Just the King and I on the Balcón de Europa, Nerja

Tree lined promenade on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

The Balcón de Europa (the Balcony of Europe) is a well-known landmark in the coastal town of Nerja.

Leading to the semi-circular viewing point with a circular marble, geometric patterned platform overlooking the sea is a lovely palm-tree lined promenade, often packed with visitors strolling along enjoying an ice-cream.

Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Viewing point on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

I was particularly fortunate the other day, when I was visiting Nerja and popped along to gaze over the railings of the Balcón, to pretty much have it all to myself.

Well, other than the King, of course!

King Alfonso XII stands on the Balcón de Europa, Nerja

A bronze statue of King Alfonso XII stands leaning on the railings near the end of the Balcón de Europa, commemorating his visit to the town in January, 1885.    The King came to see the damage caused by an earthquake that devastated the region on Christmas Day, 1884.

He was captivated by the beauty of the area and legend has it that he was responsible for naming it “Balcón de Europa”.

It’s not true, of course!

One of the old cannons on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

There are two old cannons on the Balcón, near to the statue of the King, which serve as a reminder of the strategic importance of the Balcón in days gone by.

Monument to the 5 boys who discovered the Nerja caves

I was particularly drawn to this monument to the five boys (Francisco Navas Montesinos, José Torres Cárdenas, Miguel Muñoz Zorrilla, José Luis Barbero de Miguel and Manuel Muñoz Zorrilla) who discovered the Nerja caves in January 1959.  

The town is so proud of them that their names are also written on a plaque at the entrance to the caves, where there is a much bigger monument to honour them.

White arches on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

Looking through the arches on the Balcon de Europa, Nerja

To one side of the Balcón is this white arched structure, covered with pots of plants which is the perfect place to shade from the hot sun on a summer’s day and admire the view of the east of Málaga.  

I’ve seen newly-married couples having their bridal photos taken here, too – but not on that particular day!  A perfect spot, don’t you think?

How lucky was I to get the Balcón de Europa to myself?  Have YOU ever seen it so quiet?

 

Whilst you’re here, you might enjoy reading:

Orange Trumpet Vine heralds warmer weather

Glass and Crystal Museum, Málaga

 

OH Come, all ye Faithful

Belén at Torre del Mar

Oh come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
Oh come ye, Oh come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
Oh come, let us adore Him, 
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Yesterday I went to see the Christmas nativity scene (known as a Belén) at the council offices in Torre del Mar.  When I first arrived, I could hear the excited chatter of school children as I approached the Tenencia de Alcaldía offices, opposite to the National Police Station on Calle Andalucía.  

Just through the entrance door of the council chambers is an exhibition room, where the nativity scene can be found.  The children were just finishing their visit and were all excited to be receiving some sweets as they left the building – which gave me a perfect opportunity to have a look around, before the next group of children arrived.

As I entered the exhibition room, the first thing I noticed was that the walls were covered with children’s drawings, showing their perceptions of Torre del Mar.  As you can see, the lighthouse features in many of the pictures.

Creator of the Belén

The creator of the nativity scene, Antonio Fortes Calderón, was on hand to explain that the display covers thirty square metres and consists of 60 individual pieces – many of which were made of papier-mâché.

Antonio was keen to show me around the delightful Belén, pointing out various areas of the display which were representative of the area in general, but also very specific pieces that were instantly recognisable to me as parts the town.

I absolutely LOVE the revolving light on the lighthouse!

Belén at Torre del Mar

Here’s the very distinctive blue-and-white lighthouse and the beach, complete with the running track (Sendero Litoral), together with a model of the old church of Torre del Mar (now replaced with a more modern church).

Belén at Torre del Mar

Two of the (three) old chimneys of the Azucarera (sugar mill) are depicted, along with the old railway station (now the bus station).

Belén at Torre del Mar

And this photo shows the bandstand and the old lighthouse, which is now hidden amongst the buildings, just off the promenade.

Belén at Torre del Mar

Torre del Mar means Tower of the Sea, but that particular tower, after which the town is named, is no longer standing.  Antonio has included a model to show how it would have looked, back in the day.

Belén at Torre del Mar

If you’ve a spare half an hour, pop along and have a look at all the pictures the children have drawn, and as you walk around this magnificent Nativity scene, see how many buildings from the town you can spot.

You never know, you might bump into Antonio whilst you’re there!

Do YOU like to visit a nativity scene, to get you in the mood for Christmas?

 

Photos from 35,000 feet: Axarquía coast and inland

 

Love flying 9

I love flying and whenever possible I’ll jump at the chance of a window seat. It’s fascinating to see the land below from a totally unique perspective and particularly if you know the area well, at ground level.

Last Thursday lunchtime I flew back to the UK to see friends and family for a few days. As is often the case, my plane took off from Málaga airport and headed out to sea before banking left to cross back over the coast of the Axarquía. From my window seat on the right-hand side of the plane, I had a bird’s-eye view, and the best and clearest view I have ever had.

Caleta harbour and Torre del Mar

We crossed the coast over Benajarafe, giving me a great view of the harbour and marina at Caleta de Vélez with Algarrobo Costa just above (and slightly to the right in the photo) and Torre del Mar below.

Torrox point

From the wider angle, you can also see the point of land sticking out which is where the lighthouse is at Torrox Costa, with the start of Nerja beyond.

Velez-Malaga and Torre del Mar

As we continued to fly inland, Vélez-Málaga came into view and, if you look closely, you can just about see the motorway (Autovía del Mediterraneo) cutting across the landscape before Torre del Mar begins.

Cómpeta

The white mountain village of Cómpeta was instantly recognisable, as the tops of the mountains above the village suffered and remain scarred by the devastating fire last summer.  

Mount Maroma, highest mountain in Málaga

We flew directly over the bare, pointless peak of La Maroma, the highest mountain in Málaga province – standing at an impressive 2065m (or 6775ft), and dominating the skyline of the Axarquía.  You can clearly see the village of Canillas de Aceituno in the lee of La Maroma (towards the bottom right of the photograph).

Lake Bermejales

And finally, after flying over Mount Maroma, we left the Axarquía region where the distinctive shape of the reservoir of Lake Bermejales came into view, and the town towards the bottom left of the photo is Alhama de Granada.

So, are you a window or an aisle seat person?  Do you enjoy flying or is it just a means of getting from A to B?  Let me know, won’t you?

You might also enjoy:

Photos from 35,000 feet: Approaching Málaga

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Coast, Villages or Countryside of the Axarquía: The open Countryside

 

Almijara mountains, east of Málaga

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 Countryside or El Campo

Almond trees in blossom in Andalucía

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.

Milky Way over my house!

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.

typical track in the countryside

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.

Lunch on the terraceHow 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.

Lucero - our campo dog

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.

Which would be YOUR choice: Coast, Villages or Countryside?