semana-santa-ronda

Semana Santa Processions in Ronda

Semana Santa (Holy Week) Processions in Ronda 2012

In any traditionally Christian nation Easter celebrations are common, though in the English speaking world we are more likely to simply scavenge for chocolate eggs, bunny rabbits, and other miscellaneous chocolate shapes in the back garden and consider the holiday over when all the “eggs” have been eaten.

In Spain which was until the advent of democracy officially a Catholic nation, processions involving hundreds of men, women, and children are common, with groups of people carrying heavy pasos adorned with Easter iconography. In Andalucia, three cities especially are renowned for their processions that attract thousands or millions of bystanders to watch them. They are Sevilla, Malaga, and tiny Ronda.

The processions start on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday), all are organized by local Catholic Brotherhoods, and may involve several hours of hot sweaty walking through the city streets until the icon returns to its church at which point a party may start that lasts longer than the actual procession.

Women are often dressed in the finest outfits or in complete mourning black, children in communion dress, and men wearing robes with tall pointy hats unless they´re helping to carry the icon. Many will be carrying banners, or holding tall candles. In total there are 14 processions taking place in Ronda over 8 days.

Palm Sunday
11:00 from the church San Antonio de Padua (Barrio Dehesa) to be in Plaza Socorro after 13:05, and returning to the church at 15:30.

17:00 from the church San Cristobal (Barrio San Cristobal) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 21:15, and returning to the church at 23:30.

20:00 from the church Santa Maria la Mayor (Old Town) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 23:15, and returning to the church at 01:30.

Easter Monday
20:30 from the church Santa Cecilia (Los Descalzos) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 23:30, and returning to the church at 01:00.

Easter Tuesday
22:00 from the church Padre Jesus (Barrio de Padre Jesus), then across the Puente Viejo (Roman Bridge) and up Cuesta de Santo Domingo, along c/ Tenorio and finishing at the Santa Maria la Mayor church.

Spy Wednesday
20:15 from the church San Cristobal (Barrio San Cristobal) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 22:45, and returning to the church at 24:00.

23:00 from the church Santa Maria la Mayor (Old Town), this is the eerily silent procession, the only sound that of chains being dragged on the street by penitents. Plaza Socorro at 01:00, and returning to the church at 03:00.

Maundy Thursday
20:15 from the church Santa Maria la Mayor (Old Town) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 22:00, then returning to the church at 23:30.

19:30 from the sanctuary Virgen de la Paz (Old Town), this is the procession involving the Spanish Legion carrying the Body of Christ. Plaza Socorro at 22:30, returning to the church at 01:00.

23:00 from the church Padre Jesus (Barrio Padre Jesus) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 01:15, returning to the church at 03:30.

Good Friday
12:00 from the church Santa Cecilia (Los Descalzos) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 14:15, then returning to the church 15:30.

19:00 from the Brotherhood Lodge (Barrio San Francisco) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 22:15, then returning to the lodge at 00:30.

20:45 from the church la Merced (in front of the Alameda Park) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 23:00, then returning to the church at 00:15.

Easter Sunday
10:30 from the church Espiritu Santo (Barrio San Francisco) to be in the Plaza Socorro at 12:45, returning to the church at 15:30.

Torrijas with Honey

Recipe for Torrijas, an Easter Treat in Spain

Every Easter, kown as Semana Santa in Spain, local bakeries and patisseries will make up special Easter desserts, and in Ronda the pick of the bunch is called Torrijas, a sweet treat made with bread as the base, filled with custard, and drowned in honey or sugar and served on a plate to be eaten with a knife and fork.

Of course as is typical of the Spanish, every region will have their own variation, so the recipe I’m going to share with you may not be exactly how your Spanish friends would make it, so be careful you don’t offend them by saying this recipe is the best, instead nod knowingly when they tell you what is missing, or how they’d make it, and then when their back is turned choose the recipe you prefer.

Torrijas (Br Eng: Bread Pudding – Am Eng: French Toast) originated right here in Andalucia and is eaten during the 40 days of lent, originally prepared by nuns in their convents that they would sell or keep for their own after work treats. Back in the 15th century when the recipe was first created bread would go stale quickly, and torrijas came about as a means to reusing day old bread, which for many is the only food permitted to be eaten during lent.

Ingredients:
1 loaf of bread
1 packet of Royal custard powder
1 litre of milk
8 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup if sweet Anise
6 eggs
Sunflower oil
sugar and cinnamon (for dipping)
honey (for coating)

Preparation:
First, prepare the custard and allow it to cool, you might want to use a higher ratio of custard powder than you’d normally when making custard. We want it be custard cream, rather than poring dessert.

