Torrox: Let me take you to Funky Town

Umbrellas in Torrox pueblo

You might not think of one of Andalucía’s famous white villages as being “FUNKY”, and neither did I, until yesterday morning when I went into Plaza de la Constitución in Torrox pueblo on an errand.

WOW! THAT’S PRETTY FUNKY!

A passing plane as seen through the Torrox umbrellas

Shadows from the umbrellas in Torrox, Andalucia

There are hundreds of umbrellas, in six different colours, hanging from discreet wires all around the square.

WHY?

To give much needed shade, as well as making the town (even more) attractive to visitors!

Amused by the Torrox umbrellas

Multi-coloured umbrellas in Torrox pueblo, Andalucia, Spain

They certain made ME smile :)

How cool/funky/quirky is this, huh?  Let me know what YOU think ….

Community: It’s all about pulling together and sharing

Fire by the roadside, Competa You might remember that towards the end of June last year, we had a large wildfire on the outskirts of my home village of Cómpeta.  This event prompted me to write an article about what we should do about fire prevention and self protection in the event of a wildfire.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way home from Málaga when, just before the turn off to my house, I spotted a large plume of smoke, not far away.  Instead of turning towards my home, I carried on up the road towards Cómpeta, and only about 750 metres further on came across a burning hillside.

It was quite surreal as there was no-one else around, yet clearly it appeared that the fire had been burning for at least some minutes as the whole hillside looked to be alight.

I drove past the fire, turned the car around and pulled to the side of the road to call the emergency services (the number to call in Europe is 112) to give the exact location of the fire.

There was nothing else I could do, and I didn’t want my car being in the way of the emergency services, so I took this short video (only about 7 seconds) and then headed home to spread the word.

The fire is not only by the side of the road, but look at the flare-up near the top right of the frame.

After only a couple of minutes I had posted on Twitter and onto my own East of Málaga Facebook page, where I know that lots of local people follow me.  Within no time at all, that post had reached 6,000 people and had been shared 40 times – with lots of comments tagging others to let them know.

THAT’S THE POWER OF COMMUNITY and I am very proud of the community that has grown up around my East of Málaga blog.  

So I’d like to say a great big THANK YOU to each and every one of you and, to those who don’t follow my Facebook page , I’d like to invite you to “Like” the page, click on “Get Notifications” and join in with the community.  

I usually post a couple of times a day, and share many more photos over there.

C7 fire helicopter over Competa

C7 fire helicopter carrying water to douse the fire

As for the fire – well, I went back a couple hours later – after the helicopter had left, and the fire appeared to be largely out, though the fire fighters were still there, doing their job.  

Well done, guys and THANK YOU!

The fire is out, but the fire-engine is still near the untouched house

The fire is out, but the fire-engine is still near the untouched house

Fire fighters on the smouldering land, checking for flames

Fire fighters on the smouldering land, checking for flames

What’s YOUR experience of a community all pulling together for the good of others?

An Inspector Calls: Only this time it’s Alex Polizzi, the HOTEL Inspector

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa

Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi, with Karen and Sarah outside Hotel La Casa in Torrox pueblo. Photo: Twofour/Channel 5

Following last night’s airing of the show as the finale of the current series, I can finally reveal a secret I’ve been bursting to tell you!   Alex Polizzi, also known as “The Hotel Inspector” came calling, east of Malaga and, as someone who knows the area well, I was offered an opportunity to work with her.

The Hotel Inspector is a UK documentary television series featuring hotelier and business-woman, Alex Polizzi, in her quest to turn flagging hotels into profitable ventures. The programme usually features some of Britain’s worst-run hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments, whose owners appear to have no idea how to run a hotel.

So why, you might ask, would the Hotel Inspector come calling in southern Spain?

The background to this particular episode evolves over several years and focuses on two British sisters who, from 2005 to 2008, transformed a dilapidated building in the charming town of Torrox in the foothills of the Sierra Almijara and Tejeda mountains, into a stylish 8-bedroomed boutique hotel.

