Andalusia - Spain - 2013

28th March - 2nd April 2013

Short Easter break to Andalusia 2013

We are pleased that you have found the travelogue from our short break to Andalusia, Spain, at Easter 2013.

Gerd and I spent six days in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, along the Tropical Coast and explored the glorious history of Granada. It was a nice break from the bad weather at home in Switzerland although the weather had not been typical for Southern Spain neither and was very unsettled.

As usual, we managed our own booking for the trip and stayed in the following hotels in Nigüelas and Granada:

Casa de Lino - Casa Rural in Nigüelas and Hotel Alhambra Palace in Granada.

Our car, a Peugeot 208 Diesel with 5 doors was rented by Europecar at Malága airport. The car was in a clean and good condition; nothing to complain. Please view all photo galleries on our website at Spain galleries at SA*GA Photography ~ Moments in Light ~ .

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We hope you will enjoy reading about our short trip to Andalusia.

Sandra & Gerhard Schänzer SA*GA Photography ~ Moments in Light ~

28th March 2013

Snow to spring

It was slightly snowing when we took the bus to Basel airport – and it was almost April! What a strange and long winter this has been. So we were looking forward to flying towards spring when he checked in our baggage with EasyJet. Our flight was due at 12:15 pm and we left on time despite the chaos that the EasyJet staff produced during the boarding procedure. I am convinced that they have had an education as shepherds and not as airline ground staff!

The flight took a bit more than two hours and Malàga greeted us with pleasant 20°C and some sunshine – nice! Unfortunately, it took us almost 90 minutes to grab our luggage and to rent the car at Europcar. Well, it was the beginning of the Easter break and we were not the only people travelling. We still were lucky at the Europcar desk as the queue was five times longer behind me when I finally got the keys for the Peugeot 208. The car was in good condition with a few light damages but a bit slow at acceleration that I found out quickly ;)

We drove off and stopped in one of the villages along the coast to look for a supermarket. Regrettably, they were all already closed – most probably because it was the day before Good Friday and they closed earlier than usual. So we stopped at a petrol station and bought sandwiches, crisps and diet Coke at the shop.

Shortly after, we arrived in the picturesque white village of Nigüelas, where we found our hotel Casa de Lino more accidentally than intentionally in the labyrinth of the narrow roads. The hotel offers ten cosy rooms and the dining area is located in the tastefully decorated patio on the ground floor. We were greeted by Anouschka with a warm welcome and taken to our room. The room is spacious with a large bed and a wardrobe and a very large separate bathroom with bathtub.

The light looked good and we drove off quickly to find a suitable spot for sunset. But as usually, if you are not familiar with a place, this proved to be difficult and we were too late. I was just able to grab the last rays of sunshine on the mountains but the position was not ideal at all for a pleasant composition. Anyway, it was a start!

We went back to Casa de Lino where we enjoyed a fantastic dinner and the friendly company of Johan who patiently explained the starters and main courses to us. I went for local air-cured Lomo Jamón as a starter and a Spanisch cheese plate as main course while Gerd had a tomato salad with anchovies and a very tasty Lomo Ibérico (pork). Gerd tried a local red wine while I tasted a white wine – both were delicious.

We were fairly tired now and went to bed shortly after dinner.

Highlight of the day: the warm temperatures in Spain

29th March 2013

Sierra Nevada

We slept well until groups of people returned from the bars later in the night and some cars passed by. The roads are narrow and each car sounds like a lorry passing through your sleeping room...

So I was just too tired to get up the first morning and I did not know where to go anyway and so I just stayed in bed for another hour. The conditions for a sunrise shooting were not perfect anyway – time to relax!

We went for breakfast at 9:00 am and enjoyed baguettes with cheese, cold cuts, jam, cerials, yoghurt, coffee and tea. Yummy!

We started our trip soon after and drove up to Trevélezthat is situated at 1470 m, high in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Most surprisingly, spring is not yet in full swing neither here and so the landscape looked still dull at this height. Trevélez is famous for its air-cured ham and so we also visited one of the butcher shops to buy a kilo of Jamón de Trevélez. zWe tasted the ham in the nearby restaurant which was excellent but the village was too touristy for our taste and we did not really feel comfortable here. So we left soon after and went back to the bridge over Rio Chico where we have spotted a small waterfall on our way. We went down to the little stream but I could not find a good composition and so I went back up onto the bridge and took a shot from there. Not what I had in mind, but at least something and it was a nice break.

We drove back to Nigüelas, parked the car at the large parking in front of the village and made a nice stroll along Rio Torrente towards the mountains. The river carried lots of water and there were dark dramatic clouds above the mountains which made, together with the warm sunshine, for a nice photo. We were hoping for evening light on the mountains but were disappointed as it was already overcast at sunset time. I still enjoyed taking photos in the stream with the village, the steep cliffs and the mountains.

