I began my nomadic adventure exploring Europe in October 2014. I recently realized that breakfast is my favorite meal when I visit local cafes. Not only is it my favorite meal but it also has become almost an obsession in what I eat. While in different cafes I have met some very interesting personalities who have helped me understand and appreciate their respective cultures. This story is about my breakfast obsession and the friends I have made as I have crossed Europe and found several mouth-watering breakfast delights.
The Medieval Town of La Alberca, Espana
I recently blogged about my adventure when I participated in “Pueblo Ingles.” I reserved my comments in that blog to my observations about the English immersion program and the students. However, there is more to my story about the nearby medieval Spanish town of La Alberca. This blog entry is about my exploration of that tiny Spanish town and my adventure there.
Located at an elevation of 1084 meters, the town with a population of around 1100 is rather isolated in La Sierra de Francia mountains close to the northern border with Portugal. The principle product in this region is delicious Iberian Jamon (ham) which is produced in the area from black Iberian pigs that grow fat eating acorns. This diet gives the ham a very special, enjoyable flavor that is savored by Spaniards as well as those from around the world who are fortunate to experience it. Hams are seen in several shops in La Alberca hanging from the ceilings.
During my explorations of Spain I have visited several Spanish communities and blogged about Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, Canary Islands, and Mijas Pueblo. As I walked the narrow cobblestone streets of La Alberca I was taken aback by the distinctive architecture of this community in comparison to the others I mentioned. While Cordoba and Granada are colorful and reflective of an integration of Moorish design and Mijas is a spectacular white, traditional Spanish pueblo, La Alberca, founded in the 1300’s, is dark and has a somewhat French feel. It is one of the best preserved Spanish towns of the period.
The half timbered buildings surrounding the Plaza Mayor and nearby narrow streets and alleyways are different as their materials come from the quarries and forests of the mountains. The town goes to great lengths to retain its medieval charm.
The Knights Templar had a presence in La Alberca. Today there are myths and legends about the “monk soldiers” who participated in the crusades and provided safe passage for pilgrims to the holy land. On the Iberian peninsula they also created a strong trading infrastructure, a banking system, and fought for the Spanish kings in the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims.
The town of La Alberca has a tourist interest as it is preserved in its architecture, food, and customs. For those exploring Spain it is a welcome transition into the Middle Ages from the modern communities of Spain and Portugal.
The next stop in my exploration adventure is Romania where I will be searching for Dracula. Stay tuned!
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My Mijas Adventures and Experiences
Goodness how quickly the winter months have gone by! It seems like a few hours ago that I returned to my “Costa del Sol” mountainside perch overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In a few weeks I will be gone from the charming Mijas Pueblo. Over the two winters here I have become very aware that Mijas is a place that is tantalizing for the senses and that’s what this blog is about. I hope in reading this you will sense what I have and that Mijas Pueblo and the Costa del Sol will become new stops on your bucket list.
Recently I had lunch in the USA with a colleague. He pointed out that I have shared images and words about many of my Spain journeys to Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, and the Canary Islands but had documented my Mijas experience only in a limited way. So with this blog I share the sensations of the village I call “home” from having “wintered” here for the past two years.
Mijas Pueblo is located on Spain’s southern Mediterranean Sea coast and the nearest city is Malaga, Picasso’s birthplace. Gibraltar is located about 70 kilometers further down the coast. The village buildings are almost always white and the town is situated 450 meters above sea level on the side of a 1600 meter mountain.
Remnants of ancient civilizations dating hundreds of years BC are evident along with artifacts from times when the area was dominated in succession by Romans, Visigoths and Moors. The village name is derived from the Roman name “Tamisa” which was shortened to “Mixa” and ultimately “Mijas.” Today, tourism is the principle economic resource of the community with thousands of people arriving everyday from every part of the world. In the oldest part of the pueblo stood a fortress and parish church that also served as a watchtower. Today, the church is still used but the original settlement area is now a park, the Parque La Muralla.
Parque La Muralla is flooded with crisp mountain air and overlooks that provide spectacular panoramic views of Fuengirola and the Mediterranean coastline. On clear days the Rock of Gibraltar and the mountains in Morocco can be seen. Beautiful semi-tropical vegetation flourishes in the park and provides pleasant fragrances among the walkway paths and flowing water. Climbers often scale the rocks to the top where the park is located. I love this park as an excellent place to find stillness sitting on a rough rock seat and listen to the birds and running water. Even the tourists are mesmerized into silence by the stunning beauty and views found here.
