Atando los cabos

So (!) I’m just tying up a few loose ends…

The last you heard from me I was in Granada: now I’m home in Inverness again.

The last night in Granada, I ate in the cafe (not the Restaurant) at the hotel and ended up choosing octopus again. Somewhere there’s a six-legged octopus…

Despite only being in the Cafe, this was better presented than the Restaurant.

There’s little to say about the journey. We were herded like cattle into a small space at GRX but happily the little Spanish boy wearing a “My Mum is Awesome” tee-shirt got his screaming, fighting and sobbing  tantrum over with before we boarded the plane. A bit of a delay here and there, but I arrived at Inverness airport early, so no worries.

Since getting home, it’s been a mixture of working out why the garage door wasn’t shutting properly (easy), sorting “my” recliner (fiddly) and eating home cooking (enjoyable).

I’ve no further planned trips at present, but am always open to offers, suggestions and freebies!

General Area Map: clicking on the map *should* load a large version. But, computers, you know…

Hasta la vista.


The Cathedral Area

I should start by explaining – possibly apologising for – yesterday’s obscure title. I couldn’t think of anything relevant, so I chose the name of a game on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ where the participants have to come up with a list of unconnected words: any imaginary or conjectural connection between the words is a no-no.

Last night, determined to escape El Rincón de Lorca’s solitary clutches, I went to La Milagrosa Irreverente, because of its quirky name and some good reviews. I may go back tonight as it was excellent. I had Flamenquín de Ternera: thin slices of veal rolled round a cheesy filling. Yum!

Flamenquin de Ternera, inexplicably at an angle.

Today is a day for wandering round Granada and I’m delighted to say I’ve been in a tee shirt. Perhaps a little chilly at the café table as the shade moved over me, but otherwise very pleasant. My initial impression of the area gained on a rainy afternoon ten days ago was unfair: whilst there are some scruffy little lanes with graffiti-sprayed roller doors, the streets are partially pedestrianised and the plazas are attractively tourist-oriented. The honeyed stone of the cathedral glows in the sun. The area is commercialised, yes, but today at least it lacked the throngs at Granada’s better known sites.

So far I’ve not felt the need to go far beyond the cathedral area, though I have sussed out the airport bus stop. It’s about 10 minutes away over flat ground, so only the cobbles will pose a problem for the wheeled case. If it’s too wet, I’ll take a taxi to the bus station and go that way: tomorrow’s forecast isn’t great (100% chance of rain!). My flight isn’t until after midday, so while I want to be in good time for it, there’s no need for an early start. I should have five hours in Gatwick, which may be fun, before my 7pm departure for Inverness. (Note to Sonia: ETA 20:45!)

I saw a games shop with some impressive jigsaws, but not suitable for those in a hurry.

Now that would keep you going a while!

In the afternoon I had another stroll, finding a pleasant botanical garden, complete with cat, to wander round. I sauntered back to the hotel when the weather again took a bit of a nosedive: not actually raining, but it’s clearly on the agenda.

Would I come back to Granada? Yes, it’s relatively easily accessible from Inverness: it would be a pleasant place for a few days’ break. So tomorrow it’ll be ‘Hasta la vista Granada’, rather than ‘Adios’.

This may be my last entry for now, but I might make constructive use of my time in Gatwick.

Cheddar Gorge

I quite enjoyed last night. Dinner was at eight – again I’m the only guest, though mention was made of a group of three who cancelled due to the weather. About 7:30 I sat and read beside the log fire with a glass of the local red whilst the waiter produced some nibbles.

I had a job taking the waiter seriously: he was like a mixture of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel and an obsequious Indian from a 1980s sit-com. Whist his excellent English was heavily accented, it didn’t sound Spanish and I indeed wondered if he were Sri Lankan. We got chatting and I learned a lot: the boss is Spanish but spent a lot of time working on cruise ships, where he got to know the Colombian waiter, who later came with his family to work with his friend. I didn’t get to the bottom of the old lady. I suppose I could have phrased that better. The actual meal itself was good: the usual salad followed by nourishing soup, then chicken kebabs. There was a pudding: a slightly down-market crème bruleé. I toddled off to bed fairly early.

Although the rain wasn’t technically falling at its theoretical maximum this morning, the noise of it came through my double-glazed window at 5:30 and I woke half an hour earlier than intended. The mist swirling round the streetlights on the edge of town gave the area a definite spooky look: it was easy to imagine Diego the Ripper lurking under a forlorn-looking lemon tree.