On the face of it, whether you love mountains, beaches, the hustle and bustle of the big city or the peace and tranquility of a white-washed Andalucían town, this hotel has it all. With spectacular views of the mountains, proximity to blue-flag beaches, many interesting places to visit nearby, being only a 40 minute drive from Malaga’s vibrant city and airport and, to cap it all, the town of Torrox is officially recognised at having the best climate in Europe.

However, soon after the doors of La Casa hotel opened to guests in 2008, the global economic downturn took hold, resulting in a fall in tourism and leaving the sisters struggling financially. Despite working long hours, the situation has changed little in the intervening years, with occupancy rates still low.

The cast of characters in this particular three-act drama includes British-expat sisters, Sarah Melton and Karen Atkinson, (with a quiet, behind-the-scenes role played by Sarah’s husband, Neil); Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi; various international journalists and bloggers from such publications as Condé Nast and The Telegraph; Andalucía-based luxury travel writer, Andrew Forbes …. oh, and Yours Truly!

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

Alex, Sarah and travel writer Andrew Forbes on the terrace at La Casa Hotel

ACT ONE involved one of the sisters getting in touch with the show after seeing an advert in a local English language newspaper on the lookout for expat hoteliers. After being chosen to feature in the programme, the hotel was visited by Alex Polizzi together with a camera crew, to make her assessment of how to transform the hotel’s fortunes.

It soon became apparent that La Casa was not the usual type of establishment featured on The Hotel Inspector and, in this particular case, the problem appeared to be the marketing and branding of the hotel (and the local area), rather than its service and quality.

ACT TWO began towards the end of March 2015 and featured the return of Ms Polizzi and her camera crew, together with a string of travel writers, in an attempt to market the area to them.

At the same time, the hotel was being rebranded with the launch of a new website, logo and promotional literature, plus the main players were interviewed on local radio about La Casa featuring on the Hotel Inspector show.

ACT THREE saw the sisters leading the group of journalists around some of the delights of Torrox village, as well as giving a taste of what this ideal location has to offer today’s more discerning traveller.

Our tour began in the main square of the village before moving on to the local Nevaillo olive oil factory where we were given a demonstration of how the oil is produced and bottled.

Next, we were whisked back-in-time to the 17th century hamlet of El Acebuchal – known locally as The Lost Village where, after a brief look around, we headed to the local tavern where we were treated to a sumptuous tasting-menu featuring home-made bread, tropical salads, wild boar, venison and chicken. Antonio's tavern, El Acebuchal Our final stop of the day was a guided tour of the famous caves in Nerja, discovered by five boys in 1959 and which has now become one of the most visited attractions in Spain.

After a brief rest and just enough time for a shower, our evening continued back at La Casa hotel with a delicious A La Carte dinner. The menu was extensive with a choice to suit all tastes including antipasto, prawns pil-pil, pork with mushrooms, oven-baked cod and lamb shanks followed by such delights as “icky-sticky pudding” and platters of Spanish cheeses and hams.

Of course, every step of the way, we were filmed and interviewed about what we had seen and experienced. At first this proved rather daunting, but it was amazing how quickly you got used to having a fluffy sound microphone hovering over your head and/or having a camera crew nearby.

It was an absolute delight working with Alex Polizzi who is a lovely lady and comes across just as naturally as she does on TV.  She is outgoing, very friendly and willing to pose for endless photos or exchange a few words with people who recognised her from the show.

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

Gaudi room at Hotel La Casa

La Casa hotel features seven individually designed double/twin rooms (mine was named Gaudi, after the famous Spanish architect) and a spacious suite with a private terrace. The en-suite rooms are comfortable and spotlessly clean with A/C for cooling or warmth, whatever the season.

There is a beautiful sun terrace with amazing views of the mountains and valley, a bistro restaurant serving delicious food and, rave reviews from people who have stayed have earned this #1 rated hotel in Torrox a Travellers’ Award on TripAdvisor for the past four years.

