Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Southern Spain Road Trip 2017: Skipping San Fermin for Summer in the South

A Hot Car Ride to Madrid

Load the car with camping gear and head south into the blistering heat. The plan is to pueblear down to Granada, next to Almería, and then up the coast to Alicante. I want to visit Murcia, which will be the 16th comunidad that I've visited, of the 17 in Spain (the Canary Islands is the only one I haven't been to). Ainhoa will do all the driving because I'm not good with a stick-shift (aka, useless). 
Over 2,000km in 7 days
Over 2,000km in 7 days
Head out the afternoon before the first day of San Fermin. It's a hot car ride at 36°. We somehow miss the highway and take the longest route ever. Arrive in Madrid and stay with Ainhoa's aunt and uncle, Pili and Ricardo, who are gracious hosts and feed us and provide wonderful company. They recommend we do in Úbeda and Baeza on our way to Granada, so we add them to our list.

Puebleando to Granada

Wake up early for a quick breakfast with Pili and Ricardo and then head towards Úbeda. As soon as we hit the highway it starts raining hard. Better than the heat, I suppose. Cloudy most the rest of day. 

Stop in Santa Cruz de Mudela for gas and a coffee, and for my first and only handstand in the provincia of Ciudad Real. The TV news shows San Fermin just before the chupinazo. Continue to Úbeda, as we pass through endless fields of olive trees. 

Arrive in Úbeda and walk around. The plaza de toros doubles as an open air cinema, which is pretty cool. Hospital de Santiago has a photography exhibition, which is quite interesting, and we are greeted by a very enthusiastic woman at the exhibition. Last, we go to the main tourist area, the conjunto monumental, which is made up of several monuments, gardens, a church, and government buildings, along with a cafe and a restaurant.  

Next to Baeza, where we eat in Plaza de la Constitución. After eating, walk around for 15 minutes and see the entire city twice. Haha, kidding, but it is very small. Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, taught French in the town's university and has some tributes there. We don't go in the cathedral because you have to pay. Run back to the car to avoid getting a ticket, but it seems it is a fiesta today since there are no gusanos (meter maids).

Next to Jaén and go to the Arab Baths (free) that also houses two free museums and a nice terrace where you can see the entire city. As we are leaving, two gypsy boys stop me on the street to admire my muscles and we chat a bit before the museum security guard shoos them away. In the center of the city is a huge cathedral that reminds me of those in Sevilla and Leon, but it also isn't free. 

Have an ice cream in Plaza de la Constitución (seems to be a theme with us and food in the Plazas de la Constitución) with a nice fountain paying homage to water collectors. High today was 33 but it never felt that hot, except when our ice cream was melting super fast. It has been drizzling on and off while walking Jaén. 

Finally, we arrive in Granada late and go straight to the Sierra Nevada Motel campgrounds and set up our tent. We eat dinner that we brought and then call it a night so we can wake up early.  It rains lightly all night and I have to pee  early in the morning, but I hold it because I don't want to go out in the rain. 
Iconic black toro that you see all over Spain
Iconic black toro that you see all over Spain
Love and hate in Úbeda
Love and hate in Úbeda
Six people in the conjunto monumental in Úbeda
Six people in the conjunto monumental in Úbeda
The fountain, the arch, and the church in Baeza
The fountain, the arch, the legend, and the church in Baeza
Panoramic view from the top of the Arab Baths
Panoramic view from the top of the Arab Baths in Jaén
They can't charge me to look at it from a different angle (Cathedral in Jaén)
They can't charge me to look at it from a different angle
(Cathedral in Jaén)
Setting up the tent on the first night in Granada
Setting up the tent on the first night in Granada
We make food just as good as a restaurant for half the price
We make food just as good as a restaurant for half the price

A Day in Granada and La Alhambra

Finally get up to pee and shower, once the rain stops. Cloudy day and only 19 degrees in the morning. Have coffee and watch the encierro recap on YouTube. Catch the bus to the center. Go by Corral del Carbón to pick up our tickets to Alhambra that we bought online. Then, head to Plaza Isabel Católica to do the Feel the City free walking tour with Santi. It's raining on and off, but around 11h30 the sun starts to come out.

Finish the tour and head to barrio Realejo, the old Jewish quarter. We wander around and stumble upon the Torres Bermejas - two towers opposite La Alhambra with nice views of the city, Campo del Príncipe - the large plaza below the hill of La Alhambra, Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo - a neighborhood park that's under construction, so we can't take the exit we want and have to walk all the way around the block to get out of the area, Plaza Campillo - a nice plaza off the main roads, and then eat lunch at the corner of Navas and Gozo by the town hall. 

