can sit and cool down in one of the shaded squares and formal gardens where sparkling fountains and greenery takes the edge of the temperature.

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There are examples of the sophisticated irrigation channels throughout the complex.

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Shady courtyards offer a glimpse of the luxuries of the past including Cuartos de Granada (Quarters of Granda)  the home of the kings.

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As the palace is Moorish with its roots in Islamic traditions, artwork is comprised of intricate geometric patterns.

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Spain – the return!

Been all quiet on the blogging front lately as I’ve been slaking my travel lust with another visit to Spain.

I’ve done an about turn in the past few years from being a bit of a snob about the country, thinking it was all Benidorm, Magaluf, puking and high rises, to adoring its picturesque old towns, eclectic architecture and wealth of history.

This time we’re heading to Malaga and the surrounding delights of Andalucia.

We picked the lovely DeBambu Apartments in the centre of the old town for our six night stay.

We opted for the six person apartment as there were four adults and this was spread across two floors connected with a spiral staircase! Ace!

First up is a whistle stop tour of the old town and a visit to the Alcazaba and Castle Gibralfaro as they are free on Sundays!

There are a proliferation of beautiful tiles to be found across the city, below are a few of them.

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Malaga Cathedral is know as the One Armed lady due to only one of the two bell towers being completed, the other is an abbreviated stump!

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The streets are a maze of beautiful buildings, intricate tiling and painted walls.

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Here’s a few more of the ornate details that can be found on every street corner.

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Next stop, the Alcazaba and Castle Gibralfaro for some freebie sightseeing and amazing views over the city.