Early morning view from La Casa

Early morning view of the mountains from La Casa’s terrace

From 5th June, the hotel’s restaurant (also used by many people not staying as guests) will be moving to a new venue in the main square of Torrox, so if you are in the village, I’d certainly recommend a visit.

Karen and Sarah are attentive hosts, and whilst I arrived as a guest we parted as friends – testimony of which is obvious by the many people who return to stay at La Casa hotel, year after year.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Karen, Sarah and Neil all the best with Hotel La Casa and their new venture – the restaurant which will open shortly in Torrox village.

La Casa hotel is situated at Calle Baja, Plazuela de Barajas 3, just off the main square of Torrox village, with free parking nearby.   Telephone: (0034) 95253 5471    Website: www.hotellacasatorrox.com 

Disclaimer: Whilst I stayed at the hotel as a guest of La Casa Hotel/Twofour Productions, I was not asked to write any reviews or recommendations in return. Any views expressed here are my own, and I am happy to do so because I enjoyed my stay and would genuinely recommend a visit to the hotel or restaurant.

Come and visit La Axarquía, east of Málaga – it’s the AUTHENTIC Spain you’ve been looking for!

Parking Blues in a white Andalucian village

Blue parking zones in Torrox

Look out for these street signs!

It’s the same the world over!

Finding a parking space is getting more and more difficult, no matter where you live. You might have thought it would be an easy matter to park your car in any one of the pretty white villages in the Axarquía but, in some of them, it’s almost impossible.

The difficulty seems to arise because there is no time restriction. Once you’ve parked your vehicle, you can stay as long as you like – which is all very well when you can actually find a space in the first place!

Two years ago, to try to alleviate this problem, the town hall in Torrox introduced Blue Parking Zones (Zona Azul) around the centre of the village.  This means that during certain times of the day, if you park where there are blue lines painted on the ground, you need to display a parking disc with the time correctly set to coincide with your arrival time.

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

Buy one these parking discs for €1, from local shops

The reusable parking discs can be purchased from most of the shops in the village for a one-off payment of €1. Once you have your disc, each time you park in the Blue Zone during ‘working hours’ (Monday to Friday, 9am – 2pm & 5pm – 8pm) you need to set the time on your disc to your time of arrival and the gap on the disc will indicate when you need to leave. You must display your disc, clearly visible, on the dashboard of your vehicle.

Within Torrox village, you are restricted to ONE hour of free parking.  Outside of these times, including weekends, there is no restriction. This means that if you arrive at 1.30pm on any weekday afternoon, you can safely park until 5.30pm without a problem.

Of course, if you overstay your allotted time, or fail to display a disc, you will be faced with a hefty financial penalty.

All pretty straightforward you might think.

Blue zone parking

Parking within the blue parking zone

The Blue Parking restrictions were extended to certain areas of the coastal area of Torrox Costa, last summer. On the coast, parking is restricted Monday to Friday, 10am – 10pm and on Saturdays between 10am and 2pm. The scheme apparently works the same way as in the village, with the difference being that on the coast you are entitled to park for TWO hours free, instead of one.

This means, I presume, that you will need to purchase a different parking disc for €1 from a shop in Torrox Costa, as the gap indicating your allotted parking time (two hours) on the disc would be different from the one you can use in Torrox village (one hour).

With me so far?

Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

Different Blue Zone parking signs at Torrox Costa

What is confusing (to me, at least) is the extra part at the bottom of the sign that indicates that during July and August the maximum time for parking is two hours. Does this mean outside of the restricted hours, too? Or that you are only allowed to park once (for two hours) and then you have to clear off?

Confused?  I know I am!

Of course, there have been some disgruntled drivers who object to the timed parking restrictions but, from a personal point of view I think the Blue Zone parking scheme works very well within Torrox village, as I really appreciate being able to always find a parking space since the system was introduced.  However, the scheme down on the coast at Torrox Costa is pretty confusing.

Are Blue Parking zones appearing in a white village near you? What do you think about them?