Which is lucky really, as we are approaching the 6 month mark in La Línea, which is at least 3 more months than we’d originally planned to be here… So it is with great relief that we can announce that we are finally preparing to leave the last weekend of May!!
We haven’t just been messing around with the engine and changing nappies though, you know…. It’s tough, this life, and we’ve had to have a few days off as well….
We’ve had more visitors; Stevie M has visited twice; Anabel, Emma & John have all returned; Paula and Joe have had long weekends in the sun; Bethany came all the way from Canada and added us to the European Tour… More tourist sights have been ticked off, cars have been hired, and we have explored some of Andalucia….
Family days out in Duquesa, Sotogrande, Marbella, Estepona, Ronda, Málaga, and Córdoba, a kitesurfing trip with Steve to Tarifa (though it turned out to be a bit less about kitesurfing than we’d hoped and a bit more about hospitals, laundry and baths [see blog post Our Little ‘Break’ in Tarifa…])… The possibilities were endless!
Duquesa marina is, like many of the marinas and much of the ‘Costas’ we have seen so far, a bit of a Brit paradise – Irish bars and English breakfasts overlooking the marina, but it’s a nice enough place for a little break. Sotogrande was a lot bigger and a slightly nicer place to walk around; the marina is huge, there’s a big boatyard, and it’s also a big draw for kitesurfers, so there was plenty to see. Estepona is also a fairly typical Costa town, but has a nice feel to it, and didn’t feel as much like ‘Brits on the Beach’ as some places. In all honesty though, there isn’t much to be written about the smaller Costa towns we’ve seen so far.
Ronda is stunning. It is a pre-historic town in Málaga province which has a beautiful old town, and the famous arched bridges over the El Tajo canyon. The town sits at around 750m above sea level, and the road up is a slow climb (especially for all the cyclists we saw..), and extremely winding. It’s the highest altitude Hugo and Bella have ever been to in their lives!
The city has been ruled by the Celts, Phonecians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and Berbers until, in 1485, the Marquis of Cádiz rolled into town and took over. The Muslims, their languages, and the Islamic religion in general, were poorly treated in the region; despite a few small rebellions, they were marginalised for several hundred years, up until the Spaniards felt the adverse effects of civil war, when everyone was in the same boat of suffering.
The most famous landmark is the Puente Nuevo bridge (built in the late 1700’s, so not really all that ‘new’), but they also lay claim to the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, and some wonderful Moorish architecture.
There are also modern literary references aplenty thanks to Orson Welles, George Eliot, and Ernest Hemmingway, who all had long associations with the town.
It is very touristy and we could imagine it being fairly hellish in summer (think Stratford-upon-Avon on a sunny Saturday in July….), not to mention the outrageously priced tapas bars and restaurants, so we felt lucky to have visited on a quiet, warm, sunny day at the beginning of March, as we definitely saw it at its best.
We took a trip to Málaga to try (again) to get Hugo’s birth certificate, and decided to have a wander round the city. Neither of us are familiar with the Costa towns of Spain, and we had somewhat formed the impression that they were all going to be like stereotypical ‘Benidorm’-type towns: full of chavvy Brits (ghost white ones that have just arrived, lobster red ones that are just leaving), Irish bars, English breakfasts – oh yeah, it would just be like Vilamoura…. However Málaga wasn’t – not one bit in fact. It is a beautiful city; apparently one of the oldest in the world. It has beautiful architecture, a cosmopolitan culture, and sympathetic modernisation and development. It is currently re-inventing itself as an arts and cultural centre, and – in addition to the Pompidou Centre – is taking advantage of its artistic connections; most notably Pablo Picasso, for whom there is now a dedicated museum in the city. More contemporary, though less influential, sons of Málaga are Antonio Banderas and Anthony de la Torre. And Hugo, obviously.
The city centre is full of impressive historical architecture, the most famous of which are Málaga Cathedral (started in 1528, it is an imposing Renaissance construction that sits among winding streets of tapas bars), the Castle of Gibralfaro (14th Century), and the Alcazaba (11th Century) over looking the centre are legacies of Phonecian and Moorish occupation respectively.
We hired a car with our boat buddy Nick and went to Córdoba for the day – a Moorish city in the heart of olive country (further north in Andalucia). The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the largest urban WHS in the world! – and it all revolves around the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba and Roman Bridge. The Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque Cathedral) is really impressive. Originally a small Christian temple under the Visigoths, it was then shared (under Muslim occupation) between Muslims and Christians for around 70 years before becoming wholly Muslim in 784AD. It was then converted into a Catholic Cathedral in 1236 during the Reconquista (the period of return of the Iberian peninsula to Christianity from Islam…which actually took several hundred years!). Walking around, the architecture was definitely Islamic – Multifoil arches, arcades, geometric tiling in deep blues, golds etc, but the internal décor was most definitely Catholic – gold as far as the eye could see, ikons, intricately carved hardwood, not to mention the incense. It is a beautiful structure, and a wonderful place to wander around.
So we haven’t been sitting idle, and have enjoyed having the opportunity to explore some of Andalucia, the region that has been our home for the last 6 months…. but it’s fair to say that we are looking forward to moving on….