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Las Alpujarras

9 Mar

Last weekend was Mick’s birthday – not giving anything away, but it was a biggie!

So I decided to book a weekend away for us with some friends.  Most of us had not been there despite being here for such a long time, but it has been on our list for ages, only just over 2 hours away and is an area of magnificent beauty.

We set off in the morning on Friday, and then stopped for coffee in a lovely little village en route – there are hundreds of places along the way to drop in for a drink or tapas or lunch.  John and Heidi had already been to the town where had a second stop for lunch, and ate in the same restaurant. There was a fantastic menu del dia for 10 euros, bread and olives, huge salad with the most amazing tomatoes like you have never tasted, meat or fish and usually a stew of the day is on offer, plus dessert and coffee.  This is common all over Spain– instead of having a ghastly cheap hamburger or fried chicken for lunch, virtually every bar and restaurant has its own menudeldia where almost everyone can afford to eat – they range in quality, but generally the standard is high.  We hadn’t really planned a big lunch as we were booked into our casa rural (country hotel) for a 3 course dinner, but we couldn’t resist and tucked in.  We left there at 4 pm– oops!

We then made our way to our destination in the Alpujarras, a village called Mereina, took several wrong turnings and ended up going the long way around, along the top of the mountains, with the most incredible views (the next day, we discovered that had we not gone that way, we would have been recommended to because of the astonishing scenery.  So finally we arrived in the tiniest village and found our little hotel, Las Chimeneas (the chimneys).  It was very lovely, and actually we had our own “house” between the six of us, with a living room and wood burning stove in two rooms.

The village itself was a little disappointing, as at this time of year you don’t really want to be driving at night in the dark around hairpinbends and so there was nowhere really to have a drink before dinner.  Luckily we had bought wine with us to have in our living room, before walking across the tiny square to the Las Chimeneas restaurant for dinner.   I should say that in the Spring and Summer months this would be lovely to stay, particularly if you are walkers or birdwatchers and really want some peace and quiet, but at this time of year, say from November to end of March I would choose to stay somewhere a bit larger with more life.  The plus points of staying here were the magnificent views from the house, (on a clear day you can see Med and the Atlas mountains beyond), the clear mountain air, and the total peace and quiet.

The next day we planned our trip around being out all day, finding somewhere for a big lunch, and buying something delicious for our supper.  We headed off after breakfast to a largish town called Ugijar.

It was situated at the bottom of the mountains, and so instead of looking out on a view, you looked up to the green alpine hills and snow capped mountains – just gorgeous.  The town was bustling, being Saturday morning and actually reminded me more of France than Spain.  There was a tiny market with lovely fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and a couple of good little supermarkets and butchers (where we bought Jamon from Trevelez village even higher up from where we were staying.  We bought local fruity olive oil from the Bodega (wine merchants) – 5 litres for 12 Euros (about £10).

We had a coffee break on a lovely terrace where we planned our route to get to Alqueria de Morayma near Cadiar for lunch.  John and Heidi had already been here and so we knew it would be good.  It was.  It was a little rural complex, all on its own, with lots of little apartments surrounding the restaurant and bar.  It was the most beautiful day and so we were lucky enough to have lunch outside.  It was just a lovely experience and a place I would highly recommend both to stay and/or eat.  Again though, it is a drive to any village or town and so once you are there at night, you would probably stay put.  I could have easily stayed a couple of days.

Then it was back home – the mountain air had made us all a bit sleepy and so some of us had a siesta and later Mick, John and Graeme got our dinner all laid up for us, Jamon, bread, salad, cheese and wine of course!  Bliss for me.

We left the next morning after breakfast – we could have taken a long drive home, with lunch to break up the journey, but we had the mutts to collect in the late afternoon and settle in at home again before the working week. We drove over the top of the mountains and saw the snow that makes Sierra Nevada such a popular place to ski and the forbidding castle at Calahorra.

Las Alpujarras is really the most beautiful area – it is made up of hundreds of villages and fewer larger towns and really is worth a visit if you like tranquility, mountains, pine trees and endless views.  We really felt like we had had a proper break, even though it was only a couple of days.  We will definitely go back again.