I made it up to the bus, which was parked overnight at the stop and eventually the driver turned up, got in, started the heating and engine, fiddled with his ticket machine and then went away again, leaving me shut out in the rain. I asked him if this was the bus for Granada and he eventually changed the instant ‘No’ to ‘Yes, but you need to change buses at El Ejido’, which I was already vaguely aware of.

Once allowed in the bus, it looked like I would be the only passenger, but a woman got on and talked to the driver all the way till I got off. The morning was slowly changing from the dark of night to the gloom of day; the road twisted and turned with corners that might be hard for a car to negotiate, let alone a coach; there were standing pools of muddy water and occasional rocks, but none of that put a stop to the conversation.

I had about 10 minutes to wait in El Ejido and expected a busy journey as I was told it was the Almeria – Granada route. When it pulled up outside my concrete shelter, the bus was completely empty and the driver went off to the café for a coffee. At least I was inside and warm on a comfortable seat. And they are good, these Spanish buses: on one occasion, Laurie and I had back-of-seat entertainment units in the Picos. Today’s bus didn’t go that far, but headphone sockets for a range of radio stations, adjustable lighting and hassle-free wifi access were all available. Megabus haven’t quite caught up and don’t get me started on Stagecoach.

The bus did fill up a bit on the way to Granada and the weather improved marginally. Down in the valleys, rivers of turbulent brown looked to have burst their banks. The fields of blossom-covered cherry trees did not appear cheery in the rain; the villages had stopped looking pretty and everyone seemed down at the mouth. I half-dozed for much of the journey.

As with my initial arrival in Granada, I took a taxi to the hotel: six and a bit euros seemed quite reasonable value. The driver was fairly chatty and hated the weather: ‘all this rain and no sun makes you tired.’ Which may explain why I dozed on the bed when I got into my room.

It brightened up a bit in the afternoon and I went for a stroll. Granada’s university must be a fair size: we passed several big new-looking campuses on the bus and there’s evidence of older university buildings near the hotel, along with the academic bookshops, bars and endless supplies of students. Round the cathedral are lots of shops and stalls selling exotic spices, herbs, teas, tisanes and the like. Most of the shops advertise in English, as well as the local lingo.

Es hoy el día!

Yes, today’s the day. There should have been more of them. Rain is forecast for tomorrow.

Last night I indicated I wanted to sit downstairs for my meal: that was fine, but I was warned there was a big football match on and it wouldbe noisy. No problem, I said. My chance to see some life, I thought. I don’t know what the match was – it might have been an international. A few people – perhaps as many as five, predominantly male – came in and sat at the bar, with their backs to tv apparently paying little attention to the match. I again sat on my own. One of the teams won. Unless it was a draw.

I have spent a not inconsiderable amount of my life avoiding the necessity to eat baccalao. Cod doesn’t really do it for me and ‘dried / salted’ just puts the lid on it, without even adding ‘boiled’ into the mix. You’ll have guessed by now what last night’s main course was. To be fair, it was better than I feared, much better – but I wouldn’t cross the road for it myself, if I had a choice.

That’s not a starfish, but there is a lump of baccalao

That’s better

I said my farewells to Hotel La Fragua II under a blue sky and strode down through the village, across the river, soon left the road and started a steep ascent on a rough track.

Trevelez, Barrio Bajo in particular, is situated on a hairpin bend where the road which has come up one side of the valley takes a sharp turn to head down the other. I had come in on one side trying to hold a conversation with the hotelier and now I was walking out the other.

Although it was quite sunny, there was a distinct nip in the air and keeping moving was generally the best option. At the higher levels there was snow lying a couple of inches deep. I more or less disregarded the route notes as being too cumbersome and relied purely on the gps at junctions and so forth. The gps file was supplied as part of the package and follows the printed notes pretty well. I kept taking photos back towards Trevelez, each time mistakenly expecting this to be the last.

Trevelez from a distance Wed 7th

The waymarking is pretty good: to start with I was following the Spanish GR7, part of the E4 which starts away up in Norway’s Nordkapp and finishes not that far from me in Algeciras or maybe Gilbraltar. The tracks were frequently wide and driveable, but I saw no-one: underfoot was generally good. I covered the almost 15km in four and a half hours.

The drop down to Berchules – not spectacularly lower than Trevelez showed that spring was just round the corner.

It’s cherry blossom time in Berchules

It took some searching to find the Hotel, which is a bit out of town – well, out of village. When the front door stuck as I tried to enter, a voice shouted out ‘Push!’ in English. Inside, I found boss and a rather irritating old lady: she reminds me of my mother. She asked me if I was English, to which I replied in the negative, waited a second or so and added ‘Scottish’. ‘Oh, Scotch!’ she said and from then on has tried to use the word ‘British’ as often as possible. The boss also has excellent English and my guess is that she’s his mother-in-law and stays in a granny flat. In case you’re sceptical, my evidence is a) I’m the only guest, b) the fact she asked me when I wanted eat and new the wi-fi password, c) the hotel network has a router called MAMA CASA and d) mine host’s command of English.

