Andalucia travel part 1: About white villages and Picasso’s homeland

20. Juli 2018

Andalucia travel: I am taking you on a trip to my personal highlights of Andalucia. We strolled through white villages, crossed the Sierra Nevada and discovered Picasso’s origins.

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Den deutschen Beitrag findest du hier: Reisebericht Andalusien

A colourful composition of religion and culture: Andalusian history

When introducing you Andalucia, I shortly need to speak about the backgrounds of this southern Spanish region. If one wants to understand Andalucia, one needs to know what made this place so unique, colourful and multicultural!

The incredibly diversified history of Andalucia was shaped by various cultures and folks. Mediterranean climate, a good location by the sea and the rich nature made Andalucia a very popular place to live.

The Romans, Moors, Phoenicians, Visigoths and Berber tribes – all of them came to the south of Spain and left their marks, which we can still find nowadays. The cooperation of Christian, Jewish and Arabic religion in Andalucia is unique.

With the expansion of the Moors and Berbers on the Iberian Peninsula an era began, whose architecture influenced the countryside strongly. Different Arabic dynasties lived in the country.

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A look at Málaga’s architecture- the Iglesia de San Juan.  

Córdoba as the capital of a powerful caliphate and Granada as the last Muslim bastion were the most important Muslim centres during the 800 years of siege. The Nasrids left their impressive palaces in Granada – the Alhambra (I will write a separate blogpost about this amazing site).

The time when Christoph Columbus took off to discover the New World, Andalucia became the centre of Europe, with Sevilla as its capital. Buildings from the Renaissance, Gothic architecture and Baroque gems testify to this florescence.

Pueblos Blancos – The idyll of the white villages

Beautiful places that are very characteristic for this region are the Pueblos Blancos. Already from afar the dazzling light villages shine with their white, chalked-up houses in the hilly landscape. Narrow alleys, flower-bedecked walls, cubic houses and gaudy, vegetated courtyards turn the Pueblos Blancos into beautifully pittoresque places.

The visitor dives into a world of white romance and idyll, only the east wind Levante whistles around our noses – and all this happens far away from hustle and bustle and noisy cars.

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Andalucia travel tip: When visiting Andalucia, it is the best idea to rent a car. Those remote villages as well as silent bays at the coast can be discovered perfectly with a vehicle. Only make sure to compare prices and websites and take out a good insurance. 

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The Pueblos Blancos were built on hilltops, to recognize the marching up enemies in time. The wide view over the surrounding countryside is amazing.

The past is present in every part of these places. Most of the villages used to be Phoenician and Roman colonies, expanded by the Moors from the 8th to the 15th century.

Andalucia travel tip: It is quite helpful to know at least a few basic Spanish words. Even the younger people hardly speak English, apart from larger cities. 

There are numerous villages along the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos. I want to show you impressions of the two that we visited ourselves.

Mojácar

Interrupted by blurs of colour of the flower pots hanging on the house walls and the black lacquered window gratings, the visitor does see an ocean of white buildings.

The narrow roads lead us from one affectionately planted courtyard to another, until we stepped onto a small marketplace, surrounded by cozy cafés.

I guess Mojácar is the town that many travel guides recommend and will be visited by lots of tourists during the summer season. But in general, the best time for an Andalucia travel is spring and autumn – also because of the hot temperatures.

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On my trip Spain I was allowed to take sunglasses from Lunettes to test with me. Maybe you remember my blogpost about vintage eyewear, as I found my new pair of glasses at the Berlin based brand last year! In this post I also write about tips when looking for a good, high quality pair of glasses.

A good UV protection is of great importance in summer – something that glasses from cheap, mass fashion shops often cannot provide. I especially loved the Le Flâneur model, which I wear on the photos below. I do really like sunglasses with light frames, matching the summer fashion and blonde hair.

My dress with matching jacket is a 1940s piece (which used to be a nightgown / housegown). The thin, light material is just perfect for hot summer days.

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The beautiful twig necklace with a crystal quartz stone was handmade by Melina from Good Looking Objects. Her delicate jewellery is a recommendation from the bottom of my heart!

https://lunettes-shop.de/Lunettes-Kollektion-oxid/Le-Fl-neur-sun-toffee.html

Frigiliana

Frigiliana is much more quiet than Mojácar. The visit for us, before the holiday season started, was very calm and recreative.

Andalucia travel tip: When you visit the villages by car, you should not directly drive into the centres, as there is not a lot of room. But you will find parking facilities at the entrances into town, and everything is within walking distance.  

In Frigiliana and Mojácar we found lots of arts and crafts shops, which offer different souvenirs than the typical fridge magnets or way too expensive key chains.

I was very happy to find a hand-painted brooch and red-golden earrings, decorated with wooden pearls. They will remind me of our wonderful trip when I wear them back home!