Add the milk and anise together in a flat bowl, then soak the bread in it. If you don’t have day old bread you can lightly toast the bread so that it absorbs the milk.

Spread some of the custard between two slices of the bread, and then dip in a bowl with the eggs beaten.

Fry the bread/custard sandwiches over a hot even temperature until golden brown.

There are two choices for finishing the recipe, either heavily sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixed together making sure to cover both sides, or pour heated honey (mixed with water in a 50/50 mixture) over the torrijas.

This recipe makes a spectacular sweet treat for breakfast with a cup of hot strong coffee, or leave to cool and serve as a dessert with pieces of fruit on top.

Moros y Cristianos (Beans and Rice)

Here’s a nice little vegetarian dish with a hint of spice and more than a whiff of history to it. Let’s get the food cooking, then we’ll have the history lesson!

Ingredients (serves four)
400 grams (14 oz) of black beans
2 litres (4 pints) of water
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
1 carrot
1 onion
1 orange
1 head of garlic, peeled
300 grams (10 oz) of rice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of paprika
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt & pepper
1 pinch of cayenne pepper

Adornos (garnish)
parsley
onion slices
orange slices
hard-boiled eggs

If bought in their dried state, the black beans will need to be left to soak overnight. Fill a pan with water, quarter the onion and throw it in. Chop up the carrot and drop that in, too. Do the same with the stick of celery. Add a bay leaf, crush the garlic and put it in. When the water comes to the boil, skim off the froth, turn down the heat, cover the pan and let the beans simmer. It will take about an hour for them to turn soft.

In the year 711 AD (1,300 years ago), Arabic armies poured into Spain from the south, where the crossing from Africa is very narrow. It did not take them long to conquer the whole Iberian peninsula, as far north as the French border. The “Moros” (so-called because they hailed from Morocco) were dark-skinned Muslims and they quickly converted Spain into an Islamic land. In fact, rather than a united country, Moorish Spain was a patchwork of little local kingdoms.

By the eleventh century AD, the Christians had made up their minds to fight back. Starting in the north, and re-conquering Spain virtually village by village, the Christians gradually pushed their way south. It took them 400 years! If you’ve ever wondered why towns like Jerez and Arcos have “de la frontera” tacked onto their names, it is because at some point, probably in the 13th century, they were on the front line between the Christians and the Moors.

Finally, in the year 1492, Granada city, the last Arabic stronghold in Spain fell to the Christians. Spain was once more united under a Christian monarch. Even today there are plenty of villages (mostly over Alicante way) who celebrate an annual festival of “Moros y Cristianos”, to commemorate the freeing of Spain from its 700-year bondage to Islam. The locals dress up in medieval costume and indulge in a riotous free-for-all punch-up.

The dish we’re preparing today gets its name from the contrast in colours between the black beans (“moros”) and the white rice (“cristianos”). Perhaps not very politically correct, but there you have it, that’s history for you.

Back to the recipe. While the beans are simmering, we make a mixture of the oil, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne, then add this to the beans, finishing off with the juice of the fresh orange. Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat and let the whole lot stand for fifteen minutes.

Now boil the rice with just a dash of salt and the bay leaf. Prepare a bowl for each person, smeared inside with butter, and when the rice is ready, stuff it into the bowls (which can now stand for a few minutes).

To serve, give each of your diners a generous ladling of black beans, then overturn a bowl of rice onto each plate, making a mound of conquering “cristianos” over each plate of “moros”. Garnish with slices of onion and orange, chopped parsley and if you feel so inclined, some diced hard-boiled egg.

¡Buen provecho!

Spain is Still the #1 Destination for British Property Buyers

A British magazine survey has once again confirmed Spain as the number one property destinations, despite nearly half a million brits leaving the country in 2011 due to the economic crisis in Europe. Official statistics place 391,000 British in Spain, a figure that is usually considered much lower than in actuality due to the number of expats who don’t register for NIE or empadronamiento.

Helping insulate the property market from further losses were 24,815 British new arrivals in 2011 a significant percentage of are presumed to have bought property whilst prices remain depressed.

The value of property in Spain has fallen by around 30% in major cities Madrid or Barcelona, and as much as 50% or 60% in some places where availability is higher than demand. Coastal areas popular with British expats like the Costa del Sol, Costa Calida, and Costa Blanca were particularly hard hit.

