November 1st is celebrated with a national holiday each year in Spain, as Todos los Santos (All Saints´ day). Cemeteries will be packed with families paying their respects to loved ones who have gone before them.
November 1st is celebrated with a national holiday each year in Spain, as Todos los Santos (All Saints´ day). Cemeteries will be packed with families paying their respects to loved ones who have gone before them.
As we have discovered previously, everyday life can be very different, depending on your choice of location within the Axarquía. Let’s assume there are broadly three main area choices – the coastal zone (la costa), the inland villages (los pueblos) and the open countryside (known locally as “el campo”), giving plenty of opportunity to choose the landscape that best suits your needs.
Each area has its devotees and all offer advantages.
In this series of articles entitled “Coast, Villages or Countryside” we are exploring each in turn, to give you a flavour of what you can realistically expect in the various landscapes. We have looked at the coastal areas and the inland villages, so now we will consider what holidays, or more permanent life, is like in the countryside.
The only way to refer to the open countryside around here is “el campo”, which will be understood by all Spaniards and most foreign residents.
Throughout the Axarquía region, to the east of the city of Málaga, there is almost no flat land (other than near the coast), so the countryside will be either hilly or mountainous. Most people live on the slopes of hills and valleys which run eventually to the sea. This means that from lots of places you can find country houses and villas offering stunning views down the valleys to the Mediterranean Sea in one direction, and back inland towards lofty mountain peaks in the other.
The altitude above sea level will have an effect on average temperature and the kind of plants that can be grown in gardens. Anything up to 500 or 600 metres above sea level still gives Mediterranean weather all year round, and a whole range of citrus trees and avocados can be grown, together with the typical long-established crops of olives, grapes and almond trees. Indeed, these latter three crops can be grown at higher altitudes in areas with quite cold winter weather, as it is very high summer temperatures that is needed for successful fruiting.
Many country houses come with substantial land attached, often ranging from 2,500 square metres to 10,000 square metres or more. This gives plenty of opportunity for growing your own vegetables, or a range of fruit trees and plants, which cannot easily be grown in more northern climates.
The available land area means that most campo houses have plenty of parking space as well as their own private swimming pool, which you would not have in a village house, or would likely have to share in a coastal apartment or development.
You might also find that house prices are generally a bit lower than on the coast, but this is not always the case.
Country houses might be the traditional cortijo or finca, or a more modern house often referred to as a villa. If you are considering buying a holiday home in the countryside, you might need to think about getting someone to look after your land and pool in your absence.
Much of the countryside in the Axarquía region is terraced, and apart from the grapes, almonds and olives you will increasingly see avocados and mangoes being grown, due to the sub-tropical climate. In January and February, the pink almond blossom is spectacular and, as the year progresses, the wildflowers are pretty special too.
The countryside around the Axarquía is largely unspoiled with large areas of protected natural park land. You will see age-old traditions such as grapes being hand-picked, and men with long sticks whacking the olive trees for their fruit. There is no mechanisation here due to the terrain, so you can still see bullocks ploughing the fields, and mules carrying their loads.
As far as services go, there are no postal deliveries in the campo, so we have a post box at the Post Office in the village, as well as having to take all of our rubbish to the waste disposal and recycling bins. There are no landline telephones because of the mountainous landscape, but don’t worry, mobile phones, satellite TV and wifi internet are available. I’ve mentioned in my Cost of Living in Spain reports that we don’t have piped gas in this area, but bottles of butane and propane gas can be easily and cheaply purchased from a variety of outlets.
Living in the countryside means that you will enjoy a virtually noise-free existence except for maybe the distant bleating of goats, which are kept in pens around the hills, and can be heard over several kilometres. True peace and quiet are the norm here, as are the usually clear skies which, at night, give spectacular views of more stars than you ever thought possible. If you have not been used to seeing the stars, satellites tracking across the skies, or the Milky Way without light pollution, then you are in for a real treat.
As you travel away from the coast and into the campo you will notice that there are dozens of white houses scattered about the hillsides, each far enough away from the neighbours to maintain peace but near enough, usually, to be able to keep in contact as much as you wish to. In our experience there seems to be an understanding between neighbouring households that in the event that help is needed, for example if you suffer vehicle trouble, there is a reciprocal offer of assistance always available.
At first sight you might wonder how all these houses are reached but closer inspection shows that tracks have been cut across the landscape. It has to be said that these tracks vary in quality, some being well surfaced in tarmac or concrete, some being compacted stony earth but still easy to drive on, and others which are quite rough – and for these, you would probably need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
It will be obvious that should you choose one of these country houses, you will need access to a vehicle because to reach the necessities of life always involves a drive, but that usually gives an opportunity to have a look at a different landscape, visit a favourite tapas bar and drop off your rubbish or collect your post whilst you are out.
