Monthly Archives: September 2013

Balcon de Europa–Nerja

Yes—another beach. A place we would happily spend a week or two.    The video gives a little idea of the breathtaking scenery–in spite of the lack of skill of the videographer.  (Anita–with her finger in the first several frames!) 

Nerja is an absolutely gorgeous place just east of Malaga on the Costa del Sol.   We loved it because of two things—the amazing caverns discovered 225″ class=”size-medium wp-image-219″ /> Balcon de Europa[/caption]about 60 years ago –Las Cuevas de Nerja are impressive.   The the town itself manages to be a real Spanish town and a seaside retreat at the same time.   Very special.   The video was taken standing on the “Balcón de Europa” –Balcony of Europe, central to the Nerja waterfront.  There are several beaches along the coves  on either side.  It seems you can see the entire Med from there—and once again, we got very lucky with incredible weather.

We also walked to the 4th beach east of the Balcón for lunch, Playa Burriana.  We headed for AYO—an terrific  restaurant with hundreds of tables set up under a canopy right on the beach—apparently,  a Nerja institution for 50 years.  (I was immediately attracted by the name—AYO—my initials!) They cook paella over an open fire in pans FIVE FEET in diameter.    From about 1 to 5 pm, people pop by for Sangria, wine, or beer and the all-you-can-eat paella feast—for 6.50€.   What’s could be better?  We pigged out before heading for the caves.   Wish you were here!

Click on a thumbnail below and use the arrows to toggle through to all the pictures.

These are a few of our fa-vor-ite words.


The first time Ray and I went to Spain together was more than 30 years ago.    We were in Marbella, way back before Marbella looked like the East coast of Florida—when you could see the beach from any point on the coast road.  Now, you just see high-rises and cars. But the old town is still gorgeous.  But I digress.  

Ray spoke not a word of Spanish at the time, so he would frequently ask me “What’s the word for _____?”   Our first evening at the Puente Romano, we were lounging in the courtyard with a cocktail of ron con limón, when the waiter delivered a little bowl of peanuts for us to munch on.     “What’s the word for peanuts?” Ray asked me.    I told him it was cacahuetes.   “C’mon, stop messing with me—what’s the word–really?” 

 “Cacahuetes,” I answered.    If English is your primary language, it’s a pretty giggle-worthy word.   I managed to convince him that it was the actual name for peanuts, and I didn’t make it up in order to set up a comical dialogue between Ray and a server sometime in the future.  (I have been known to do such things.) 

After a few minutes, the same waiter passed by and dropped off a bowl of olives.   “What’s the word for olives, hon?”

 “Aceitunas.” I tried and failed to stifle a giggle.   

“Okay, now I know you’re messing with me.”     

To this day, we serve peanuts and olives with cocktails at our home.    Being a sherry lover, I find nothing better with a cold glass of amontillado. (Well, maybe marcona almonds, but that’s a special treat.)   For all these years, in our house, nobody says “nuts” or “olives.”   They are always “cacahuetes and aceitunas.”   Maybe it’s because the words still make us smile after all these years, but non-Spanish speakers always think we’re just making a joke.  

One more recent “favorite word.”   Jubilado.   There are deep discounts to museums, shows, etc. for the jubilados.  We love that the Latin root for “retired” translates as “to exult; to shout with joy.”  Woo-hoo!  I keep repeating that I’m not retired, but I like the idea of being jubilada.    

Appropriately, this evening we will be howling with the wolves.  Literally.   More on this to follow.   Owoooo!!!


Come with us to the Kasbah…

Entrance to the Kasbah

Entrance to the Kasbah

Come with us to the Kasbah!

Come with us to the Kasbah!

On Monday, we drove to Tarifa and took the high-speed ferry over to Tangiers, Morocco.  We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed seeing the old town, the Kasbah.  Walking the Medina with a guide who grew up there and seemed to know every person, doorway, and little interesting street.   The Souk (marketplace) was truly amazing–butchers, an incredible fish market, bakeries, etc.

Every neighborhood needs five things–the hamam (baths), a public fountain for water, a bakery, a school, and a mosque.  We’ve included photos of each of these from just one small neighborhood in the Medina.

I think the photos speak for themselves.  Enjoy the slide show.  Click on the first small thumbnail photo and then toggle through using the arrows.   
Oh–one other funny note–we met the manager of the Continental Hotel–one of the fancy hotels right near the harbor. He is a childhood friend of our guide’s. He is born and raised in Tangiers, but has a home in Elachove—in the Basque country just next door to my family in Ibarrengelu. He took one look at me and said, “you’re not American–where are you grandparent’s from?” And then he proceded to speak to me in Basque! Agur!

Ray’s wine comments

From Ray….

A few comments about the good and very inexpensive wines to be found here on the Costa del Sol.

