Shining Brightly: Malaga’s Christmas Lights

 Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

During the festive season, the Christmas Lights in Málaga are always a great place to visit, but this year they have really surpassed themselves.

They are nothing short of spectacular!

Each evening, Calle Marqués de Larios, the main pedestrianised shopping street is crowded with people enjoying a party atmosphere with balloons and street performers to entertain them. What I particularly love here in the city, as in every village and town across Spain, you will see all the family generations out taking their evening stroll together.

Whilst they are still open, the shops, as well as the bars and restaurants are brimming over with people either doing their Christmas shopping or just soaking up the festive atmosphere.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

Detail of Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

The stars of this particular light show are shining brightly on Calle Marqués de Larios (famous for being paved with marble), and this year’s display has a Gothic feel, with a cathedral-arched frame dominating the street.  

Most surrounding streets have a more modest display of lights too, so have a wander around and see them, but don’t forget to look up at the beautiful buildings, too.

You’ll see bright red poinsettias everywhere – planted on the roundabouts, hanging from lamp posts and displayed in huge cones around Calle Larios.

There’s a huge choice of bars and restaurants to tempt you – many with their gas-flame heaters burning outside to keep you warm.  If you have to drive back home again later, you might prefer to try the best chocolate and churros in Málaga, at Cafe Aranda in Calle Santos.  The light, crispy churros and thick, creamy hot chocolate to dip them in are absolutely scrumptious!

Afterwards, wander down Calle Larios to the main road through the centre, Alameda Principal, to see the beautifully lit trees and the flower stalls or turn left and walk along the edge of the Paseo del Parque to enjoy the many Christmas stalls lining the route.

Xmas lights 2

Marvel at the huge Christmas tree in Plaza Constitución, with the Gothic arches peeping at you from Calle Marqués de Larios, inviting you to come closer.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights 2014

Malaga's Christmas lights 2014

It’s easy to be fooled by the blue skies and warm sunshine, but yes, it’s only two weeks until Christmas Day.

You can really get in the mood for Christmas by visiting the outdoor skating rink in front of El Corte Ingles, or go to see one of the many the Bélens (crib and Nativity scenes) around the city – of which the best (in my opinion) is in the Town Hall.

Malaga’s Christmas lights shine from 6.30pm – 2am daily, until 6th January 2015

 

What’s YOUR favourite thing to do or visit at Christmas?

 

Málaga Feria: They’ll be Dancing in the Street

Fireworks to start the Malaga feria

Fireworks to start the Malaga feria  [Image credit: Manolo Gómez Flickr CC]

Even the smallest village here in Andalucía has it’s own fiesta or feria, but today sees the final day of the BIGGEST PARTY OF ALL (well, around these parts at least) – the Málaga Feria!   

Held every year during August to commemorate the reclaiming of the city from the Moors by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) on 18th August 1487, the Málaga feria is one of the largest fairs in Spain with millions of people joining the fun throughout the week.

Many daytime activities take place on the main shopping street - Calle Marques de Larios, Picasso’s birth-place – Plaza de la Merced and throughout the historic centre of the city from noon until  around 8pm each day.  There are open-air bars to tempt passers-by with sherry, delicious sweet Málaga wine and tapas while the sound of music fills the air.

Many people dress in traditional costume and spontaneous demonstrations of flamenco dancing often break out in the street.  

Yesterday, it was a joy to wander around the city, soaking up the party atmosphere before heading to the Bodega Bar El Pimpi for a spot of lunch.  El Pimpi seems to get bigger and bigger every time I go, with it’s warren of rooms and outdoor terraces, which were all packed with feria-goers.  The inside walls of the bar are decorated with photographs of famous visitors and historic posters of ferias past.  You can also see the enormous barrels signed by some celebrity patrons including former UK prime minister, Tony Blair and, one of Málaga’s famous sons, film-actor Antonio Banderas.

Tradition then dictates a short siesta before heading to the outskirts of the city (next to the Palacio de Congresos building, near the airport) for La Feria de la Noche (the night fair), which starts very slowly around ten in the evening and continues all night, until the break of dawn.

Here you will find hundreds of marquees (known as casetas) scattered throughout the fairground where you can enjoy more drinks and food, whilst dancing to the sound of both modern and flamenco music.

And, if like me, you LOVE fairground rides, then you can be flung here, there and everywhere on some wild, mechanical rides or take a gentle journey on the huge ferris wheel, for great views across the feria.

There are shuttle buses throughout the night from city centre to the fairground.

 Would you like to join in the party next year?  

