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Two months around Andalucia 2018

Tina

10+ Posts
Trip Description
Trip by car from Vallecamonica in the Northern Italian Alps to Andalucia from mid-September to mid-November 2018, Tina and Andrea 50/60 years old.


Introduction
The idea of travel as being a priority for us at this time in our life started in 2015 after some health issues which fortunately resolved without major problems but encouraged us to assess what we our priorities were for the coming years. Our first few trips, which I’ll be posting a little at a time were all in Italy and mostly based on a low-cost formula of cheap Ryanair flight and Airbnb accommodation. We had a great time each time, we visited Bari and Brindisi a week each, West Coast of Sicily 3 weeks, East coast of Sicily three weeks, all using Ryanair and instead by car the Massa-Carrara area, Genova Nervi, the Finale Ligure area in Liguria all for about a week each and Monte Conero (Ancona).

At the beginning of 2018 my usual autumn work contract fell through and so I was left with the choice feeling dismal and unemployed or taking advantage to do a really long trip. Around the same time we sold our trusty but 14-year-old Yaris and bought a spacious, reliable and a bit slow uphill Honda Jazz. We live in the Alps in a small village at 1000 metres with 80 inhabitants. Today, ok it’s 2nd February, it’s snowing and minus 3 degrees centigrade. Sometimes we lose our tomato plants to frost in May. When we travel, we head south for the sun. Oddly perhaps, on a road trip, one objective was to minimize car use and walk as much as possible.

Our budget was not enormous, I don’t have a permanent job and Andrea doesn’t work, we rent an apartment in the summer on Lake Iseo and bits of our house in the Alps, we get by. This is a summary of our trip, during the trip I wrote a blog every day with info and trips so family, friends and students could follow us. I think pretty much nobody did! We had some assiduous readers from Portugal, so it’s a pity I don’t know anyone in Portugal! Never mind, writing the blog and writing other things about the trip now has been useful to me to remember, details, names, places and enormously enjoyable, it has become a hobby. I hope it can also be useful to other people in some way.

Scroll down here on the thread for the next posts which summarise our trip.

If you want you can find more detailed information about each day of our trip on our blog: https://slowtravelitalyspain.blogspot.com/ To find the Andalucia posts click on the three lines at the top left next to the title, then choose archive, then show more, then 2018 September, October and November.

Texts by Tina. Photos all original photos by Andrea
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
The journey from home to Tarifa
We set off by car on Thursday 13th September 2018. I had spent most evenings for a couple of months before the trip researching and planning. We took with us one large tent, one small Decathlon 'instant' tent, camping gear including a foldable table and two chairs and a sun umbrella, lots of shoes for different weather and terrains, as few clothes as possible, one small and one large umbrella and 3 boxes of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness from our vegetable garden that we couldn't bear to leave behind. Our destination was Tarifa in the southern-most tip of Spain and we knew we had approximately two months to travel around. We were not experts in long-distance driving. The longest trip we had driven before was to Catania in Sicily which was about 1300 kilometers but over 15 years previously. Since then, mostly, we hadn't driven for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time so we decided to take it slowly. We arrived in Tarifa after 2486 kilometers without mishap 10 days later on 23rd September.

On the way we stopped in:
Ventimiglia (two nights by small tent), we wanted to drive straight through France the next day and we were a little tired form the stress of packing up and setting off, a bit daunting.
Empuriabrava (two nights by small tent), a small marina resort just inside the Spanish border with France with a well-equipped campsite where we recovered from the long drive through France and started enjoying Spanish food and wine.
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Canal in Empuriabrava

L'Ametlla de Mar (one night by small tent). The town is absolutely nothing special but the campsite was right on the coast with spectacular sea views:
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Alatoz to visit Alcala' del Jucar (one night in an Airbnb room). A very warm and relaxed welcome from our host made this a special overnight and Alcala' del Jucar is a pueblo blanco perched on some rocks with splendid views. We arrived late afternoon when all the tourists had disappeared.
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Alcala' del Jucar