Now there are as always some downsides and Berchules presents an interesting selection. I asked the boss about the bus stop and I hope I’ve located it, but will need confirmation. There are 3 buses: 5am-ish, 6:45 or something and 17:something. If the weather forecast for tomorrow were good – and it’s not – then I’d spend the day in the area and take the late bus. I’ve settled on the 6:40 bus: it’s 10 minutes up a steep hill pulling my case, so it’ll be an early start.

My room here is adequate: two single beds, en suite with bidet and bath / shower, little in the way of furniture and poor lighting, but what seems good wi-fi. The room faces the main road and traffic passes noisily at times beyond my good swinging-party balcony.I don’t have under floor heating in this room and the tiles are quite cold. I’ve got an oil-filled radiator, but the central heating is off and the room could be warmer. In fact I’ve just put my thermal trousers on for the first time.

Something else I did today for the first time on this trip was have a beer. It’s not been beer weather this trip and I thought today was the first I’d deserved it. Whilst I sat and had my beer, making polite conversation with the Englishwoman, I thought I could detect good cooking smells, but it may just have been the wood fire.

You’ll forgive  meif I don’t sit up late blogging about tonight’s meal as I have a bus to catch.

In and around Trevelez

Upscaled decorations, look a bit down at heel


The Meson

My faithful companion

Up the dog’s bum…

That’s not a gratuitously distasteful title: all will be revealed.

I sleep surprisingly well here: I’d like to put it down to all the exercise of striding mountain paths, but that’s not the case. Anyway, when I finally surfaced at nine, the sun was out and the great outdoors looked appealing.

After a meagre Spanish breakfast, I set out on the Siete Lagunas route. The weather forecast suggested the rain would arrive about one pm, so I was not intending to do the whole route. Soon after leaving the village I found myself caught up in a veritable traffic jam: two guys on horses, each leading two more all loaded with animal feed, seven dogs and a young woman on foot.

We all settled down to our own speeds, slowly strung out and continued up the steep stony track. I had a brief conversation with the young woman who – if I got the story right – was off to see her grandparents in their cortijo (croft / small farm). She asked where I was going and I explained it was a ‘there and back again’ sort of a thing, but I didn’t know where ‘there’ was. My limited Spanish meant my explanation to her was probably more prosaic than that. She warned me that rain was forecast for two pm.

She was only going to Cul de Perro (Dog’s Bum) and I recalled the route notes referring to this delightful placename. I’ve got an interest in both etymology and toponyms, so I found myself wondering about this particular placename. I reckoned I’d better not start asking the young woman as my weaknesses in Spanish might prove an embarrassment. Not that I’d have understood an explanation: her accent was strong and I’d not been sure I’d got the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ story right, especially as she wasn’t dressed for the part and had no basket.

So it was around Cul de Perro that I separated from my cavalcade, but not entirely. Gratifyingly, the seven dogs had shown little interest in me, preferring to sniff each others’ culs. But, as I continued past Cul de Perro, one dog peeled out from the pack and followed me, sometimes rushing ahead or – as we climbed higher – rolling in the snow, panting.


Down in the village this morning there had been virtually no sign of snow, just little icy strips on wooden steps but all gone everywhere else. Looking at the hills opposite, one could see the snowline had lowered a bit overnight, but that was it. As I walked up out of the village, I had become steadily more conscious of dustings of snow and by the time I left Cul de Perro cortijo, I was walking in soft snow.

Conditions were good: I kept an eye on the weather, which was clear, sunny and windswept. I hadn’t taken my walking poles and I only had summer weight boots, so I carried on with care and the dog. Speaking of which, it seemed to be constipated, doing a lot squatting and straining. Unless, of course, this was some canine ritual linked to the current location. Perhaps I had stumbled on the roots of the cortijo’s toponymical etymology.

There were still occasional waymarks, which was helpful as the path wasn’t always clear in the snow, and the dog seemed to know where to go as well. We carried on steeply up through snow and the walk was definitely enjoyable.

After a total of about three and a half kilometres, I decided the snow was now deep enough to be a bit of a hazard: a firm crust which generally took my weight but sometimes ended up inside my boots. The dog and I turned round and headed back the way we had come, easily following my footsteps.

