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Winter Sun Pt 6 – Week 2 at Castillo de Banos

Winter Sun Pt 6 – Week 2 at Castillo de Banos

Well – it’s been a pretty frustrating week in relation to the blog. Changing platform should be easier than this. And take less time!! And maybe I should have a little more patience?

Well – I guess life has settled into a comfy routine. Paul gets up, walks the boys and starts work. A little later, I awake – rosy cheeked and refreshed from my slumbers and we have our breakfast. And then I do stuff like cleaning and tidying, planning our homeward leg, washing, folding clothes in lieu of ironing – although there is an ironing board here and I see one ldy religiously doing her ironing each week! Also changing the bed, cleaning the caravan and car windows. Dust from the Sahara we suspect? All pretty mundane, but necessary stuff, really. Oh – and reading and blogging. It doesn’t seem much but the days are haring by!

We had dinner with the other Brits on site on Monday night, which was very pleasant. Three courses and drink for 11 Euros and very tasty. We have now grasped the difference between “flan” – yummy, like Créme caramel – and “pudding” – very similar indeed but slightly heavier. Both lovely. Flan is ubiquitous in Spain.

We met (sat with) a couple who had retired to the Isle of Lewis and who had arrived via ferry from Newcastle to Holland and then down through France. We had a good chat and a great exchange of travelling stories.

On Wednesday evening we went to the weekly quiz. We missed winning by two points which, as is ever the way, we had talked ourselves out of. Will we never learn? We were joined by a very nice couple from Wigan and their knowledge of TV themes was legendary!

Friday brought Valentine’s Day and Paul had surreptitiously made me a very sweet card. Me being me had thought ahead and brought one with me – Border Terrier themed. But both were given with love.

We had booked the local restaurant – Restaurant El Paraiso – for our Valentine’s dinner and arrived at a respectable 8pm, forgetting that the Spanish tend to dine later. Not only were we the only English couple there, we were also the only couple there for a while.

It was a set meal with an array of starters comprising salad caprese (mozzarella, basil and tomatoes – with the mozzarellla cut into heart shapes- cute!) prawns (I still tread a little warily with these as I had a pretty bad reaction to them a couple of years back), mussels – huge ones and octopus. I’m not a great fan of octopus – I mean I’ll eat it but it’s just soooooooo flipping chewy! The main course was pork steaks with peppercorn sauce and the dessert was chocolate dipped strawberries.

Salada Caprese

By the time we had finished eating, the restaurant was full and very noisy and lively. Our bad! And the owner was very anxious to know that we had enjoyed ourselves and I was presented with a red rose.

Saturday 15th

We left the site at 09:30 – bashed down the motorway towards Granada and the turn-off to Lanjarón – the first town on our tour around the “Alpujarras”. The Alpujarrras are the aptly named white towns and villages in the Sierra Nevada National Park.

Lanjarón is a thermal town, whose waters are said to be good for various health and digestive conditions. The spa has been visited by such luminaries as Virginia Wolf and Federico Garcia Lorca.

The route had great vistas and viaducts. Almost as soon as we had turned off the motorway, I spotted a sign for a “mirador turístico” – a viewpoint. And what a view. It was a gorge and a very deep one at that and you could clearly see three separate crossings from ancient to modern all stacked up one atop the other. Well worth the quick detour.

The oldest bridge
On the middle bridge with the newest bridge above

The next town along our route was Orgiva – a lovely bustling little town with a slightly new age tinge. It is apparently popular with people who want an “alternative” lifestyle. There is quite a large encampment of tipi dwellers on the outskirts of town.

Orgiva town centre
A sculpture of Cervante’s “Don Quixote”

Next up was Sopratujar – this village is allegedly famous for witches. The legend can be found here. I suspect it may be no more than a good USP for tourists!

A witch – don’t ask me which!

There is a charming miniature model of the village on the edge of the village. The villages and towns are famous for their unique chimney pots. They are much photographed and I like to think that our photos do them justice.

We retraced our steps and set off for Pampaneira – the towns look as if they literally cling on by their fingernails as they cascade down the mountainside. Thence to Bubión at 1350 m and all the time I was thinking why? Why are these towns here? What do people who live here do for a living? I was also struck by the thought that the UK’s highest mountain- Ben Nevis – is some 1345m high. I wonder if the temperatures there ever reach 21C?

We had lunch in Capeleira – which at just over 1400m is the highest village of the Alpujarras. As we were waiting for our lunch, I could feel the sun starting to make the back of my neck tingle – the precursor of sunburn.

We chose Platos Alpujarreños – a typical meal of the area with chorizo, black pudding, fried egg and potatoes. It was very filling indeed, but we had already decided that this would be our main meal of the day. Even so, I left half of mine!

Lunch finished, we asked for the bill. It was then that Paul realised that he had left his wallet in the car. I omitted to mention that the town is very steeply terraced and that we’d parked on one of the lower terraces and climbed several steep flights of stairs to get up to the town. You have to be pretty flipping fit to live here. Doing a runner was thus completely out of the question!

Paul – bless him – went back to get the wallet. We paid and then wandered off to have a look around the little town, which clearly thrives on tourism. I bought a couple of things as gifts and Paul bought a leather belt. We had done our bit.

Our final destination was Trevélez, where we stopped and gave the boys a run by the river. And then it was time to make our way back. Trevélez is famous for its air-cured hams (Jamón Serrano – literally ham from the mountains) and I suspect it does a brisk trade in the season but was pretty quiet on this fine mid-February day. Incidentally, the ham that is made from the much-prized Iberian pigs is Jamón ibérico and you see it in every Mercadona and pretty much every bar, where it is carved to order.

The famous ham of Trevélez

We came back on the opposite of the river, which was altogether wilder and there were clear signs of abandoned mining. Google tells us that mining dates back many hundreds of years but the boom time was in the late 19th/early 20th Century – lead, Mercury, copper, fluorspar have all been mined around these parts, but transportation has always been an issue. It was a long and winding road back down and I began to fear for poor Vicky Volvo’s brakes!

We stopped at the Rio Gaudalfeo or Rules dam, which we had seen and been impressed with both on the way here from Granada and on our way to Lanjarón earlier. It was pretty impressive. But the best bit was when Paul spotted some big and I mean BIG fish. The photos are taken from around 50 feet above, just to give you some idea of their size.

The reservoir
The dam

We had some dog biscuits in the car and I quickly ground them up and threw the bits to the fish. Cue feeding frenzy! I could genuinely have stayed all day watching them! A short video of them (and Paul’s thumb!) can be found here.

We made our way home via Mercadona and arrived back at the van around 18:30. It had been a long old day! This had been the Andalucía that I will forever remember. Utterly beautiful – too stunning for photos to capture properly.

And if you’re reading this, it means that our Blog woes are over and normal service will be resumed!!

Just beautiful

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