Spain – 2015

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Olvera

Two weeks in Olvera, a small town in Andalucia about 60 miles from the coast followed by Sevilla for a few days. We walked, we relaxed  and I cycled whilst we soaked up the sights, sun and culture of Andalucia.

Wednesday 4th November

Today passed in a blur of lists and packing. The most notable achievement was fitting our car into our garage, something I didn’t consider possible until a week ago, and it’s better tucked up warm and dry than sitting in the rain for three weeks.  Evening has arrived and we’re about ready.

Thursday 5th November

Andrew’s birthday. It’s hard to think of him as 32: he’ll always be our ‘wee boy’. I suppose it’s the same for parents everywhere. Our friend Sue collected and delivered us to the railway station in Kingussie and we started these holidays as we nearly always do; first class East Coast with a nice breakfast. We had time to kill when we arrived in Edinburgh so we had a pleasant family lunch in the National Portrait Gallery Café, partly to celebrate Andrew’s birthday, but mostly because it was another nice thing to do. Then to the airport, treating ourselves to the Aspire Lounge which made for a very relaxing wait, though, if the truth be told, it is a notch down from BA Business Class. The flight was tedious but Norwegian Airlines make a lot less fuss than the budgets such as Easyjet, so it was more bearable. We landed at midnight and after a fruitless attempt to walk from Malaga Airport to the [very] close by Holiday Inn we got a taxi (20 Euros for a 10min ride) to receive a pleasant welcome and a clean comfortable room. The ‘free’ welcome beer was very welcome indeed and a nice gesture.

Friday 6th November

Kathryn’s birthday and it wouldn’t be politic to mention her age….We slept well but not long enough and after a nice breakfast we dragged our suitcases round to MalagaCar and queued to collect our vehicle, despite it being November it was busy. It should be mentioned that the temperature was high at 25 Celsius so it was a somewhat sweaty affair. The next hour will be glossed over a little as it is always stressful finding the way out of Malaga in a freshly hired car.  Kathryn did a super job driving and I did a rubbish job navigating having left my navigation hat in Scotland (and my GPS in my suitcase). After sending us several miles towards Cordoba I found the missing hat and dug out my GPS and all became well. We had coffee at Campillos which was a pleasant small town. Stopping at the ‘imaginatively’ named Café Stop we had some real Andalucían café con leche, which I really like. Onwards to Olvera where we spent some time walking about to find our bearings and working out the best route for the car along the narrow streets. After some initial difficulties with phone numbers we made contact with the owner (Alexandre) who was in France and then his ‘manager’ Natalia who lives in Olvera. She let us in and showed us round. We listened intently as she explained everything in Spanish, however she had a very quick translation app on her phone so we were soon sorted out and we left to our own devices.  The accommodation was excellent, an ancient (but modernised) town house in the old Moorish part of town, below the church and the castle and with fantastic views across to the mountains. Ground floor;  small dining area, kitchen & toilet.  First floor; bedroom/lounge and shower room, third floor: ‘office’ or extra bedroom and terrace, fourth; another terrace with amazing all round views. Alexandre has thought of just about everything and has kitted out the house to a high standard. We really like the fact that cars can get no closer than about 200m to the property.  It’s very quiet with the only disturbance coming from the church bells that chime twice on every hour of the day (and night) and on the half hour. Initially they seem quite loud but we soon got used to them. In the evening we made a foray into the town for supplies and finished the day with bread, cheese and one of those huge lumpy tomatoes you only get in Spain (would have been a Tesco reject). All washed down with a glass of red wine we were in bed very early, I was particularly tired after what felt like a long journey.

Saturday 7th November

First full day in Olvera and after sleeping for nearly 10 hours (yes, I was very tired) and a nice relaxed start with breakfast on the ‘upper terrace’ we set off the explore the town. Olvera is definitely more of a town than a village, it’s a long way from one end to the other and every trip involves a lot of climbing so we should keep fit this holiday. The late start and the need to buy food resulted in us lacking a full exploration but we got the hang of the main bits, came home, got sorted out and set off again to the recommended Juanito Gomez Cafe/Bar for some food. As it was Saturday night we found it busy and noisy but we were served in a friendly way two hard-working guys. We had some delicious tapas washed down with beer & wine although not understanding the menu means what we get is a bit of an interesting lottery. The Spaniards do not visit a café quietly and the full house meant that the volume of noise was amazing, something like standing next to a pneumatic drill with a TV blaring in your ear. Being foreigners we went with the flow, soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed our food and our meal whilst admiring the locals ability to carry on a conversation in the most trying circumstances. Up the hill to home and another great nights sleep.