We have chosen to live in the countryside for the past ten years, and have discovered that the simple joy of looking after a sub-tropical garden, picking fresh lemons, limes and oranges, together with the fabulous birds and insects we see is enough to convince us that, for the time being at least, we have made the best choice for us. We can, and frequently do, travel the few kilometres to the closest villages or the coast to have a change of outlook, but how we love to return to the tranquillity that the Axarquían countryside offers.
How evocative does a beautiful summer afternoon sound, spent with friends having lunch on your terrace, with many kilometres of open land in front of you and the ever-sparkling Mediterranean Sea at the bottom of what seems like your very own valley?
Of course, countryside implies wildlife, and you will likely see kestrels, hoopoes, buzzards, bee-eaters as well as foxes, various lizards and praying mantis amongst many other strange creatures you might never even identify. As we are driving to the village or down to the coast along the winding mountain roads, we regularly come across herds of goats, moving from one pasture to another. Many expats who live here permanently will tell you about stray dogs turning up on their doorsteps. We hadn’t been here long when our little “campo dog” appeared, ready to adopt us! But, what joy and love he brought with him.
So, there you have it – the choice is yours – coast, villages or countryside. Best of all, come to this little patch of paradise, east of Málaga, away from the high-rise developments and spend some time in all the locations on offer. Why limit yourself to just one type of landscape when there is so much to offer?
If you were tempted to come back for longer or even to come and live here permanently, my suggestion would be to rent a place first for a few months and get around to see as much as possible. Once you have spent sunny, warm autumn and winter days when you know that in northern Europe there is wind, rain and damp greyness, you will know just how fortunate we are to be living in such a special place as La Axarquía.
The only cinema regularly showing English language films in the Axarquía region is Cinesur in the El Ingenio shopping centre at Vélez-Málaga.
Address: Avda.Juan Carlos I S/N, Vélez-Málaga.
Tel: 952 547 309 – 952 547 267 – 902 504 150.
This is an air-conditioned cinema complex featuring 12 screens and is upstairs, near the restaurant area, in the El Ingenio shopping centre.
Price: 7.50 € (4.40 € on Wednesdays, only).
There is a discount card available at Cinesur called Tarjeta 5, which costs just 5 euros and reduces price of all shows to 5 euros. This means there is no need to wait for a Wednesday to get a good deal (though if you do go on a Wednesday and use your Tarjeta 5 card, you will get in for 3.90 € instead of the usual 4.40 €).
Cinesur cinema was showing English language films ten years ago when I first came to Spain, but because of dwindling numbers of film-goers, Cinesur stopped showing them. Fortunately, we have them back now – but when I went to see “EVEREST” a couple of weeks ago, there were just three of us in the cinema.
Can I just say – please support our local cinema showing original version films – because if we don’t, they will stop showing films in English.
USE IT OR LOSE IT!
On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of November the twice-yearly “Fiesta del Cine” will be held throughout Spain, when tickets will cost just 2.90 €. First, you’ll need to register online at the official website to receive your personalised discount voucher. Then, between the 3-5 November when you go to the cinema, take along your voucher PLUS photo ID, and your ticket will cost you just 2.90 €.
Register here: Fiesta del Cine
The Yelmo Cineplex at Rincón de la Victoria show the occasional English language film, but they are not usually a regular feature there. Yelmo are, for example, showing Ed Sheeran – Live from Odeon Leicester Square on October 22nd.
This is a 16-screen cinema, open daily.
Address: Centro Comercial Rincón de la Victoria, Ctra Totalan, Málaga
Tel: 952 978 707
Website: Yelmo Cineplex
Other than that, you will have to go into Málaga city:
Address: C/ Alcazabilla 4, MÁLAGA
Tel: 952 121 031
4-screen cinema next to the Roman Amphitheatre, at the foot of the Alcazaba.
Price: 6.50 € (approx.)
Website: Cine Albeniz
YELMO CINEMA, PLAZA MAYOR
Address: Calle Alfonso Ponce de Leon 3, Plaza Mayor, MALAGA
Tel: 902 220 922
This is a 20-screen cinema complex at Plaza Mayor, the huge shopping centre near the airport. Yelmo usually have at least a couple of the latest-release movies showing in English.
