Published: June 17th 2012June 17th 2012
June 2012 – 17th
After saying goodbye to the Danish couple who we had spent an enjoyable evening with last night at the bar in the campsite, we headed away from Granada on the A92G and then turned off at Jct 211 to head for Montefrio. A pretty little road and after crossing the river we were immediately surrounded by the Spanish olive groves. Lovely rolling hills of different colour soils all dotted with olive green trees! Montefrio appeared, nestling among the hills on a rocky outcrop – quite stunning! Montefrio, as well as quite a few other villages are known as the frontier of Granada and were used as lookouts and to protect Granada, eventually succumbing to Christian forces in 1486 and the fall of Granada in 1492. Climbed up, past the old tombs, to the Iglesia de la Villa and then the tower, to be rewarded with some fine views looking down on the town and its huge domed central church.
After a drink and free tapas ( pork and potatas pobre) (that’s lunch sorted!!) we then drove out towards Illora to try and find the Neolithic site of Las Penas de
los Gitanos. Turned off the road after the stone bridge (as instructed by the tourist office!!) and after a drive uphill on a dirt track for about 1km arrived at an old farm house where the dogs announced our arrival! An old man appeared and basically said we were in the wrong place and we had to go another 4km on the road! Back down the track and 4km along the road, there is a sign for the dolmen tombs but the entry was 10 euros and it had to be a pre-arranged visit! At this point we gave up although we could at least see the rocky outcrops where the stone age people lived (3000BC) and where the cave paintings have been found !!
A drive then across the hills and olive groves (more of the same!!) past Algarinejo situated in a valley, and then back up over and down more rolling hills until we eventually reached Preigo de Cordoba.
A very pretty old town with its narrow winding streets and tiny patios, whitewashed walls and adorned with plants and flowers. Walked around the 9thC castle and then up into the main street past its many fine
Baroque churches and merchants houses to La Fuente del Rey. This is a 16th
C fountain that pours water into a number of basins that were added in the 18th
Century. A very peaceful place but nothing like Ballagio at Las Vegas!! On the way back we also visited a manorial town house where the first president, Niceto Alcala Zamora of the second Spanish Republic was born and lived.
Anyway, the guy in Tourist Information told us that the campsite we had earmarked at Carcabuey had closed 8years ago and the nearest one was at Los Villares in the mountains, but that we could park in their ‘Aire’ at the Feria ground near the bottom of the town for the night, which is what we did!! (86miles)
The next day we went back into Preigo to a) do some food shopping b) have a look at the meat market with its stone spiral staircase and a few of the church interiors. Very glad we did because instead of the usual dark catholic churches, these had all been painted inside in white. They were all of baroque style and quite spectacular especially the Inglesia Mercedes and the Inglesia de
la Asuncion which had a couple of amazing white chapels with dazzling scrolls, cornices and white stucco work climbing upwards to a white balcony.
The meat market was also worth a look and it also gave us free entry to the castle which also then had to be done!! Interesting little castle where you can climb up to one of the towers........
Back to the car park – we had spotted a couple of cats earlier with three young kittens so Chris had bought some cat-food for them, which I am sure they appreciated!!
Drove to Zagrilla-alta – supposed to be a very pretty village, but apart from a pond and square there wasn’t much else there. Stopped for a drink and tapas before driving past Fuente Alhama to Luque – another castle topped village. We were going to walk up to the top but it was 2.00pm and very very hot! And we could see the path had no shade at all!
On to Zuheros, where we walked up into the village to see the obligatory Moorish castle built into the rock at the top and then had a quick look at the gorge where
there is a 14km walk to Cabra.....another time when its cooler maybe! Nice little village though and worth seeing.
Baena was our last stop where we had a wander around and then found an Olive Oil factory (The Nunez de Prado Mill, Avda de Cervantes 15) where we stumbled upon some men who were bottling the olive oil! The guy in the office said we could have a wander around – some of the equipment they still use is 18th
Century. The tour was somewhat limited, as there was a private function, with all the guests in flamenco dresses – Jackie took a pic of 2 of them on a motorbike !! Chris bought some of their finest olive oil to take home.