Sunday 8th November

Another sunny day, this won’t be mentioned again unless there is a change in the weather.  The reader (should there be any) should assume it is warm and sunny and well above 20 Celsius every day. We felt that we hadn’t ‘explored’ sufficiently so today we set off to remedy this with a diversion to the Estacion of the Vias Verdas de Sierre. The Vias Verdas crop up all over Spain and are mostly former or unfinished railway lines that have been converted in to cycling/walking tracks.  It was just pure co-incidence we ended up in Olvera which is the starting point for a 36 km Via Verde. They have a cycle hire place here which fits into my plans to do some cycling as well as a visitor centre (giving too much information) and a very nice café. The station building is beautifully built but was never used as a station, although the track bed was built no rails were put down so no trains ever ran. Now the estacion has been renovated and serves the many hungry cyclists and visitors that call in. Then it was back ‘up the hill’ to our house with a coffee at our local bar only 50 yards from our back door. Sadly they are only open weekends but in view of the tasty postre  (pudding) they serve maybe it a noo bad thing. In the evening we walked into town, this time to Restaurante Lirious which, although still serving tapas also served a wider and larger menu including very nice pizzas. We could be seeing a lot of this place as some of the Olvera restaurants are closed for the winter.

Monday 9th November

Olvera is turning out to be a bigger place than many of our other visits to this area, a quick whiz round just doesn’t cut it. So again we set off for further exploration of the dark recesses of the narrow streets. Morning coffee was also on the agenda and we found a nice bar, typically full of noisy men knocking back beers at 11am.  We had a pleasant coffee and at one Euro its very cheap (70p) when a cappuccino can cost anything up to £3 at home, and the coffee is really nice. As well as exploring we had some other tasks which were;

  • Find a decent walking map of the surrounding countryside – failed
  • Check out location of eating places as many are closed in November-partial success
  • Buy more provisions-complete success

Laden with our purchases we puffed up the hill back to the house just as the day was getting really warm and decided to ‘chill-out’ for the rest of the afternoon. For me this involved reading & computing and at one point I actually had a sleep, very unusual today. We decided to eat in and I prepared omelette & salad and somehow the evening quickly passed and the planned second walk just didn’t happen. We are finding the walking about town quite strenuous which is probably why we haven’t been for a proper walk yet.  We are averaging about 5 miles a day just shopping, visiting bars and going for meals and feel quite tired at the end of each day as roughly 150m of uphill is involved in each visit to the shops. I suppose it’s keeping us ‘old folk’ in good shape.

Tuesday 10th November

The ‘last exploration of Olvera’  was today’s task and at last we have a handle on this town, it’s only taken 4 days. We started by visiting the castle and museum. The castle was amazing, spectacularly refurbished with great views in all directions. The museum was all in Spanish so I wasn’t in there for very long. We had a beer & coffee and climbed the Penon led Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (a small hill in the middle of the town). They have made a lovely job of climb with gardens, a waterfall and a spectacular statue on top (guess who)! Siesta pm, I actually slept and we had a pleasant meal at Bar Noria finishing an excellent day.

Wednesday 11th November

Cycling

Olvera Estación-Via Verdas de la Sierra-Puerto Serrano-Algodonales-Olvera

I wanted an adventure and I got one. Walked down to the estacion and collected my bike, it was real clunker of mountain bike. The attitude of the owner? Left a lot to be desired and the bike was poorly maintained.  They don’t get my recommendation. The Via Verdas was interesting, many tunnels, some of them long but with lights that come on automatically as you enter, surface mostly hard earth, quite dusty and mostly downhill. Coffee at Puerto Serrano and then return by ordinary roads. The A384 had too many lorries to make it fun so I quickly found a quieter route. Fabulous cycling but on the bike going uphill was so slow, like your tyres are covered in glue. Got very hot in the afternoon but hereabouts a café con leche comes with a large glass of water so I stayed hydrated. The last five miles were on a gravel road with very steep climbs and descents and I was reduced to walking a few times. Cycled to the door of our house, no mean achievement as getting there involves a long cobbled 15% hill after nearly five hours in the saddle. Oh for a road bike!