Space Oddity: Searching the Night Sky for the International Space Station

International_Space_Station_after_undocking_of_STS-132Image credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132 (Public Domain)

One of the joys of a hot, summer evening for me is the opportunity to have a swim after the sun goes down, before hopping into bed.  I always make sure that there are no outside lights shining from the house and, because we live in the countryside where there is virtually no light pollution, on a clear night it’s a great place for star-gazing. 

The most awe-inspiring sight has to be the Milky Way, the luminescent band of light made up entirely of stars, clearly visible in the Andalucían night sky.

There are other cosmic masterpieces to be seen at certain times of the year when our planet Earth passes through bands of dust and debris that circle the Sun.  We see these as meteor showers, and a perfect example is the Perseids (a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle), which occurs around the 12th August each year.    Once again, I will be floating in the pool, watching these tiny fragments of space dust hurtling into our atmosphere at enormous speed, before burning up, to provide magnificent celestial fireworks.  

Much slower are our own Earth-launched satellites which drift lazily by.   There are so many satellites circling the planet these days, that you can usually spot one within a few minutes.  Their speed is deceptive though, because the satellites are very high, they actually have to maintain about 18,000 miles per hour to remain in orbit.

640px-STS-116_spacewalk_1Image credit: STS-116 spacewalk 1 by NASA (Public Domain)

But the object I’m always fascinated to see tracking overhead is the International Space Station – a man-made habitable satellite which serves as a microgravity research laboratory.

Flying at 27500 kilometres per hour (that’s an average speed of 7.65 kilometres per second), the ISS maintains its orbit at an altitude of between 330 km and 435 km.  With an approximate size of 110 x 70 x 20 metres, the International Space Station (ISS) reflects plenty of sunlight and is usually the second brightest object in the night sky (after the moon), so is easily visible with the naked eye.  

14797031062_180d1002fe_zImage credit: NASA Flickr CC

Just look at the amazing view from the ISS!

One of the six crew members aboard the International Space Station recorded the above amazing photograph of the entire Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) on July 26, 2014.  Part of France can be seen at the top of the image and the Strait of Gibraltar is visible at bottom, with a very small portion of Morocco visible near the lower right corner.

I’d LOVE to take photos through this window!

640px-STS130_cupola_view1Image credit: NASA STS130 cupola view (Public Domain)

How can you get a good view of the International Space Station as it passes overhead?

Well, the first thing you should do is try to get away from the light pollution of a town or city, on a clear night.  If there is cloud cover you are unlikely to see anything.

The ISS looks like an incredibly bright, fast-moving star which can easily be mistaken for an aircraft.  What distinguishes it from an aircraft is that it has no flashing lights.  The light we see from the ISS is reflected sunlight, meaning that the best time to observe the craft is in the evening, not long after sunset or in the early morning, before sunrise.  

The next thing you should know is that the ISS always passes overhead starting from a westerly part of the sky, but not always from the same point.  It can be low on the horizon for some passes and very high for others.

640px-STS-129_Zvezda_sunriseImage credit: NASA STS-129 Zvezda sunrise

When can you observe the International Space Station from where you are?

To see the current position of the International Space Station click HERE.  Once you click through to that page, not only can you see what the astronauts can see, you can also view the ground track of the next orbit of the ISS.

Next, you need to click HERE and at the top right of the upcoming page you will see a box that says “Your location” and underneath that the default location is shown as New York City.  

Type YOUR location in the box, hit SEARCH and you’ll get something like the image below.  (This is the image I found last night when I did the same thing – that’s why it shows Spain).

ISS visible pass over Spain

So now you can see a list of the next sighting opportunities for YOUR location (on the left of the page), with the green bars indicating the brightness of the ISS on its pass.  The list contains all visible passes of the ISS during the next ten days.  If you select a particular pass, you can get more information about it.

In the photo above, you can see that for my location in Cómpeta, Spain there was an ISS pass last night (Friday August 8th) at 9.44pm lasting 5 minutes and 29 seconds with 2 green bars for brightness.  My next best chance to view the ISS is next Saturday night (16th August) at 11.19pm.

Let me know if you’ve ever seen the ISS.  Do you watch for it regularly?  I know I do!

 

One Trip EVERY Month: Canillas de Aceituno

Canillas de Aceituno

My trip this month, is just the kind that I began this challenge for – to go somewhere I’ve been meaning to go, but have never got around to it!

The white, mountain village of Canillas de Aceituno lies, like several others, in the shadow of the largest mountain in the Axarquía region – La Maroma, a bare, pointless peak reaching to a height of  2065 metres.

