Andalucia, Andalusien, Castellar de la Frontera, Castle, Gibraltar, hiking, Hotel Playa de la Luz, Medina-Sidonia, Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, Spain, Spanien, Straße der weißen Dörfer, Strait of Gibraltar, surfer, Tarifa, White Towns of Andalucia
Today’s trip took us to the south of Andalucia, visiting the beautiful castle of “Castellar de la Frontera”.
This was planned to be a “round trip”:
- on the outbound leg we’d cross the country and pass by “Medina-Sidonia” and the “Parque Natural Los Alcornocales” down to the Mediterranean Sea,
- and on the inbound leg, we’d be paying the “Strait of Gibraltar” a visit following more or less the Atlantic coast line home.
A great day trip and unlike our visits to Seville and Córdoba one we could take it easy and enjoy the beauty and the diversity of Andalucia – combined with a touch of history.
Travelling through Andalucia you encounter a lot of city names with the extention: “de la Frontera” (transl. on the border) –
- Jerez de la Frontera,
- Castellar de la Frontera,
- Vejer de la Frontera,
- Conil de la Frontera,
- Chiclana de la Frontera,
- Arcos de la Frontera.
This denotes that these cities actually have been demarkation lines between the moorish territory and the movement of the Spanish “Reconquista” in the 15th century.
We left the hotel around 9:30 pm – of course after a good breakfast – drove down the new A491 which now directly connects Rota with the highway to the south of the province.
It had been decided that we’d go straight down to Castellar – without stop in say: Medina-Sidonia or in the Parque Natural. M. and B. had visited this area in 2013 on a self-guided tour when participating in Manfred’s and my 25th anniversary celebration.
Leaving the “Parque Natural” behind us we could see the rock of “Gibraltar” to our right, but our first destination for today required us to take a left turn to the North-East.
The “Castillo de Castellar” is – as you may have guessed already – a more moorish than christian fortification and was declared Spanish Property of Cultural Interest in 1963. Manfred and I have already been there three or four times and we are enchanted by it every time we go there.
It is very well preserved – actually a little village of its own, with a hotel (I wonder why it has not yet been converted to a Parador) and people living inside the fortification complex.
One is not surprised to find that a good share of the village dwellers are artists of some sort: painters, sculputors.
There are actually three or four narrow streets – all inter-connected to eventually lead you back to the point where you started.
Standing on the thick exterior walls we took a moment to enjoy the beauty of the landscape around us. This region is very popular for “Senderismo” – hiking.
It does not really make sense to give you a blow-by-blow description of our movements here – that is why I decided to let the pictures tell the story.
Even though I would consider the place a gem, in all the times Manfred and I had been here, we had never seen more than a handful of people roaming the streets – which, I think, is a good thing.
I guess what attracts me to the Castillo is the peace and quiet compared to the buzz and noises of Seville or other touristy sites.
As for food, we were to get something to eat in a charming restaurant at the botton of the hill on top of which the Castillo resides: “Venta Jarandilla” . Unfortunately, – we were in bad luck that day – the venta was closed, so we had to think of something else.
When we came back from a rather disappointing day trip to Tangier in 2014 we had explored port “Tarifa” and had found a very nice bar/café with good food at a reasonable price. Quite unusual a combination for a tourist town such as Tarifa. We would take M. and B. there.
While it was sunny and cloudless “up north” in Rota, the Mediterranean part of Andalucia is defined by more clouds, strong winds and skittish weather. At the mirador we were exposed to really strong winds and the view onto the other side was somewhat “hazy” – not much to see, nothing worth taking pictures of.
Finally entering the city of “Tarifa”, blood sugar level had sunken to a dangerous low – we all needed food. We parked the car in a small public parking in “Calle San Sebastián”, crossing “Avendia Andalucia” and walked down the street to actually “enter” the former medina of Tarifa through “Puerta de Jerez”.
Now what a difference to “Castellar de la Frontera”, the streets really looked, felt and smelled like a bazaar. Mainly young tourists – “surfer dudes” and “surfer girls” mostly – Tarifa and the adjacent Atlantic coastline are surfer’s paradise – the Hawaii of Europe.
