See Travel Itinerary for a rationale of this trip, and a who’s who of those travelling.
It was time to leave Granada, but first a walk to the Plaza Bib-Rambla for breakfast. We had a particular place in mind: John had seen a churrería in one corner of the square and churros are a favourite of ours. They are made of the simplest of ingredients: flour mixed with water, deep fried oil, a pinch of salt and perhaps a touch of baking powder for leavening.
Traditionally, the dough mixture was pressed into large loops or strips through a big pastry bag into very hot oil and fried until golden brown. Nowadays, machines have replaced the pastry bag, although in country fairs you might still see the old method used.
Churros should be eaten hot, immediately after purchase; they are usually sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon and accompanied by hot, thick chocolate into which you dunk the sweetened churros. When I was teaching in Granada in 1987-88, I used to stop at a corner near the market where an older lady made the most delicious churros the traditional way (no chocolate, although I could pop along to a nearby bar for that if I wished). I stopped there for my morning ration almost every day and we got to know each other. There were now, she said sadly one time, far fewer people selling churros on the streets like her. When I called by a few years later, she had gone, and so it seems have others like her.
All isn’t lost, however. Churros continue to be a breakfast tradition in bars and restaurants. You can also get them in the late evening, and any public fiesta is sure to have a churro stall.
The churrería in the Plaza de Bib-Rambla, didn’t disappoint. We were there early, and Churrería/ Chocolatería Alhambra was just opening and the oil just heating.
We watched the fascinating process of preparing the churros from beginning to end, and by the time the piping hot churros appeared on the table my mouth was salivating overtime. Nutritionally churros are limited, but with some exquisite freshly-squeezed orange juice, and a large portion of delicious churros con chocolate, we were ready to face the day. Total cost of breakfast for the six of us: 26 euros.
John: We took a walk over by the Cathedral before leaving Granada and there we had the best churros I have ever had. The place was called Churrería Alhambra Chocolatería and our order was made in front of us. The churros were warm, the chocolate dip delicious and the freshly squeezed orange juice refreshing. We felt very Spanish, although it is probably a good thing that we left Granada as I think that I would have spent way too much time there and that would not have been good for my waist line.
Andrew: Near our hotel in Granada there was a really yummy place to have churros and chocolate. You could see the lady making it. They also had freshly squeezed orange juice which was delicious.
NOTE: when I first tasted churros in northern Spain years ago, they were thin and furrowed and generally served either in strips or looped like ℓ (so that several churros could be strung together to take home as was often the custom). When I suggested to the lady in the photo in Granada that what she was serving were really porras, she was quite categorical: she was serving churros! Personally, I still call them porras, but in Andalusia apparently they are churros. I wasn’t going to argue.
After breakfast, it was back to the hotel to collect our luggage and sign out. Then we had to get our luggage to our van, which we had left the night before in an underground garage on the western outskirts of the city. There was no way we were going to repeat the experience of getting our wide van down the curved ramp of our hotel, Monjas del Carmen (see Travel 4). We called two taxis to the hotel from the stand in the Plaza Nueva nearby, found the van, quickly loaded it and were on our way.
We were heading for La Fuente del Sol, a hotel/spa near the village of La Hoya (sometimes La Joya) a few kilometres south west of the old town of Antequera, in the province of Málaga. The A 92 Seville road from Granada is fast and within about an hour we arrived at Antequera, having by-passed Loja and Archidona. Just before Antequera, we saw an imposing cliff to our right known locally as La Peña de los Enamorados: The Lover’s Cliff. It was named after a popular legend of two star-crossed lovers, one a Christian soldier, the other a Moorish princess. The princess and the soldier had fallen in love when she cared for him after he had been captured by her father’s soldiers. Since their love was unacceptable to both sides, they fled but were soon pursued by the princess’s father and a band of soldiers. At the same time, the young Christian soldier’s father had decided to attack Antequera. The young lovers, finding themselves trapped between the two armies, climbed to the top of the cliff, embraced and threw themselves over. Grieving, both fathers decided that they would no longer fight over Antequera.