At one point a loud scrabbling noise, which didn’t sound like the dog, made me turn round and something I’m calling a mountain goat rushed past me, the dog in hot pursuit. I stood and watched the two of them thundering over the landscape, but it was clear the dog was losing the race as the goat bounded away from it. In no way abashed, the dog eventually came rushing back panting and we continued down the track.

Back in the village, I had a coffee in Mesón la Fragua whilst the dog waited patiently outside. Miguel’s brother laughed and shrugged when I told him. I think I’ll try to eat downstairs tonight, with the common people, rather than upstairs in splendid isolation. I might even be able to take part in a conversation, if they speak slowly.

The dog trotted along ahead of me and turned quite deliberately up the steps to the hotel. I wondered whether it had second sight or could just smell my scent from when I left this morning. Laurie Chancellor will say the latter is the more likely.

The predicted early afternoon rain still hasn’t arrived at 5:00 and I’m just back from a blustery and nippy stroll round the village, which is really a mass of little lanes and alleys running between the whitewashed houses of this pueblo blanco. My new canine friend was waiting patiently for me and wagged her tail enthusiastically at my approach.

Despite the forecast constantly delaying its prediction of rain, tomorrow still shows as sun and 5deg with a weaker wind than today. Emma and/or her husband will be transporting my case and currently the plan is that I’ll walk, but if the weather is poor I can either get a lift all the way or be dropped off for a lower level walk.

Mr Emma is English and a carpenter who works in the village and does all the maintenance work round the various Fragua properties.

Before I came out here I saw a promotional video on the Web featuring drone footage of the village and a heavy emphasis on the way a group of the local women were upcycling waste materials to make decorations for village celebrations. Naturally, there’s not much of that on display during this quiet period at the end of winter, but I have spotted one item: a length of alternating black and white patches neatly knotted on a cord, but admittedly showing the effects of winter

Photos will followhen I get a decent signal.

Etymology shines a light

Monday 5th March

I didn’t tell you about my wee adventure last night.

When I left for my meal, Emma said as I’m still the only resident she was going to go home early, so she reminded me that I had the front door key and off I went. At the end of the meal I walked back and attempted to unlock the door. I tried clockwise, anti-clockwise, then both again with door handle up and then down… Convinced it was my fault, possibly due to that last bottle of wine (!), I went sheepishly back to the Mesón and explained my predicament to Miguel, el Jefe of the Fragua Empire. He came back up to the hotel and I was delighted when he too failed to open the door with my key. His own set proved more reliable, he took me in, gave me a new key and we tested it successfully.

(It’s hardly vital information but Emma seems to be manageress, not owner. I’ve not knowingly seen a Mr Emma, but there are children somewhere and mention was made of grandparents.)

I learned the word for quail last night when enquiring about the eggs

Nourishing Soup – a meal in itself

The promised snow hasn’t arrived at village level: we’re still getting it in liquid form. Miguel was on duty at breakfast and I had a chat with him, saying I wondered about walking some of the Seven Lakes path. He advised strongly against it: snow on higher ground, paths in poor condition, rain predicted for the whole day and poor visibility. I took his advice!

I also asked about the name of the village ad my theory was only part right: it’s not from Three Villages, but Three Candles – Tres Velas! Apparently away back there were three brothers and each kept a candle in the window to guide travellers. Sounds a bit too like a fairy tale to me. One more brother and we could have had a Two Ronnie’s sketch.

I spent a chunk of time playing silly games on my phone, then discussed with Emma if there were any sensible routes I could walk. She suggested one that started near the Helipad and I set off in drizzle but with some visibility. Most of the villages have helipads as ambulance access would be slow and problematic in bad weather. My track headed away up the hill from the helipad and I was soon back in thick cloud and heavier rain. I walked on and up for about half an hour but, with no sign of improvement and no specific goal, then turned and made my way back to the hotel.

Could be Scotland

Allowing for the mist, the tres barrios are clear in this photo.

Of the three rural hotels I’ve been in so far, I’m glad it’s this one I’ve got four nights in. It’s comfortable and spacious, warm and well equipped, friendly and well-situated.

I’m maybe imagining it, but there is a slight buzz in the air. Several people have mentioned to me that it’s going to be sunny on Wednesday. My weather app confirms this: let’s hope they’re all right. Wednesday is the day when I move to my last hill village – Berchules – so a good day would be much appreciated as it will be my final opportunity for a longish walk.

Round about 3pm, the weather brightened and I went out for stroll. The wind has got up and there were occasional flurries of snow’s equivalent of drizzle: I’m sure the Eskimos have a word for it. I turned round when the cloud came rolling back in.