Small shops and boutiques with hip young cloths and surfer’s wear, hip cafés offering all sorts of healthy, young food to the strollers.
We made our way down “Calle Nuestra Señora de la Luz” rather fast, to turn left on “Calle Sancho IV el Brave” to the “Parroquia de San Mateo”.
A little touch of history here – as promised in the pe-amble of the blog entry.
Sancho IV of Castille (aka Sancho IV el Brave) was king of Castilla in the late 13th century after the Spanish “Reconquista”. His link to Tarifa is that he rescued the city from the siege of the moroccan Sultan of Marinids – who, and that is the delicate fact – took the city by invitation of Sancho’s brother Juan trying to snatch the thrown from Sancho. (There had been an earlier attempt, which had failed – even though Sancho had forgiven his brother Juan, the bastard turned on Sancho again – this is the stuff, modern telenovelas are made of. Some themes never seem to vanish.)
Well, the Sultan was defeated by Sancho and his troops, which engraved his name in the city’s annals.
While I was telling you all this – esteemed reader – our travel party had made a full turn in front of the Parroquia and had walked down Sancho’s Road to another point of (more) interest: the place I had told you about before – el Bar “El Francés”. And before you are misled – the owner Andrés Iglesias had worked in France for over 30 years – reason enough for his friends to call him “El Francés” (The Frenchman).
We were lucky and got the last table outside and were served fast by a native German waitress (certainly one that came down here to live in a more surfer-alternative life style – a late hippie if you want).
We had a couple of “cañas” and lots of aqua mineral con gaz – along with great food such as:
- Salmorejo con Remolacha
- Albondigas (you may guess, who had ordered those)
- Gambas de ajo (you may guess, who did not order those at all)
- Tortillas de Camarones
We finished up a delicious lunch with a couple of café solo and felt in peace with the world and strong enough to face the rest of the trip.
We walked down to the seaport, which is as well a yacht habour as the port of the Catamaran to Morocco,
and passed by the Castillo, where Guzmán el Bueno had lost his son during the siege by the Sultan (see above).
We then strolled down “Calle Guzmán el Bueno” to enjoy some a bit calmer – though not less touristy – streets.
In front of one of the boutiques waiting outside we met this little fella. The expression on his face – I guess – says it all: I am tired of all the fuss and it is too hot.
Having taken in what was to be taken in of Tarifa, we returned to the car just to admire the quite unorthodoxly way of moving around the parked cars to fee up space for leavers and joiners.
In no time we were on our way – headed home, decided not to take the country road along the coast but to follow the main road N340.
Shortly after we had entered N340 we could see the long and broad beach with white sand glistening in the mid day sun- predestined for all sorts of wind related sports.
No four star hotels could be found here… N340 is lined with camping grounds and low profile cheap surfer lodging. I guess when you are young, hip and a surfer you do not need the comfort and amenities of a good hotel – all you need is:
- your surf board,
- a couple of friends to have sex with
- something to smoke in the evening
But maybe I am thinking too late-60ies here and these guys are all tucked into bed by 8:00 pm.
During one of our first trips down here, Manfred and I had enjoyed the Trafalgar Lighthouse. Why not stop there and share that experience with M. and B.
To cut that story short – no access anymore to the lighthouse. We could have walked some miles along the beach, but a) there was no parking and b) neither of us felt like walking in the afternoon sun.
So, we turned the car around, passed by “Vejer de la Frontera” – one of the white towns on the “Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos” – you can plan an entire vacation around taking this route connecting the White Towns of Andalucia. Manfred and I took part of this route during our very first trip to Andalucia and we enjoyed it immensely.
At 4:00 pm our car came to rest for today, safely parked on the parking of the “Hotel Playa de la Luz”. As it was Sunday – we had done our week end shopping the day before.
Taking it easy for the rest of the day – enjoying a Vino at the swimming pool (me) and the beach (Manfred), what could be better.