Nerja, Spain

Trip Start May 27, 2007
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Trip End Sep 01, 2007


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Saturday, June 16, 2007

6/16 On the bus ride to Nerja I observed that this part of Andalucia looks a lot like inland southern California with deep canyons, irrigated crops and little vegetation. Our road paralleled the new highway being built which has a lot of neat, modern bridges. Arriving at the coast in Motril brings back the construction frenzy along the beautiful coastline (the say the crane is the country´s official bird).

Nerja is just about the last town on the Costa del Sol not to be overrun with these huge, generic concrete apartment blocks. There´s a long story behind this but basically a marquesa (her wealth came from a gin distillery) used to own all of the land in this area. She had devised an ordinance that limited building heights on her land to no more than 3 stories. When she died the land went to her son who immediately decided to sell some of it to developers and cancel the marquesas building height ordinance. The citizens objected and stopped buying gin, bars stopped serving it and even the kids threw trash at the marquesa´s old home. After a month of this the son pulled the land off the market and put back in place the ordinance (and gin sales took off again).

When Lee and I arrived we just walked a block into Nerja and saw a nice looking hostel, Hostel San Miguel. It is run by a Swedish family so I knew it would be clean. The price was 45€ a night for a room with TV, AC (!), our own bathroom, and free Internet so we took it for 3 nights. Our quick lodging decision also gave us more time for exploring the town and visiting the beach.

One interesting note about our hostel room is the efficiency of our bathroom. It is quite the room for today´s type-A, multi-tasking personality. You can actually sit on the toilet, brush your teeth, blow dry your hair (mounted on the wall), and surf the Internet (they have wifi) all at the same time! The door to the bathroom doesn´t even open all of the way due to the bidet but the builders sure crammed everything they could into that bathroom.

The walk through town was downhill and we quickly noticed that little Spanish is spoken here. There is a huge community of British tourists and retirees here and we´ve done our best to avoid eating at any of the restaurants specializing in English food. There are a few Germans but you don´t really get the feel that you´re actually in a Spanish beach town.

Nerja, backed by the Sierra Almijara mountains, is a charming town with nice views up and down the coast. To the west you can just see a couple of cranes on the horizon where the building boom resumes. Nerja only has 22,000 residents but swells to more than 90,000 in the summer so we are glad to be here before the deluge starts.

Lee and I found Nerja´s most famous sight - the Balcon de Europa. This bluff, jutting into the sea, is the center of Nerja´s paseo and a magnet for street performers. The palm-lined promenade overlooks the Mediterranean, miles of coastline, and little coves and caves below. In the ninth century, a Moorish castle stood here, later partially destroyed by the English in a battle against the French troops of Napoleon. Now it´s the big tourist draw (in addition to the caves) for Nerja.

We took our hostel-supplied beach mats to Playa del Salon below the Balcon de Europa. The sun was quite strong but, thankfully, there was a nice breeze. According to Lee and the screams of many a tourist the water was extremely cold. Occasionally someone would get in but never for long. I had expected the water here to be warmer than our other beaches since we are in the Mediterranean here but that´s not the case.

For dinner Lee and I stumbled across one of Rick Steve´s recommendations by accident. We had read about Cafe New Orleans in his guidebook but thought it would be too expensive and dressy. We checked the menu which looked very good and just a little more than we had been paying as well as the crowd which didn´t look very dressy and decided to give it a try.

The restaurant is run by a couple formerly from New Orleans who have been in Nerja for 6 years. They are actually selling the restaurant and opening a new one called Bayou in Berlin. The host was very friendly and called many guests by name. One look at the menu and Lee was drooling with the possibilities. He was reminded of his high school years living in New Orleans.

I tried the chili over rice which was excellent according to Lee. I only had Wendy´s and my own turkey chili to compare it to but I thought it was extremely good myself. Lee tried the ¨Wind Done Gone¨ New Orleans sampler which had whiskey bbq ribs, fried chicken, jambalaya, sweet potato fries and salad. Both of our selections were hits! Nothing was left on either of our plates. We had such a good meal that we decided to go again the next night.

6/17 It was such a treat to sleep with the AC on full blast! Lee had a blanket on his bed and looked a little blue in the morning but I´m not sure why. We took an early bus to the Cuevas de Nerja (Nerja Caves) for .90€ and paid 7€ for admission. The caves far exceeded our expectations! We´ve both been to many caves before and these were just incredible because the rooms were so enormous.

