About the Pilgrim’s Route
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching about 500 miles across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James in Santiago.
Every year hundreds of thousands of people of various backgrounds walk the Camino de Santiago either on their own or in organized groups. Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the Way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in churches and monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.
Without doubt at the end of their journey they will visit the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the relics of the apostle St. James are believed to be buried. They will also see Tarta de Santiago in the window of every pastry shop and restaurant.
About the Tarta: Torta de Santiago (in Galician) or Tarta de Santiago (in Spanish), literally meaning cake of St. James, and is an almond cake. The Galician name for cake is Torta but often the Spanish word tarta is used instead. It is made from ground almonds, eggs, and sugar, lemon zest, sweet wine and brandy.
Originating from Galicia in North-Western Spain during the time of medieval pilgrimage, this tart is traditionally decorated with the St James cross. With its wonderfully moist almond and citrus flavours, this torte makes a perfect dessert or partner to an afternoon café con leche.
It is a round shape and can be made with or without a base. The top of the pie is decorated with powdered sugar in the shape of the Cross of St. James, which gives the pastry its name.
At Cantueso we cheated with our photo and placed the cross on a slice rather than the complete cake! But at least you don’t have to walk so far 🙂
José Zapata Camacho our gardener has, in recent years, worked tirelessly bringing Cantueso’s much admired gardens up-to-date. He has replanted many flower beds and at the same time covered them with matting and gravel to minimise water evaporation. The harsh looking gravel is soon lost below the abundant flowers which are selected to give colour and groundcover throughout the year. He is a very experienced plantsman and chooses carefully, varieties that he knows will flourish under the wide ranging temperature and wind conditions that we experience at Cantueso. He is introducing lots of interesting and rarely seen plants.
Erythrina caffra: Many of the plants are grown from seed and one of the latest is the Erythrina Caffra, the coast coral tree or African coral tree. It is a tree native to southeastern Africa, and often cultivated in other countries with warm climates, it is also the official tree of Los Angeles, California.
As can be seen in our photos it is curently a very small plant and the thorns on the stem are there to prevent annimals eating the growing specimens. Once grown however it has flowers of various shades of red and crimson with equally colourful seed pods.
In South Africa, Erythrina Caffra is seen as a royal tree: it is a much respected and admired in the Zulu culture and is believed to have magical properties. Specimens have been planted on the graves of many Zulu chiefs and in parts of the Eastern Cape, local inhabitants will not burn the wood for fear of attracting lightning.
The African women of South Africa make the highly decorative seeds of Erythrina caffra into necklaces. Children also love collecting them where they are known as lucky beans. All coral trees produce a poison with a paralysing action, which is used medicinally to relax the muscles in treating nervous diseases. The seeds of all erythrinas are said to be poisonous, and the leaves of Erythrina Caffra are known to have poisoned cattle. The bark of E. caffra is used topically to treat sores, wounds, abscesses and arthritis. Open wounds may be treated with powdered, burnt bark; infusions of the leaves are used as eardrops for earache; and decoctions of the roots are used for sprains. The Vhavenda use the bark for toothache. Erythrina alkaloids are known to be highly toxic, but the traditional uses strongly suggest antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects
They sound like a gowing medical kit. We will of course have to wait a few years to see the trees great beauty and although tempting, are unlikely to try a medical remedy 🙂
There has been lots of interest in this tree and as we have plenty of seeds we will make them freely available to visitors to Cantueso. Just ask!
Car Hire: Most frequently we are asked to recommend a car hire firm. Our advice is to check via the Internet directly with companies based at Malaga airport (simply Google car hire Malaga Airport) and then compare the cost for those based within the airport. Many off airport companies are fine but being transported to their offices will delay you.
One problem in recent years is that most hire companies now operate a full to empty scam and if you are not going to use a tank of fuel this can be very annoying. They charge you for a full tank at exorbitant prices and tell you to bring it back empty. They know full well that you can’t and one imagines they will benefit not only from the high price charged but also from the half tank or so that you have left. You can sometimes argue against it and the more people that do the better.
Beware also of how you pay. Some companies will give you the option of paying when you collect or at the time of booking. In case you may not be able to get to the airport as planned it makes sense not to pay before collection.
At the beginning of every year we look forward to the new season and arrival of guests, always hoping that their experience lives up to expectations. It is therfore extremely rewarding to get positive feedback from people who have stayed with us. We normally give guests a questionnaire at the end of their stay and find comments very instructive and helpful with many improvements we have made resulting from them.
In this case the comments came via an e-mail from a family who stayed with us in March. Taking the trouble to write and let us know is so much appreciated by our staff and we hope to see you all again soon.
Subject: Thank you
Just wanted to drop you a quick line to say to thank you so much for a wonderful stay at Cantueso. We really appreciated how thoughtfully you look after your guests – not least (child’s name) and her allergies. You have a beautiful, special place.
As we didn’t have a pen we couldn’t fill in the customer survey, but we did take it back with us so here are our responses if they’re still helpful:
We heard about Cantueso online.
The directions were extremely helpful as the sat nav, as you predicted, would have taken us another way including up the dirt track!
The welcome was excellent as was the cleanliness of the house. Everything we could have needed was provided including the delicious evening meal and our survival pack.
The gardens, pool and terraces were excellent as were the children’s facilities. The toy store was particularly appreciated although some are maybe a bit overtired.