Thursday 12th November 

Cycling

Olvera-Via Verda-Coripe-Moron de la Frontera-Pruna-Estación Olvera

A pleasant start with a downhill run to the Via Verda and then along it to Estacion Coripe. The tunnels felt equally surreal today.  This time there were dozens of schoolchildren having a nice day out on bikes, must have been their outdoor education day. Then onto the tarmac to the charming village of Coripe for the days first coffee, then onward to Moron de la Frontera. I particularly liked this road that dipped and twisted through olive groves and ploughed fields, the different coloured soils making it an attractive setting.  Good surface and the almost complete absence of traffic helped. Moron DLF is one of these places with an almost impenetrable one way system, not sure I even found the town centre, however I did find a nice bar for another coffee.  This time the atmosphere was very Andalusian with flamenco singing (wailing!) playing loudly on the radio whilst a group of men also held a loud conversation. I GPS’d my way out the town and sweated my way to Pruna via a series of long climbs and descents. Hauling the heavy MTB up the climbs was hard work as it was very warm by then but I stuck to my task noting that Pruna looked a nice place and worth a proper visit. I made it back to the bike hire on time and was delighted to hand the bike back,  I never want to see it again. Though slightly further than yesterday I had a stronger day, think I’m getting used to the heat and the bike. Now for some easier days with more cycling, and a better bike, next week.

Friday 13th November

El Gastor

We thought there was a market there today so we set off for a visit. No market any more, but it turned out to be a lovely village, very carefully looked after by the inhabitants, flowers everywhere (Scotland this is not). We had our morning coffee at the Bar La Venta in the Place de La Constitution and it felt wonderfully relaxing sitting outside with the warm sun on my face watching the world go by with a coffee and then a beer in hand. Although it felt like morning coffee time it was really Scottish lunchtime. We explored and admired the village then went in search of a local Dolmen. This gave us a good walk to a nice viewpoint but the dolmen proved invisible to our eyes so I renamed it a ‘dullmen’ as even when one is found there is never much to get very excited about. We decided on a proper Spanish lunch and we found La Posada, outside its hard to see its a café/restaurant but inside it lovely. We had the best welcome we could hope for from Antanio and some really nice food, lunch started at about 2.30pm and we weren’t finished until 4.15pm. Then it was home to relax with no need for and more food for a while. No market was found but it was an excellent day.

Saturday November 14th

Olvera & Via Verde

A pleasant walk starting & finishing at Casa Resolana. Firstly through olive groves with the olive harvest in full flow. Some farmers beating hell out of the trees with a big stick, others more up to date using a three pronged petrol driven branch shaker. The nets they use to catch the olives are huge, there are so many trees the harvest must go on for weeks. It looks like hard work, olive harvesters won’t be going for a walk after they finish the days work. We arrived on the Via Verde and walked 3 miles back to the Estacion getting the ‘Full-On Tunnel Experience’. It feels for me, as a slightly claustrophobic person, somewhat uncomfortable inside these tunnels, its such a cold, lifeless place. As it was Saturday the track was busy so lots of holas and buena dias were said. Despite the temperature in the sun being in the mid-20’s Celsius most of the serious mountain looking bikers were in full winter gear including gloves and legs covered, maybe they thought it was cold, they should try Scotland. The Via Verde does make a very pleasant and scenic walk, then it was up the hill to Olvera and our favourite Bar El Patio for beer and coffee. After that ‘home’ to relax and read on the terrace soaking up the warm sunshine, I believe it’s cold, wet and windy in Scotland. In the evening we ate at home and ‘sans meat’ as the Spanish Bars are big on meat and we had had far more than our usual intake and felt it was time to go veggie for an evening.