Baeza to visit Baeza and Ubeda (two nights in an Airbnb apartment). Baeza and Ubeda are two splendid Unesco world heritage Renaissance towns which are largely ignored by tourists due to the massive competition from the likes of Cordoba and Granada. We liked both very much and could have spent longer, definitely a Slow Travel destination for those who have already seen Seville, Cordoba and Granada or want an alternative destination without hordes of tourists. It was mid-Septmber but there were very few few tourists around. We also stopped in the small village of Alcaraz which I highly recommend if you are driving from Valencia towards Cordoba:
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Jaen (two nights in an Airbnb apartment). The historical centre is not as pretty as Baeza or Ubeda but the castle and cathedral are impressive and we liked very much Palacio de Villadompardo which is free to visit and houses the Baños Árabes, particularly beautiful, and the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Popolares and the International Museum of Naif art. The next day, on the way to Tarifa, we stopped in the beautiful pueblo blanco Casares.
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So, yes, we took it slowly and we enjoyed the trip down. The only day which was really tiring was driving through France from Ventimiglia in Italy to Empuriabrava in Spain which was just over 600 kilometers and with heavy traffic on a Saturday in September.
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
Province of Cadiz – Costa de la Luz
Once in Tarifa the 'slow' part of our trip could begin.
Tarifa - we stayed 4 nights with the big tent, had some spectacular walks along the beach and to visit Bolonia dune and Tarifa. Beautiful places and far far from mass tourism. We liked the area very much and could have stayed longer but were driven away by a combination of strong wind which lifted the dust and wasps which made it difficult to sit around and relax in the campsite or on the beaches...
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Bolonia dune
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Walking to Tarifa along the beach
Caños de Meca - 3 nights with the big tent. We started up the coast towards Cadiz and stayed in Caños to do the Barbate cliffs walk and visit Vejer de la frontera, both of which were well worth the visit. Caños itself was unappealing because that part of the coast has a lot of private property right down to the beach so access is complicated down narrow dirt roads and culminates in having to pay for parking when you do arrive. We did manage to visit the Cabo de Trafalgar lighthouse at sunset the first evening but gave up the idea the second. The town of Barbate is much more welcoming with Mercadona supermarket and easy free parking.
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Vejer de la Frontera
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Acantilados de Barbate
El Puerto de Santa Maria - 11 nights in an Airbnb apartment to visit the Sherry triangle, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Jerez, Medina Sidonia, beaches between Rota and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Chiclana de la Frontera. I have put quite a lot of information about these places on the blog but to summarise we liked very much Cadiz and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The historical centre of Cadiz is fascinating for being on a promontory surrounded by the sea on three sides so you can walk along the walls, the old town of three and four storey buildings with balconies with railings and verandas is just mad for wandering slow up and down, the beaches are nice and the Botanical gardens and castles very pleasant. Sanlúcar de Barrameda had very few tourists and is famous for the Manzanilla wine, in fact the uphill part of the old centre is full of Bodegas and the smell of Sherry. There is a long river front and beach and plenty to see in the historical centre.
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Centre of Cadiz
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Detail of Sanlucar town hall entrance
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
Province of Cadiz – la sierra
The plan was then to start camping again but the weather forecast was decidedly pessimistic so:
Arcos de la Frontera - 3 nights in an Airbnb room. We visited Monasterio de la Cartuja a special and mysterious place on the way to Arcos. Apart from Arcos itself we visited Bornos for the Casa Palacio de Ribera and gardens and Ubrique where we also walked along the Roman road between Ubrique and Benaocaz.
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Casa Palacio de Ribera, Bornos
Olvera - 5 nights in an Airbnb apartment to visit El Bosque, Zahara de la Sierra, Olvera, Grazalema, Garganta Verde, Setenil de las bodegas and Ronda. This was a last minute decision due to bad weather. We had intended to camp first near Zahara and then in Ronda but since the weather was rainy and really quite cold (10 degrees one morning) this seemed a better option. I had spent some time on Internet wondering about the pueblos blancos, what they would be like, how much time to dedicate, and how to minimise car use.
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Evening view of Olvera from the terrace of the apartment we stayed in
El Bosque was nothing special unless you’ve never seen a mountain village before.
Grazalema was nice but quite a long drive up a windy road.
The Garganta Verde Canyon walk with the vultures, wild goats and cave at the bottom is spectacular:
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Olvera has a well-restored castle with 360 degree views over the Sierra and useful things like a Mercadona supermarket which made it an excellent base.
Zahara is just perfect, small, pretty, the castle at the top to walk up to, definitely one of my favourites.
Setenil de las bodegas is a special place because of the houses set right into the rock. We visited it on the way back from Ronda to not do the journey again the next day when bad weather was forecast but I could definitely have spent longer wandering up and down. The area of houses built into the rock is not just the few in the usual photos, it comprises most of the village:
setenil.jpg