The restaurant was excellent across the board and the wine was especially good. Please pass on our thanks to lovely Anna and the chef for being so aware of (child’s name) dietary requirements.
Unsurprisingly we thought the staff were excellent too. We thought Cantueso was great value – just for the view alone!
Please do include us on your mailing list – we’d love to stay again.
With very best wishes,
Last week we were flattered for the second time in three years to see that one of the UK’s leading newspapers, The Guardian, included our cottages in their top twenty family summer holidays in Europe. Very pleasing for all our staff to hear that their efforts are appreciated.
This last year we have seen several returnees: families, one for the fifth time, and a German Tai Chi group (now booked for their fourth visit,) couples and photographers. One photographer Kees Laurijson has made several trips here and his stunning photos show just how things vary thoughout the year.
Some of his photos are now used on our website and can be seen on a previous posting here. Kees and his wife first came in April and then again in September and the difference in his photos is very striking. Always colourful, with green, yellow and blue in spring and then in September brown, orange and flaming red.
The Guardian article can be seen here:
During the winter months we have been very busy changing bathrooms and kitchens in three cottages and in another there has been a complete makeover with lots of other improvements to the terraces and gardens.
Please come and check us out!
For many years we have been driving to and from Spain with our dogs in the car and have always been pleased with the way they travelled. Not a bark or a whine over the two or three days we usually take to cover the 1400 mile journey.
This year however we faced a slightly different problem as we wanted to take Tom our one eyed campo cat back to the UK and we were not sure how he would travel. Would he be best in a small cage or as one person suggested with a harness and clipped to seat belts. But what about a litter tray and water? And what happens when you stop over in a hotel, with dogs that is not a problem but would a cat be ok?
Whilst pondering these matters a friend suggested one of the pet transport companies that regularly take dogs and cats in a specialist transporter to destinations all over Europe. At first we were sceptical that Tom would be as well cared for as with us, but after initial conversations with Diana at Paws Transport Services Ltd in Alhaurin el Grande, we were reassured that all would be well and that we were dealing with a professional operation.
All angles seemed to be covered, not just the logistics but also the regulatory requirements. Pet welfare is a priority and although they drive day and night, stops to walk the dogs are made every five hours. The cats are in snug cages with litter trays and water bowls, and air conditioning runs throughout the trip even when on the ferry crossing.
Paws offer a door to door service and once the transporter is in the UK a tracker device enables owners to see the progress and all pick ups and deliveries being made.
We were very concerned that Tom, who has only ever known the freedom of the campo, would arrive stressed but much to our surprise he marched around his new home and selected what has become his favourite armchair, and after a tasty snack settled down for the night. His four day journey seems not to have affected him in any way.
A mention should be made of the two drivers, Anthony and Steve, who despite their arduous journey were in good spirits and obviously take great care of their charges.
Tom says thanks for everything, including my free upgrade to a larger cage!
Further information about Paws can be seen here: www.facebook.com/
This week we were pleased to welcome back CTND from Germany for their third visit to Cantueso.
CTND hold a series of workshops throughout the week and find the tranquillity of our setting perfect for their specialist branch of Tai Chi which is an ancient Chinese system of health, martial arts, and mental conditioning.
The Chen Style Taijiquan Network in Germany was founded by Nabil Ranné and Konstantin Berberich both of whom have spent many years studying and teaching Tai Chi throughout the world.
Here in Periana they provide an intensive series of workshops teaching the first form (Yilu) in the tradition of Chen Fake, Chen Zhaokui and Chen Yu. The course is suitable for both beginners and advanced students.
CTND also hold seminars and workshops in several locations throughout Europe and further details can be found on their website: www.ctnd.de
Many thousands of photos are taken every year in and around Cantueso, and we even had a photo competition one year, which yielded many beautiful views.
Now however we have been able to go further with some aerial photography which we hope you will like.
Paul Lines, of Videodrone, was the photographer, and should you be interested in some unusual views of your property give him a call on 643 62 48 83 or e mail email@example.com
The camera and drone for those of you who are interested was a DJI Mavic Pro with 4K full HD camera (1/2.3″ CMOS 12MP 4K). This amazing camera/drone folds into a pouch about five inches square.
A short drive from Cantueso Cottages in Periana is the natural park of El Torcal. It is one of nature’s wonders, created over 200 million years ago and provides a fascinating legacy of that period, when Europe and the Middle East was still one continent submerged under the Tethys Sea.
No matter whether you are a geologist or simply a curious traveller, the landscape will amaze with its limestone constructions resembling a far off planet. For a period of about 175 million years, the build up of carbonate sedimentation continued with vast accumulations of shells, skeletons, and dead marine life. Over time these were compacted at various levels forming the horizontal limestone layers we can see today, and which have, since the retreat of the water, been shaped by water, wind and ice.
The fossilised remains of an Ammonite. A hard shelled sea creature that lived 200 million years ago.
Visitor Centre: Adjacent to the car parking area is the visitor centre which is a good starting point for your explorations. There is a small shop selling artisan products and a restaurant, which caters for the needs of the thirsty and hungry traveller with breakfast, lunch and dinner being served. Interactive displays offer an excellent guide to the area and explanation of special sights, and helpful staff members are there to further enhance your experience. You can also join a guided group from there.