There are numerous visitor attractions in addition to the vistas, old white buildings, and roughness under one’s feet on cobblestone streets. “Burro taxis” have been in existence ever since tourists began to arrive in the village. At one time the “taxis” were a means to get around but today they are an attraction. Many people hold their noses around the burros but I find the donkey smell brings authenticity to this old community.
There are many other smells wafting through Mijas like fresh baked goods, street vendors roasting their almonds in a sweet sugar mixture, and delicious foods cooking at Gambas where the “menu” lunch on the hidden second floor terrace is only €7.25 including soup, bread, entree and wine!
The wind often howls through this community, stiffening the flags, and swaying their poles. Walking with the wind at your back is so forceful it makes you feel like a human sail! And when it rains on the mountain, water gushes through the ravines toward the sea. I have been thoroughly soaked in the drenching downpours. As storms and wind approach, the villagers lock themselves inside and the town vendors scramble to bring their pottery and leather wares to indoor safety.
Mijas is thought to be home to around 7500. This seems like a high number as it includes many from the UK who either live in Mijas or own holiday property here. As I leave the town for my next exploration, I will miss many people. Steve and Brenda run the shop called “Tickled Pink” and they have tolerated my consulting pontification. They are very friendly folks and when you come to Mijas be sure to stop in.
Bruno operates “Bella Vista” and everyday makes my usual €3.70 breakfast called the “Andaluz” which is “pitufa con tomate, zumo de naranja, y cafe con leche.” It is a delicious natural treat found in this town. Fares Jaber at Clinica Mijas is the town doctor and has watched out for my well-being. He is my age and a new grandfather. He always stops me on the street to shake hands and to ask how I am doing. Joanne and David from “Mijas Rentals and Sales” have found places for me to stay in the village and have been great helpers even when I have locked myself out.
I will miss Mijas’ sounds… the rooster crowing daily at sunrise, the donkeys and their incessant screaming hee-haws, the small brass band from which sounds crisply spring over the pueblo during Sunday bullfights, bells jingling on horses clomping along pulling carriages transporting visitors through the streets, bells tolling from the three barrio churches, the town hall quarter-hour chimes, the sensual Spanish acoustic guitar player at La Alcazaba lunch (with exceptional lasagna and tapas), the sultry screaming guitar with clapping castanets at flamenco dance exhibits, and the butane delivery people honking their truck horns as they drive through the narrow, one-way village streets yelling out “bu tan oh” from the driver’s window.
I have enjoyed visiting “Mayan Monkey” for superb ice cream and hot chocolate made from real Belgian chocolate and I like dropping in on one of several bakeries for afternoon snacks and a tea or cafe latte. It has been nice living in Mijas, walking through the streets and being acknowledged by the villagers with warm greetings in Spanish which I return in Spanish too.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my Mijas explorations and the impact on one’s senses. My next adventure on leaving Spain at the end of March will take me on a new exploration as I seek to learn more about Dracula and Vlad in Transylvania. I will travel to Budapest following my next trip from the USA and then journey by bus or train to Romania and the small city of Cluj-Napoca which will be my base through April. From there I will launch my next adventures and the new explorations with blogs to come about them.
Return to Mijas Pueblo, España!
This week I returned to Mijas Pueblo, Spain on the Costa del Sol near the Mediterranean Sea. Last year I “wintered” in this small village that is perched on a mountainside overlooking the city of Fuengirola and the valley leading to the sea. When I left Mijas in March, I reflected that I felt like it was “home” to me.
I established several relationships with people living in the Mijas community last winter and I felt that in many aspects I became interested in things that occupy the minds of the residents. If you follow my blog you also know that I had exceptional experiences over the spring and summer months in Austria. But I am happy to return to Mijas Pueblo and on the very first day found myself comfortably fitting in!
After stopping by the rental office and retrieving a bag I had left there, I found myself reconnecting. I once again went to Bella Vista, my favorite small cafe on the Avenida de Mejico leading into the pueblo. Bruno works there and he recognized me, we greeted each other, and in Spanish asked if I wanted my usual… pitufa con tomate, zumo de narajna, y té. Of course!! And then yesterday near my favorite grocery store I found one of the black cats that was a kitten last year.
It is nice to be home for the winter months. I am planning to explore more this winter than I did last year and have been identifying places that I will venture to from my home base in Mijas. As I conduct my explorations, I will post about them here in my blog. As always, if there are things you would like me to write about in my explorations, just email me or, like Peter and Linda, plan a trip to come visit!
There is a lot to see and do.