The annual ‘Ten Best Places to Buy Abroad’ conducted by A Place in the Sun is widely considered a barometer of British perceptions about the overall safety and desirability of foreign property destinations, and Spain placing first will no doubt be a huge relief to real estate agents who specialise in expat property sales.

Destinations appearing in the top ten list in order of popularity were Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, USA, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Caribbean, and Malta. Seven of the ten destinations are Eurozone countries including the top four.

The USA has risen in the list, notably due to the availability of foreclosed homes in sunny states such as Florida, and the Caribbean is a new entry, suggesting that cashed up buyers are willing to relocate considerable distances.

Reasons for continuing to buy in Europe haven’t changed, with Liz Rowlinson, editor of the magizine saying “What’s really interesting about our annual ‘Ten Best Places to Buy Abroad’ survey is that it shows UK buyers as sticking to tried and tested European countries – yet also willing to travel further to destinations such as Florida and the Caribbean to find their perfect holiday home location.”

Trafalgar4

Trafalgar and Caños de Meca on the Costa de la Luz

Mention the Battle of Trafalgar and most Europeans will know it as one of the decisive battles of the Napoleonic wars, but few would know precisely where Trafalgar is, and why sunseeking beach addicts should pay a visit.

As part of the Costa de la Luz, with golden sand beaches stretching from Tarifa to San Fernando on the outskirts of Cadiz, Trafalgar Beach could be expected to be a tourist mecca on the Atlantic Ocean. In fact the area is relatively undeveloped with a hippyish feel to it. Even nearby towns like Barbate, Vejer de la Frontera, and Conil de la Frontera are quiet tranquil places most of the year.

Beaches in Spain tend to attract people for sunbathing, water sports, and partying, but the Costa de la Luz has so far managed to avoid the drunken yobs and nouveau riche of the Costa del Sol, giving the area a more natural feel. The beaches are clean, the towns smaller and still Spanish, and pace of life slower.

Trafalgar Beach is officially part of Barbate, better known for being the town where Franco used to spend his summers, though Trafalgar is really part of the small fishing village of Caños de Meca situated a few kilometres west of Barbate.

Trafalgar’s most visible landmark is its lighthouse, built on the ruins of an ancient Roman watchtower, and alongside the ruins of a Moorish lighthouse, but is located on the cape a few hundred metres from the main beach. The lighthouse sits on a small islet known as the Tombola de Trafalgar, which is connected to the mainland by a short sand dune.

It was here also that visitors will find the the site of Nelson’s famous victory over a combined fleet of French and Spanish ships of the line in 1805 whose victory saved England from French invasion. The battle is widely considered the the greatest ever sea battle with sailing ships and cannon.

Visitors who have an interest in this period of history should visit the Gibraltar Museum, an hour drive east, where a significant display of weapons, letters, and anecdotes from Nelson and his armada is displayed.

Caños de Meca is itself best known for the freshwater springs located close to the beach, which these days can be quite muddy. Behind the village is the Parque Natural del Alcantilado, the village making a fantastic base for those with an interest in local nature.

Activities that are popular on the beaches of Caños de Meca are swimming, surfing, wave jumping, hiking. Several of the beaches around Caños de Meca are naturalist beaches.

To get to Trafalgar and Caños de Meca, follow the A-2233 from Conil de la Frontera.

Alpine-accentor

Andalucia Bird Society Field Trip to Grazalema

The Sierra de Grazalema is one of the most scenically stunning areas in the whole of Spain. It is a diverse UNESCO Biosphere Park containing habitats ranging from mixed oak woodlands, pine forest and upland pastures to high mountains where life clings-on in the extremes of seasonal climate change. Temperatures are wide-ranging throughout the park influenced by altitudes from 400m to 1600m above sea level, as well as the eastern areas benefiting from the Mediterranean climate the western facing slopes are affected by the Atlantic climate. Unsurprisingly such a varied habitat and range of altitudes produces a great diversity in flora and fauna. Our ABS Field Meeting for December visited this important area and gave attending members a chance to marvel at the landscape and, as always, enjoy each others company.

