Saturday, March 22, 2014

Arcos de la Frontera & White Villages

So we had booked a hotel in Ronda for the night, but decided to switch our plans around for the week-end and ended up booking a Parador in Arcos de la Frontera instead.  

We start off early on Saturday morning by driving through some beautiful mountain areas and stopping to visit some of the white villages on the way to Arcos. 

First stop was Olivera, named because it has been an olive growing region for many years (probably centuries).  We parked just outside the old town and walked up the hill to visit the castle and church, neither were open and we have lots planned for today so decide to move on.  We did visit the cemetery on the way down, this was not supposed to be open either so we kind of lucked out here.  On the way back to our car we passed by the gypsy market setting up.  We bought 6.00 Euro of dried fruit for snacks, and some underwear for the grandkids, they hate it when I bring cloths back for souvenirs or birthday presents, underwear are definitely not at the top of the list.

Only bull we saw during the weekend

Abandon farm house - drive by shooting

View of the town of Olivera from the front of the church on top of the hill


Olivera, & the church & castle we walk up

Next stop is a little town called Zahara.  This is a really pretty little town in the mountains.  We walked through town and parked on the outskirts and decided to walk to the castle.  This is not a leisurely walk, straight uphill basically.  My knees are still shot, but I made it, fantastic views from the top and so worth it.  The town sits on the edge of a mountain and a lake, which has been made by a dam.  This whole area of Spain is very beautiful, we have passed lots of farming, some fields have started growing and beautiful greens, some are just being tilled, and many valleys and mountains.  A much greener and lush area than where our apartment is.

Many houses have beautiful entry ways with 2 sets of gorgeous doors

Inside a small church we visited, nobody is breaking this door down

Amazing views on the way up to the castle

I wonder why Wendy's knees are sore.  Straight uphill on cobblestone.

Panorama from top of castle, we made it
Town of Zahara and the castle we walk up to

Drive by shooting.  Many shades of brown, yellow & gray made it look surreal.

We had planned on stopping at a couple more towns today but there is a bit of a drizzle so we decide to just push on to Arcos for the night.  Arcos is like a 3 mile long city, very narrow and perched on the side of a huge cliff.  We missed one turn so we then got into GPS hell.  Wow, cobblestone street, one way, narrow pedestrians all over the place craziness.  We have now travelled on many narrow streets in Europe, but this is the first time we actually pulled our mirrors in while driving, crazy.  We were on the right street very near to the top when we met up with a car heading down, which I am pretty sure was a one way street, definitely didn’t fit two cars and I had to backup to let him by.  Yes, I am driving a standard and we are on a hill, not for the faint of heart!  We managed, and I didn’t slide into the guy behind me, so all was good. Up the very end of the hill, big right hand turn, very tiny narrow gate into the square outside the church where the Parador is located.  We made it fine, lots didn’t, many marks on the side of the gates where people had rubbed.  Now that we made it the next step is parking.  There are only about 50 spots to park here, and a couple of guys run around trying to keep everyone in order who gets to park where, this is nothing official, just entrepreneurs making a few well deserved euros.  I waited about 10 minutes and then they helped me wedge the car into a little tiny spot that I was pretty much blocking the guy beside me, I wasn’t too happy leaving the car there, but off we go.

I think Wendy was very happy to finally park the car

Hallway in the Parador

We get checked into the hotel, asked about getting a room with a view, an extra 35 Euro for a balcony, no balcony for us.  Quickly drop our bag off, and way past time for food as it is now about 3:30.  We stop at the first place we find around the corner from the hotel and have one of the tourist lunches that includes 3 courses and a glass of wine.  

View from the room.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town visiting some of the sites.  They are practicing for the Easter processions, so we run into them carrying empty platforms a couple of times, we saw this last year at Easter, it is quite something to see.  Back to the hotel for a siesta for me, and Andre is on the computer working on his pictures.

Practicing for the Easter processions.

Yes, these are driving streets.  Also walking & restaurants

Next we decided to just sit and enjoy the view from the terrace that guest get to use at the hotel.  We were the only 2 out here and just enjoyed the fantastic view and some sunshine, the rain has gone away for the day and it is now about 20 degrees.  

View from the terrace

Hotel lounge

Us enjoying a bit of R&R in the sun

Sun has gone down so we move back to our room and have a couple of games of crib.  We actually spend most of our time with the windows wide open watching the parking fiasco.  We are such country hicks, our entertainment is watching to see if the cars clip the arches coming in or out of the square, and then watching them trying to find a spot to park.  A web cam here would be great! 

Good thing the mirrors fold in, we had to do the same

Around 8PM we decide it is time for some tapas and a drink.  Earlier today we had stopped by the visitor information centre and they gave us a booklet of the tapas route that is going on this month as a special.  It is 2.50 euro for a drink and a tapas.  So, 4 bars later we are back at our hotel, full of wine and tapas.  Lots of fun, most of the bars were very quiet and we just spoke to the bartenders, we ran into the guy that helped us park early, I’m sure his pockets are full of Euros at the end of the day, quite a little business he has going.  When we headed out for tapas I was able to move the car to a better spot, which we were not blocking anyone in, will sleep better tonight.

From our room, parking hell  & castle which is now a private housing

Church in main square.  The one we look at from our room

First tapas bar we visited.

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