Sunday November 15th

Algodonales

A bit of a slow start but we eventually got going to Algodonales, had a walk round the town & had a café stop, the place was really buzzing as it was Sunday and all the locals were out for lunch in the along the main paseo, outside in the warm sunshine. I don’t know if its true but everyone appears much happier in the warmth than in Scotland’s cold & damp. We opted for the Sendero Las Fuentes which took is high above the town with great views up the valley. The walking was a bit rougher than expected and it was quite hot but still an enjoyable walk greatly helped by,’the person with the yellow paint brush’ without which we would have lost the trail. As well as good valley views Algodonales is a paragliding centre and at one point we saw about a dozen lazily circling in the sky.  A little later almost as many vultures were doing the same thing, each mimicking the other. As we were a bit late we made our way back to watch yet another beautiful sunset.

Monday November 16th

Cycling

Montecorto-E372 & 374-Villaluenga de Rosario-Bernocaz-A373-Prodo del Rey-Algodonales-Olvera

Today I cycled 66 miles using a most excellent Orbea carbon fibre road bike, in warm sunshine, with no wind, virtually no traffic, beautifully surfaced roads, with a regular supply of bars serving good coffee and sublime mountain scenery. There was a bit of vertical ascent involved but really, need I say more! It was just a wonderful day out.

Tuesday November 17th – cycling

Olvera-Algdonales-Zahara-Peurto de Las Palomas(1157m)-Grazalema-E372 & A376-Peurto Llano-Montecorto

Got a prompt start & took the direct route to Algodonales, stopped for coffee on the main square which, at 9am was packed with folk enjoying breakfast or a drink in the warm November sun.   Zahara looked to be an attractive place and I flagged it for a later visit. Then came the climb over the Peurto de Las Palamas which was long but not as steep as it looked (sections of 12%). I enjoyed the climb especially the absolute silence, no cars for an hour and wonderful wild countryside. This climb is up there with Sa Colabra on Mallorca, similar road engineering but no cars, buses or other cyclists. The descent was quick and I was soon in Grazelama sitting in the sun drinking coffee. The next section is the E372 through shady cork oak forest.  As I didn’t want to arrive at Montecorto until later I took a detour towards Ronda then over the Puerto Llano, this was a bit tougher than expected, quite a long climb and in the hot afternoon sun. This led to very different open farming country with long climbs and swooping descents, the one back to Montecorto being particularly exciting.  I returned my bike to the good people of Andalusia Cycling Experience and my ‘director sportive’ Kathryn was waiting so we…..went for a coffee, before returning ‘home’ where beer and cake were waiting.  Another superb day.

Wednesday November 18th

A rest day was needed and taken. We walked about a bit, drank coffee, drank beer, ate: olives, stuffed mushrooms, ham and loads of fruit and visited the last penon in the town. We did some writing and computing, read a book and fell asleep for a while. All in glorious sunshine. I went up on the roof terrace not long after dawn, did a 360 degree twizzle and notice there was not a cloud to be seen, not anywhere. A most relaxing day.

Thursday November 19th

Llanos de Raval near Zahara

Interesting walk, out and back on a gravel road through mountain scenery that felt wild and remote. After walking along the gravel road for about an hour we came to a flat grassy area with scatter old trees and ruined buildings, we thought that in years gone by this may have been farmed but now has been more or less abandoned to nature. The loop at the end was through pine forest that had felt only the lightest touch from mankind, it was longer and involved more climbing than we expected but was very peaceful. Lots of cool shade, grand old gnarled Holm Oaks. The gravel track back felt a little tedious but fortunately was mostly in shade, and in the distance about 50 vultures wheeling and circling in the sky. Once finished we were certainly ready for that coffee in Zahara.

Zahar de la Sierra

A spectacular and beautiful village. We especially liked the Calle Ronda between the two churches, lined with cafés where a coffee at an outside table is still one Euro. The Arab castle is reached by a steep path with amazing views from the top in all directions. The village is beautifully looked after with many of the houses decorated with flowers or the laundry of the people who live there. Well worth a visit.

Friday November 20th

Pruna

We were a bit tired after a total of nearly 12 miles walking yesterday. There is not a lot to say about Pruna, it completely off the tourist trail, has some nice gardens and a well looked after church. We enjoyed a coffee/Fanta at the Cafeteria Los Ratones Colarado, walked through the market (how could anyone need so many clothes)? and returned to Olvera for a nice lunch. I doubt if we’ll ever be back.