We walked back and reached the village just in time for the blue hour. The church was illuminated and looked great against the sky. A new photographic field for me that I enjoyed pretty much. I also took some photos of the alleys which was very moody in the light of dusk.

Dinner was again very enjoyable in Casa de Lino. I had fried little green peppers (Pimientos de padrón) as a starter and Paletilia de cordero (pork shoulder) as main course. Gerd went for little potatoes with pesto and Bacalao a la mediterrano. All dishes were excellent again and accompanied by red and white wine.

After dinner, we walked the food off in the village and went to bed shortly afterwards.

Highlight of the day: the shooting in Rio Torrente

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30th March 2013

Mountain day

It seems that this holiday is just a short treat for photography as the weather is not really playing with me. People say that it has been the coldest and most changeable spring they remember and so we don't see a lot of blossoms and have a lot of overcast skies - just the opposite of what you would expect from Spain at the end of March!

So I did not bother getting up this morning, we enjoyed breakfast and drove along the road through the lovely landscape of the Sierra de las Guájaras and the Sierra del Chaparral. After approximately half the way, the view changed dramatically from pine tree forests to a rugged mountain landscape of dolomitic marble. We admired the view but continued to Almuñécar and intended to come back later in the afternoon when the light would be better.

We parked the car near the shopping mall of Almuñécar and bought soft drinks and some snacks. It was already lunch time and we popped into one of the beach restaurants. Well, it was one of those typical tourist restaurants with fairly bad food but we still enjoyed sitting at the beach and the view over the Mediterranean Sea.

We drove up to Sierra del Chaparral again after a short stroll along the beach and had a break high in the mountains where we were able to view the whole coast and countryside from Montril over to the west. An eagle passed by and we continued to the mountains after a short nap.

The light was okay but unfortunately, clouds were approaching fairly quickly and the light turned very pale. Very disappointed, we packed our stuff after we took a few photos and headed back to Nigüelas. Not what I was hoping for but better than nothing ;)

Dinner was nice as usual. I thought I would went for a 'light' dinner when I just chose a plate of sausages as a starter but it turned out to be a rather big plate of five different sorts of sausages! Gerd chose fresh calamari on potatoes and was very happy.

We went for a 'digestion' stroll through the village after dinner and I took photos of the night-lit alleys before we returned to the hotel and hit the pillows.

Highlight of the day: the mountains in Sierra del Chaparral

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31st March 2013

Fish and clouds

It was supposed to be a mainly overcast day with some light rain and so we decided to make a walk around Albuñuelas in the Lecrín valley. The valley has a very dramatic look with its steep cliffs, that were created by the river- The white houses on top of the cliffs fit neatly into the landscape with the orange and olive tree plantations.

We had looked up a walk along the GR-7 around the river valley but it already proved to be difficult to find the entry to the walk from the village. We finally found it, walked down to the river where we came across a nice little waterfall with crystal clear water.

We climbed up the steep hill on a muddy path but did not find any signposts of the GR-7 anymore. There were some arrows painted on the field road that we followed but we found out later that we had walked up too high and met the GR-7 about an hour later. It was too late now to continue as the rain was approaching so decided to walk back, rather disappointed. We found a crossroad where the GR-7 was supposed to be, but again not a single signpost and the path we tried led to nowhere. So we eventually walked back the same way - always accompanied by a friendly dog who has been following us all the time since we had left the village ;)

Lesson learned: hiking trails are not well marked in Southern Spain and you can get easily lost if you don't have a detailed map or even GPS. Too much to bother for us on this short trip as we only wanted to enjoy a short hike through the nice landscape.

So we eventually arrived in the village, thirsty and hungry. We said goodbye to the dog and drove down to the coast as it looked much brighter there. It was indeed a bit sunny and we stopped for lunch in a very good restaurant in La Mamola. The 'Casa Patricio' was crowded with locals having Easter lunch and it turned out to be a very good decision for seafood. II went for monk fish which was excellent and Gerd took a seafood platter with prawns, shrimps, monk fish, mussels and brass. We afterwards made a stroll along the (rather ugly) beach of La Mamola and built two little cairns with the pebbles of the beach - just following an old Swiss tradition ;)

On our way back to Nigüelas we took the road through the mountains but we did not see any mountains of the Sierra Nevada as it was raining and the clouds were very low. What a pity!

We returned to the hotel, planned the next day, I wrote the travelogue and we relaxed by a glass of wine after a nice and hot shower.

Highlight of the day: lunch

1st April 2013

Granada

It had been raining all night and so this happened to be the first holiday that I was not able to take a single photo during sunrise!

