Around and About in Andalucia

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Between the mountains and the sea lies Malaga, historical and cultural city of Southern Spain. Its cathedral dates back to the sixteenth century and is known as “the one-armed lady,” because the second steeple was never built. A Roman amphitheatre surrounds the Moorish castle or alcazaba, and the Museo Picasso, contains a collection of two hundred and four of the famous artist’s works.

A mecca for street performers is Calle Marques de Larios, and here under the Spanish sun they vie for attention and juggle their skills. Horse drawn carriages carry tourists along avenues and squares lined with Jacaranda trees, and the city has an elegance and style not generally associated with the noisy costas.

Missing out on these delights would be a mistake, as Malaga is all too often used merely as a stepping stone to other destinations.

If however, your journey does take you on, travel 45kms along the coast to Nerja, an attractive town set amongst cliffs and overlooking rocky caves. Take a coffee or ‘San Miguel’ in one of the many cafes on the tree lined promenade extending along the cliff top, known as the ‘Balcon de Europa.’ While away a few hours in the pretty coves, and investigate the famous limestone caves, founded in 1959 by boys exploring the area. Magnificent stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations dominate these underground chambers, and if you are lucky enough to be there in July the annual festival of flamenco music and dance will set your feet tapping.  

Tired of town life? Then head off into the campo. The mountain route winds through nature’s paradise, skylarks soar on the summer breeze and Oleander and hibiscus plants cascade down the hillside.

Our destination was Competa, a sleepy village with a big heart. This year not only has the annual Competa to Canillas de Albaida, walk for life taken place, (raising funds for the local hospice, Fundacion, Cudeca) but also a host of local people, with a huge variety of talents have produced ‘Cinderella for Adults,’ a pantomime with a difference. (Again raising funds for cancer charity Cudeca.)

The complete sell out of tickets however, plus performances not coinciding with our holiday meant that we could only dream of going to the ball!

The following day, on the new uncongested motorway, we headed for the ancient city of Cordoba, (approximately two hundred and forty kilometres from Competa.) Fields of sunflowers lined the route; the panorama opened under a peerless blue sky and our journey was completed in record time. In their zest to get this road up and running however, the engineers appeared to have forgotten such vital necessities as services, as there were no toilets or cafes for over two hundred kilometres!

Fortunately we did not have time to dwell on these problems. The outskirts of the city were approaching fast and it took all our concentration to find the hotel in the labyrinth of streets and security bollards.  Edging down thoroughfares no wider than ten feet, nerves were frayed.
“Watch out on your side,” said my husband  “I don’t want to scrape the bloody car!”

In common with most big cities a car in Cordoba is a liability, and it was with a great sense of relief that we finally parked the vehicle. Now we were free to explore the city on foot, and after a couple of sherrys to steady nerves, and tapas to steady rumbling stomachs we made our way along cobbled streets to the Roman Bridge.

The Guadalquivir River was once navigable up to this point, and made Roman Cordoba an important economic hub. Items from the period are housed at the Archaeological Museum. 

Continuing to stroll we found ourselves in the medieval streets of the Jewish Quarter. From as early as the second century, Jews formed part of Cordoba’s cultural mix. The synagogue was unfortunately closed for the day, and finally fatigue set it and we came across a ‘Salon de The’ with a distinctly Moorish atmosphere where we sampled patisseries and drank tea out of coloured glasses. 

Our tour ended on a high note, as nothing prepares you for the magnificent site of the Mezquita. Formerly a Christian church, then a Mosque, it is now a Roman Catholic cathedral, and is the mother church of the Dioceses. As we wandered through its vast interior, sun glinted through stained glass windows onto the mosaics used in the construction of the mihrab (sacred area from where the imam lead prayer) and a myriad of red and beige stone arches stretched out for as far as the eye could see. Transported into a different world, the busy streets outside seemed far away and we suddenly became aware of our own mortality and felt humbled inside this place of worship.

For the discerning holidaymaker, Andalusia has a lot to offer, so take in the sights and sounds and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Sally Chamberlain

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