Website: Yelmo Cines
VOSE = Versión Original Subtitulada en Español which means Original Version Subtitled in Spanish.
**VO = Version Original means Original Version without subtitles.
You might want to look if the original version was filmed in English!
Always check the cinema’s website and/or telephone for timings, before you set off (especially if you are travelling to Málaga).
You can usually buy your tickets online or, of course, at the cinema.
While you’re here, you might also like to look at:
I receive a lot of messages from East of Málaga readers, either on the blog or over at my Facebook page. It seems that many folks think I know pretty much everything there is to know about Spain!! It’s absolutely not true, of course, but I have lived here in the Axarquía region, to the east of Málaga city for almost ten years, so I guess I do know a few things.
However, another frequently asked question is about where is the best place to rent or buy a house. This week I received the following message:
“We’re all booked for 10 day holiday to Cómpeta in October, viewing properties in Malaga, Torre del Mar and Cómpeta. So this week I’m searching the internet and organising viewings. My problem is we can’t decide where to buy – countryside, city or seaside! I was hoping for some guidance.”
It’s a valid question – so let’s see what I can do to help.
As you might imagine, life can be very different, depending on your choice of location. Worth bearing in mind from the start is that almost all of the Axarquía region, and Andalucía in general, is mountainous with beautiful valleys running down from the inland sierras to the coastal fringe, giving plenty of opportunity to choose the landscape that best suits your needs.
Even though it’s an over-simplification, but let´s say, for the sake of argument that there are three main choices of area – the coastal zone (la costa), the inland villages (los pueblos) and the open countryside (known locally as “el campo”). Each has its devotees and all offer advantages.
In this series of articles entitled “Coast, Villages or Countryside” I will explore each in turn, to give you a flavour of what you can realistically expect in the various landscapes. Who knows, I might even get around to writing about what it’s like to live in the city of Málaga, too!
First, let’s look at what is perhaps the most obvious choice for many, and particularly for first-time visitors, the coast. It would probably be more accurate to describe it as the coastal fringe, as many of the hills plunge right down to the sea with wider, flatter areas in between, where valleys run down to the coast.
In times gone by, most coastal villages and towns were fishing communities, given that the Mediterranean Sea provides a plentiful and varied supply of fish and sea food. Fortunately this tradition continues today, with a substantial fishing fleet at the port of Málaga as well as in nearby Caleta de Vélez, situated between Torre del Mar and Nerja.
As a result, all of the coastal areas have a large number of chiringuitos, which are beachside restaurants, often constructed right on the beach. Chiringuitos always offer a great range of fish and seafood on their menus, which would typically include fried pieces of cod (bacalao) in a lovely light batter, Dorada (gilt-head bream) cooked to perfection over a wood fire, as well as the local Málaga speciality of sardines (espetos de sardines). Don´t be put off by those dreadful tinned sardines they sell in Britain – these are the real deal – skewered on bamboo spikes and cooked next to a blazing wood fire. You might also like to try Rosada a la plancha, which is a succulent grilled fish, often flavoured with garlic. Absolutely delicious and one of my favourites!
Chiringuitos are also the place to try out the world-famous paella. Everyone knows of this flavoursome Spanish dish which, even though it originated in Valencia, is cooked to perfection all along the coast of the Axarquía. Even though most people will have heard of paella, dishes do vary from one place to another, some leaning towards chicken or pork as the base meat, but mostly on the coast you can expect plenty of fish, large prawns (gambas) and shellfish. I’ve never had one I didn’t like!
There are bars and cafés on nearly every corner in towns and villages, in fact all along the eastern Costa del Sol you will never be far from a bar. Fortunately, bars and cafés as well as tapas bars and chiringuitos, are largely interchangeable. It´s unusual to find people going into a bar merely to drink. Beer, wine, fino sherry or coffee are just one part of the combined eating and drinking culture, and luckily the Spanish and most long-term residents seem to have this well-balanced. It is rare to see things get out of hand.
A typical “snap-shot” view almost anywhere along this relaxed coastline is likely to be of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, rarely more than gently rolling waves, sandy shores with plenty to do, sun beds for hire with the usual sun-shades in all the tourist areas, many wonderful places to eat freshly-prepared food of consistently high quality and a climate which is reputed to be the best in Europe.
Talking of climate, something that you might not have thought of when you are considering where to visit or live is that the temperature can differ by a few degrees from the coastal areas to some of the inland villages. This is not surprising really, given that some of the villages in Andalucía are situated more than 700 metres above sea level, but it might be an influencing factor to your decision about where to live or visit if you knew that a particular village was colder in the winter or hotter in the summer than the coast.
