Thursday, November 20, 2014

Flâneuring in Fuengirola

Spain in November was an impulse choice: a last burst of warmth before winter grips England, and a generously-offered apartment in this coastal town wedged between Malaga & Marbella. I expected the downside would be a touristic culture but we found Fuengirola totally delightful, and most people we met were locals who communicated exclusively in the language of their land.  And the weather obliged, always warm and mostly sumptuous blue-skies and dazzling sunshine.  Days began with cafe con leche, usually in the cafe by the children's park where green parrots squabble in the palms.
And then exploring, finding splendid squares with fountains and statues, ochre & golden buildings, tile-paved alleys lined with orange trees, or paddling sandy beaches beyond the long promenade... and fabulous drives up into the hills, destination almost irrelevant as every route revealed valleys rich in their moorish heritage of irrigated olive groves, and the amazing rocks of the 'natural parks' of the Montes de Malaga.
Ronda, renowned for its history and views, is intriguing but the most commercialised place I've ever visited with the possible exception of Californian gold-rush Truckee, but we loved the icing-white buildings and narrow streets of ancient Istan. Bohemian little Ojen was a great find too, and Caminito del Rey, walkway of the kings, across a narrow gorge high in the hills by El Chorro. We discovered some fascinating places by using an out-of-date SatNav as our map and navigating randomly, based loosely on the time-for-a-caña-and-tapas?-that-bar-looks-nice.... principle.
Another unexpected delight was Fuengirola BioPark, literally on our doorstep, which boasts so many species I scathingly anticipated plastic replicas or else uncomfortable confinement but actually all the (very real) animals seem content in their spacious authentic habitats: my favourites were the stunningly beautiful big cats, the exuberant chimps, the beautiful binturong (surprisingly lively for nocturnal creatures) and the antique-looking Nile crocs and Asian alligators... but every creature was worth lingering to observe as they flew, crawled, climbed, swam, rested or ~ like the baby talapoins ~ scrambled and swung around on an assault-course style playground.
I can't say much about the restaurants as neither David nor I are foodies so meals weren't a priority with so much to see & do, but we enjoyed the workers' lunch-time deal in El Ancla, a little bar near la Plaza de los Chinorros ~ a popular evening venue perfect for people-watching ~ and some sensational tapas at Bar la Placa called como me pica la chistorra which apparently translates as 'mince my sausage'...  Tapas usually arrived with the caña, which varied in size around roughly half-a-pint, and wine is poured unmeasured and with charming abandon. Best of all, you never need to eat indoors, with open-air cafes where you can get breakfast for 2.50€ and every bar has tables in the street.
Back home now, and it seems strange so short a journey divides grey England from this vibrant sunshine city with palm shadows patterning the pavements of  pedestrian-friendly, cleaned-daily, streets, public gardens and parks offering free exercise equipment and wifi, and every corner a photo opportunity... Frome is twinned with Eden of course, but right now I'm missing Fuengirola.

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