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About Me

Found 2 results

  1. It had almost been dark when we arrived at our accommodation in El Puerto de Santa Maria last night, so we hadn't got much of a sense of what the neighbourhood we're staying in is like. When I looked out of the windows this morning, I saw that it was another bright sunny day and we seemed to staying right on the edge of a forest. The trees looked really cool, so once we'd had breakfast I wanted to go and explore. It turned out to be a forest that was more fun to look at than to be in; the ground was very sandy underfoot, making it difficult to walk, and it was quite dark under the canopy of trees. Walking through the forest was worthwhile though, because it meant we also found our way to the nearby beach We had a little walk on the sand before getting in the car and setting off towards our main destination of the day: Gibraltar. Going to Gibraltar meant retracing our steps slightly, driving back in the direction of Malaga. It would probably have made more sense to do Gibraltar as a day trip when travelling between Malaga and Cadiz, but I'd ruled that out because I really wanted to do yesterday's inland route and see the white villages Luckily our route was motorway and so we only had around an hour and a half of driving before we reached the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción, which sits on the border between Spain and Gibraltar. The plan was to park the car in La Línea and walk across the border to Gibraltar; partly because driving in Gibraltar is supposed to be horrendous, with long queues at the border at peak times of the day, and partly I'm guessing we weren't supposed to take our hire car out of Spain anyway. Thankfully there are plenty of car parks in La Línea so we found one with spaces, pinned it on Google maps so that we could retrieve the car again later and set off towards the border. I'd done some research on the border in advance and established that you didn't need to provide a Covid test if you were entering Gibraltar by land (although you do if you are flying in to the airport). All we needed were our passports, which we duly showed and got stamped out of Spain. Now we just had to hope they'd let us back in again at the end of the day The first thing we saw when we left passport control was a bright red telephone box. In the other direction, we got our first view of the famous Rock of Gibraltar. From this lion... ...to this postbox... ...it was very clear that we weren't in Spain anymore! I was eager to start exploring Gibraltar properly, but we were only able to walk a few hundred metres along the main road - Winston Churchill Avenue - before we got caught in a queue and had to stand waiting for 10 - 15 minutes. Because Gibraltar is so small, the airport runway actually intersects the main road So both traffic and pedestrians were held back behind level-crossing style barriers as we waited for Wizzair and EasyJet flights to take off. Eventually the barriers were lifted and we were able to walk across the runway and towards the centre of town. We found the main shopping street without too much difficulty. It was looking strangely festive, with Christmas decorations already up. As we walked along it we spotted plenty of shops from back home; Marks & Spencers, Matalan, Holland & Barrett to name but a few. We were feeling peckish by this point so we decided to have an early lunch. Tim spotted an Italian restaurant in the main square which looked like a better bet than the multiple fish and chip shops, so we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be lovely; we both had delicious spaghetti with meatballs When planning the trip to Gibraltar, I'd spent a bit of time debating with myself whether I should pay for the expensive cable car to the top of the rock or save money by climbing up it. The tickets were quite pricey; £30 each for return tickets on the cable car (£17) and entry to the nature reserve on the upper rock (£13). Eventually I decided to fork out for the tickets - having got here and seen how high the rock is, that definitely felt like the right decision We walked to the cable car base station and were able to get on it almost straightaway, arriving at the top of the rock in a matter of minutes. The views were instantly amazing. More or less the first thing we saw when we stepped out of the cable car was a sign warning us about the apes. We had a small backpack with us, containing our passports and some other essentials. A man at the cable car station recommended that people wear backpacks on their front rather than their backs to deter any attempted theft of bags by the apes, so we did that any time we caught sight of any (well, Tim did, I wasn't keen on the idea of an ape being anywhere near me ) From up here we could really see how built up Gibraltar is. The views away from Gibraltar were beautiful though. Most of the upper part of the Rock of Gibraltar is a nature reserve and there's lots to see here. We hadn't been walking for long when we caught sight of our first apes. This one seemed to be attacking a van! Meanwhile these ones were just admiring the view Gibraltar has Europe's only population of wild monkeys. These are Barbary macaques, thought to have originated from Morocco. Legend has it that as long as there