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One of the lovely arts and crafts shops in Figiliana. The silence in this idyllic town was so recreative! 

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Málaga – Picasso’s cradle

I was especially looking forward to visiting Málaga during our stay. The place, where one of the most important Spanish artists saw the light of the day, simply must be something very special!

In fact, Málaga has lots of charme and so many different facets, that everyone does find his or her personal highlights in this city.

In case you are thirsty for an ocean breeze and modern architecture, a walk along the port „Muelle Uno“ is the perfect activity. One can enjoy a Café Cortado (an Espresso mixed with warm milk) at the seaside and visit the Centre Pompidou exhibitions.

As modern as the port may look today, it was already installed 1000 BC and from that time on has been a trading place for wine, oil, almonds or fish.

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The living houses in the city centre are gems on their own! 

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The upper photo shows the Casa Natal, the birthplace of Picasso. It is situated directly at the Plaza de la Merced, a central market square built in the 19th century. 

Malaga Andalucia travel - Reisebericht Andalusien (25)Andalucia travel – tip: It is worth to stay more than one day im Málaga! We found a low-cost airbnb in the city centre and experienced a fun night in the very crowded, noisy city, had lots of Tapas and watched the inhabitants party all night long.

Of course my personal highlights were the  birthplace of Picasso as well as the Museo Picasso. Pablo Picasso was born on 25th October 1881 in a town house at the market place, which was built in the 19th century. His parents were a family of the upper middle-class.

The house was restored in a beautiful way, though there is hardly any furniture remaining from Picasso’s days. Nevertheless, I found the visit of the exhibition very interesting.

The very thought of walking through the halls and up the staircase, where one of the most influential artists of history made his first steps, was a very impressive experience. The exhibition in his Casa Natal tells the story of his backgrounds, and the story of his family. We also learn a lot about Picasso’s parents.  His father, a painter himself, influenced his son in his artistic development.

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The Museo Picasso displayed in the Palacio de la Buenavista. Of course I could not take pictures inside the exhibition. Right around the corner there’s the Roman-Catholic church of Málaga.  

Malaga Andalucia travel - Reisebericht Andalusien (25)If you want to follow Picasso’s tracks, I also recommend visiting the Museo Picasso. The exhibition at the Palacio de la Buenavista erected another monument for the most famous son of the city. Picasso bequeathed the city around 200 works with the wish of having an own museum at his homeplace.

Christine Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law, asked for a typical Andalusian building for the exhibition. A newly founded trust has these works at its disposal for 50 years now.

It was grandiose to see lots of less known artworks, which he created in the first years of his career and which mainly follow completely different genres than the cubistic oeuvre that we know from Picasso today. Personally, I was missing some of his important creative periods in the exhibition, at least in form of texts or displays – to get a full impression of Picasso’s life and works. Nevertheless, I can absolutely recommend a visit to the Casa Natal and Museo Picasso!

Some other aspects we enjoyed on our trip to Málaga were the numerous restaurants with their tasty – sometimes even vegan and gluten-free – Tapas offers (you definitely need to try those!), the mixture of various architectural styles, which shaped the complete city centre, as well as the short walk to all the historical highlights.

The view from the medieval fortress over the city is breathtaking. On its foothills lies a Roman amphitheatre, which is worth to visit as well.

Andalucia travel tip: When visiting Málaga, you shall of course not miss the „Málaga ice cream“. It is made of raisins, which have been soaked in Málaga wine. 

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The Plaza de la Merced. All around the market place one can find great Tapas bars with delicious offers. At this place the birth house of Picasso is situated as well. 

Below you see the plant splendour of the Plaza in the sunset. The leaves of this beautiful rain tree reminds me of the sensitive plant. 

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The view over Málaga while standing on the hill of the fortress.

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Even the beauty of nature and architecture should not take away from the fact that the unemployment rate in the South of Spain is very high, even one of the highest in the country and Europe. Especially heartbreaking is the big number of homeless, skinny cats sleeping between tourist attractions, cars and rubbish bins, looking for food in deep despair. An aspect that is hard for me to forget, as an animal – loving cat mum.

Something very positive we discovered on our tours with the car were the impressive landscapes and nature conservation areas. We had several stops, which was very relaxing after a few days in the crowded city. We enjoyed the silence and loneliness of the Sierra Nevada and the coast and had some strolls trough the countryside.

The Andalusian Landscape

Actually, Andalucia offers the greatest variety of nature in the country! About 20% of the area are conservation areas. Half of the region consists of forests, especially olive trees are very well represented .

Maybe you also read Paulo Coelho’s book „The Alchemist“*, which is actually one of my favourites. It is a unique, wonderful story about destiny, dreams and the deepest desires of our hearts. The book begins in the landscape of Andalucia, where the young shepherd Santiago decides to pursue his very own legend – guided by the east wind levanter.

