Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Flickr

Caves of Nerja, Burriana Beach and Last Dinner

Friday 13 March 2015 & Saturday 14 March 2015

We have until today enjoyed warm sunshine but the sky is overcast today and there is a strong wind blowing.  Luckily we have planned to spend the morning visiting the famous Caves of Nerja which were discovered in 1959 by some local teenagers.  Today there is a rather more formal entrance and descent using stairs and a tour around a small number of caves.  There are a further number which are not publically accessible where research and study is undertaken.

The caves contain many fantastic examples of stalactites and stalagmites many formed into columns which have taken millenina to come together.  Indeed in the fifty years since discovery the shape and extent of them has probably hardly changed to the visible eye.

The accompanying audio tour gives a good explanation of the discovery but also of the history.  The caves were occupied from about 40,000 years ago until about 4,000 years ago and are now known to contain some of the oldest cave paintings in the world.

I find the caves to be drier and warmer than I had expected, indeed on emerging I feel a greater need for a coat than I had experienced underground.

Getting good photos in the Caves is not easy – so the number here are limited.

And it is now colder although it would be even chillier at home.  So that puts paid to the sunbathing and getting browner and also kills off any idea of more sugar free ice cream!

So we head over to the other beach at Burriana – all good going and near the end there is a massive long downhill zig zag to sea level.  On the edge of the beach are numerous restaurants and all are doing some form of barbecue.  “Ayo” is recommended and is famous in that the owner is one of the five boys who nearly 60 years ago discovered the caves we visited earlier.  We take a look at the others but decide to eat in Ayo.  As we wander past it they are cooking the most enormous paella – the pan is so large that it takes two people to lift it off the fire (which is being fed broken down wooden pallets!).  And it is clearly hot and well liked as we see numerous portions being delivered from the pan.

We are always contrary – I wanted some prawns and I receive five of the largest prawns I have ever seen.  A plate of the paella was €6.75; my prawns were €15 which was about the most expensive item on the menu.  But plenty for lunch as we have dinner booked.

Going back to our hotel seemed a lot harder – that nice zig zag down is a much harder crawl back up the hill.

Come Saturday night it is time for our last restaurant outing, this time to Bakus in Calle Caballero.  This is about half way to Burriana without the descent to sea level.  Indeed most of Nerja is fairly flat, but way above sea level.

It does not open at lunchtime and not all evenings – so checking in advance and booking is essential – particularly as it was full on the evening we were there.  The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the steak which was just right and a good piece of meat.  The lowlight was my head!  I stood up to go to the gents and my head collided with a low flying lampshade.  Which my wife then noticed was missing a piece of the glass of the lampshade.  I spent several moments looking for the missing piece and finding nothing before going on my original errand.

On my return my wife advised that in fact the piece had been broken some months ago with a wine bottle and not with my head that evening.  I think they need to be a little higher!

The wine list had a range of wines from about €10 to €30 – very different to UK prices.  Not really recognising any of the listed offers we asked the waiter for a suitable red to go with the steaks we had ordered and he pointed at us at a Tempranillo for €15.  Bear in mind this is about £12 at present.  Tell me of a restaurant that even sells a wine at that price in the UK.

Having had a good week on the food and drink we also enjoyed this final meal and the total bill was around €90 including the tip.  This maybe expensive for Nerja, but is exceedingly good value for money in most parts of the world.  We enjoyed our meal and it was noticeable that even at this relatively quiet time of the year the restaurant was full by the time we left (we always eat early).

On the way back into town we stopped off at a little bar my wife had been eyeing up all week.  Basic – but a good Rioja is €2 for a glass.  They also cook flaming sausages at the barrel top in front of you.  We did not partake have already eaten well, but I think it will force my wife to return to this part of the world.

Great food, great wine and good value prices.  Must be time to go home.

More soon.


Tuesday 10 March 2015

Not far from Nerja is Frigiliana – a small town a little way up in the hills from Nerja.  There is a bus service with a simple fare structure – €1 for the ride there and the same back later.  It takes about 15 minutes from the Nerja “bus station” – a somewhat overblown description as there is one stop on each side of the road and the buses do not stop anywhere else in the town!  I suppose they are stationary whilst at the stop.

Waiting the other side of the road when we arrive in Frigiliana is a road train and this costs €3 each (that seems expensive after the bus ride) for a trip around the lower part of the town with a running commentary and some stunning views in all directions – we failed to spot the oft mentioned pink chapel, however.  If we return we might see it – anyone got any pictures?  Tell us what we missed.  The caves of Nerja are famous (and we will be going there later in the week), but we are also pointed at some local cave entrances in the distance.

Now it is time to climb up into the old town.  Almost immediately we are climbing up steps – fairly gently – but we are heading upwards.  My wife has been here before and tells me that “Le Mirador” restaurant is at the top of the old town and before long we pick up signs telling us which way to go.  As we ascend we see some carefully maintained corners and areas of plants and flowers.  Hopefully some of the photographs have made their way onto my Flickr page.

We are still going upwards when we pass a nice looking restaurant sign – but it is not lunchtime just yet; a little further up there is a guitarist playing outside another restaurant with signs to other bars and so on.  Anyway the steps seem to lead upwards, but then suddenly we are on a little slope downwards and just a bit further we reach ‘Le Mirador’ and it is on the dot twelve.  So could be lunchtime.  We ask for a menu but we are advised that food does not become available until 1.  If we just sit in the sun and drink it might be overdoing it by the time lunch arrives.  So we decide to go for a bit more of a wander and we find another restaurant but the wife was unimpressed by the smell so we depart and find we are going down and not along the way we came up.