We got to Ronda first thing and yes, there were hordes of tourists around lunchtime but not so many before and after and since they all seemed to do the same route it was surprisingly easy to be wandering around the outer walls, the quiet backstreets and down to look at the bridge from below almost completely alone. Could easily have spent longer there.
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In conclusion to visit the Sierra you have to accept you are going to do quite a lot of driving, but it’s worth it. If you like nature and walking and are blessed with good weather it would be worth spending longer in the area, we didn’t do the Via Verde de la Sierra from Olvera for example.
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
Antequera and Cordoba
Near Antequera - 3 nights in an apartment booked through booking.com to visit El Torcal and Antequera. El Torcal is an amazing natural park and was one of the trip highlights (and we live in the mountains!).
torcal.jpg
It has not yet been discovered by mass tourism but considering how near it is to Malaga I don’t know how long that will last. Antequera is an interesting and untouristy historical centre with Dolmens. We stayed in Bobadilla Estacion and nearly got flooded out….I said the weather wasn’t very good.
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Cordoba - 4 nights with the big tent. Magnificent Mezquita. I was awed and would still go back to stare again. The rest of Cordoba is also beautiful, both the Juderia and other Barrios. To avoid the tourists, stay in Cordoba, get up early in the morning and visit the Mezquita, then the narrow streets of Juderia, the rest of Cordoba didn’t have masses of tourists (end October mid-week).
mezquita.jpg
 

Tina

10+ Posts
Almeria and Cabo de Gata

Almeria - 2 nights in an Airbnb room to visit Almeria and Tabernas desert area. I don’t like to be negative but Almeria was nothing special apart from the Alcazaba and the sea front which is pedestrian so if you want a long walk it’s ok. Instead the Tabernas desert area made for another special day.
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Sunset in Almeria
Las Negras - 4 nights in a wood cabin on a campsite to visit the Cabo de gata area. Spectacular wild landscapes of bare rock and cliffs above a wild sea. More Atlantic than the Atlantic somehow (it was windy!). Great hikes along the coast in the midst of nature which changes every few hundred metres in a bewildering and beautiful kaleidoscope of rock formations. Occasional sheltered and deserted bays.
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Playa Barronale
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Just a few people around walking or driving. Instead the interior is full of greenhouses. We could have stayed longer here but by now it was the 31st October and the thought of the return journey was looming.....
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
Mojacar to home

Mojacar - 1 night in a hotel booked through booking.com. This was plenty! Mojacar Playa is a very long not particularly beautiful beach without even a proper promenade much of the way lined with eating places and apartments. Mojacar pueblo lacked the charm of other pueblos blancos, was packed with tourists, food was expensive and the tiny village I visited 35 years ago no longer exists……The sunrise from the hotel was nice though...
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Alicante - 2 nights in an Airbnb room, also decidedly enough. Very high rise with a small historical centre, quite a nice promenade. The castle was the best thing.
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Salou - 1 night in a hostal booked through Airbnb - we had been to Salou before but it was a convenient stopover, lots of facilities, very pleasant and wide promenade with gardens and fountains. We visited Pensicola, which is absolutely delightful, on the way up.

