23/09/2016

A Night Away



My wife has just spent ten days in England on grandma duties and flew back on Tuesday. On this occasion her flight was scheduled to arrive late afternoon and so on the strength of that we decided it was a great opportunity to have a night in Malaga, something we like to do two or three times a year.
Previously we have always stayed at a hotel just around the corner from the cathedral, but on our last visit it had changed hands, and not for the better.Prices were significantly higher whilst service was significantly down. A friend had recommended a hotel in the same area which we had seen - hard to miss at fifteen stores and occupying a prominent corner position. It's an AC Marriott hotel, so we were pretty confident that it was worth a try. Indeed it was! Checking in, I was told "Oh, we've upgraded you to a junior suite." And what an eye opener that was! Nine floors up with a large bedroom with a king size bed and wardrobe space to match, plus a door out onto a private balcony looking out across the tree-lined Paseo del Parque; a separate lounge with sofa, arm chairs, enormous television and more spectacular views; and a bathroom you could get lost in.
I waited in the ground floor cocktail bar for my wife to arrive and then we went up to the room to chill out for a while.
I'd scanned Tripadvisor for possible places to eat, but suggested that we started by going up to the rooftop terrace which has a bar and a pool area, which we did. We sat, glasses of cava in front of us and soaked up the w

arm, evening sun as we gazed out across the port. The inner basin which was directly in front of us used to be a run-down, neglected area, but recent renovation work has transformed it into a leisure port flanked by attractive paseos, with a selection of bars, restaurants and shops. It is also home to Spain's very own outpost of the Pompidou Centre.
However, apart from the spectacular view there was an added bonus; alongside the terrace was a restaurant which also offered al fresco dining, not to mention outstanding food and wine - I chose a starter of spider crab pate, followed by a main course of roasted shoulder of kid. A magical night.
We will be staying there again, even though we will have to be satisfied with a standard double room.

14/09/2016

Autumn

Yesterday it was not as hot as it has been. Then yesterday evening the wind got up (usually a sign of a change on the way) and then we had a couple of hours of rain, not heavy but certainly more than drizzle, That was followed by a much cooler night. In fact it was the first time since early July when I didn't feel the need to switch on the aircon in the bedroom for a couple of hours before going to bed. Today is bright and sunny as usual with still quite a stiff breeze, and today's maximum temperature is forecast to be no more than 25°, and the next ten days are forecast to be similar, so it looks as if summer has finally relinquished its grasp and we can settle into autumn. In the UK I used to face the arrival of autumn with a tinge of sadness; here it's with a sense of relief. On Monday of last week the temperature, which had been settled in the mid-thirties, suddenly shot all the way up to 38° which in Fahrenheit is just over 100°. Summer which usually ends around the end of August, hung on an extra two weeks this year, which may not seem long, but after the continuous heat of early July through August, it leaves people longing for cooler weather to arrive. Even so, we can now look forward to a couple of months which would be considered summery back in England. And it will probably be another month before we see any serious rain. It's surprising to be reminded of the differences between Spain and Britain when it comes to changes in the vegetation. We were in England in March, for instance, and I had completely forgotten about bare trees. In Andalucia we have very few deciduous trees and so the species we have are in leaf all the year round. Moreover our trees which include olive, fig, avocado, mango as well as conifers, all tend to have dark green leaves, thick and glossy.When a leaf falls it will already have been replaced by a new leaf. The result is a uniformity of foliage colour no matter what time of the year. So another difference is that we never has those bright, fresh greens that typify a British spring. Nor do we get that burst of reds, browns and oranges of autumn. I speak of trees because the earth here bakes hard and dry across the summer giving open country a drab, brown appearance interspersed with herbs like thyme and rosemary which share a similar type of leaf to our trees.

30/08/2016

The Party's Over

It's easy to focus, as this photo does, on the fun side of the festival; that after all is what attracts the thousands of visitors who throng the streets over the four days. Apart from the stalls, there are the street theatre groups of 'strolling players'; there is the chidrens' corner with special events for them; there are the craft stalls, the food stalls and a wide choice of street food. And every night there are the concerts, followed by a disco until three in the morning. The festival opens and closes with spectacular firework displays, and in between people move from bar to bar sampling the range of tapas which is presented for the occasion - complete one of the tapas routes and you can claim a free t-shirt from the information tent! However, this is a festival with a more serious intention. It reminds us of where Frigiliana and the area that surrounds it, La Axarquía, comes from; its geographical and cultural origins dating from the days of Al Andalus, the seven hundred years of Arab/Muslim rule of much of the Iberian Peninsula, and the migrants who were attracted to this great civilisation. It reminds us, equally importantly in today's troubled world, that for seven centuries, Jews, Muslims, Christians lived together peacefully and harmoniously; a peace and harmony that only finally collapsed when 'Los Reyes Cátolicos', the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabela decided to unite the Peninsula apart from Portugal as the Catholic Christian country of Spain, thereby gaining very valuable support from Rome. The concerts illustrate the rich heritage of the mix of cultures, so that this year we had music from Morocco, from Portugal, from Rumanis, from Catalonia and the Basque country, as well as from Andalusian flamenco itself. In previous years we have had music from Galicia, from the klezmer tradition of eastern Europe, from Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire, and nearer home, from the Sephardi tradition of the Jewish heritage of southern Spain. Augmenting this, we had experts giving lectures on their specilist interests - the Iberian origigns of Andalusian music, and the contribution of St Teresa de Ávils to Christianity in the Peninsula and beyond. Preparations will soon begin for next year's festival, with the clear objective that it shall build on and surpass this tear's.