Reflections as I Near the End of My Stay in Mijas, Spain
In the waning days here in the pueblo it dawned on me that I think of this as my town. I know the town doctor and the people at the Bella Vista know what I like to eat for breakfast. Alfredo, the butcher at the market knows me and shakes my hand as we meet on the street and asks me how I am. Brenda and Steve at The English Tea Room are always friendly and enjoyable to talk with. Of course, Joanne, David and Martin who rent the place I am staying, are very helpful. I even have a taxi driver and butane delivery contact in my phone!
Today I realized that I was very comfortable in the pueblo. I have answered tourist questions like I knew what I was talking about! But most important to me was that I have become fascinated by the tourists just as the local people are fascinated by them. I sat for a while in Constitution Plaza and watched them. As a cruise ship tour group from Japan was in town today I realized they were enjoying the very same things that have drawn me to Mijas… the beauty of the town on the mountain, the white exteriors of the buildings, the cobble stone streets, the horse-drawn carriages, the donkey taxis, the husband and wife making and selling churros, three for a Euro, at the Plaza near the bull ring and park with its old fountains
As the sun shown on the buildings, I reflected on the initial time I saw the pueblo and how lovely it is. The numerous orange trees still have oranges on them and the air wafts with the aroma of street vendors roasting nuts. Today I had my traditional pitufa con tomate breakfast as I gazed at the valley, the massive Mediterranean Sea, Fuengirola, and the beach below.
On my return to my apartment I stopped for bread just out of the oven. Like a local, I knew when it was ready and had my plastic bag ready to carry my items away, just like the local people do. In the final few days here in Mijas Pueblo I feel like I have become a local resident.
As I move to Krems, Austria in a couple of weeks I am certain to further reflect on my adventure in Mijas Pueblo on the Costa del Sol, the warm beach,, the mountains in Morocco that can be seen on a clear day, the beautiful sunsets, no snow, and many other things. It has been a wonderful place to stay.
Update from Mijas Pueblo, Spain
Here’s an update on my adventure following retirement. Read about what’s happening and my plans for my next stop.
It has been several weeks since I blogged about my odyssey to obtain my residence card from Spain. Hopefully, when I go to the local police station to retrieve it on 16 February, everything will be found to be in order and I can be granted residency.
A lot has transpired since my last update! Recently I was out for a walk and on a whim just decided to begin hiking up the 1600 meter mountain I live on (see the photo). You may recall from a previous posting that I did this once before in October and got thoroughly soaked. This time I took a different trail and went a good deal higher up the mountain than I had previously. Probably I made it half way up. You can see a picture of the white pueblo in the photo from Fuengriola, Spain. As you can see in the other photo, the views from the side of the mountain where I went to are terrific! Mijas is the white area in the lower left corner and the Mediterranean Sea is in the middle left.
I could have gone much higher on the trail but decided to not for three reasons. Since I was really out for a stroll, I didn’t have proper shoes as the trail became more challenging. I also hadn’t brought along water (not a good idea on a hike) and I didn’t bring any protection if it rained. The getting wet part really was the clincher as the clouds became threatening and were enveloping the top of the mountain. I went back down the mountain to Mijas and it promptly began to rain. I had made a good decision to return when I did!
Other things have been happening also. One day in December I lifted a canister of butane incorrectly and developed a hernia. My tests are complete and my worldwide medical coverage is in place so I am to have surgery on Thursday to fix it. The surgeon, anesthesiologist, and staff are all women and so far the process has been very efficient. I admit though that I am more involved with the insurance company than I would be in the U.S.
Finally, my stay in Mijas will end on 31 March. I have made my next plan to move from Mijas on 1 April. My next stop then will be in Krems, Austria where I will stay for two months. I will post more about Krems in the future. It is a lovely town of about 25,000 inhabitants and is located on the Danube River about an hour by train from Vienna.Here are a couple photos.
That’s all for now from my adventure after retirement! I don’t think about work at all!
Entrances to Mijas Pueblo Homes
The residents of Mijas Pueblo take a great deal of pride in keeping the village clean and attractive. Almost daily the women are cleaning the stoops leading to their homes. In today’s blog I want to share several of the entry ways to homes in Mijas. Sometimes the decoration is very simple but as you can see from the photos, there are times when the residents get very creative and occasionally carried away with the plant decorations.