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Roses - 4 nights in an Airbnb apartment - the last rest before the last stretch home - we walked a part of the Cami di Ronda (the old smugglers path along the coast is worth further investigation if you like coastal walks)
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and visited Vic on the way there (very interesting, ashamed to say I’d never heard of it before but well worth a visit for the historical centre with Liberty buildings and main square with arches and sandy centre.)
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We also visited Figueres, which doesn’t take very long at all unless you’re interested in Dali’.

Arles - 1 night in an Airbnb mini-apartment to break up the drive through France because we had found it too long on the way down. Arles was very pleasant and we would definitely stop there again to see more of it.

San Remo - 1 night in an Airbnb room. We had already visited San Remo and it was a grey day so we stayed in bed and read and slept!

Sale Marasino - one night in our apartment on Lake Iseo to arrive at home the next day in the morning. We arrived home on 12th November.
 
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Tina

10+ Posts
Conclusions

We didn't visit Sevilla because we had stayed over a week in 2012, nor Granada because we preferred to take advantage of the fact we had our own car to visit places which are difficult to reach by public transport. We are planning 9 nights in Granada for March 2019 by plane.

Was the trip slow enough?! Perhaps not, it would have been easy to spend longer in many of the places we visited but I can say we never felt rushed or stressed about anything, we always had plenty of time to visit the places and things we wanted to see and to relax at the same time.

Problems? Basically none, an upset stomach for a couple of days in Roses, and we nearly got flooded out in Bobadilla Estacion......

Regrets? I wish I had bought more olives in Andalucia and a couple of extra bottles of Vermouth to bring back!

Absolute highlights? Difficult! And not in order - El Torcal, Cordoba especially the Mezquita, Bolonia dune and Tarifa area, Setenil de las Bodegas, Garganta Verde, Cadiz, Cabo de Gata area, Ronda......

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Kite-surfers in Tarifa
Two months on the road is quite a lot but I can't say we ever felt homesick. There was perhaps a change in the feel of the holiday after the clocks went back at the end of October, the darker late afternoons gave a decidedly end-of-holiday sensation and of course the weather was colder. We told people that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip but I realised sitting in a bar drinking a coffee in early November in San Jose, Cabo de Gata, that actually we could probably set off again at some point in the future!

We left on 13th September 2028 and arrived home on 12th November, after covering 6807 kilometres by car and 727 kilometres on foot. We brought home just a handful of shells, some almonds to shell given to us in Arcos de la Frontera, a candle from the monastery Cartuja near Jerez de la Frontera, e tiny tiger's eye polished stone I bought for 1 euro at El Torcal, two oven gloves from AleHop with writing in Spanish to the effect that food prepared with love nourishes the heart, 2 jars of Ali-oli, two jars of Andalusian olives, a couple of kilos of dried figs, a kilo of dried ginger and half each of almonds and fried salted almonds, a quantity I prefer not to disclose of bottles of Fino, Vermouth and Pedro Ximenez, hundreds of photos and memories, awe for the many spectacular places we've been so lucky to visit, gratitude for the fact that all the people we came into contact with were friendly kind and welcoming, that we had no real problems and were able to do the trip, a little nostalgia, romantically for some of the beautiful places and prosaically for the excellent food and drink and light, a lot more confidence in getting outside our comfort zone and doing something a little different from the daily routine, and, especially an enormous well of experiences to mull over, talk about and also learn from over the following weeks.

Our two-month trip to Andalucía, including absolutely everything so the trip from north Italy, motorway, fuel, all food and drink consumed in two months, any entry fees, other transport and accommodation cost €4040 euros for two people. It was worth every penny.

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San Jose beach from the cafe
 
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Parigi

100+ Posts
Your photos are magnificent. Let me get over the overwhelm before I read in detial your report that looks ace.
 

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