Walking Trails: there are well-signed trails of varying lengths open to all. Off track walks are only permitted if previously authorised.
Nature’s Art, in abundance at el Torcal
Do I need a permit to walk un-guided? No, as long as you follow one of the five marked trails.
Can we hire a guide? Yes, a guide is available for groups of from two to twenty. Please check as guided walks are restricted in some months and your own group arrangements must be made in advance. See El Torcal website for details. www.torcaldeantequera.com/
What are the opening hours of the Visitor Centre?
From 1st October to 30th March 10.00 to 17.00 hrs.
1st April to 30 September 10.00 to 19.00 hrs.
During July and August the restaurant and observatory is open until midnight.
Can we walk at night? Only if you join a pre-arranged tour. There are nighttime events called “Nights to Awaken the Senses.” These evening tours start at 19.00 hrs with a two-hour walk along the route of the Ammonites followed by dinner, and finishing with a two-hour session in the observatory. The cost of about 30€ per person, includes guide, insurance, dinner and the services of an astronomer.
Where can I find more information? The official website is: www.torcaldeantequera.com/ which unfortunately is only in Spanish but using Google translate or similar you will get the gist of most things. Most importantly you will get the up-to-date information on special tours and events.
How to get there from Periana?
From Cantueso return to the roundabout and turn right taking the road out of the village towards Riogordo, then to Colemenar/Casabermeja/Villanuevo de la Concepción, and once there you will see signs to “Parje Natural, Torcal de Antequera.”
In total about 55 kilometres and just over one hour, driving at normal speed.
All photographs on this posting by kind permission of Don Bertolette.
As the season has just started and with the restaurant reopened after our winter break it was nice for staff to see such lovely comments as these posted on another website.
A beautiful and tranquil location with a bird’s eye view of the lake & fantastic hospitality!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
We spent three idyllic nights in one of the cottages on site. They are all arranged cleverly to take in the amazing views of Lake Vinuela. We had the most amazing view from our veranda and spent most of our time outside, by the pool or our three children would be exploring the many areas thoughtfully designed to entertain them; trampoline and crazy golf overlooking the lake, games room with table tennis, darts board, table football and a host of toys for smaller children. We adults were blown away by the standard of the tapas food that was served at lunchtime and overindulged both times we ate there. Nicky was a great host, very smiley and welcoming. The property had a rustic charm, very cool inside despite being unusually warm during our stay (27/28 degrees in April!) and well equipped with everything you’d need to cater for yourselves. It was lovely to be part of a small community of other cottages, with other families and children around. The pool was lovely with a good shallow end for smaller children but also a deep end for the children to dive into. We will definitely be back for another quiet getaway in the future. Thanks again for your hospitality!
Date of arrival 12 April 2017
On Sunday, 23rd April Periana celebrates its eighteenth Verdial Oil Day, which this year will again be attended by various radio and TV personalities. This celebration honours Periana’s extra virgin oil (verdial variety), offering visitors one of the best products in the land known locally as “liquid gold.”
On many stands, around the centre of town, this superior oil will be offered for tasting together with bread for dipping, and from 10 o’clock you may savour the free Miller’s breakfast. It comprises cod, beans and of course oil from Mondrón and Periana.
Visitors can also purchase other local products such as bread, brandy, sweets, seasonal fruits and meats.
Throughout the day there will be bands, prize givings, and children’s entertainment.
We have now added a timelapse view to our normal webcam page as shown above. It can be found below the live webcam picture here. You will also find more information about the local weather trends. It is interesting to note that our webcam generates up to 2000 viewers each week and on the www.webcams.travel website (which is our source of timelapse images) there were nearly 50,000 hits since 2014.
During the winter months when the Cantueso restaurant is closed we offer a personal chef service to guests staying in our cottages. It enables them to have a special meal cooked and delivered to them or cooked in their cottage. We provide a suggested menu but will cook to order any Spanish speciality (within reason!).
Paella is always popular and many treat it as a master class with it being cooked in front of them so that they can see the little twists that make it so special.
Over Christmas the Ter Maat family took advantage of this service and our chef Joel Falcone cooked a Paella for them.
Joel has been with us for the last 8 years and is responsible for devising and cooking our summer menu. When we re-open in March you will be able to try the Paella too 🙂
The Euro continues to move in favour of the pound sterling and other currencies which will benefit tourists to Spain this year. Today against the £ the commercial rate is about 1.42, the highest it has been for almost ten years. If we can put this another way, it is a good time to visit because not only are accommodation costs lower, but airfares also remain down due in part to reduced fuel costs. Food and drink will also be less expensive and of course house prices, which are already at bargain basement levels, will be even cheaper if you are converting from sterling.
Since the Euro was introduced back in 1999 it has had a chequered history with plenty of wobbly moments. In Spain Euros are sometimes called Pavo (turkey), “Lend me 20 Pavos” is rather like saying “lend me 20 quid.” And if you are lucky or wealthy enough to have some 500€ notes (the denomination of choice for the criminal classes) you may hear one referred to as a “Bin Laden.” Because apparently almost nobody has seen one!
We hope to see you soon with or without some Bin Ladens 🙂
From June 8 the UK two part driving licence will change. No longer will the paper part be valid and all convictions, classes of vehicle that may be driven and your penalty points record will now be held by the DVLC centrally. In some ways this is a welcome change and means you no longer need to carry that bulky paper part around in your wallet. However it may cause trouble when hiring a car abroad and at the present time there is no clear guidance as to what foreign hire companies will need or accept.