are monkeys on the Rock, Gibraltar will remain British. I was slightly intimidated by them at first, but they did seem to mind their own business and allow us to walk past them without any problems. Passing the monkeys, we began to walk uphill and explore the nature reserve. We could see down to a beach on the far side of Gibraltar. We reached a viewing platform called the Skywalk, from where the views were fantastic. From there we continued to climb higher, via a series of stone steps. Gibraltar has a long military history and there are all sorts of different fortifications here. Once we reached the highpoint of our climb we could see back towards the town of Gibraltar and the Spanish coast beyond. That made me question what we were looking at in the opposite direction. We consulted the map and it turned out that we were looking at... Africa I had read somewhere that it was possible to see Morocco from Gibraltar on a clear day, but I hadn't expected it to look so near. I was very excited to be able to see another continent From here our path led downhill, towards St Michael's Cave. This is a part of a series of limestone caves within the Rock. I knew that there were impressive caves here. What I hadn't realised was that the interior of this one is periodically lit up in different colours, in a sort of light show. I was slightly confused when the cave randomly started turning purple, but it was actually very pretty Back outside the cave, we had some more walking to do... ...and some more monkeys to avoid. The next attraction which I really wanted to see was the Windsor Suspension Bridge. The bridge passes over a 50m-deep gorge within the nature reserve. It swayed slightly in the wind, but after the Caminito del Rey it was nothing We continued on through the reserve, realising that we were walking so far downhill that we wouldn't actually need the cable car to get back to the town. Soon we could see the suspension bridge in the distance behind us. Just around the corner from here was a place known as "Apes' Den" where we had an opportunity to see even more of the Barbary macaques. There were lots of them perched here on the walls of a terrace overlooking the town. Again, they seemed pretty placid and inclined to mind their own business. I think they only bother tourists when they think they have food in their bags! There were plenty of signs up warning people not to touch or feed the animals; both are an offence punishable by fines. This was my favourite shot of the day... ...until I got this one Once we'd finished admiring both the monkeys and the views, we continued on our way back down to Gibraltar. As we left the nature reserve, I was slightly concerned by this sign suggesting there were snakes We made it back into the town without incident and stopped in the main square for a drink to cool off, before walking back across the runway towards passport control. Google showed us that we'd done quite a bit of walking! The return journey was just as straightforward; our passports were stamped back into Spain without any problems and we didn't even have to show any proof of vaccination. Then it was back in the car for the drive home to El Puerto de Santa Maria. It's been another very exciting day and the views in Gibraltar definitely exceeded my expectations
  2. It was another bright sunny day when we woke up in El Chorro this morning. After breakfast in the hotel we went out for a final stroll around the village to enjoy the views. We stopped for a quick coffee at a nearby cafe before walking back to our hotel (the big tall building in the photo below) and checking out. There were some beautiful views as we drove along the road out of El Chorro. In particular, we could see the bridge and part of the pathway of the Caminito del Rey which we had been walking on yesterday Looking at the pathway from here made it seem quite scary, although this bit hadn't felt scary at all when we were on it yesterday! Our first destination for today was the village of Setenil de las Bodegas, around 35 miles from El Chorro. We arrived and found a parking space by the side of the road on our second attempt. The first attempt involved us parking on what looked like a normal street, then having a man approach us and tell us we owed him €2! It seemed like some sort of racket so we didn't want to pay it, but we also didn't want to not pay it and leave the car there in case something happened to it. Luckily the second space we found didn't come with any strings attached First impressions of Setenil were that it looked really pretty. Setenil is one of Andalusia's so-called "pueblos blancos" (white towns) so we were expecting to see lots of little whitewashed houses. What makes Setenil unique among the white towns, however, is the fact that there are several streets here where the houses are literally built into the rock. The town is located along a narrow river gorge and in places the rock even overhangs the street Looking down from up on high where we'd parked, the village almost didn't look real! It must be very strange living in a house like this. Setenil is quite a well-known village and so even on a weekday in November, the main street was pretty busy. I can imagine it's even busier in the summer, with lots of people making day trips to visit it. This street isn't pedestrianised either, so