I chose to take the back road to Canillas de Aceituno from Cómpeta, driving past Archez, Salares and Sedella along the way.  It’s a beautiful drive, with a natural landscape of hills, mountains and ravines and it was worth stopping a few times to take photographs of the open vistas towards a shimmering La Viñuela reservoir in the distance, or the towering Monte Maroma, nearby.  A quicker route would be up the A356 from Vélez-Málaga and then turn right towards the village, but I had the time to linger.

On the approach to Canillas de Aceituno, I came across La Rahige, which is a wooded area with a ravine, pools and waterfalls.  As it was late July, the water was only a trickle, but I’m sure it rages through here during the winter months.

As I explored the shady ravine, I looked up and caught a glimpse of a mountain goat – the first I have ever seen.  He seemed to be watching my every move as he expertly perched on the edge of the cliff face.

Arab archway, Canillas de Aceituno

Records show that there has been a settlement on the site of Canillas de Aceituno since the Moorish occupation in the 8th century, when the main industry was the growing of mulberry trees for silk production. Indeed, there are still two Arabic arches preserved within the village, the first on Calle Agua (which is the prettier of the arches, pictured above) and another on the narrow Calle Calleja, a little higher in the village.  These arches once formed part of a wall that surrounded the settlement, and in which gates were closed at night for protection.

After parking the car, I headed towards the Town Hall in Plaza de la Constitución at the centre of the village, to the Tourist Information Office (open Monday to Friday 10am-2pm) to obtain a mapCanillas de Aceituno is not a large village, but if you visit, it would probably be wise to ask the lady in the Tourist Office to mark the position of the 1000 year old Arab Cistern, as you would probably never find it without some directions.

House of Tithes. Canillas de Aceituno

As you leave the Town Hall, on the diagonally opposite corner you will see the white tower of La Casa de Diezmos (the House of Tithes).  Now a private residence, this is where the production of the mulberry tree leaves and the manufacture of silk were controlled and taxed.

Wandering around the village with it’s impossibly white walls reflecting the summer sun and flanked by flowerpots overflowing with blooms, I came across the plaque where the old castle used to stand, and the Church of Nuestra Señora de Rosario, constructed during the 16th century on the site of the old Arab mosque.

Canillas de Aceituno

From the square at the side of the Town Hall, a maze of narrow streets climbs steeply up the hillside to the Mirador Blas Infante, a scenic viewpoint which offers panoramic views across the terracotta roofs of the village towards La Viñuela reservoir.  There are many other white villages dotted on the hillsides in the distance.

Pathway to La Maroma, Canillas de Aceituno

If you are a hiker, it is from here that you can continue the 6 kilometre climb to the summit of La Maroma – but as it was a hot July afternoon, I decided to pass on that option.

Almonds, Canillas de Aceituno

In the upper part of the village, I stopped to chat with a Spanish couple who had almond shells spread out on their doorstep, ready to be cracked open to expose the nuts inside.  This is a laborious, time-consuming job which I know only too well, as we have 47 almond trees on our land (though this is not something we do as we have never developed the knack of being able to extract the whole nut from it’s tough exterior with ease).

It’s difficult to explain where the old Arab cistern is, but I’ll try.  Sadly there are no signs and the area is in a state of disrepair.  If you have the mark from the Tourist Office on your map, you will see that you should head for Calle Placeta and as you pass the parking area, there is a row of houses on your right side.  Walk past these houses and you will now be next to a patch of rough ground.  As you approach the next house on your right, you will see some very rough steps going down to the side of the house, and an opening in the side wall.  Here you can see into the 1000 year old cistern full of water, which is still used to irrigate the nearby terraces.

Morcilla, Canillas de Aceituno

Each year, on the last Sunday in April, the village of Canillas de Aceituno hosts the the fiesta of El Día de la Morcilla (the Day of the Black Pudding) when the speciality black-pudding stuffed with onion, and for which the village is famous, is celebrated and available for all to try.

If you don’t fancy the black pudding, I can certainly recommend Asador La Maroma for lunch, where not only are the food and surroundings very pleasant, but we were treated like old friends by Paco, the owner and his family.

OH and by the way, don’t forget your camera when you visit Canillas de Aceituno!

One Trip EVERY Month Logo

This post is my contribution to the One Trip EVERY Month Challenge. If you’d like to join me, here’s how:

  • Each month, visit somewhere and then write about your trip or describe it using photographs – whichever suits you best.
  • Don´t forget to title and tag your entry ’One Trip EVERY Month Challenge’, and link back to this page.
  • Display the Challenge logo on your post or in your sidebar.
  • HAVE FUN!  

Are you ready to join me by taking ONE TRIP EVERY MONTH? What are you waiting for? GO!

Black pudding Image credit: Town Hall of Canillas de Aceituno