I promised members a relaxed day, an amble through the park and a chance to see some of the very best scenery the park has to offer. We started the day by gathering at the pre-arranged meeting point of the Venta Tropezon, where we enjoyed some local hospitality and some warm beverages before setting off on a slow journey towards Zahara. The lake (reservoir) is the largest surface area of standing water in this region, but as many other man-made reservoirs, the gradients of the shoreline are too steep to support marginal vegetation and hence it has a sterile feel to it’s presence in the park. Despite the lack of any large numbers of birds, we did manage to see some of the fish eating specialists that visit the reservoir, what the lake lacks in birds, it certainly makes up for in fish stocks, so it was we had good views of Cormorant, Great-crested Grebe and Grey Heron. Cattle Egret, Mallard and Coot were about the extent of aquatic species, but around the eastern boundary large finch flocks were feeding and amongst those were small numbers of Rock Sparrow and we also observed an Iberian (Southern) Grey Shrike. Cetti’s and Sardinian Warbler gave good views near the shoreline.

Skirting the lake we wound our way to the impressive village of Zahara, a striking example of the local white villages to be found throughout the area. I admit to an ulterior motive for a stop here, having been primed by my wife that the ladies in the group might welcome a browse around a local craft market being held on the premises of the premiere restaurant El Largo. It also gave the men an opportunity to tuck-in to homemade mince tarts whilst scanning for birds! Black Redstarts were plentiful and it wasn’t long before we had a large flock of Chough wheeling and playing in the distance, on the slopes below our vantage point we saw Red-legged Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Dove and a solitary Mistle Thrush among the olive groves. A contingent of the local Jackdaws passed in front and a few Greenfinch fed on the remains of the year’s crop of thistle plants. The ladies curiosity and the men’s stomachs satiated, we made our way upwards on the mountain road towards Grazalema. A Little Owl graced the journey, while finches and thrushes accompanied our passing. We stopped briefly at a mirador at a halfway point to watch large concentrations of Griffon Vulture floating on thermals and up draughts, I was telling everyone to always look above these gatherings of vultures, as very often eagle species would be circling above them. Within a few seconds there were cries of eagle above the vultures! It was a Bonelli’s Eagle cruising the thermal and in bright sunlight showing the underside markings for all and enabling them to clearly identify this fine raptor.

Although the sun was shining, the wind at higher altitude was biting our ears and any exposed parts, so we were all keen to proceed to the high pass, Puerto de las Palomas and see if we could escape the bitter wind. Pulling into the car park area we were straight the way confronted by a fine male Ring Ouzel, although not all of us were able to get good views. It was a target species for many on the day, so we set about listening, looking and anticipating sightings of this elusive thrush. Next to the car park and slightly below there is a drinking trough for cattle, this was attracting many species of small bird including another scarce winter visitor the Dunnock. With so many species coming to drink we decided to concentrate our efforts on the trough and the slope below. It wasn’t long before we saw Ring Ouzel making their way towards us. Eventually, accustomed to our presence, both males and females gave great views as they perched on nearby trees and even better, on the side of the drinking trough. I’m sure some members will have taken some great close-up photographs of these super birds. Although the winds were still biting and causing eyes to water, everyone was too distracted by the Ring Ouzels to complain. Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush were also seen here and a few members laid claim to another target bird for the day, Alpine Accentor. All of this as Griffon Vulture cruised close overhead, hardly noticed by many in our excitement.

Well, cold winds, exciting birding all conspired to build appetites for our scheduled lunch stop in the village of Grazalema. It was fortuitous we made decisions to take our lunch when we did. It seemed half of Spain had decided to descend on the local ventas and free dining space was at a premium. A few members wandered around the local ‘hole-in-the-wall’ shops for preserves and other goodies, whilst a group of us headed to the favoured lunch stop, La Posadilla, to reserve enough tables and seating. Great food, reasonable prices and lots of chit chat made for a welcome break in our day, before we again headed out to look for some other local birds, well mostly Water Pipit with a few other, as yet not seen species. As a birder, you have to question your sanity sometimes and as you all know, a sewerage farm can be ‘bird’ productive, smelly yes, but capable of producing a bird or two. We were in luck; the first bird to be spotted was the target, Water Pipit. From the pungent scent of the sewerage farm we carried-on further into the valley and a water meadow area next to the source of the Rio Guadalete. We spent time just watching bird activity around bushes next to the river and in the fields either side of the valley. Here we managed Corn Bunting, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Serin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a host of other species. I kept gazing above us as this is a good area for hunting Long-legged Buzzard, but try as I might the effort was unrewarded. Still we managed a very good number of species on our day and had a great time to boot. Now for the serious business of preparing for the Chairman’s Report to be presented at our next meeting, being held in the visitor’s centre at Fuente de Piedra 21st January 2012, I’d rather go birding!