There was no campsite at Baena so we had no choice but to go to Cordoba – 64 km and @ 6pm an hours drive away (Camping El Brillante 26.40 euros with no elec!!) as that was the nearest campsite. Not very brilliant either, as electric was an extra 5 euros and no wifi!! (81 miles)
The next day (Sat 16th
June) Chris had found in a guide book an old palace/alcazabar/village to visit
called Madinat al-Zahra. It was built between 936AD and 961AD by Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III who spent a 1/3 of the annual state budget each year (for 25 years) building a complex that is 2000m long and 900m wide housing a palace, zoo, aviary, 4 fishponds, 300 baths, 400 houses as well as workshops, gardens and a mosque. Unfortunately after his death and the continuing feuding and revolts, the complex was looted in 1010 and then burnt. What remained of ‘Old Cordoba’ was looted for centuries for the building materials and all that remains now are foundations and reconstructions in Seville. There is enough archaeological work there to last several centuries I would think and a fascinating place to stroll around and let your imagination wander!
We then drove up to try and find an 18th
century Hermitage (Las Ermitas), but somehow we missed it, so back onto the E5 to Bailen and then N322 past Ubeda along a ridge with wonderful views both sides of rolling hills with olive groves against a backdrop of the Sierra de Alcaraz.
After yesterdays fiasco we decided to camp early and headed for the Embalse del Tranco in the Cazorla National
Park. A very pretty drive winding road wended its way downwards and along the side of a gorge for 20 km, with a rushing river at the bottom. Jagged rocky mountains with olive trees staggering half way up and pine trees made for some quite dramatic scenery. Stopped at the first campsite outside Tranco – Camping Rural Montillana. (17.80 euros) Unfortunately no wifi and an empty swimming pool!!, but a nice tranquil rural site with a restaurant! Had a 6km walk along the road above the lake admiring the views and then a meal on the restaurant terrace. Also saw a bright green sort of lizard that the restaurant owner said was a lagarto and only found in the Cazorla region. (155 miles)
June was fathers day and I have forgotten to post the card that I brought all the way from the UK! Sorry Dad !! Anyway – a short drive round the lake to Hornos, a village perched on top of a rocky pinnacle. Walked up to the obligatory castle and then down into the old village and church. Too hot to do too much walking so after a lunch fiasco where we
tried to order tapas but the restaurant owner deliberately misunderstood and started serving huge ranciones of salads and plates of cheese etc........ So if you ever visit Hornos DONT go in the restaurant next to the car park!!!
Drove on towards Segura de la Sierra described in the guide book as “ a village perched on a conical 1100 metre high hill top, with a romantic castle, beneath which the tiered village streets seem in danger of collapsing into the olive groves below!” It was certainly a dramatic sight and well worth the drive up where we had a slow wander around (the castle shut at 2.00pm so we didn’t get that far!!) up to a primitive rectangular bull ring and then down to look at a 15th
C Renaissance fountain and eventually found the old arab baths. Difficult to see the baths as they were in complete darkness but took some flash photos!
Back out onto the N322 and about 60km to the campsite in Penascosa. Another lovely rural campsite but this time with free wifi!! (20.40 euros) There were a few clouds gathering in the skies but we decided to take the 300 metre hike up (literally!!)
to the village to see if there was anywhere we could eat. Found Bar Isabel and asked what tapas they had....bacalou – yes and also tomate so we ordered. Well – the bacalou came out and was completely inedible!!! There was a burnt head and tail of a fish - it was cold, chewy and uncooked and the tinto de verano I had ordered was just watered down cheap red wine! Chris had the pork dish with tomato and a beer that wasn’t too bad so we shared that, but then she then had the cheek to charge us 10 euros !!! We then had to come back and have a meal at the restaurant on the campsite! All in all a really bad food day for me and being ripped off twice doesn’t make me a happy person although Chris, pragmatic as ever says put it down to experience and contribution to the economy of the poor villages of the area!!!
There are more photos below