Bar El Patio

A proper local lunch lasting from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. Less than 20 Euros for the ‘Menu del Dia’ including two courses,  wine, beer and coffee all conducted in the traditional Spanish way with a very large family on the next table all shouting at each other, the TV blaring close by and what the waiter told us about the menu was mainly guesswork as I couldn’t hear him because of the noise. Kathryn did better and we got some very nice food. Afterwards we wondered round town to buy some cake for later. We won’t be needing dinner tonight, but maybe just cake.

Saturday November 21st

Estancion Coripe-Via Verde-Penon de Zaframagon & Return  

After two weeks of perfect weather today was not quite so perfect but it was still the equivalent of a good summer day in Scotland. (17 Celsius, some cloud, some sun and occasional drizzle). We thought we might find something interesting about vultures at the ‘centre’ but came away disappointed as their super-duper camera on the cliffs was broken. The place had a run down feel and was manned by two very bored looking employees. Still it was a pleasant walk through remote-ish country with groups of other walkers and cyclists keeping us entertained and the regular tunnels keeping us on our toes. After coffee at the Estacion we drove home the long way via Moron de la Frontera and got ‘home’ thinking about the next stage of our trip to Sevilla, we walked into town to buy bread and have a beer. Though not full of excitement it was a satisfactory day and really……the weather wasn’t that bad and it was still much better than Scotland.

Sunday November 22nd

We woke up to cooler conditions but not a cloud in the sky, the wind was from the north and air clarity was superb. It felt a lot colder in the shade and our house had cooled off a lot,  it was time to switch on the heating. After a leisurely breakfast, planning for our trip to Seville and cleaning we took a walk into town for a break and a beer. Then it was back for the packing and preparations for departure. Feeling more like going home to be honest but the Seville section of our holiday should be interesting and different and a big contrast to the first part.

Monday November 22nd

We were up early to finish clearing the house and packing ready to leave and we were on time at 10am, meeting the cleaner on the way down the hill, ready to prepare the house for the next guests. With time to spare we drove to Algodonales for coffee in the sunny square and then onwards to Sevilla arriving at 2pm. We got our arrival in Triana (across the Rio Guadalquiver) just right and mostly stress free using good planning, a map, gps and phone and parked up in an underground car park. Then came a long walk lasting about 6 hours as we couldn’t get into our accommodation until 9pm. We explored Triana, found our address and walked across the river to visit the stunning Plaza de Espana, picked out beautifully in the afternoon sun. Eventually back to Triana we found a nice restaurant and ate well for very reasonable prices. We met up with our host Maria who speaks excellent English (she is an English Teacher). After introductions and chat we sorted ourselves out and after 10 miles walking went to bed very tired and slept well.

Tuesday November 23rd

We slept well and we were out the door by 10am, first stop was a local bar for ‘churros & chocolate’. Deep fried batter dipped in thick Spanish hot chocolate makes an excellent start to the day and should be eaten at least once every trip to Spain.  Unfortunately it is rather heavily loaded in calories. After a quick coffee en-route a bit later, we paused for a while in Plaza del Truinfo by the cathedral, sitting in the sun and watching the world go by. Then to the Real Alcazar, a ‘real’ treat with stunningly beautiful buildings, more history than you could shake a selfie stick at (and they were plenty trying) and lovely cool, shady gardens. It wasn’t crowded, being November and, even for me, was really interesting. It’s well worth a visit. Then we wended our way home via the narrow streets and found the best coffee of the whole holiday at Café Robles Laredo in in Plaza de San Francisco. We sat outside under infra-red heaters that kept us cosy and warm. The only downside is that two coffees cost 6.20 Euros as opposed to 2.00 Euros in the small villages but who cares, we’re on holiday, let’s live dangerously.