Birds seen on the day:
Red-legged Partridge, Mallard, Great-crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Cormorant, Griffon Vulture, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Bonelli’s Eagle, Common Kestrel, Coot, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Chough, Jackdaw, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Eurasian Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Alpine Accentor, Dunnock, White Wagtail, Water Pipit, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

Article by and leader for the day Peter Jones – Chairman of Andalucia Bird Society
Peter is also a wildlife guide and see a link to his services HERE

Photographs: Spanish Nature .com

For a bird list of the Sierra de Grazalema see HERE

Peña de los Enamorados, Antequera

Peña de los Enamorados (Lover’s Rock), Antequera

Close to the road joining Sevilla with Granada, a historically important route in Andalucia, travelers will come across a rock formation outside Antequera on the Archidona side of the city with the look of a human face staring up into the heavens.

Known the Peña de los Enamorados, or in English either Lover’s Rock or Lover’s Leap, the rock has been immortalized by the likes of Cervantes, Washington Irving, and Lorenzo Valla to name just a few. The rock dominates the horizon and due to the legend of the doomed lovers has become an instantly recognizable symbol of the city.

Legend has it that during the time of the Christian reconquest, and before Antequera had fallen to Ferdinand’s army, the beautiful daughter of the Moorish mayor of the city Tazgona one day visited her father’s dungeons to witness for herself the handsome Christian warrior Tello who had been captured in a raid.

At first glance the two fell head over heels in love with each other and couldn’t bear the thought of ever being separated. Tazgona pleaded with her father to set Tello free and allow her to marry him, but in those times it was forbidden for anyone to marry outside their faith.

Falling into a fit of despair they decided they had no choice but to flea the city and try to find a place outside of Spain where they could be together. Tazgona sneaked into the dungeon with the keys, and together they crept out of the castle, being spotted on the road below.

Tazgona’s father called out his troops to chase them, vowing to execute Tello and lock his daughter away in the palace. Reaching the rock they climbed to the top hoping to escape down the other side, but with arrows coming from all directions they were forced to hide behind a boulder.

Realizing the futility of their position and knowing it was only a matter of time until the troops came for them the lovers chose to leap to their deaths holding hands. With a final passionate kiss, they ran for the edge and jumped.

From that day on the rock as been named in their honour as the Peña de los Enamorados.

To really understand the Peña de los Enamorados make sure to see it from both sides, notice how one side looks male, and the other side looks female. The two faces are Tello and Tazgona joined together forever.

Spain’s El Pais newspaper published a very interesting article on the history of the legend of the Lover’s Rock in 2005, and if you read Spanish it is well worth a look.

Peña de los Enamorados, Antequera

Menga Dolmen

Antequera’s Dolmen Structures

Antequera is an inland city in Malaga province, slightly more populous than Ronda, and by all indications occupied for nearly as long, though the archeological history of Antequra is different, with it’s two most striking asset being the three neolithic dolmen structures, two of which sit side by side, and the third about four km out of town.

Built by farming communities whose presence has been established from 6,500 years ago, each of the three dolmens is different varying is size and features. The fertile soils of the Guadalhorce were attractive to early farmers, so of course they needed places to worship their gods.

Using huge stones carved from nearby quarries, pits and holes were excavated, the stones rolled into place on logs, and then dropped vertically into position. To build the roofs of their structures the pit was filled with sand, the large roof stoned rolled onto the structure, and then the sand dug back out again, before the entire structure was then buried using sand, stones, and soil to form a mound.

It’s incredible to think people so long ago had the skill and thought to build the megalithic structures we see now. The three dolmens are the twinned Menga and Viera, and the separate El Romeral.

Menga is considered the largest in Europe, and is believed to have been built around 2,500 BC. It is 25 metres deep, 5 metres wide, and 4 metres high. Historians have speculated the dolmen was used for burial of ruling families, but at the time of its excavation several hundred skeletons were found inside, explained by the perhaps 2,000 years of use.

70 metres away from Menga is the Viera dolmen, discovered in 1903 by the Viera brothers, and dated to around 2,500 to 2,000 BC. The structure was built using the orthstatic technique employed for Menga, but contains only a single chamber tomb, however some visitors believe Viera to be more impresive owing to the long 27 stone entrance.

El Romeral, also discovered by the Viera brothers dates from 1,800 to 1,900 BC, though unlike Menga and Viera is built using stacked stones for the walls rather than free standing megaliths. An altar is clearly visible in El Romeral, where offerings to the dead would have been made.