We enjoyed our last breakfast in Casa de Lino as we had to leave today for our last night in Granada. We said goodbye to Anouschka, paid the bill and drove off to Granada.

It was confusing to find the road to the hotel in the large roundabout near the Alhambra but we managed in the second round and finally arrived at the Alhambra Palace Hotel which is located just opposite of the famous UNESCO World world heritage site. The concierge parked the car and we got the keycard for the room on the second floor with a wonderful view over the city of Granada. The room is bit with a large bed, table, chairs, TV and free Wi-Fi. The bathroom is decorated in moorish style with a bathtub.

We had booked our Alhambra tickets via internet for the time between 2:00 and 8:00 pm and collected them in the booking office on the entrance. There was a very interesting underwater photography exhibition along the way which we enjoyed a lot. It was a good idea to book in advance as the queue for day tickets was already very long. It took only five minutes and we had our tickets after presenting a passport and the credit card that was used for the purchase.

There was still some time left and we walked down to the city centre to have lunch. The restaurant was not a very good choice: the glasses were dirty, the food and wine lousy and the waiter pretended not to understand the amount we wanted to pay including tip. So he refused to give us the change back and went with six Euro tip for bad food and service. Well, it might be normal for Spanish tourist areas as it was not the first time but it spoils the experience a bit.

It was time to go into the large palace and fortress complex of the Alhambra was originally built as a fortress in 889 and was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by the Sultan of Granada, Yusuf I. I won't go into any detail about the history of the palace as it has been written a million times already so please see this Wikipedia article for an overview of the Alhambra in Granada

We had our entrance to the Nasrid Palaces at 5:00 pm and we started with strolling through the complex of Generalife and the Royal gardens. It was highly impressive to walk through the Royal Palace, the Court of the Myrtels, the Hall of the Ambassadors, the amazing Court of the Lions and the Fabulous Fountain, the Hall of the Abencerrajes and eventually climbed the towers of the fortress of Alcazaba with nice views over the muslim quarter of Granada. The moorish art of decoration is breathtaking and the detail of the walls and ceilings just incredible. It really was worth the visit, absolutely.

We went back to the hotel at half past seven and had a light dinner in the bar with tapas and wine. IWe took some photos of the city in the blue hour as I could not get any nice views over the Alhambra from here. I think one of the hills opposite would have been a great choice but our trip was just too short for it. But there will always be a next time!

Highlight of the day: Nasrid Palaces in the Alhambra

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2nd April 2013

Adíos Andalusia!

We slept quite long as it was raining once again and we had no special plans for the day. We went down for breakfast and enjoyed the buffet: warm dishes likes chorizos, scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms, cold cuts, salmon, cheese, cereals, yoghurt, pastries, fruits, coffee and tea - there was something for everybody's taste!

We checked out and the concierge brought the car - I really liked this !

I found out about a lagoon near Málaga yesterday that is home to the second largest population of flamingos in Europe and so we drove about an hour to the Reserva natural of Laguna de Fuente de Piedra. Unfortunately, there were just a few flamingos - another sign that spring is very late in Spain, too!

But we didn't mind as there was plenty of other bird wildlife available and we took photos of stilts, herons, a beautiful red-backed shrike, a woodchat shrike and very cute Corn bunting that happily sang and posed for us. It was lots of fun!! Way too soon it was time to leave and we decided to take a scenic route back to Málaga airport and chose the small road from Villanueva de la Conception to Málaga. It was a very good decision as the river was running through a narrow valley with very nice views over the mountains, the olive trees and the green landscape. Very scenic indeed and definitely a valley that is worth coming back to explore further. Really beautiful!

We arrived at the airport around 6:00 pm after we refilled the car and returned it to the Europcar staff. The Lady checked it, we signed the report and went to the baggage drop-off of Easyjet. Again, it was the longest queue on this counter - we won't go for the online check-in again unless we only travel with hand luggage, it is a waste of time as the baggage drop-off takes the same time as the complete check-in! So we eventually passed security control, had a last drink in a bar and boarded the plane. The plane took off on time and the flight to Basel was smooth. There were hardly any clouds and we enjoyed the view over to the Sierra Nevada and we could even make out Nigüelas. Once we landed, I checked the current score of Bayern's Champions League match against Juventus Turin - yaaaay, we were leading 1:0 and in the end we won 2:0. So I was very happy once again :)

It was a nice trip to Andalusia that we enjoyed pretty much although it had not been very successful from a photographic point of view. But we escaped the bad Easter weather in Switzerland and enjoyed some sunshine, warm temperatures and generally speaking good food. The visit of Alhambra was definitely one of the highlights that we will always remember.

Highlight of the day: dthe birds of Laguna de Fuente de Piedr

We hope you liked reading our travelogue and we thank you for your interest - Sandra & Gerhard

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