Before you travel abroad it will be prudent to ask the hire company what they need. The DVLC will allow you to look at your driving licence details online or even download a summary. There is also a facility to create an access code which is valid for 72 hours and this will allow a hire company to go online and check your details.
Go to the DVLC page “View your driving licence”
You can use this service to: view your driving record, create a licence check code to share your driving record with someone else, eg your employer or a car hire company
The check code will allow someone to see what vehicles you can drive, any penalty points or disqualifications, your name and the last 8 characters of your driving licence number. To get this information you will need your driving licence number, national insurance number and post code that is on the licence. Better to get this sorted out before you travel rather than stand in the car hire queue with your smart phone!
See also our blog entry regarding travelling to Cantueso from Malaga airport and our tips for avoiding those car hire queues.
In Spring of 2013 Dutch photographer Kees Laurijsen stayed at Cantueso Cottages and took some splendid photos of our complex and the surrounding area. We were very pleased to be able to share them on this blog and you can see the original post here.
Now this year Kees and his wife came back for a second visit and as before he couldn’t resist the photo opportunities. There are so many photos to admire and we hope that in the near future we will be able to make a slide show, but for now you can see a sample below. It is particulary interesting to see the difference the seasons make to the landscape; those panoramas that in Spring were so verdant are now glowing with oranges and warm reds. Kees came at the end of September and we had not had rain for three months, so no doubt one of the reasons why the colours of the soil are lacking in green.
Kees has a blog and you can see his entries regarding Cantueso here: http://www.kees-laurijsen.nl/
and his website here: www.kees-laurijsen.nl
We are always pleased to see walkers staying in our cottages and through one couple this week from Holland we have learned of Geocaching. We were quite surprised that we had never heard about this walking pastime, which turns out to have millions of enthusiasts worldwide. We then learned that there are quite a few “caches” in the hills around Cantueso and that a search tends to lead walkers to special areas they would otherwise not get to see. Dirk en Netty Eijlers from Pijnacker in the Netherlands took this “selfie” at El Torcal. They made several walks from Cantueso in search of caches and succeeded in finding all but one. They also mentioned that over the last few years they have found over two hundred caches in several countries. Phew, that must have involved a lot of kilometers!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is a game that reveals a world beyond the everyday, where the possibility of a new discovery hides under park benches, in the forest, and probably a short walk from where you are right now. The adventure begins by searching for cleverly hidden containers called geocaches.
There are more than two million geocaches waiting to be found throughout the world, in more than 180 countries. It’s easy for anyone from families to business travelers to top tier athletes to begin the journey by downloading the Geocaching app or visiting Geocaching.com.
• Watch the 75second What is Geocaching? video to learn more.
• Learn about the History of Geocaching.
Programme of Events
On Sunday, April 6 Periana celebrates its fifteenth Verdial Oil Day, which this year will be
attended by Javier Ojeda and Fran Perea . This celebration honours Periana’s extra virgin oil (verdial variety), offering visitors one of the best products in the land.
In many stands, around the centre of town, this liquid gold will be offered for tasting together with bread for dipping and from the 11 o’clock you may savour the typical miller’s breakfast. Olive oil based, with cod, beans and oil from Mondrón and Periana.
Visitors can also purchase other local products such as bread, brandy, sweets, seasonal fruits and meats …
• 10:30 AM Parade of the Municipal Band of Periana. Delivery of Passports and sealed “Singular Economy” all morning in the Plaza Alfonso XII.
• 11:00 AM : Miller’s Breakfast
• 11:30 Folk entertainment on stage in Fountain Square and Plaza de Alfonso XII.
• 1 2:30 Flamenco Performance “Nuria Martin”
• 13.00 Address 2014 by Javier Ojeda, vocalist of the band Danza Invisible.
• 13:15 Awards Ceremony 2014 Verdial Olivo.
Olivo Verdial Cultural Awards 2014 to Fran Perea , the actor and musician who is currently touring with his play’ Feelgood ‘.
Olivo Award Verdial Málaga to Stephanie Martin Palop , Provincial Coordinator of the Andalusian Institute for Women;
Olivo Verdial Axarquia Award to The Association “Hope” for Women with Breast Cancer in Axarquia
Olivo Verdial Award Informationto Gema Cold Luque for her Blog Periana and Districts;
Olivo Verdial Periana Prize to the Adult School “José Alarcón” ;
• 15.00 Tasting of typical products, enlivened with music.
• 17.00 h Concert 2014 OIL Falete.
There will also be a Playground for children.
Malaga Airport Road Changes
The final part of the new access road to Malaga Airport has been opened and means that there are now two ways in and out. Our website instructions are still valid but will be amended when we have had time to explore all routes and to note the road number changes which affect car hire pick up points. Google maps show the new layout quite well and might help to explain the following information.
As a temporary measure please note the following:
When leaving the airport from a car hire pick up point follow signs to Malaga and look out for either the MA20 (Ctra Ronda Oeste) or MA21 (Av Velazquez) roads signed to Motril and Almeria. If you follow these roads you will connect onto the A7/E15 motorway also signed to Motril and Almeria, as per our detailed instructions. We always recommend caution when using satnav because the new roads tend not to be “seen” and when you get to the point where we say keep left onto the A7 often a satnav will urge you to go via the Granada motorway which is slightly shorter but very winding. See our website How to Find Us Page.