Each of the three dolmens has clear views of Antequera’s Peña de las Enamorados, a rocky mountain with the face of a sleeping woman on it. It’s possible the location of the dolmens was chosen not just due to their alignment with the summer solstice, but also due to proximity of the mountain.

Antequera Dolmen Photos

SAMSUNG

Malaga’s La Concepcion Botanical Gardens

Botanical gardens around the world are often a must-see visit while traveling, and Malaga’s La Concepcion Gardens are no different, though the gardens in Malaga have justifiably attracted a reputation for being amongst the best in Europe.

The gardens were founded in 1850 by Amalia Heredia Livermore and her husband Jorge Loring Oyarzabal who travelled the world in search of tropical plants for their garden, in the centre of which they built a traditional Andalucian palace replete with indoor courtyard.

During their occupation of the property the finca la concepcion was well known for the quality of dinner party organised, which would often include short walking tours of the gardens.

In 1990 the garden estate comprising 49 hectares of established gardens and surrounding forests were bought by the Malaga City Council owing to their decline into a state of disrepair. In 1994 after extensive reforms the gardens were opened to the public for a small fee to cover operating costs.

Being a tropical garden some of the world’s most wonderful trees can be found in the gardens, including specimens of Cycads, Acacias, Giant Ficus, Palms, Majestic Araucarias, Bamboos, Wisteria, Magnolias, Chinese Orange Blossom, Almeces, Dwarf Palms, and Dwarf Dates.

Tropical flowers also bloom through the year, and the ponds of the gardens are havens for waterlilies. Surrounding the largest of the ponds are a stand of citrus and other fruit trees.

Architecturally the gardens also contain a few memorable buildings such as the finca, a Doric-columned Museum of ancient Roman sculpture, a number of small bridges crossing waterways, and an Alhambra inspired pool with pagoda offering views of Malaga city.

You’ll need at least 90 minutes to walk around the gardens, which includes the impressive “Around the World in 80 Trees” exhibit showcasing 25 trees from the Americas, 8 from Africa, 18 from Europe, 17 from Asia, and 12 from Oceania.

benalmadena-marina

Benalmadena, Costa del Sol

There are many reasons to visit Benalmadena, the beach and world class Arabian styled marina being just two of them. Eating out is a pleasure, the pueblo a delight to see, and the parks a relaxing distraction.

Amongst the best known attractions of Benalmadena is the marina with its village atmosphere, yachts berthed under sun soaked apartments, and the boulevard along which many of Benalmadena’s best restaurants and bars are located.

Either side of the marina are miles of golden sand beaches stretching to Torremolinos in the East, and to Fuengirola in the west. The town is a popular summer holiday destination for Spaniards and foreigners alike, in fact Benalmadena is home to one of the greatest concentrations of foreigners who make up 35% of the city.

Historically the village traces it’s first inhabitants to neolithic people who fished along her shore, and made homes for themselves in sheltered parts of the hills above the coast. A visit to the Archelogical Museum will shed light on stone age cave paintings, Phoenician trading, Roman ruins, and the Islamic port town that existed until 1485.

Benalmadena’s favourite son was an Islamic era scientist and botanist, Ibn al Baitar, whose statue can be seen on the boardwalk nect to Bil Bil castle.

The church of Santo Domingo across from the railway station sits on the location of the former Moorish castle of Ben-al-Madina, the former name of the town which means children of the mines, a reference to the iron ore and ochre mines of the area.

Being a coastal city which is close to Malaga and the international airport, you’d expect Benalmadena to be a popular tourist destination, and this explains the huge number of leisure activities situated on the city’s doorstep, including Selwo Marina, Sea Life Aquarium, Tivoli Park, Paloma Park, Benalmadena Golf, Butterfly Park, the Torrequebrada Casino, the Cactus and Succulents Garden, the mountain cable car, as well as the many hiking trails in the mountains above the town.

Watersports are popular, yachting being the most obvious, and within the marina complex tickets can be bought for dolphin and whale watching excursions. The beaches around Benalmadena are also popular for wind-surfing and kite-surfing, whilst the boulevard itself is a mecca for casual cyclists and roller-bladers.

Getting to Benalmadena isn’t difficult. From Malaga’s international airport simply use the suburban train going west toward Fuengirola, or head west on the E-15 after picking up your hire car.

Daytrips to Benalmadena from Ronda are just as easy, use the train from Ronda to Malaga’s Mario Zambrano station, then change to the suburban.