Next to La Alhambra through the gates of Las Granadas. We get see Palacio Carlos Quinto, Santa Maria Church, the Ángel Barrio Museum/baths, and a few other things that were closed last time I was here. We also see a ballet recital in the Generalife. 

Head back to town via the Little King Hill - a hidden walking path between the Alcazaba and the Generalife. Go up Chapiz Hill and head to Sacromonte with its numerous flamenco cuevas (bars). 

Arrive at the San Nicolas mirador around 21h30 and it's busy with its great views of Alhambra at sunset with a full moon. Head down through barrio Albaicín to calle Cetti Mérite and calle Elvira to have tapas and listen to cantaores (Flamenco singers). Ice cream for dessert as we walk 40 minutes to our campsite. 
The tent best place I've ever slept
The tent best place I've ever slept
Breakfast at Plaza Isabel Católico before the walking tour
Breakfast at Plaza Isabel Católico before the walking tour
La Alhambra from a small mirador in El Albacín
La Alhambra from a small mirador in El Albacín
Las Torres Bermejas with La Alhambra across the way
Las Torres Bermejas with La Alhambra across the way
Grabbing some shade in Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo
Grabbing some shade in Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo
Shoulder shrugs in Plaza Campillo
Shoulder shrugs in Plaza Campillo
Lunch on Calle Navas
Lunch on calle Navas
Gif fun at the Gates of the Granadas
Gif fun at the Gates of the Granadas
This image is for sale for catalogs and city guides
This image is for sale for catalogs and city guides
Running around Carlos Quinto Palace
Running around Carlos Quinto Palace
Relaxing in the sun by El Partal
Relaxing in the sun by El Partal
Gettin' jiggy with it... I think
Gettin' jiggy with it... I think
Helping Ainhoa drink water in the palace gardens of the Generalife
Helping Ainhoa drink water in the palace gardens of the Generalife
This picture looks familiar
This picture looks familiar
Full moon and great view from San Nicolas mirador
Full moon and great view from San Nicolas mirador
Tapas with entertainment by a cantaor
Tapas with entertainment by a cantaor

Costa de Almería

Wake up early to watch the encierro in the restaurant at the campsite. Shower, hit the supermarket, and then the highway. Nice and sunny day. Beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains flank our route. Stop in Salobreña for breakfast with a view from Rosario Church. Walk around the town with its views of the sea and mountains. Then to the castle, but it costs, so we just walk around it, which still has nice views. 

Head toward Adra and we notice the mountains and fields are covered in seas of greenhouses (and all through Almería and Murcia). Stop in Adra, but after 10 minutes of walking around, we realize there is nothing here except beaches, and continue on. Upon leaving, we take photos at the tower Perdigones, which used to be part of a big factory. 

Arrive in Roquetas de Mar, where Ainhoa takes a nap and I explore a little bit. Castle is closed during the day and only open for concerts at night, and the lighthouse has a street market (seemingly abandoned at lunchtime) in front of it, preventing good photos. Today is only 28 degrees. Walking the port, we see an amazing invention: ice cream topped with a doughnut! We will spend the rest of our vacation looking for another store with this novel invention, but to no avail. We have a coffee before leaving to Almería. 

Arrive in Almería and find parking quickly. Feels like we are the only ones in the city. We walk to the Plaza de la Catedrál, the Plaza de la Constitución, and end up at Centro Interpretación Patrimonial (free) where we watch an informative video about Almería. Grab a map from the tourist office. 

Head up to Cerro de Cristo, a large statue of Christ that overlooks the city. Next over to the Alcazaba and walk around. It's nice that everything here is free. One of the workers at the Alcazaba approaches us and starts giving us unsolicited info about the fortress and the city's history, but he was nice. 

Walk down calle Almedina to see a free flamenco show in Plaza San Juan. The flamenco dance is quite interesting and it makes me wonder, how do tap dancers feel about flamenco dancers? Have dinner on avenida Federico Garcia Lorca , then walk down and past the "English Cable", and to the car. 