Airport collections: Anyone collecting friends from the airport should be aware that there are now two ways to leave the usual collection area outside departures (yes departures!). As before you can go past parking P2 and keeping right go down the slip road to the brewery roundabout. However confusingly this slip road is now signed to Torremolinos and a fork to the left is signed to Malaga. This left hand lane leads onto the new arial motorway section and links up to the MA20. This is the link which has been open in the other direction since last year.
The completed works took five years and cost 61 million Euros and was funded by the EU. So as Jeremy Clakson would say we own it!
Malaga Metro Soon to Open
After many years of disruption caused by engineering work on Malaga’s new underground system there is light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 Sorry. The new metro should open late June or early July. Staff training and trial runs are already taking place.
Senderos de Málaga. (Routes of Málaga)
At Cantueso we have long played hosts to walkers and groups wanting to enjoy are wonderful countryside and now can announce a major new route which is bound to create lots more interest in our part of Andalucia.
A collection of 75 trails have been combined to make a new walking route circling Málaga which should be complete within a few months. So far 23 stretches are complete and signposted covering about 420km. The trails which are also suitable for cyclists makes use of existing walks and combines cattle tracks, riverbank paths, livestock routes and even royal rights of way. The first section starts in Nerja and goes as far as Ronda. The remaining sections will return to Nerja in a southerly arc. Apart from its length the route is unusual in that it passes through a wide variety of landscapes, seascapes, towns, villages and combines sections of varying difficulty.
The section passing by Cantueso and through Periana is already complete but as we write it is proving difficult to find route plans and further details so we propose getting some of our friends to walk the sections near Cantueso and then we will produce our own guides. These will complement our existing walking routes for the area which are already popular with visitors.
The routes are being signed with 13,000 information signs and 1,300 trail markers and has been funded in the main by the EU with a grant of 1.12 million Euros.
Please contact us for further information.
There are many things to keep a young family entertained close to Cantueso which are listed on our website, under ‘things to do‘. Below is a report by a young family who recently visited Nerja for a day out.
Our Day Out in Nerja
We decided to spend a day out in Nerja and having looked at the options decided to visit the Donkey Sanctuary and the Caves at Nerja.
Nerja Donkey Sanctuary
The Nerja Donkey Sanctuary has sadly had to close since this was written but animal lovers can see some of the original donkeys at El Refugio del Burrito. See www.elrefugiodelburrito.com for details. It is about 45 minutes drive from the coast near Fuente de Piedra which is famous for its Flamingo Lake.
Nerja Caves ‘Cuevas de Nerja‘
The Nerja Caves are a major tourist attraction and, judging by our visit, attract lots of Spanish people in addition to the many tourists.
The Nerja Caves are a large series of underground chambers which include the world’s largest stalagmite (the ones that rise from the floor of a cave) – an impressive 32 metre high column of rock. The caves were discovered by some local boys out watching bats in 1959 and have since been developed into a very well run site.
Entrance to the caves cost us €8.50 per adult and €4.50 per child (although children under 6 years of age are free). Audio guides are also available for hire, which explain the history, geology and facts about the caves. You enter the caves by walking down a wide staircase and instantly feel the cooler air underground. The cool air of the caves was a welcome change from the hot and sunny weather above ground.
It takes around 30-40 minutes to follow the well-marked path through the various chambers, including the large chamber which is used to hold music concerts in a spectacular setting. Keen amateur photographers would no doubt enjoy taking advantage of the spectacular scenes and unusual lighting in the caves.
The caves are very well signed from the motorway and from the centre of Nerja – from where it takes no more that 10 minutes to drive. Right by the entrance to the caves is a restaurant (which serves very nice ice creams), gift shop and a shaded picnic area and children’s play park. All of which means that it is possible to spend a very nice half a day in and around the caves, if you include lunch in the restaurant or take your own picnic.
For many years we have extolled the virtues of Cantueso as a base for walking and associated pastimes such as birding or photography, and to aid less experienced walkers we have our own route guides. Below we are pleased to include a report by Derek Polley on his walking and birding in Axarquia following his third stay at Cantueso during April.
Derek had previously been here with another group from Northern Ireland on a couple of occasions and thought it would suit his church walking group, so booked the complete complex. Derek explains: “This is purely a walking group, although walks are planned round lunch, and coffee on the way home. We have been called an eating group which does occasional walks!! My birding just happens as we walk although I have been known to pick a route where I know there will be good birds!”
Birding around Cantueso
As well as the birds which can be seen in or around the site itself, there are also a number of possibilities in the immediate area, and further possibilities if you are prepared to drive for an hour to an hour and a half. There is also the Guadalhorce Reserve in Malaga which is only five minutes from the airport.
The birds seen in and around Cantueso itself have been seen either in April or September. Obviously some of them are summer migrants and will only be seen from April to September, others are resident and can be seen all year round.
Residents include Collared dove, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Great tit, Blue tit, Spotless starling House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin and Goldfinch. Crested lark is the default lark in the area but do not rule out Thekla’s lark which occurs as well.