Going down is easy, too easy.  We end up below the level at which we started this exercise and way, way out of town and as we walk back towards the town centre there is no access back into the old town.  And time is passing.  Eventually a huge set of steps and steep and UPWARDS.  We are heading in the right direction and eventually start picking up the signs for Le Mirador again but long before we get there we reach Oshun and seeing the sign we reckon this might be worth trying.  So we stumble in the front door and out the back onto a very nice terrace and a wonderful view.  And it is very definitely lunch time!

So go and look at the photos which are here.

The menu is studied but we are also offered some specials of the day and mostly this sounds better than the menu.  Our waiter has spent some time working in London and has pretty good English.  My wife orders the rabbit salad, with the rabbit wrapped around asparagus and then an outer wrapping of bacon and cut into about eight slices.  I order the octopus in galician style and this is just my cup of tea –  slices of octopus in olive oil with some paprika.

The main courses selected were cod baked in the oven for me and because she has so enjoyed the seea bass the previous evening in Nerja my wife ordered it again for lunch.  What she forgot to check was the filletting situation.  When it came the sea bass still had all of its bones. Luckily foresight (never order the same meal as the wife just in case) meant that there was a solution.  I got to eat the sea bass and my wife consumed the cod.  Inevitably I got the odd mouthful of bony bits and sadly my wife always thinks cod is fairly tasteless; but I felt both pieces of fish were well cooked and well presented and I had no problems at all eating the sea bass – it just saved me have to order it somewhere else during the holiday.

The waiter recommended a rather good bottle of white wine a rueda verdejo which comes from Northern Spain and this provides a very good accompaniment to the meal we had chosen.

A word about the waiter, when we sat down he kindly moved a chair for us to put bags and hats and so on to the side – in full view but also off the floor so that he did not tread on them.  Very thoughtful.  Also his English may not have been perfect but he tried very hard to ensure he described the food – and no doubt it was those explanations which led to us largely eating the say’s specials.

A cup of coffee each.

The bill including tip was €90 which for the quality of the food and service was excellent value.  If you can find it without getting lost first then I am sure it will be equally enjoyable!

We walked down the steps again and visited the local art exhibition and museum.  On her visit last year my wife nearly bought a painting and hoped it might still be there.  However the exhibits had all changed and so that opportunity had gone.

Time for the bus back to Nerja and a wander down through the streets which at 4pm are just coming awake again after the siesta break.  We have enjoyed a wonderful day in the sun shine (for the time of year the temperature is probably well above normal) but we pass the local residents still wearing the overcoats and woollies – we have been in T shirts and shorts all day.


Navigation Day

Day 14 Monday 29 December 2014

We spend the day steadily heading along the river towards Vietnam.  During the day we cross the border and our passports (which were collected at the start of our journey in Siem Reap) have to be put through passport control.

One of our number (the aforementioned Brazilian) has apparently suffered a leak in her Manhattan apartment which has been discovered and requires urgent attention so she disembarks in Pnhom Penh before we sail and heads for the airport and a local flight to Saigon and then back to NY.  Some of us suspect there may be more to this than meets the eye as she gives my wife a “Ciao” as she departs hardly having spoken to her since we boarded.

My day is however improved by a trip around the lower deck containing key matters to making it a successful journey and also to the bridge – so there are photos over at Flickr.

This is the newest cruiser in the fleet having been delivered on 31 December 2013 and entering service on 6 January 2014 so it has improvements over the earlier vessels.  In particular the crew now have small shared cabins under the kitchen (so on level 1 – the same as our cabin) and do not sleep in the level 0 under our cabin.  They have external access to fresh air which must be far more preferable to the original arrangements.

Food stocks are largely refreshed at the southern end of the journey as the boat is Vietnamese owned (and laoding at the north end difficult as it does not reach Siem Reap at the momen) but fresh vegetables are bought at most stops and some fish I think.

Being a floating hotel the water supplies are important.  Cooking itself uses bottled water.  Water supply for the cabins is taken from the river and double cleaned by various methods before use.  A partial supply is then treated a third time before being used for cleaning of kitchen surfaces and so on.  The waste water is collected and the solid waste is pumped out at the southern end of the journey, whilst the liquid waste is treated and is returned to the river cleaner than the water brought on board.  Hot water for the cabins is achieved by using power from solar panels.

There are two large diesels running when we are under way and there are also two power generators but only one is used at a time but both are used regularly.  Fuel consumption rates are not small either.

Moving to the bridge the controls are fairly simple.  There are only two screw propellors – no side propellors – and sideways movement or turning the boat is achieved by using them in different directions.  Our speed is faster downstream at about 17 km/h – this reduces to about 12 when against the current, so time spent navigating is therefore greater when travelling in the other direction.

There is a wheel but most of the activity is controlled by a small joystick being pushed either left or right as this gives a finer degree of control.  The crewmember responsible largely navigates by sight in the daytime but there are radar scanners and other equipment to hand – although it all seems remarkable bare in the bridge.

There are three staff on duty normally – an engineer in the bay next to the engines (he ought to wear ear protectors as he will end up deaf!) and two on the bridge.  Actual shift lengths vary slightly as it depends on the length of each period of navigation but are typically not more than 3 hours at a time.

Crew wages are considered good for Vietnam – but the vessel only operates for part of the year.  However there is turn around at both ends and so the ship is effectively in non-stop operation during the summer.  It seems however that a lot of the team (particularly in the kitchen) are return members from last year as they are given the first choice for the next season.

The front of the boat also seems to have a small herb garden – just like a Vietnamese house.

We carry on sailing.