One of the first rooms actually is a permanent theater with seats for more than 1000 people! They have an annual dance and music festival in the cave! In addition, the caves have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites including the worlds largest stalactite column according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Someone actually figured out that it took one trillion drops to make the column. The column probably had a circumference similar to the distance around a typical Heights house.

Further on in the cave is the Hall of the Cataclysm which is 100 meters long by 50 meters wide by 35 meters high. It was just an enormous space full of different cave formations which we observed from the walkway along the perimeter. We left the caves quite surprised at how impressive they are!

Lee and I then walked downhill to the small town of Maro. Again, this is a very British town as we discovered when we encountered a very nice Scottish gentleman on our walk into town. He became our own personal tour guide as we took a walk around the town. He has been vacationing in Maro for 21 years and says it hasn´t changed too much. He showed us the marquesa´s gorgeous villa overlooking the Mediterranean and explained the drama around the son´s plans for development.

After getting a bite to eat Lee and I walked down to the Maro Beach in the hopes of it being less crowded than the beaches in Nerja. We followed a road through fields modified to act as greenhouses with plastic sheeting over them. This allows farmers to grow a full range of tropical produce year round. We saw tomatoes, peppers, green beans, onions, watermelons, and more. After walking and walking we were finally able to see the beach far below and it was packed!

We pondered what to do and decided to head down the hill and then try to walk around the bluff at the end of the beach to see if the beach was better there. We hiked down, across the beach, and then up a steep incline on the other side only to discover that we were on a cliff with no easy way down on the other side. So we then hiked back down the bluff, across the beach, up the hill, and back to Maro to catch the bus back to Nerja. I wish I had named our tour something other than ¨Taking the Long Way¨ since we have done just that over and over again.

After waiting more than an hour for the bus we returned to Nerja in defeat and went back to the same beach as the day before. After reading and dozing on the beach we ventured back to Cafe New Orleans again for a yummy dinner. This time we split the ¨Big Easy¨ salad and the ¨Rio Grande¨chicken chimichangas. Both dishes were again outstanding!

Lee went for a walk along the promenade while I returned to the hostel to work on this site. While I was working this deafening celebration started in the streets. I had no idea what was going on but looked online and found that Real Madrid (with David Beckham) had won some soccer championship. It must have been a big deal since the honking horns, screaming, cannons, etc. lasted for several hours. I had thought our town full of British tourists but obviously there are plenty of locals who live and die by their football.

6/18 After an abbreviated sleep Lee and I were up for a bus trip up to the small town of Frigiliana. It has been named Spain´s prettiest village several times and is only 4 miles up the mountain from Nerja.

It is an example of Spain´´s white hill towns perched high up on a mountain with a great view of the coast. The Christians settled here in the 1500´s to escape the attacking Moors. The town is cute with lots of steep streets, many turning into pedestrian-only staircases. There was one area of very expensive homes that looked like it belonged in River Oaks. Frigiliana is really just a town to walk around and admire the views since there isn´t much to do. It was another hot day but tolerable in the shade with a nice breeze.

After the morning in Frigiliana we went back downhill to Nerja and a last afternoon on the beach. I enjoyed the book I was reading, Solomon vs. Lord, and then headed to the Internet cafe before returning to the hostel to once again pack up.

6/19 Lee and I were up very early for our 6:30 am bus to Malaga and our flight to Barcelona. (P.S. Our flight to Barcelona on Vueling was very nice although my huge backpack never made it! Lee fortunately got his but they are still looking for mine. Stay tuned.)
P.P.S. 6/23 My backpack finally arrived yesterday afternoon after being gone 3+ days. For some reason it went to Bilbao. I´ve always wanted to go to Bilbao and the Guggenheim but my backpack went without me! It was tagged correctly for Barcelona so who knows why it went to Bilbao. I don´t think I´ve talked to anyone in Europe yet though who hasn´t had an airline lose their luggage this summer.
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Comments

mball58
mball58 on

Ah Granada....
Bobby and Lee,

It appears you had a great visit in Granada. It is good to hear that the Alhambra is being considered on of the great wonders of the world. Did you happen to see the cave neighborhhods of Granada? They are a protected historic site. Gypsies inhabited them when Gary and I were there.

Mike

rortiz
rortiz on

The Long Way or Wrong Way?
Lee,
In the pictures titled 'Our adventure hike way above the beach', I hope that you were a bit leary following Bobby. The picture kind of reminds me of the 'Long and Wrong' path that Bobby took us on to get to the family beach in Hvar. :)
Bobby,
Great job with the narratives. It's the next best thing to being there.
Miss you both,
Ruben

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