We have not spent more than 6.5 Euros, retail, for any bottle, red or white. They are widely available in any retail food shop or market. The best selections are in the Carrefour supermercado. Most reds, usually riojas, are 2010 vintage or older. We just enjoyed a bottle of Estola 2008 Riserva, which is a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon, that was quite drinkable. It was one of the more expensive purchases at 4.50 Euro. Another recent quaff was a Mayor del Castillo 2010. Very pleasant, especially at 3.50 Euro. Our most expensive purchase to date, though we haven’t consumed it yet, is a Marques de Caceres Crianza 2009 at 6.50 Euro.  If these prices were available at home, we would most certainly be drinking Spanish wines exclusively.   

The region is not known for outstanding blancos but a Marques de Caceres 2011 was lovely at 4.95 Euro and a Casa Mayor 2012 Rijoa slid down nicely. The Tinto de casa in most restaurants and tapas bars is very easy to drink and most of us would be proud to serve it to guests.  Winery tours in Jerez this week taught me that there’s always something to learn.  More to follow.  Since Anita is writing all of the posts, I wanted to at least write something I’m familiar with.Image

A Day in Jerez

A Day in Jerez

On Thursday we traveled to Jerez—a 90 minute drive from Estepona on a gorgeous sunny day.    We arrived in Jerez without a problem.   Ray’s navigational skills amaze me, as there are so many roundabouts entering the city, it’s nearly impossible to stay on course.  We did have some trouble leaving at the end of the day, but that might have had something to do with the tastings and the reluctance to leave.   We passed through town to arrive in time for the incredible horse show at the Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre, (Royal School of Equestrian Arts).  Jerez has been a center for horsemanship in Spain for centuries, and this beautiful campus demonstrated the tradition and pride of this very special academy.   Sadly, photos were not allowed so I cannot post pictures of these magnificent horses, riders, and handlers.   But it was really something special.   I took a few shots of the arena during the intermission, just to give an idea of the place, and an outside photo or two.   The only photos of horses I can provide are those of the Przewalski breed stabled on the grounds.  This is the last wild breed, a key evolutionary link to horse breeding that has continued to survive for 12,000 years.   The photo of the male may offer some insight into how they managed to – ahem – preserve the species under the most difficult conditions.

Of course, we scheduled our time in Jerez to coincide with the harvest festival.  The sherry bodegas (cellars) were open for tasting, and we managed to do a fair amount of research, aspiring wine scholars that we are.   At the terrific tour and sherry tasting at the Sandeman bodega in Jerez, they threw in a little flamenco show just for fun. (Video attached to previous post).  Our guide, Patricia, pulled of the “Sandeman Don” costume as her cape fluttered in the breeze while walking us through the cellars, patios, and demonstrations of the sherry-making process.    When you click through the Jerez slide show, you’ll see how her fabulous mane of red hair set off the ensemble.   Ray loved her, and especially enjoyed her adorable Andalucían accent, thick enough to spread on toast.

Click on an image to view the slideshow.

Wedding (crashing?) on the beach

When sitting on the Playa del Christo on Saturday, one of the two main beaches in Estepona, we saw a group of people gathering at one of the Chiringuitas –beach restaurants.  They were on the opposite end of the crescent-shaped cove from us, but there seemed to be about 70 or 80 people congregating, and all of them were dressed in white.   At first we thought it was a school group in uniform, but then realized there were people of all ages.  So I walked over to investigate and questioned one of them.  (Of course, I picked a tall, really good-looking young man–might as well enjoy the scene!)   It was a wedding, with all the guests dressed in white.   The groom’s family wore touches of light blue and the bride’s light pink—the overall effect of everyone on the beach dressed in white was absolutely gorgeous.  “Que  bonito!” I commented to my new pal as I was offered hors d’oeuvres by a passing waiter.   Does this count as wedding crashing?   I think it’s just typical Spanish hospitality. 

Update on our wanderings

Besides just hanging out on the beautiful beach at Estepona, we have visited a few other beaches in the first week here—Torreguardia, Fuengirola, and yesterday, Benalmadena.   Torreguardia is lovely and there’s not much there except sand, surf, and quite a few English and Irish families on holiday.   But the beach is gorgeous and I’ve included a photo of the beach beds and the lovely clear waves.    Fuengirola was similar to Estepona, only busier and bigger, but we got the beach chairs we’d been looking for at a good price—something we couldn’t seem to do in Estepona.   Benalmadena is a much larger town/city—closer to Malaga.  We really wanted to visit there because our son Ricardo spent a month there when he was in high school. The beaches are gorgeous, although the it’s a  little too big for my taste for a beach town—with an aquarium, a butterfly park, and amusement park in addition to the big town. Sleepy little Estepona is much more relaxing.  But we spent a nice day in Benalmadena, had a wonderful lunch, a long walk along the beach, and later took the cable car up to the top of the mountain.   The views were breathtaking, and we were rewarded at the top with an equestrian show.  The horses and riders were good, but not particularly impressive; however, the setting—with the arena at the edge of the mountain and the whole seacoast in view behind—it was definitely worth the trip.    I hope the attached does it justice.

Click through the slide show to see all the pics.