Summer visitors include Cuckoo, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, House Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped swallow, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Woodchat shrike
In summer it is usual to see eagles and other birds of prey from Cantueso. These occasionally hunt the valleys on either side of the complex. Expect to see Bonelli’s eagle, Short toed eagle, Booted eagle, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel in season. Griffon vulture is a possibility as well.
The walk along the old railway line to Ventas La Zaffaraya can also be productive. As well as common residents you can expect to see Griffon vulture, red-billed chough, black wheatear, stonechat, corn bunting, raven, peregrine, and in spring and autumn migration anything may turn up. I have seen spotted flycatcher, redstart, whitethroat, golden oriole and turtle dove.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area.
If you are flying in and out of Malaga the Guadalhorce reserve is only 5 minutes drive from the airport. It is well worth a couple of hours en route to Periana, or leave early and check it out before you drop the car off. It has a wide variety of wetland species and is a migratory stopover in spring and autumn. The list of species is long and varied and includes White-headed duck, Kingfisher, Marsh harrier, Yellow legged gulls, Black winged stilt, Glossy ibis, herons, egrets, ducks, waders and terns – including Gull billed. The reserve is good for breeding warblers including Zitting cistacolas. In summer it is very hot, there is very little shade, and if water levels are low there will be fewer species. However in April, May and September anything can turn up on migration to and from the Straits of Gibraltar. Google Guadalhorce and you will find a lot of trip reports with a lot of stunning birds, including a feral flock of Monk Parakeets.
All photos courtesy Derek Polley
We hope you will like looking through our new brochure, it covers areas that the website cannot, due to space, and will in future have links to videos and other connected sites.
We have noticed that both professional and amateur photographers just cannot resist the many photo opportunities that exist around Cantueso Cottages in Periana Spain, and this last month Kees Laurijsen from Dongen in Holland was no exception. He has kindly allowed us to show some of his photos here and because it has been so hard to select just a few we have added a link here to many more.
Like many other photographers and artists Kees found that the light in spring time Andalucia has a marvellous clarity, ideal for landscapes with mountain backdrops or lake views. Early mornings can offer sultry mists before the sun has burnt off the dew and at the end of the day there are sunsets to keep the shutter working. During the day there are lots of birds, wild flowers, insects and the ubiquitous olive trees which are so much of a feature of our area. All of the photos below were taken either from the terrace of the cottage where Kees and his wife stayed or close by.
Kees is a very talented professional photographer and examples of recent work can be seen on his website at: www.kees-laurijsen.nl
Lovers of Paella will know that you need that most important spice, saffron, to give it the distinctive deep yellow colour and most critically the taste to die for. However what is less well known is that despite Spain being one of the largest growers of the saffron crocus from which it comes, they cannot keep up with demand.
In La Mancha where it was first introduced by the Moors, whole families have for centuries grown, harvested and sold this sought after spice. As with olive growing it is a family business that involves dedication and tradition not to mention patience. Imagine how long it must take to strip the stigmas from the crocus flower with it needing 250,000 flowers to yield 1 kilo of threads. At this point it is worth 3000€ per kilo.
In La Mancha they can only produce 1500 kilos per year and yet exports from Spain are about 190,000 kilos. An amazing mismatch that can only be explained by the import of Iranian, Moroccan and Greek produce. The growers of La Mancha are quick to point out that the largest exporters are the regions of Valencia and Murcia where saffron is not even grown. Often these inferior products contain more than just the stigma and tests have even found a completely different spice such as cardamom being present. It is claimed that lower quality foreign imports make up the difference with adulterated product being commonly sold as Spanish (apparently it is within the EU laws to label it as such).
Cooks who want the best should look for saffron with the official “Genuine La Mancha Saffron” label.
At Restaurante Cantueso we only cook Paella to order after 24 hours notice as it cannot be prepared in advance without losing lots of delicate flavours. In a previous blog post we detailed the great influence that the Moors have had on Spanish culture, architecture, agriculture and of course cuisine. See “Sugar the lost crop in Periana”
We are often asked for advice about driving to Spain and one of the main questions is whether it is better to use the Ferries or go through the Channel Tunnel and which is cheaper.
An example of our own trip to the UK last month will help to clarify some points. Periana to Colchester is a trip of 1400 miles going through the Tunnel and 700 if using the ferry from Santander or Bilbao to Portsmouth. Using the ferry means that you can drive to Santander from Periana in one day of hard driving, mostly motorways which are excellent and we managed the 550 miles in 9 hours plus a couple of stops. The ferry departed the next day so a night in the town was necessary.
Not really a hardship as Santander has some excellent fish restaurants including El Serbal a Michelin starred place that must surely be the cheapest in Europe. Lunch menu 35€ or 8 course tasting menu with wine for each course 85€, no service charge or extras for seven sorts of bread, water, appetisers etc. And when did you last get a glass of wine for 3.60€ apart from Cantueso J
The Brittany Ferry takes about 23 hours, with comfortable cabins and good restaurants as you would expect from a French boat. They describe it as a cruise and certainly their flagship the Pont-aven has all the facilities you would expect on a cruise.
Depending on the day and time you travel the journey can be one night or two, and things have improved so much in recent years that even travelling with pets is possible. There are pet friendly cabins or kennels and an exercise area on deck.
So far as costs go it was on this occasion about the same as going through France where the tolls are high and of course the extra mileage means a lot more fuel and usually two nights in hotels. Much depends on how much time you have and whether you wish to make it a leisurely drive or a sprint.