it was a bit chaotic at times with cars and vans coming in different directions. Once we branched off onto some side streets, everything got a lot quieter though. Even away from the attraction of the main street, the village was really attractive with its bright white houses. We found that there were other, quieter residential streets with houses built into the rock too. There weren't many other tourists who made it as far as this one The town is built on a hill so we had to walk up some pretty steep slopes before we came to the main square. It was really pretty here though - well worth the climb We found yet more houses built into the side of the rock. Before we knew it we had reached the outskirts of the town, so we needed to turn around and head back towards the centre. Soon we were nearly back at the main street, which seemed a little quieter than it had when we first arrived. After one last look at the view, we got back in the car to head towards our second stop of the day - Olvera. Olvera was only 10 miles down the road from Setenil, so not the longest of drives. We managed to find a parking space on the outskirts of town and were soon walking towards the centre. Like all the towns in this part of the world Olvera is built on a hill so we had a bit of climbing to do. The views were amazing though We were walking towards the main church, which is set at the top of the town near the castle. There's a large terrace in front of the church with great views down to the lower town. We also had a good view of the castle, which dates from the 13th century. It was certainly in a good strategic position on this big rock! The countryside around Olvera looked really beautiful too. There's more greenery in this part of Spain than I expected. We still had a lot of miles to cover today, so soon it was time to climb back down towards the car. Our next stop, around 20 miles away, was the small village of Zahara de la Sierra. Zahara is in a really lovely location, overlooking a small reservoir. This town has fortifications too - we saw a small castle overlooking the reservoir... ...and a larger tower right on top of the hill. Zahara was the easiest village to park in, but we found a space right at the bottom of the hill the town is built on, so we had a bit of a walk upwards towards the centre. Before long we came to this little white tower. From here we could see up towards the castle... ...and down towards the rest of the town. Zahara's main square was just around the corner from here. There was a terrace in front of the square, from where we could look down on the reservoir. As you can probably tell from the photo, the sun was a bit bright today The square itself was lovely too. All the restaurants and cafes seemed to be centred around here, so it seemed like a good place to get lunch. Nowhere seemed to have menus out which always makes life more difficult, but we found a restaurant where we could get the menu by scanning a QR code on the table. The food took quite a long time to come, but when it did it was delicious Tim had chicken with roquefort and I had garlic chicken, which was absolutely beautiful. We may not have eaten the free olives we were given though It was a really lovely place to sit and eat and the weather is just about still warm enough to sit outside (though we did see multiple Spanish people wearing coats!) From Zahara, our route led us through the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. Some of the scenery here was really spectacular and we stopped at multiple viewpoints to enjoy it. Again, I've found that this part of Spain doesn't look as barren as I had expected. There are a lot of olive trees everywhere, which I guess explains why we keep getting free olives with our drinks From this particular viewpoint we could see down to the reservoir by Zahara, as well as the winding mountain road that we'd just travelled on. The route continued to wind through the mountains... ...until eventually we ended up in the village of Grazalema itself. We didn't get out of the car to properly explore this village, although we did manage to find somewhere to stock up on petrol nearby. The road continued to be really scenic as we drove from Grazalema towards Arcos de la Frontera. In some places it was really green... ...while in others it was quite rocky. We didn't have time to properly explore Arcos de la Frontera, because we wanted to try and get to our accommodation before dark. It looks like a fascinating town though, perched on the top of an enormous ridge. Another place where you wouldn't be able to live if you had vertigo I think! From Arcos de la Frontera we had another 35 miles or so to our ultimate destination for the evening, El Puerto de Santa Maria. I had initially been hoping to stay in the nearby town of Cadiz, but it seemed absolutely impossible to find decent accommodation there which included parking. El Puerto de Santa Maria is more of a beach resort, but close enough to Cadiz that we'll be able to visit for a day trip without too much difficulty The place we're staying in seems pretty spacious, with a large living/dining area... ...kitchen... ...and choice between two different bedrooms. There's definitely plenty of space, which is good because we're staying here for three nights
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