No matter whether you spend your time at the coast or inland it is as well to know that the major supermarkets are usually situated along the coastal area. Both Spanish and German chains are represented, for example with Eroski, Mercadona and Supersol from Spain, as well as Aldi and Lidl from Germany, each one having their own appeal.
As well as supermarkets there is a larger range of shops near the coast than elsewhere and substantial indoor shopping centres are available on the outskirts of Torre del Mar and at Rincón de la Victoria, with cinemas and other entertainment options at each location. The Axarquía’s only Carrefour supermarket can be found at the shopping centre at Rincón de la Victoria.
On the topic of shopping and extra facilities, you should not overlook the provincial capital city, Málaga, also on the coast. There is the recently refurbished city market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, as well as large branches of the Spanish departmental store, El Corte Inglés. Naturally, the city is also home to a fantastic range of tapas bars, sporting facilities, art galleries and entertainment.
One thing you should be aware of is that although May to October is the main holiday season, the seaside in this part of the world can, and often does, provide really warm sunny days all year round – in fact, around 320 of them!. We enjoy lovely sunny days in January and February, although the weather is not quite as dependable around this time of year. A common feature during the winter months, not only on the coast but also inland, might be to have a couple of days with rain and some wind, after which the weather reverts to clear sunny days once again.
The main beach resorts east of Málaga are much more low-key than some on the western Costa del Sol, but make no mistake, they each have their charms, and are worthy of a visit, though they do still tend to get crowded in July and August.
Have a look on a local map and you will see Rincón de la Victoria, Torre del Mar (which is very popular with Spanish tourists), and Torrox Costa, a lovely smaller town (very popular with Germans). Near to the easterly limit of Málaga province is the delightful town of Nerja, with few high-rise buildings, still retaining its quaint narrow streets in the centre, and popular with British holiday makers.
Fortunately, all the towns and villages along the coastal strip are easy to travel between, due to two excellent and largely uncongested roads running roughly parallel with each other – the N340 coastal road, and the wonderfully named Autovía del Mediterraneo, which is the motorway. Each of these roads connect the coastal region of the Axarquía direct to Málaga and the airport. If you don´t have a car available to you, there is a frequent (an inexpensive) bus service run by a company called ALSA, to get you back and forth if you choose.
Another thing to bear in mind about the coastal areas is that the land is flat. As I mentioned at the start of this article, the Axarquía is generally a mountainous area with beautiful valleys running down from the inland mountains to the coast. By the sea, there are lovely flat promenades and public gardens along many of the coastal towns and villages, which might be important to you if you have any problems with mobility.
Family holidays or a place to live, along a beautiful coastline, without rowdyism, with great facilities and fabulous food – East of Málaga is as good as it gets.
Next time I’ll look at the inland villages in more detail.
Málaga province has been experiencing the passion, emotion and excitement of La Vuelta a España (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) during the first four days of the famous cycle race, before it moves on to other parts of Spain.
The time trials began last Saturday in Marbella, before the race pushed off with Stage 2 from Alhaurin de la Torre, finishing the day at the world’s most infamous walkway, the Caminito del Rey.
Stage 3 brought La Vuelta riders to the east of Málaga, yesterday, through spectacular mountains before heading down to the coast and turning west towards the finishing line in Málaga city.
Road closures meant spectators being in position more than an hour before the riders came through, but fold-up chairs, beach umbrellas offering shade from the hot sun and a cool-box full of cold drinks made the wait all the more pleasant.
Having decided to watch the race pass by at the start of the sprint section, just west of Torre del Mar, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, riding for Team Sky.
We had stunning views of the mountains and the road back towards Torre del Mar.
Soon enough, motorcycle outriders started appearing and roaring past, first one then another. Surely they must be coming by now? The time of the riders’ scheduled arrival came and went, when suddenly, a helicopter appeared.
The leading group consisted of just six riders and the few people standing outside the Go Karting track on the N340a near to Almayate, started waving chequered flags, clapping and cheering.
Only just over a minute later came the main body of cyclists known as “the peloton”.
Would I be able to spot Chris Froome?
HA – watch my video and have a guess!! (HINT: it takes 50 seconds)
The peloton streamed by and, it was all over in moments.
Following closely behind were the many support vehicles vying for position and pipping their horns. At one stage, I thought I might end up filming a pile-up of vehicles!
All that was left was to collect the water bottles that had been discarded by the riders as they passed.
Did you notice one come whizzing my way (at 11 seconds) during the video? Yes, it hit me on the ankle!