Wednesday November 24th

We started with a lovely breakfast in the Sala El Cachorro across the street from our apartment’s door. This place was more of a ‘trendy’ café than a Spanish bar and the bulk of the clientèle were female and looked like they could be students. The food was lovely, I had pears & honey with cream cheese on a fresh roll, Kathryn had avocado, feta and pomegranate again on a fresh roll. Washed down with a couple of café con leches it was a fantastic start to the day. The it was ‘on the hoof’ and took a different route to the Puente de Triana stumbling across the area of ceramic shops. Some of the ceramics were beautiful and colourful but unfortunately too large for us to take home, in the end were purchased an interesting mug for me and a present for our grandson. Next on the list was a boat trip on the Guadalquiver and we struck lucky, it was quiet and we were the only takers so we got a ‘private trip’ in a small boat. It was beautiful and peaceful and a very different way to view the city. Our man, Mario did his best but his English was limited however he should have asked us before lighting a cigarette. Still it was a lovely trip. Back on dry land we circulated around Seville finding some beautiful areas, pausing briefly to eat some tasty cakes. We ended up again at the Cafe Robles Loredo in Plaza de San Francisco  as as they served the best coffee we had come across. We also had a very nice tart so that was our calorie count for the day (not). I was moved to tears by a band of buskers playing in the square, not only was their music enjoyable but they played many numbers from the second world war in the Glen Miller big band style. This was my dad’s favourite music and it caused memories of him to come flooding back. I can still see him jigging around the room to Glen Miller’s ‘In the Mood’. Then it was back to our apartment to organise and pack for the journey home before eating out, again a Las Golondrinas [The Swallows]  for more of their delicious tapas. The place is a real gem, great food and atmosphere and very popular with the locals.

We had stayed in Triana the district across the river Guadalquiver from the slicker and more touristy city centre.  It had a great atmosphere, relaxed, lively and a bit scruffy. It had a huge choice of numerous excellent places to eat and many locals appear to enjoy living there. So all in all a great choice of a place to stay in Sevilla but don’t try to take a car there, parking on the street is almost impossible and navigation difficult. We found Google Maps very useful plus using our own GPS and in the end, after a brief and fruitless search for a parking place on the street we parked in one of the underground car parks on the Olzano Square near the bridge. A bit of bureaucratic shenanigans got us a ‘Tourism Bono’ ticket costing 30 Euros for three days, an 18 Euro reduction.

We were staying with one of these locals using Airbnb, Maria has a small flat on a narrow street in the middle of Triana and we stayed in her spare room. Fortunately she is an English teacher so we were able to communicate well and she was very helpful with idea’s about where we should go and where we should eat. She is a very busy lady so we didn’t see that much of her and one downside was that we couldn’t meet her to get into our room until 9pm but we knew this when we booked so although we would have preferred to check in earlier we were able to leave our cases in the car which was in a secure, well lit area of the underground car park. The flat was small and a bit untidy but it was really interesting to share and a real Spaniards home for three nights. We didn’t use the kitchen there as there were so many fantastic cafés a few yards walk from her door.

Thursday November 26th

We were out the flat by 8.30 and Maria, hard working lady that she is, was already giving an English lesson to a customer. We enjoyed staying with her although I found it a bit odd use of someone’s flat whilst they are still living there, it was like saying with a friend but one we had never met before. Sevilla is the hottest city in Europe so many flats have little or no heating and although the weather was lovely we found the flat a little cool.  The only heating was a couple of electric fires and very little attention is paid to draught proofing. Mostly because it can get as hot as 40 Celsius in the summer (during our stay temps were 18 Celsius but it was cool at nights). Then it was driving, getting into the airport at Malaga, finding the car hire place, returning the car and getting into the airport. All went very smoothly (it hasn’t always) and we ended up with a few hours to kill before our plane took off. The rest of the journey all went well and hassle free and we were at our sons flat in Edinburgh by 9pm after a lengthy journey of over 12 hours.

Friday / Saturday November 27 & 28th

The final stage of what felt like a long time away from home, spent in Edinburgh with our wonderful family. Then is was on the East Coast train home to Newtonmore. Only three weeks but I find myself looking forward to home comforts such as: our own bed, our shower, porridge for breakfast, our own coffee, going to the gym, going for a jog in the morning, going across to Wild Flour for cake & coffee, getting out on the mountain bike/nordic skis/alpine skis. At times is will be cold, windy, wet and dark and regularly all those at once but we’ll be cosy and warm in our wee apartment tucked up in front of our multi-fuel stove with the central heating cranked up. Oh,  and it’s only three weeks to Christmas when most of the family are coming up, now what can we get them?