We shall make the return journey in February and that will be even easier and cheaper as there is a ferry leaving Portsmouth at 10.30 a.m. which arrives in Spain the next morning at 09.30 a.m. meaning no need for hotels just one night on the boat and the drive down to Periana.
On balance: the ferry saves time, can be cheaper (particularly if you book a reclining seat rather than a cabin!) and much more relaxing start or finish to your holiday. I particularly like the booking website for Brittany Ferries because you can go online and change your route, timings, accommodation etc. at any time before travelling without cost penalties. Makes a change after the cheapie airlines rip-off the customer policies.
Any minus points? Not really but remember the Bay of Biscay can be lumpy in winter J
Do you suffer from: respiratory problems, asthma, high blood pressure, anaemia, fatigue, rheumatism, liver disease or even intellectual exhaustion? Well if you do, there is help available through the magical properties of honey. It is claimed that different types of honey have a variety of medicinal properties and the main types in Málaga include: Orange blossom, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Chestnut and even Avocado. And whilst we offer no guarantees regarding the efficacy of these claims ): we do recommend this as a day out from Cantueso, especially if you have children.
The recently opened museum is a little off the beaten track, tucked away in a back street of Colmenar, but well worth the effort to see and learn about honey. A good starting point is the 15 minute film in several languages which introduces the visitor to the beekeeper’s world, charting its history going back 8000 years, and describing the complex work of the bee. You can then wander around the museum which has lots of interactive displays, exhibits and finally a shop which sells honey, beeswax, soap and other associated products.
The museum has been set up by the Beekeeper’s Association of Málaga who proudly display the eight types of honey which have been awarded their “Seal of Quality.”
Einstein it seems noted the importance of bees and is quoted at the museum as having said:
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”
It is a good thought provoking quote even though it seems he never said it!!!
Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 2pm and 3pm – 6pm. Monday: closed
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 2pm Guided visits: by appointment
Entry 2€ or Guided visit: 6€ Gift pack included with the visit
Almost two years ago one of our customers, Iain Turnbull, was taken ill during his meal and we had to take care of him until the ambulance arrived. Fortunately one of our staff has worked with the ambulance service and was able to make him comfortable and collected background information in Spanish for when the paramedics arrived.
Since returning to the UK Iain has not been able to get back to his regular work and during his convalescence he started to paint for the first time. The painting shown above, was painted from memory and shows just how talented he is. We were thrilled to receive it and Iain jokes that it is best viewed from the floor looking up, a reference to what must have seemed like hours while he waited for the ambulance.
The self-styled Longsufferers’, a walking group from Northern Ireland has spent a week at Cantueso for a second time. The group is comprised of retirees who nonetheless undertook a number of quite extensive walks in the Periana region. “Peter the Walker” as we know him, says: “Members see Cantueso as offering classic walks with stunning views direct from the doorstep, the flexibility of having individual and group-prepared meals as well as the restaurant service, combined drives and walks within a reasonable distance and a great pool to unwind in after the exertion!” Peter also told us that a number of the group combined their week at Cantueso with stays further afield including Seville, Cordoba and Granada.
Many other visitors to Cantueso enjoy our prepared route guides and we all have Peter to thank for his kindness in preparing them. We hope to add to them in the future.
Please also see our web page giving more details about this area of Axarquia and other walking links.
A much asked question from visitors to Spain is what about medical care if I need it? The good news is that medical services in Spain are usually very good and in Periana there is a clinic which will treat visitors during the week if they have a “European Health Insurance card.” A little further away is a clinic in the village of Viñuela which is open 24 hours seven days each week. It also will see card holders free of charge and you will get the same treatment as locals. In general medicines are cheaper than in the UK and many common types are available without prescription from a pharmacy. If they are prescribed following a visit to a doctor you will be charged up to 40% of the cost. Dental treatment is not generally available through the state system.
European Health Insurance Card
The EHIC is available free of charge from the NHS website and is valid for five years. As it is just that long since they replaced the old E111 many of you may have one that needs replacing. When going on line to the NHS site make sure it is not one of the many sites which offer an express service for a fee. They are not official sites.
Whilst the Ehic is your first line of cover you should not forget to take out travel insurance which will offer much more help when serious accidents occur. If for example you need repatriation or have to go to a private hospital which will not accept the Ehic.
Please see also our website for more information regarding travelling around Axarquia.
Cordoba the one time capital of Moorish Spain rates high on the things to do list of most tourists and whatever time of year you visit there is always much to see. Top of the list is the architectural wonder the Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque Cathedral). However during May there is the Patio Festival which gives us a unique opportunity to step into private homes and to see marvellous displays of plants and flowers in private gardens and patios. You cannot help but marvel at the variety of the decorations and plants, at a time when the geraniums, roses, carnations and other flowers are in full bloom.
The Ruis family from Utrecht in Holland returned last week to collect their prize of a free Lunch having been placed first in the 2008 competition. The competition was held during the year and any photo taken in or around Cantueso was eligible for entry. It was very nice to see them again and to meet their latest arrival, Ike. All the original entries can still be seen here.
Most visitors to the Costa del Sol will have a vague idea that there was a Moorish presence in Spain at some time in the past, and are attracted to tourist destinations such as Cordoba and Granada which have some of the most stunning Moorish architecture to be seen anywhere in Europe. The Alhambra Palace in Granada is in fact the most visited tourist attraction in Spain.
