Never again will we drive an extreme small car on a road trip. Never again. A Smart is just too small. Although it suited the streets of Granada very well. But after a four hours flight and a two hours drive the charm of the small car was far far away!
Anyway, when we arrived in Granada, it was raining cats and dogs (yes, in the south of Spain …). Luckily it stopped raining by the next morning and we started our cavalry nice and dry. First the sights closest to our apartment: the cathedral, the royal chapel and the madrassa. We never experienced the joy of an automatic mass before. Guess you have to be in one of the most catholic regions of Europe to see this.
And even more strange: we were the only ones in the cathedral … And although there was nobody else present, we weren’t allowed to pass the cord seperating the ‘visitor site’ from the ‘praying site’. The royal chapel was still closed when we wanted to pay it a visit, but the madrassa was open, beautiful (small) and for free! We started this day quiet early because we wanted to check if we could still get a ticket for one of the highlights of this region: the Alhambra.
Unfortunately the hints you get about buying tickets online are so true … Nope, we didn’t get in … Tourists flock this complex of the 12th Century. We were pretty disappointed we couldn’t see if this is justified or not. So we got ourselves together and marched towards the suburb Sacramonte. But on our way down, we noticed there is a path leading towards the gardens of the Alhambra, along a beautiful gate referring to the moorish era (with a hamsa on top of the gate). We got a nice overlook towards the city beneath us and more specific the suburb Albaicin (the old moorish city). We still find it a pity we cannot enter the complex, but on the other hand we save ourselves 14 euro per person.
We continue our walk down towards the city, and cross the river. Nothing special, but at the Saint Ana Church the river goes underground (or perhaps rather the streets are build over the river). The Alhambra rises high above us. We follow the river upstream towards Sacramonte. In the mean time the sun wins the game with the clouds. We keep on climbing and got to the cave buildings. The houses are actually built underground, a cave indeed, but the closest houses to the city are ‘prolonged’ with some outdoor or normal housing constructions. We have seen this before in Coober Pedy, Australia, but these cave houses are far more obvious.
A bit more uphill, you can find a museum entirely dedicated to this special way of living. Kind of a touristy thing, and when the lady starts to understand we will not enter this site, she gets quite upset with us. We don’t care and continue our journey to the highest point of Granada. We just follow our instinct, read: non signposted road nor road, and got to see the real stuff which we actually didn’t expect. The cave houses at the beginning of the road, closest to the city and along the tourist trail, look very nice and charmy. The real cave houses are not. Really. It is hard to imagine people actually live here, underground, in a cave – hole in a hill, without running water or electricity.
On the other hand, we get an amazing view over the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains on the left (360 view). A wall blocks our view from the city beneath us, but we find our way back to the inhabited world and the real lookout. This is lovely!
After a while we go down towards the moorish neighbourhood Albaicin. We check some lookouts and are the last ones allowed in the garden of the mosque. The building itself has just been closed (otherwise it is allowed to enter as a non-muslim). We almost manage to enter the dar al-horra palace for free. The ticketing building isn’t really obvious. However, the guy notices us on time, and we decide not to enter. There is a ticket at 5 euro for three sites, but it is late in the afternoon and we don’t have time to visit them all.
Apparently we passed two of the other sites on our way to Sacramonte as well. We are confident the sultan’s wife must have slept in a beautiful palace. At the end of the day we walk to the Jardines del Triunfo, but they are not worth a special detour (the garden is close to our hotel). We cross the road to the old city center where we walked around this morning and get the chance to take a picture of the cathedral beautifully lightened by the sun. Time for dinner at a nice vegetarian place (Hicuri Art Restaurante).
The next day we continue our road trip to Ronda. Ronda is build along the two sides of the gorge, with the old part definitely far more beautiful and cozy then the modern part. We walk across the gorge, towards the old city and the sightings at that part. Mrs Obama must have liked this place all for herself, but we have to share it whit hundreds of other people. It’s not that hard to find all the interesting places, since this village is only a few square meters big. The most spectacular sight is the gorge under the biggest (newest) bridge (360 view).
We end this day slightly different than expected. The hotel we booked noticed us just a few hours in advance something went wrong with our room. They found us another hotel. This is a real shame. They probably overbooked us, and the hotel we end up in is far from what we expected. It’s only for the night. We’ll survive.
We start this day as early as possible because we have some kilometers ahead. We drive all the way to the ocean! We literally drive out of the clouds. We stayed in the area of Grazalema. The wettest are of Spain. We could have stayed at home if we wanted dark, grey weather. We are so happy to have the sun back with us! The first stop of the day is Zahora. That’s about 180 km further south. We walk to the cape of Trafalgar (360 view) and are witness of a kind of re-enactement of the landing of a general of an (British?) empire. And we got to know snakes inhabit the dunes. But more fascinating: we discover – far away at the horizon through the mist – Africa! With this sight we walk back and then drive to a national park just before the town of Barbate.