It's late and we trek through the darkness to camping Cabo de Gata. The neighboring tent is hosting a lawnmower fight, or someone is snoring really loudly. Good thing we're tired and it shouldn't affect us.
Overlooking Salobreña from Rosario church
Overlooking Salobreña from Rosario church
The streets of Salobreña
The streets of Salobreña
Checking out the castle of Salobreña from a different angle
Checking out the castle of Salobreña from a different angle
Adra wasn't so interesting, so we made it interesting
Adra wasn't so interesting, so we made it interesting
More interesting Adra
More interesting Adra
All tuckered out in Roquetas de Mar
All tuckered out in Roquetas de Mar
Cool bridge crossing over a theater next to the castle in Roquetas de Mar
Cool bridge crossing over a theater next to the castle in Roquetas de Mar
Partaking in the local dishes of Almería
Partaking in the local dishes of Almería
From the Alcazaba to the Cerro de Cristo to the sea
From the Alcazaba to the Cerro de Cristo to the sea 
Two couple handstands in one day!? Some kind of record, I'm sure
Two couple handstands in one day!? Some kind of record, I'm sure
Live and free. Two words that go so well together
Live and free. Two words that go so well together
This photo is for sale. I'm looking at you Almería
This photo is for sale. I'm looking at you Almería

Cabo de Gata

Wake up to super annoying birds at the campsite. Flies are abundant and bothersome around the bathrooms. Coffee and watch the encierro and head to Cabo de Gata lighthouse. Traffic is full on because everyone is going to the beach. The lighthouse has some amazing views. 

Next to Los Escullos, a beach recommended by the lady at information at the lighthouse. The water is so clear, and people are jumping off cliffs into it. Walk around beaches and to the castle that seems to be permanently closed. I climb the walls to see what's inside the castle, and as I'm coming down the stones where my hands are, break off and I plummet to the ground. Luckily, I train with TMax and I land safely with only a few cuts on my hands. 

Almorzar at the mirador La Amatista. Try the botanical gardens in Rodalquilar but it's closed since it's midday. Keep going to Las Negras and Cala del Cuervo to swim. Pick up two hitchhikers and take them all of 57 meters to the main intersection, where we drop them off so they can hitch a ride in the other direction. 

On to Playa de Los Muertos, but there are way too many people and parking isn't free, so we continue on, leaving Cabo de Gata. Stop in Carboneras. Walk through a park and see some kids doing pullups, so I do some with them. Next, we walk paseo Marítimo then the main strip, calle Sorbas, where we have a drink and relax. 

On to the castle and it's mostly an exhibition of art (more like a store, where everything is for sale) and the top terrace with the great views is closed. Continue on to Mojacár pueblo and callejear a bit and see amazing views. 

Head up to a camping near Playas la Vera. We decide we want to try somethign new and be adventurous, so we go to the naturista area. There is only one camper in the naturista side of the camping. So, we go down to the naturista neighborhood to try to get the full experience of eating and shopping and living all-natural, and I'm not sure if it's because it's nighttime or what, but everyone is walking around with clothes on. Even in the expressedly naturista areas, people are clothed. So much for an exciting new experience. We go to the beach and swim naked just so we don't feel like we wasted the trip. Eat dinner on the main strip, go back to camp and shower before bed.
The amazing views and crystal clear water at the lighthouse of Cabo de Gata
The amazing views and crystal clear water at the lighthouse of Cabo de Gata
Los Escullos with its distinct rock formations
Los Escullos with its distinct rock formations
Ainhoa surveilling the beach
Ainhoa surveilling the beach
Taken seconds before I almost died
Taken seconds before I almost died
My favorite mirador ever!
My favorite mirador ever!
Me and my new students. Train with TMax in Carboneras
Me and my new students. Train with TMax in Carboneras
The cave of Marquita la Posá
The cave of Marquita la Posá
"Just take calle Estación and you'll get there no problem"
"Just take calle Estación and you'll get there no problem"
Sh(w)e are working so hard lunging downhill
Sh(w)e are working so hard lunging downhill
excitement about entering nude restor

Is a lake in Murcia called Murcia-lago?

Wake up and still no one else in the camping with us. Eat breakfast and head to Cartagena, Murcia. Arrive and have a coffee at the port, then look for the free tour meeting point, but no one shows up. We grab a map of the city and do our own tour. It is really hot today. 

Stop to try cafe asiático granizado, a local spin on coffee slushy-style. Next to La Manga, a strip of land with beaches on both sides, that creates Europe's largest lagoon, and looks like Miami Beach. Lunch at the Cabo de Palos lighthouse. Have a siesta at Playa Calafría, and it looks like an amazing place to snorkel. 

