Trip Start May 27, 2007
37Trip End Sep 01, 2007
Nerja is just about the last town on the Costa del Sol not to be overrun with these huge, generic concrete apartment blocks. There´s a long story behind this but basically a marquesa (her wealth came from a gin distillery) used to own all of the land in this area. She had devised an ordinance that limited building heights on her land to no more than 3 stories. When she died the land went to her son who immediately decided to sell some of it to developers and cancel the marquesas building height ordinance
When Lee and I arrived we just walked a block into Nerja and saw a nice looking hostel, Hostel San Miguel. It is run by a Swedish family so I knew it would be clean. The price was 45€ a night for a room with TV, AC (!), our own bathroom, and free Internet so we took it for 3 nights. Our quick lodging decision also gave us more time for exploring the town and visiting the beach.
One interesting note about our hostel room is the efficiency of our bathroom. It is quite the room for today´s type-A, multi-tasking personality. You can actually sit on the toilet, brush your teeth, blow dry your hair (mounted on the wall), and surf the Internet (they have wifi) all at the same time! The door to the bathroom doesn´t even open all of the way due to the bidet but the builders sure crammed everything they could into that bathroom.
The walk through town was downhill and we quickly noticed that little Spanish is spoken here
Nerja, backed by the Sierra Almijara mountains, is a charming town with nice views up and down the coast. To the west you can just see a couple of cranes on the horizon where the building boom resumes. Nerja only has 22,000 residents but swells to more than 90,000 in the summer so we are glad to be here before the deluge starts.
Lee and I found Nerja´s most famous sight - the Balcon de Europa. This bluff, jutting into the sea, is the center of Nerja´s paseo and a magnet for street performers. The palm-lined promenade overlooks the Mediterranean, miles of coastline, and little coves and caves below. In the ninth century, a Moorish castle stood here, later partially destroyed by the English in a battle against the French troops of Napoleon. Now it´s the big tourist draw (in addition to the caves) for Nerja.
We took our hostel-supplied beach mats to Playa del Salon below the Balcon de Europa
For dinner Lee and I stumbled across one of Rick Steve´s recommendations by accident. We had read about Cafe New Orleans in his guidebook but thought it would be too expensive and dressy. We checked the menu which looked very good and just a little more than we had been paying as well as the crowd which didn´t look very dressy and decided to give it a try.
The restaurant is run by a couple formerly from New Orleans who have been in Nerja for 6 years. They are actually selling the restaurant and opening a new one called Bayou in Berlin. The host was very friendly and called many guests by name. One look at the menu and Lee was drooling with the possibilities. He was reminded of his high school years living in New Orleans.
I tried the chili over rice which was excellent according to Lee. I only had Wendy´s and my own turkey chili to compare it to but I thought it was extremely good myself
6/17 It was such a treat to sleep with the AC on full blast! Lee had a blanket on his bed and looked a little blue in the morning but I´m not sure why. We took an early bus to the Cuevas de Nerja (Nerja Caves) for .90€ and paid 7€ for admission. The caves far exceeded our expectations! We´ve both been to many caves before and these were just incredible because the rooms were so enormous.
One of the first rooms actually is a permanent theater with seats for more than 1000 people! They have an annual dance and music festival in the cave! In addition, the caves have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites including the worlds largest stalactite column according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Someone actually figured out that it took one trillion drops to make the column. The column probably had a circumference similar to the distance around a typical Heights house.
Further on in the cave is the Hall of the Cataclysm which is 100 meters long by 50 meters wide by 35 meters high. It was just an enormous space full of different cave formations which we observed from the walkway along the perimeter. We left the caves quite surprised at how impressive they are!
Lee and I then walked downhill to the small town of Maro
After getting a bite to eat Lee and I walked down to the Maro Beach in the hopes of it being less crowded than the beaches in Nerja. We followed a road through fields modified to act as greenhouses with plastic sheeting over them. This allows farmers to grow a full range of tropical produce year round. We saw tomatoes, peppers, green beans, onions, watermelons, and more. After walking and walking we were finally able to see the beach far below and it was packed!
We pondered what to do and decided to head down the hill and then try to walk around the bluff at the end of the beach to see if the beach was better there. We hiked down, across the beach, and then up a steep incline on the other side only to discover that we were on a cliff with no easy way down on the other side. So we then hiked back down the bluff, across the beach, up the hill, and back to Maro to catch the bus back to Nerja
After waiting more than an hour for the bus we returned to Nerja in defeat and went back to the same beach as the day before. After reading and dozing on the beach we ventured back to Cafe New Orleans again for a yummy dinner. This time we split the ¨Big Easy¨ salad and the ¨Rio Grande¨chicken chimichangas. Both dishes were again outstanding!
Lee went for a walk along the promenade while I returned to the hostel to work on this site. While I was working this deafening celebration started in the streets. I had no idea what was going on but looked online and found that Real Madrid (with David Beckham) had won some soccer championship. It must have been a big deal since the honking horns, screaming, cannons, etc. lasted for several hours. I had thought our town full of British tourists but obviously there are plenty of locals who live and die by their football.
6/18 After an abbreviated sleep Lee and I were up for a bus trip up to the small town of Frigiliana. It has been named Spain´s prettiest village several times and is only 4 miles up the mountain from Nerja
It is an example of Spain´´s white hill towns perched high up on a mountain with a great view of the coast. The Christians settled here in the 1500´s to escape the attacking Moors. The town is cute with lots of steep streets, many turning into pedestrian-only staircases. There was one area of very expensive homes that looked like it belonged in River Oaks. Frigiliana is really just a town to walk around and admire the views since there isn´t much to do. It was another hot day but tolerable in the shade with a nice breeze.
After the morning in Frigiliana we went back downhill to Nerja and a last afternoon on the beach. I enjoyed the book I was reading, Solomon vs. Lord, and then headed to the Internet cafe before returning to the hostel to once again pack up.
6/19 Lee and I were up very early for our 6:30 am bus to Malaga and our flight to Barcelona. (P.S. Our flight to Barcelona on Vueling was very nice although my huge backpack never made it! Lee fortunately got his but they are still looking for mine. Stay tuned.)
P.P.S. 6/23 My backpack finally arrived yesterday afternoon after being gone 3+ days. For some reason it went to Bilbao. I´ve always wanted to go to Bilbao and the Guggenheim but my backpack went without me! It was tagged correctly for Barcelona so who knows why it went to Bilbao. I don´t think I´ve talked to anyone in Europe yet though who hasn´t had an airline lose their luggage this summer.