Antequera sits on the edge of a fertile plain and the hills of the Sierra de Chimenea. On its outskirts are three of the most important megalithic dolmens of southern Spain. In the 16th century, it underwent a flurry of building and enjoyed its status as a cultural centre. It declined in the 19th century (as did much of Spain) and only recently has recovered its vitality thanks to tourism and its agricultural products (vegetables, cereals, olives). It is conveniently situated between four major Andalusian cities, Seville (132 kilometres, 82 miles), Granada (109 k, 68 m), Málaga (51 k, 32 m) and Córdoba (98 k, 61 m).
“Olivia,” our GPS, negotiated us successfully through Antequera on to the A 343 in the direction of Alora. We stopped on a hill just outside Antequera for some terrific views of the town, with the dramatic Peña de los Enamorados in the background. The drive from Antequera was stunning: rolling hills, distant mountains, olive groves, spring green fields, liberally mixed with profusions of wildflowers, and the sound of goat and sheep bells echoing in the clear air.
We turned left off the A 343 after about 10 kilometres (6 miles) onto a narrow road to La Hoya, a typically whitewashed Andalusian village. Fuente del Sol, was idyllically situated on a hillside, about two kilometres from the village.
We arrived at Fuente del Sol by lunchtime (http://www.hotelfuentedelsol.com/ for their web site, also available in English, French and German). We quickly settled in, enjoying great views from our respective rooms of rolling hills, olive trees and scattered cortijos (farms) surrounded by fields of spring corn.
Andrew: La Hoya: After eating the churros and chocolate we headed to our next destination: La Hoya. There we were staying in a spa in the hills. From our balcony we could see the town very well. I love being in the country side.
Margaret and I decided to have lunch at the resort; John, Leslie, Andrew and Alex walked down to La Hoya to eat at a local restaurant. After a lovely lunch, we strolled around the hotel grounds, admiring the gardens, frog-filled pond, tennis court and outdoor swimming pool.
A walk beyond the grounds took us to a field of olives trees and flowers; it was full of goats many of which, when they saw us, came streaming to the fence for a closer look.
Curious and intelligent animals, they never cease to amuse me. The goatherd, too, came to the fence. We fell into conversation over Spain’s economy (“dreadful”), farming (“hard”). He told us that there were around 800 goats in the herd and milking them was a quite a chore.
John: Goats do roam! We walked from the hotel/spa Fuente de Sol down to the village La Hoya to find a bite to eat. The village is a quiet little place with a bakery and a restaurant where we ate. (Rincón del Hortelano) The food was good and there was a very welcoming feeling about the place. After lunch, as we were walking through town again, our way was blocked by a shepherd and his herd of goats.
Andrew: We took a walk after settling into our hotel. Then we went down to the town where we saw lots of cats. We had lunch there and afterwards saw a huge goat herd. It was beautiful to see so many goats.
John: We decided to go for a walk from La Hoya across the hills and to Fuente del Sol…..I got us lost and we ended up creating our own trail “over hill and dale” for two and a half hours. Still, we were treated to beautiful views of the area as well as a different perspective of the village and, of course, tons of wild spring flowers (as it was May). We also discovered and named “Dragon” rock ….all part of our Welsh heritage…
Walking back to the hotel, Margaret and I suddenly heard voices calling us from the hill behind the hotel. John, Leslie, Andrew and Alex were zigzagging their way down, avoiding fences and the sheep scattered in the undergrowth.
After lunch at La Hoya, they had decided on a round-about hike uphill from the village rather than walk directly back. The hike turned out to be longer than anticipated but none the less very enjoyable. A cup of tea to reinvigorate us and by then Andrew and Alex were ready for a swim. Unfortunately, they had to make do with the indoor pool since the outdoor one was not yet ready for summer use; it would open a week later.
After dinner, we all settled in our suite to watch a football/soccer match that all of Spain would be glued to: Barcelona v Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the European Champions League, the first leg to be played in Germany. By now the sun had set and it was nippy, so we lit a blazing wood fire and snuggled on the settee and armchairs, a glass of wine within reach for the adults and something lighter for Andrew and Alex. Hopes were high since Barça were past champions and had been virtually invincible all season. Andrew –our dedicated Barça fan—was wearing his Barça scarf and cap that he had bought in Barcelona the week before. Alas, it wasn’t Barça’s night, and they were beaten 4-0. The omens weren’t good for the return match a week later, but with home advantage, Barça might still stage a come-back.
More images between La Hoya and Fuente del Sol: