We had a mountain stopover planned, to cushion the two city visits of Cordoba and Granada. This took through a dramatic mountainous route to Dona Mencia. Dona Mencia is a great stop over (free) as it backs literally onto one of Spain’s Via Verde cycle routes. Not only this, the small town itself offers a pleasant afternoon’s stroll through castle and it’s charming fountain.
The mountain side stop over at Dona Mencia
So, over our two nights we managed to get the bikes off the cycle rack again and cycle some of the Via Verde. It is actually another old railroad track like the one we cycled on in La Jarra and therefore by its nature is actually quite flat and allows you to get the mountain scenery without the pain. Also, we had some more food highlights. In the main square in the town the locals seemed to be enjoying cups of caracoles (snails) with their cold beer so obviously we partook too. The snails themselves are boiled in some sort of stock and are, to my palate, just edible (I am sorry to all the caracole lovers in the world). Also, they managed to give both Sharon and I an upset stomach on the next morning and I am guessing that this journey into the chemical loo was probably the quickest the snails have ever travelled.
‘Caracoles’ from bar in the central plaza, Dona Mencia
The second food treat was a Flamenquin, which is a speciality from the Cordoban region. I managed to buy a home made gourmet version at the local supermarket in the town and it is basically a breaded pork steak rolled that has been rolled in bacon. It tastes better than it looks in the photo……
We finally made it to Granada by the Thursday (4th May) and we were able to get pre-booked tickets to the much talked about Alhambra for the coming Saturday afternoon. We decided to pass time in the local area of the campsite (Sierra Nevada) that we had chosen to stay in, it seems that Granada is not that motorhome friendly and there are not any reasonably priced stop overs. However, one thing the campsite did offer was a chance to see something for the first time – a converted modern coach that carried 20 holiday makers on a tour, this one was completing a Spanish biased European tour from the Czech republic. It was basically a massive motorhome for tourists and my curiosity led me to talking to the organisers Pawel and Krcyk (Mole) who we in their thirties and a few of their guests. As this was evening, this also led me to sharing a bottle of their homemade Czech moonshine as we swapped travel stories until late.
Pangeo Tours Camper coach
It was our first time to the Alhambra and our expectations were high so after waiting 40 minutes to collect our pre-booked tickets we embarked on the walking route. Sure, the palaces and Generalife were amazing, but for some reason we felt a little disappointed or even underwhelmed. Was this all the hype we had heard on our run up to Granada? Was it the slightly manicured feel to the grounds? Was it the extensive restoration that is being slowly completed making it feel less authentic? Or even, was it that this type of thing is not my type of thing, I am not sure. To debrief we headed into Granada centre where I felt more at home. There is a gritty, arty, even Boeheim feel to Granada which is something I have not felt in any of the cities since Vitoria in the Basque.
Grounds of the Alhambra with Granada below
Leaving Granada we drove through the Sierra Nevada on a foggy rainy day. This obviously obscured the amazing views as the van zig zaged its way to Abla. Enroute we stopped at Casas Cuervas, where they have bizarre houses built into the rock and these are still used today by 100s of local families. Unfortunately, it was still raining hard when we got to the free stopover in Abla but fortunately our ears fell upon some pretty rough live rock music that was coming out of the near by sports centre. An exploratory walk found the local band ‘The Hangover Banda’ playing at a private party with it’s own makeshift bar. We also learnt that the band sounded so terrible as the tunes from the speakers were echoing off the four bare concrete walls of the sports hall. Everybody there seemed to understand this, as did the lead singer, who finally gave up the ‘vocal’ due the vibrating wall of sound they were producing. Thanks to ‘The Hangovers’ for letting us shelter from the rain and for the ear ache that followed.
Strange rain clouds forming over Abla. Probably caused by ‘The Hangovers Banda’?