Today has been the hottest day so far at 39 degrees. On to Murcia, where we walk around and then go in the cathedral (first one on this trip that's free). The cathedral has a huge tower and it's very large inside as well, with its four centuries of different architectural styles. 

Head to a park called Huerto de Los Cipreses, near where we parked, and have an ice cream and doughnuts while watching the local police and calisthenics athletes workout. This same park was empty about three hours ago when it was much hotter. 

As we are driving out of the city we see an interesting statue called "Homenaje a Los Poetas". Go up Monteagudo, another large Christ statue, to watch the sunset. Continue on to Parque Natural de El Hondo in Valencia, where we pitch our tent in the parking lot with a hundred rabbits. 
Roman architecture upside down in Cartagena
Roman architecture upside down in Cartagena
Hydrating on such a hot day is very important
Hydrating on such a hot day is very important
Café asiático granizado
Café asiático granizado 
The sculptures are adapting to Ainhoa's movements
The sculptures are adapting to Ainhoa's movements 
The largest military installation I've seen in Spain
The largest military installation I've seen in Spain
We got bit by the picture bug in this harbor
We got bit by the picture bug in this harbor 
Don't hate, you know you want my new hairstyle
Don't hate, you know you want my new hairstyle 
The boat in the background was pretty cool and futuristic looking
The boat in the background was pretty cool and futuristic looking 
That's a big statue
That's a big statue 
Finding shade is imprescindible
Finding shade is imprescindible 
Taking a nap in this beautiful cove
Taking a nap in this beautiful cove 
Who said Murcia couldn't be fun?
Who said Murcia couldn't be fun? 
Top to bottom in the cathedral in Murcia
Top to bottom in the cathedral in Murcia
You can find information and take a photo next to the museum on a large tactile and interactive tablet
You can find information and take a photo next to the museum on a large tactile and interactive tablet 
Nothing like ice cream and donuts at a workout
Nothing like ice cream and donuts at a workout
Monteagudo and the silly people below
Monteagudo and the silly people below

A Day in Alicante

Have breakfast in the now, open Parque Natural de El Hondo, watching birds while we eat empanada murciana. After eating, walk through the El Saldar botanical gardens. 

Head to Alicante and do the free walking tour in English. The guide is nervous, since he has only been doing tours for a month, but he does a pretty good job. He gives lots of Spanish history that I've never heard before, and I've been on many tours in Spain. We learn Alicante is home to turrón, a popular Christmas treat in Spain. 

After the tour, head into the mercado and buy coca Tonyina, a local meat pastry, to take with us to Les Cases. On the way to the car, walk through Casa Antigua Santa Cruz with nice houses and views of castle. Grab a coffee and then hit the road. 

Impromptu stop in Sagunto because we see the huge castle from afar. After the GPS takes us down the smallest streets in the world and we have to ask a local how to get out and go to the main parking area, we decide to walk up. Go to the castle (free) on top of hill and eat at the Tower of Hercules. Going down, pass through the Jewish cemetery and stop at the Roman theater. 

Back in the car and go to Castellón, where Ainhoa's brother, Iñigo is dropping off a friend at the train station. We have a slushie and then continue to Les Cases. Arrive quite late, so we shower, eat dinner, chat a little bit, and then directly to sleep. 
Early morning walk around the botanical gardens
Early morning walk around the botanical gardens 
Walking tour with Carlos starting at the harbor
Walking tour with Carlos starting at the harbor 
Mosaiced houses with castle background only need one thing - a handstand
Mosaiced houses with a castle background only need one thing - a handstand 
Anyone in here?
Anyone in here? 
Just beautiful - the view, the girl, the life
Just beautiful - the view, the girl, the life

Last Leg of the Trip: Les Cases and Home

Wake up and have breakfast with everyone - homemade bread and jam with coffee. Then, to the beach with Iñigo and his son, Javier, to swim and hunt crabs. Later, back to the house for lunch and a siesta, before driving back to Pamplona. 
Baywatch: Les Cases edition
Baywatch: Les Cases edition 
Iñigo is a master hunter. We found crabs, urchins, anenenenomes, and fish
Iñigo is a master hunter. We found crabs, urchins, anenemenomes, and fish 
Looking right into the sun hurts your eyes a little bit (a lot)
Looking right into the sun hurts your eyes a little bit (a lot)

For more adventures around Spain, check out Ven Con TMax!

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