Another a-ma-zing day on the coast of Spain! This morning we took a trip west along the coast in our trusty Opal headed for the town of Nerja. Our plans included a visit to the Balcony of Europe, which is an outcropping of land which held a castle and a fort until the earthquake in 1884. An English-Spanish fort built in the 1800s to defend against Napolean helped protect the harbor along with 7 canons. When the earthquake destroyed the fort and the adjacent Moorish castle (built in the 9th century), the 7 canons fell to the sea. 100 years later, two of the 7 canons were recovered from the sea and placed on the Balcony - one facing East and the other facing West. There is also a statue here of King Alfonso XII who came to Nerja following the earthquake and mobilized the community to dig out of the rubble and rebuild. As he stood on the site of the ruins, he looked to the sea and marveled at the beauty of the view - calling it the Balcon' de Europa. The views are indeed beautiful - enjoy the pictures.
Our main reason for visiting Nerja however was to go on a three-hour Quad (4-wheeler) tour led by a British expat named Carl. I found out about Nerja Quad Tours on TripAdvisor and it looked like it would be such fun. Carl's place is in the country, so GPS is worthless. Instead, here are the instructions that were found on Carl's website, abbreviated somewhat for space sake. "Exit the motorway at Nerja/ Frigiliana, turn right towards Nerja, take the first right at the roundabout with the large brown tower, go straight down the hill, take 2nd right onto a country lane with stables on the left, follow the lane around parallel to the motorway, turn left into Little Weed Allotments, follow concrete track down to the left past the red British Phone Box on the right and you have arrived at Nerja Quad Tours." Easy peasy, right? Actually it was, but you had to be there to believe it! I suppose you may be asking "what are Little Weed Allotments?" Well we had to ask as well. They are small plots of land that locals can lease and use to grow plants, vegetables and fruit trees. Neat concept!
Our host, Carl, his wife and three daughters live in a cozy home outside the allotments. During the winter when the tourist season slows, Carl and his wife play music in a band. In the summer, Carl leads multiple tours a day. Steve and I were the only ones on today's tour, and the son of one of Carl's friend's came along for the ride. After a basic training class, we headed out. We rode into the hills of Spain - away from the tourist-y areas - along small paths, across shallow streams, straight up hills, and straight down the other side! We rode up in the mountains and came to a spot that overlooked a valley and the white hill town of Frigiliana.
Carl gave us a bit of a history lesson. During the time of Franco, the Guardia Civil often carried out raids on small towns such as Frigiliana - the men of the town guarded from the surrounding hills while the women and children stayed in the town. As the Guard overran the town, the men, women and children would head up the cliff and throw themselves to their deaths as this was a preferable way to die than at the hands of Franco's Guard. After the fall of Franco, the mayor of Frigiliana ordered all houses to be painted white (no other colors are allowed) - the white is meaningful as an attempt to cleanse the memory of darker times.
We continued our ride even higher into the mountains and the air grew cooler. From the highest point, we could see five different towns! We stopped at an unusual restaurant on top of the mountain that is shaped somewhat like a white Hobbit house. Those of you who know me well know that I have a fascination with bathroom signs - I hit the jackpot at this place - see the pictures - LOL. We rode on and rode through the town of Frigiliana to see it close up. Then it was a quick sprint back to Carl's house and when we were almost there, we came upon a herd of goats coming up the road at us. You don't see that everyday! Back at Carl's house, our three hours had flown by - definitely worth it in every way!
Our four-wheeling adventure caused us to work up an appetite so we went back to the Balcony of Europe and found a little restaurant overlooking the balcony. I had fresh calamari and Steve had lasagna. Yum! Then we headed back to find Opal and rode back to our resort. After a short rest, we headed out for a walk in the park across from the resort and strolled along the boardwalk as the sun began to set. A lovely ending to a wonderful day in the south of Spain!