Holiday Reflections

We were very late organising our holiday and doing it all ourselves was hard work but well worth it, the organisations we used were very good and all gave us a good deal.  In order of use:

Virgin East Coast

First Class tickets if booked in advance are not expensive and travelling this way is a pleasant way to start and finish a holiday. I just love getting on the quiet peaceful train in the morning and being offered breakfast at the start of a holiday, it takes away much of the stress of getting ready. We are very lucky we have a rail service that runs from Kingussie to Edinburgh and onwards to London.

Norwegian Airlines

As cheap as Easyjet but without all the fuss and queuing. They treat you as an intelligent adult, someone who is capable of finding the toilet on the plane without needing an explanation of their location. They also recognise that most adults want a quiet and fuss free journey and we don’t need piped music, scratch cards or singing happy birthday to someone on the plane who they will never meet. On the return journey we had a ‘phantom farter’ that made the most dreadful smell. Even I don’t do that in the confines of an aeroplane.  The on-board WIFI is a great idea as well, hopefully it will not be  extended to mobile phone calls in the future, “Hello, I’m on the plane”!!!!!

Holiday Inn, Malaga Aeropuerto

It did what it said on the tin, the welcome was friendly, the room quiet and comfortable and the breakfast acceptable. We tried to walk from the terminal (at 00.30) and failed miserable as there is not obvious pedestrian route and it was dark. We gave in and took a taxi costing 20 Euros for a 10 minute ride but it was well worth it and I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk the route to anyone

MalagaCar.com

Good value and fuss free, we avoided the extra insurance ‘rip-off’ but taking out separate Collision Damage Waiver insurance before we left.  A one year policy for a very reasonable price. We had a small white, quiet comfortable car that was economic. I suspect in busy times they are not set up for plane loads of people and some queueing would be involved, but in November they were quick and efficient, especially on the return where they had our bags in the minibus and whisked us along to the terminal before we could blink. The office is within walkable distance but wouldn’t be much fun walking especially if it is hot. A recommended company.

Casa Resolana, Olvera

Booked via Airbnb this was the first time we have used this organisation and we are impressed. The web site is set up very well so trust is established between the owner and the guest. In our case the owner, Alexandre lives in France and he did a great job of keeping in touch with us by phone, text and email. However the managers Paquito & Natalia lived in Olvera. Natalia met us and showed us round the house and then we were left to our own devices but we knew they were not far away should there be any problems. We think it is absolutely essential if renting a property that there is someone on-hand who can deal with problem be-it an owner or an agent. It’s not a great idea to have your only contact is 1500 miles away in the UK. The house was lovely and Alexandre had thought of just about everything.  Its situation was superb at the top of the town with a 270 degree view from the roof terrace. Its gets 5* from us and although it is doubtful we will return to Olvera it was an interesting town with lots to see and do and lots of walking/ascent from one end to the other. Going out to dinner sometimes involved 2 miles and 500 vertical feet to get home afterwards. We shall long remember the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

Maria Martin, Triana, Sevilla

Booked with Airbnb but this time we booked a room in a flat in the interesting part of Sevilla. All the communications worked well and as she is an English teacher we were able to have some good conversations. Her flat was definitely ‘lived in’ but for what we paid it was very good value and it was also interesting too see the genuine Spanish life.  Triana was a fascinating area to stay with loads of interest and places to eat and Maria was able to make some excellent recommendations. A room in a flat not be for everyone, it depends how comfortable you are in a strangers. It was a bit of an experiment for us and I am reserving judgement on whether it will be repeated but having said that Maria is a lovely, hard working lady who did everything she could to make us feel at home. If going to Triana its well worth using an underground car park (they are well lit and staffed 24/7) as street parking in Triana is almost impossible and may  even be a bit more risky than using the car parks.

Final Thoughts

We were very late organising this holiday and doing it all ourselves hard work but it turned out to be one of the best. All the travel plans went relatively smoothly (there will always be a few minor problems on the way), the accommodation was excellent, we stayed in  interesting towns and enjoyed walking, eating, drinking, cycling, shopping and relaxing in the warm Andalusia sun. Our Spanish even improved a bit. We also got some good deals on flights, car hire and accommodation. The exchange rate and comparative low cost of living in Spain means we could afford to eat out or visit café whenever we wanted. We have had a tremendous holiday, feel very lucky we are in a position to do this and it will have set us up for winter in Scotland.

© Peter Main – July 2016