Visits to Fuengirola, Andalucia, Spain
On December 5 I received my Non-lucrative Residence Visa from the Spanish Government! Obtaining the visa was quite the challenge with two in-person visits to the Spanish Consulate in New York City and numerous forms, letters, documents, translations, photos, and certifications. In total I presented about 1 inch of documentation and paid several fees to get the visa which is good for 90 days (in addition to the 90 days permitted by the normal tourist visa). Within that time, I have to complete two additional forms, pay 15.30 Euros for taxes, get finger printed, register as a Mijas Pueblo resident and obtain a residency card that will permit me to stay for a year.
This morning I went to Fuengirola to the local Policia Nacional to get moving on the application process for the residency card. Fuengirola is the sea-side resort town which is about 7 kilometers down the mountain from Mijas Pueblo. I have been there several times since October and am today posting photos taken on various trips to town and one looking up the mountain at Mijas Pueblo.
In Summer Fuengirola has a large number of tourists mainly from all over Europe. On my first trip to the town in September it was quite hot in the 90’s and even today it is balmy in the low 60’s. Pictured is a woman getting a beach massage in October for 10 Euros. For those curious about the photo, all beaches in Spain are top-optional for women and approximately 20% choose the option.
There are several statues in Fuengirola and included is a photo of one taken at the port and one of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (of Columbus fame). Currently oranges are now ripe and several streets in Fuengirola are lined with beautiful orange trees, mixed with Christmas decorations.
I am planning to visit Gibraltar this week and will be posting another blog after doing so. Also, I want to thank Marigold for nominating my blog for the Liebster Award. I have not met Marigold but enjoy her blog and I will post more later about the nomination. Meanwhile, please visit Marigold’s blog at http://versusblurb.wordpress.com.
Traffic Jam and Optimism in Mijas!
Today is cool in Mijas Pueblo, Spain with the temperature in the fifties (Farenheit). It has been raining on and off for the past two days BUT I am thankful there is no snow. Yes, living in a place where there is no snow is something to be thankful for. I will be able to see snow in the mountains all around me this Winter but the weather now is likely as bad as it will get until Spring. In living in Mijas I think about my family and friends and the stark weather contrast with the Northeast US. For me the last two Winters put me over the edge with snow and was a motivator to find places to live where it would be by choice to be in it! It will be nice to enjoy snow-capped mountains at a distance!
As I said, there has been a lot of rain the past two days. People just take it in stride. I have noticed among all the people here (natives, expats and visitors) a sense of optimism. In between it raining today I took a walk and I saw a woman putting her wash out to dry (no driers here). That’s being really optimistic as it could rain more! I also watched people optimistically dealing with a traffic jam today!
In a town that has few one-way cobblestone streets, a traffic jam must be a rarity! Well, today I saw one. It occurred were a single lane, one-way road (going south to north) merges for 20 feet with a single lane, one-way road (going north to south) so people traveling either direction can take a westerly road which is in the middle of the merge area. The merge area is large enough for only one vehicle. A delivery was being made to a produce shop at the intersection of these three roads. The truck blocked others going any direction.
How did everyone cope with the situation? They knew there was no other choice for a way to go. They knew that it was good to have that shop there selling produce. They knew that it would eventually get sorted out. And it did! I can imagine how this scenario could have played out elsewhere! Today’s picture is of the street going in the westerly direction where the Mijas six car and one truck traffic jam occurred. The pictured road is key to get though the village. It is one-way, cobblestone, and always shared by vehicles and pedestrians.
Forever thankful that it isn’t snowing here in Mijas Pueblo.
La Cucaracha (The Cockroach)
Some services are delivered in Mijas Pueblo in ways that are interesting to me. As a child I recall bread and milk being delivered to our house so it really should have been no surprise to see home delivery of some services in the village.
Bakeries have contracts to deliver fresh rolls and bread to restaurants and some individuals. I am uncertain how early these deliveries occur but I have at times gone walking before 7:00am and have seen bread hanging on doors as pictured here. This photo was taken at a house so can you imagine a large plastic bag of rolls and bread delivered to a restaurant also hanging on the door? Fresh bread is really important in this Spanish community.
Another experience I have had is the reason for the title of this blog entry. You see, the homes and businesses use butane to provide heat for cooking, hot water, and to warm the house. It is delivered in orange canisters that are similar to propane tanks in the US. One enterprise goes through town in a truck filled with butane canisters and residents come out to exchange empty tanks for full ones. The residents know he is there because he has wired his truck horn to loudly blast the tune La Cucaracha! It is just a unique way for the villagers to know that if they need butane to get it then!
That’s today’s blog entry. If there are topics you would like me to describe or reflect on during my adventure in Spain, please let me know.