The next stop is Tarifa, our overnight stop. Actually, we sleep just before the town, right across the ocean. Luckily, because it is not the most cozy town of Spain. But it has by far one of the best vegetarian places we’ve ever been in Spain. We had a lovely dinner at the Ecocenter! Africa is just a stones throw away, after the sunset we drive back in the pitch dark.
The next day, we first head to a lookout that looked very crowded the previous day, but it’s empty when we arrive: Punta da Paloma. After a while (we don’t want to go, but have to) we drive to Tarifa. We saw some gigantic murals the other day but didn’t stop. And we want to visit the small island at the end of the jetty, but that’s some sort of military terrain and forbidden to trespass. We keep in mind we did see the place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea come together ànd the southern most point of Europe.
So we continue our journey to a curiosity in Europe: Gibraltar. On our way we halt at a lookout that offers a magnificent view over Morocco. We definitely have to cross the channel soon to discover that country! We spot Gibraltar from far away, but have to drive around Algeciras to get there. We park our car just before the border to avoid parking problems inside Great Britain. Euhm. Yes. We are in Spain. And we visited a part of Great Britain!
This rock, no more than that, was once a part of Spain, but in an agreement given to the British. And that’s the reason we have to show our passport at a border crossing. The absolute strangest way to walk into a country, across the airfield where planes do land and take off … We decide to walk to the Upper Rock. Somewhere high above us. We don’t have a map, and keep on walking and walking. Luckily we bump into some other Belgians. They advise us to take a cab or the cable car. We don’t see cabs, and the cable car is back down. They give us a map and we decide to walk.
Finally we get to the entrance of the Upper Rock (360 view) We pay the cheapest rate, 50 pence (yes, British money) or 1 euro (I don’t have small money, so I pay in euro – never do that, it is far more expensive!) for the entrance without any sightings (there are a few). Along the road we take the wrong turn, but according to Google Maps this is the shortest route. Obviously not.
We are about the only ones walking here, while we did see some other walkers behind and in front of us before this turn off (but not at the moment we actually turned hahaa). We keep on climbing, take short breaks in the shadow (it is hot!) and enjoy the spectacular sights. After about an hour we reach Upper Rock. And we encounter the famous (or notorious) monkeys. Off course some idiots deny the prohibition to feed the animals. We keep a distance because we noticed the monkeys can indeed be very aggressive.
We enjoy the views and the cooling breeze at the northeastern side of the rock. And that’s where we see a cloud coming in. Amazing! In just a few minutes the cloud becomes bigger and thicker and slides over the airfield. We walk back down along the other side of the road, have a nice chat with a Belgian truck driver and by the time we are back in the city part of the rock, the cloud is a thick fog. We have a quick dinner (and pay in euro 🙂 ) and drive to our hotel, back to Algeciras. Just a harbour city, nothing special. Tomorrow we hit the road for our final drive: Malaga.
One would think we’ve learnt some tips and tricks while traveling so often. And one of those tricks should be to always use the toll road, instead of the old high way. There is a reason why you have to pay to drive a road. Usually these roads are new, modern, fast and calm. Highways are usually very old and very very busy. As in the south of Spain… We are utterly happy to arrive at our hotel in Malaga after a very stressful final lap. Did I mention yet we sleep at a real castle? We check in, but we cannot enter our room yet so we decide to walk to the city center. Which is about half an hour by foot, but on the seaside promenade. Just straight ahead!
You don’t have to come to Malaga to see the beach. But the city center is interesting. The harbour has a brand new look, and at the end (or the beginning, depending which way you go) you cannot miss the colorful cube: the Centre de Pompidou branch in Malaga! The cathedral is another highlight about 5 minutes further away, but very busy. We walk towards the Plaza de Merced, and enjoy the sun and the lovely breeze. We photobombed quite a bit pictures – but unintentional.
We have taken a very good seat just behind the bench with Pablo Picasso … After all, Malaga is his birth place, and at this corner of the square you can find his birth house. From this square we walk to the castle of Malaga, which is build high above the city. We pass by the Roman theater and along a slight detour we finally end up at the right path towards the Gibralfaro lookout. Sometimes it seems like we are climbing a vertical wall instead of a nice walking path. After five days of walking far more than our average, we are pretty tired. For € 2,2 per person we can enter the castle and lookout. It is possible to buy a combined ticket to visit the Alcazar as wel, but we don’t bother.
The Gibralfaro is one of the highest places in Malaga and the views are amazing! (360 view) The cool breeze is very welcome too. After this visit we walk back down and even find a vegetarian place in the center (Vegetariano el Calafate). We walk all the way back to the castle we sleep at. The sun sets at the harbour and by the time we arrive at the hotel it is pitch dark. We even miss the right street meaning we walked too far … When we get to our room, at the highest point of the castle which is build on top of a hill, we can only be amazed by the view we have over the city. Even in the dark 🙂
The last day of our trip we have to check out at noon. Never before have we actually checked out this late. But why not if the sun is shining, and you have an enormous balcony/terrace with city and sea view?