As we will see later there was much more to the Moorish invasion than just architecture and anyone travelling the roads around Periana some fifty years ago would have noticed the remaining sugar plantations started by the Moors over one thousand years before, and which until the middle of the last century was a valuable part of the local economy. Plantations were established all along the Costa del Sol and as far inland as Periana, further inland the temperatures were too low and there was insufficient water supplies. There were several sugar mills along the coast notably in Motril and Torre del Mar, but today all that is left of the latter is a chimney. This refinery was for many years owned by the Larios family (of gin fame) and they were able to make not only sugar but also rum and honey. We at Restaurante Cantueso still use Caña de Miel (Cane Honey) and find it popular on such dishes as aubergines in batter.
At Cantueso Cottages and Restaurante we are often asked by visitors to recommend a beach and always found it difficult to offer adequate information due to the numerous possibilities along this part of the Costa del Sol.
Now thanks to our front of house manager Jo Mitchell’s hard work during the last few months, we have her own personal recommendations for some of the many beaches between Malaga and Nerja. Her illustrated guide runs to over twenty pages and will be available to visitors staying at Cantueso Cottages.
Jo is a sun worshipper and spends much of her free time on the beach and writes from first hand experience. She includes a wealth of information on each beach and will guide you to: lively beaches, those ideal for children, secret coves, the best beach-side bars and restaurants, or even a nudist beach.
Latest News from Jo
She has now added to her great beach guide with a companion volume “An A to Z of things to do in Andalucia” It runs to an impressive 158 pages and has over 1400 photos of all the places you are ever likely to visit in this part of Spain. As with her beach guide the latest volume is available to guests staying at Cantueso Cottages in Periana, Spain
See also the 14 pages of “Things to do” on our website.
No doubt many readers will be as confused, as we sometimes are, regarding how Axarquia, Costa del Sol and Andalusia all fit together.
Andalusia is a Spanish Autonomous Community with regional government and has the greatest number of inhabitants of any region. It is sometimes called the Lake District of Spain having over 300 lakes and reservoirs. See our blog on Lake Viñuela.
It has a benign climate boasting 3000 hours of sun per year, with many kilometres of golden sandy beaches and those beautiful natural ports which have made it a safe haven for navigators for centuries past, and now plays host to many thousands of tourists from all over the world.
COSTA DEL SOL
Within Andalusia is the COSTA DEL SOL (The Sunshine Coast). It is that part of the Southern coastline of Spain which stretches from Gibraltar in the West, to Almeria in the
East. The Northern boundaries are not always easily defined and here in Periana we are sometimes said to be “Inland” Costa del Sol.
Axarquia is a district (comarca) within Andalusia. It stretches from Malaga to Nerja along the coast and inland as far as Alfarnate hence we title Jo’s beach guide La Axarquia (Costa del Sol East).
Imagine the scene, a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive and rolling stock that would have looked at home in an American western, rolling through the hills of Periana surrounded by billowing white clouds of steam. In the last century this was a common sight as there was a narrow gauge railway linking Vélez Málaga, Periana and Ventas de Zafarraya. It surprises visitors to Cantueso that the unmade road as you approach the complex is in fact the old railway track.In about 1905 just after Málaga had installed electric trams and the need for more sophisticated transport increased, The Suburban Railway Company was set up, funded with 4 million Pesetas from the Bank of Antwerp in Belgium. The company received various concessions to build and run lines from Málaga and along the coast. The grand scheme envisaged a network linking Málaga with cities such as Granada, Seville, Almeria and Gibraltar. The line from Málaga to Vélez was routed close to the sea and is said to have been a wonderfully scenic journey which, after Almayate, continued through agricultural scenery dominated by sugar cane. Like the railway we have sadly lost the sugar cane plantations, more of which we will write in a future blog. The Vélez to Periana line was started in 1911 and opened in 1914 less than two months before the outbreak of the First World War. Work was halted and the line was only completed in 1921. The line which was 31 km long had a planned extension from Zafarraya to Alhama but due to the poor economic climate was never built.
The route particularly the stretch from Periana to Ventas de Zafarraya had some serious inclines and Swiss engineers were involved in the design of a rack system to enable the trains to climb to 1000m above sea level. This part of the route was truly alpine, often encountering seriously bad weather, and it is a tribute to those early engineers that the route never in forty years of service encountered any serious accidents. At its peak over 500 people were employed on the railway and there were stations at Vélez Málaga, Periana, Ventas de Zafarraya with halts at Trapiche, La Viñuela and Matanza.
The demise of this railway and many others like it has been put down to several factors, both economic and social. After the civil war (1936-1939) and the Second World War, the railway was in much demand carrying loads of sugar cane and other crops to and from the coast, but slowly the introduction of cars and buses lead to a loss of passengers and freight. Then came the increase in tourism, with a concomitant migration of people from the villages to the coast, and the need to fund many projects along the Costa del Sol, led to a lack of capital spending on the railway. Eventually what should have been a franchise until 2015, was wound up by Royal Decree in 1959. The railway closed the next year and the tracks were removed. After less than fifty years, a form of transport that had replaced the mule trains of old was itself displaced by “progress.” As fuel costs make travel ever more expensive one can only imagine what could now be made of a scenic railway passing through some of the most attractive landscapes in Spain.