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Friday, May 20, 2011

Southern Spain | May 2011 - Part 3

May 13, 2011 (Granada)It was a bit cloudy when we woke for our last day in Granada. Today we explored the Albaicín, the old city on the hillside opposite the Alhambra. The narrow Carrera Del Darro snakes along its namesake’s river. Our first stop was at El Buñuelo, an 11th Century Moorish bathhouse. Its star-shaped openings in its vaults were unique. On Cuesta del Chapiz we caught the bus to Mirador de San Nicholas for sweeping views of the Alhambra; afterward, a meandering, cobblestoned stroll back to Plaza Nueva.
Lunch was again at Restaurante Centro on Place Bib-Rambia near the cathedral; then wobbling back to Palacio de los Patos about three.

In order to be considered for the intrepid travelers’ of the year award, we felt obligated to see one more sight in Granada; choosing Monasterio de la Cartuja, it did not disappoint. Founded in 1516, the church is a Churrigueresgue marvel, topped by it amazing sacristy. We took the #8 bus back to Gran Via, walked home and drank to our good fortune on the patio. It would have been a tragedy to have missed this.

Dinner was again outside at the hotel’s restaurant; we were too tired to go anywhere else.

May 14, 2011 (Granada – Marbella)
We had a wakeup call at seven, packed, had a light breakfast and on were on the road by ten. It was an easy two hour drive to the sea; we arrived to the Marbella Club at noon. It is a large compound, highly recommended by Paul and Jane in London. The weather was wonderful, a sunny 72°F; we walked a bit to get our bearings and had a kier royale at the pool near the beach while our room was being made up. Around 1:00 we were given our key to room #245, a spacious suite; were at the pool by two; a light lunch of grilled tuna, very good.
The complex has two pools, a large salt water by the sea, and a smaller more intimate fresh water further up from the beach; we initially at least, prefer the latter. May’s sun was gentle; and apart from the disruption of a group of ten loud, indiscrete Americans, we had a peaceful afternoon. The staff seems attentive.

We walked back to the beach and the hotel’s pier in the early evening; then had dinner at the Grille.

May 15, 2011 (Marbella)
We had a nice breakfast on the Grille’s terrace; the weather was a bit overcast and windy as we took a morning stroll along the Mediterranean walkway. By eleven we were at the pool, and had a nice lunch, accompanied by a pleasant rosé, a 2010 Rioja from Muga. In late afternoon, the sun returned. In all it was a relaxed day: reading and snoozing. The pool here is not really set up for lap swimming; it’s more for just dipping and a quick cool off.

Dinner was at the Grille again; tonight beef. The highlight was the Ribero Del Duero 2005 Hacienda de la Monasterios Reserva, a combination of tempranillo, malbec and cabernet sauvignon; blackberry, licorice and espresso flavors – fantastic! I have to thank Paul for the recommendation.

May 16, 2011 (Marbella)
The weather is not cooperating; after a ½ hour walk we were to the pool on a cool and cloudy day. We had another nice lunch and did some reading, but the lack of sun certainly took some sparkle out of our time here.
Dinner was in the Grille again tonight; definitely not the “A” team doing the service, slow, inattentive and sloppy describes it. The 2006 Alion from Vega Sicilia was the highlight.

May 17, 2001 (Marbella)
After breakfast we decided to take one more trip. On the road before eleven, we snaked north up the switchbacks of A397 through the rugged Serranía de Ronda; in about and hour and a half we were to Ronda, a picturesque town straddling a precipitous limestone cleft. It was one of the last Moorish bastions, finally falling to the Christians in 1485.
We walked across the Puente Nuevo, an 18th century feat of civil engineering, toured the famous bullring, inaugurated in 1785, and the Santa Maria la Mayor, a church built on the site of a 13th century mosque.

I had read about a restaurant that had gotten rave reviews; we stopped at Restaurante Tragabuches on Calle José Aparicio, near the bullring. The tasting menu turned out to be creative and wonderful; our second course was “cresta de gallo,” which is actually the red fleshy skin of the rooster’s plume, or cockscomb as it’s called. It was served in small stewed pieces in a truffle sauce, with parmesan foam; tasting like plump mushrooms. We actually aren’t as adventurous as it sounds; the maître de told us what we had after we had finished. The only drawback to the whole meal was that we had no wine; I was driving.
Our last trip to Ronda was in the mid-nineties with Chrysler; it was good to return and update our memories. About five we left and retraced our route back to the Costa del Sol and Marbella. It was a nice day; we reminisced about it at the hotel’s bar over a glass of Chardonnay.

Dinner was again at the hotel, the wine from Ribera Del Duero the highlight.

May 18, 2001 (Marbella)
The forecast was for cloud with occasional rain for our last day, and the weatherperson didn’t disappoint. After breakfast we arranged for our rental pickup by Europcar and lazily read our way to lunch; which was at the MC Café. Reading continued accompanied by heavy rain from about three to five o’clock. We resembled the sloth for most of the day.
Dinner was at the Grille again; a good final night ending with nightcaps in the bar.

May 19, 2011 (Marbella – London)
We were up at seven to an overcast day, packed, breakfasted, and we were off to the Malaga Airport. Our British Airways flight was excellent, arriving early; Masood met us and whisked us into London. Everything in the apartment was fine; we were glad to be back.

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