A masterpiece, whose lines and atmosphere followed me on our journey through the Andalusian nature.

„The levanter was still getting stronger, and he felt its force on his face. That wind had brought the Moors, yes, but it also brought the smell of the desert and of veiled women. (…) The boy felt jealous of the freedom of the wind, and saw that he could have the same freedom. There was nothing to hold him back except himself.

The sheep, the merchant’s daughter, and the fields of Andalusia were only steps along the way to his personal legend.“

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

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The view from our rooftop over the fields of Andalucia. We are very lucky that my boyfriend’s grandparents built and lived on this property for decades, so we could spend our holiday there for free. 

In the distance you can see a tree nursery on the left, for plants like fig-, pomegranate or citrus trees. Lots of wild rabbits live there, hopping through the bushes, and in the twilight we could watch lots of bats flying around – they are such amazing animals!

The Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada is, together with the Coto de Doñana, one of the two large national parks of Andalucia. In the area of the Sierra Nevada extend some of the highest mountains of the Spanish mainland. Over 2.100 sorts of plants flourish there, that is why the Sierra Nevada is enjoying the status of an UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The national park is very popular among winter sports fans, while in summer lots of mountainbikers and and hikers explore the hilly nature. On our way back from Málaga we drove through the Sierra Nevada and were very fascinated by the gigantic mountain ranges, the all over empty highways and the numerous olive plantations.

Fun fact: Did you know, that Spain is the biggest olive oil exporter in the world? They produce about 44% of the worldwide offers. While driving through the mountains we passed olive trees for miles and miles. 

Dreamy Seaside– the Costa del Sol

The sun-spoiled Costa del Sol is one of the most popular Spanish holiday destinations. We passed one of the largest touristic centres, Torremolinos, and had some breakfast at the beach. Already in the middle of June the beaches were very busy, while the temperatures were climbing up to 30°C.

The landscape of this region is beautiful, but when you wish to have a calm and relaxing holiday, the Costa del Sol should not be your first choice, especially in the summer season.

What I really appreciated about this part of Spain was the accessibility. At „our“ beach in San Juan des los Terreros, we found some wooden tracks and a plain platform directly on the beach – made for wheelchair users, to make the seaside also accessible for disabled people as well. The focus on accessibility was present everywhere we went, even in smaller and larger villages.

So I think Andalucia is a great recommendation for those who have to plan their holidays with these aspects in mind!

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What more do you need to be happy than a good book, sunglasses and the sea? By the way, this is another one of the Lunettes sunglasses that I recommended. It is the Chiqueria model, while the lenses are held by a transparent nylon fibre. I love this pair, as it is timeless and goes well with my 1930s, 40s and 50s fashion. 

 I am sitting in one of the lonely bays that we discovered on our tour. Even in the main holiday season one can avoid the mass of tourists while driving along the coast and looking for such hidden places!

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Andalucia travel: Further highlights

Of course this cannot be an all-embracing Andalucia report – this area is simply way too gigantic and diversified! As our home for the two weeks was situated at the borders to Murcia, we mainly explored the East and South of Andalucia. Here you can see some further impressions, which simply were too lovely to not post them.

On our next journey I would like to visit Córdoba and Sevilla as well, which seem to be two incredibly beautiful cities. But what kind of anticipation would it be, if we had already seen everything at once?

We also had a short day trip to Lorca, which is part of Murcia. The most impressive monument there is the Castillo, a medieval fortress which rises above the city. But also the busy centre with its colourful, historical buildings, small boutiques and – just like in other Spanish cities – always clean pedestrian zones – did impress us a lot.

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In the cathedal San Patricio of Lorca. The Plaza de España, which extends in front of the church, is lined with lovely living houses, though unfortunately most of them are empty.  

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Below you see the market place of the idyllic town of Vera. A small, family owned restaurant put all those chairs and tables onto the place. We had Tapas, picked from a handwritten menu, while watching the first World Championships match of the Spanish national team.

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I want to thank you for following me on my written journey through the beauty of Andalucia. Maybe I could give you some impressions about the specifity of the Andalusian nature, the numerous historical sites and the Mediterranean atmosphere. 

In my second post, I am looking forward to showing you around the amazing grounds of the Alhambra!

Alhambra Andalucia travel - Reisebericht Andalusien

My Andalucia travel post part two is in progress, this one will completely focus on the impressive Alhambra in Granada. Here you can see a little sneak peek of the overwhelming architecture.

 

Further travel posts: 

On the trail of the British Empire – A day at London’s V&A
From Naples to Pompeii – A journey into a 2000 year-old world
A gem of German Classicism – Weimar and the Duchess Anna Amalia Library

 

 

*In this Andalucia travel post I used an affiliate link. In case you buy something via this link I will get a small percentage of the profit. This does not change anything for you, it simply helps me to maintain my website and keep it free from banners.

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