Route of the Millennium Olive Trees around Periana

New walking routes around ancient olive trees

New walking routes around ancient olive trees

Rutas de los Olivos Milenarios de Periana

We have written before about Periana Gold the verdial type olive oil produced in the village cooperative and it will interest walkers and lovers of the countryside to see that three new walking routes around the olive groves have been established.

These walks are designed to show off some of the district’s ancient trees, one of which is thought to be over 1500 years old. Several others exceed a thousand years and all have been calculated by measuring the girth of the trunk one and a half metres from the ground. Each metre is thought to equal between 200 and 250 years. The oldest to be seen on the walk is known as “El Chato” with a girth of 7.4 metres. Various other wonderful specimens to be seen are known as “The snail”, “The shelf” and “Box Office” all names describing the shape of the trees.

One metre of girth equals 200 to 250 years of age

One metre of girth equals 200 to 250 years of age

The three routes vary in length and will take between 1.25 and 2.00 hours. The olive oil cooperative are offering guided tours or you may walk independently using maps provided, a link is here. You will see that the routes can be walked separately or joined together for a much longer hike.

The closest route to Cantueso is called “Ruta Cortijo Blanco – Rio Seco” and is 6.3 Km long and should take 1 3/4 hours. In fact Cantueso is along the route so you may start and finish here and no doubt need a cooling drink at the end 🙂 Please make sure that you go prepared for walking in warm weather with proper shoes and plenty of water.

The cooperativo has also produced a special limited batch of Millennium oil using olives from the ancient trees. It can along with several other types be purchased from the cooperative shop in Periana.

For more information on walking in Axarquia see our website walking page here.

And if you are interested to read more about Periana’s Olive oil please see our previous blog here.

Olive trees seem to thrive when their roots are restricted.

Olive trees seem to thrive when their roots are restricted.

Paella Time at Cantueso Cottages

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!).

We appreciate the family allowing us to use their photo.

We appreciate the family allowing us to use their photo.

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 🙂

Good News at last!

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More Pavos or bang for your bucks!

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 🙂

Driving Licence Changes and Car Hire

New regulations for UK driving licences

New regulations for UK driving licences (excluding Northern Ireland)

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.

An unwelcome visitor!

It is not often we would describe a visitor as unwelcome, but last Saturday we had a power cut that stopped our restaurant operating and left guests in our cottages without power. A great saga ensued due in the main to Endesa the electricity supplier failing massively  to give the service we pay for. We are supposed to have a 90 minute emergency call out but on Saturday, after more than 25 telephone calls they turned up after 8 hours! And then to blithely say “not our problem get someone else to fix it.”

To cut a long, long, story short we finally found a competent contractor that could help at 7.30 am the next morning. It took him 20 minutes to change a fuse (one that was as long as your arm) and we had power restored, which brings me to the nub of our story. A visiting Genet had decided to climb the pylon and electrocuted himself in the process, and this in turn took out one of the three phases.

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Gineta, Jineta or Gato Almizclero (musk cat)                    Photo copyright Steve Garvie

Genets are cat-like carnivores closely related to the mongoose and most of them have a spotted coat with long bushy tails, and whilst seldom seen they are not rare creatures, but found throughout Europe having originated in Africa and most likely been imported as pets many years ago.
Nowadays wild Genets live all over Spain and can live in olive groves by eating small animals and insects. They are nocturnal and generally live alone.

What our Genet was doing up an 80ft pylon we will never know and quite how it climbed up is puzzling as its retractable claws would presumably be of little use on steel. Not the ideal way to see our first Genet and hopefully we won’t see another in such circumstances.

 

Are You Intolerant?

New Laws on food labelling of allergens for restaurants and food providers

At Cantueso we have long been able to help people who suffer from allergies and food intolerances because fortunately we produce all our own dishes and do not rely on bought in pre-prepared products.

However new regulations from December 2014 will cause considerable work as it will mean that we have to ask all suppliers of a raw ingredient to similarly identify what is in their product. Even the wine or oil we cook with will have to be analysed for the allergens.
It is estimated that 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children are affected. This equates to millions of people throughout Europe with a food allergy, but does not include those with food intolerances. This means the actual number of affected people living with a food allergy and/or a food intolerance is considerably higher. (Interestingly when people in the UK were asked about allergies 20% claimed to suffer!)

Nuts, one of the main culprits in food allergies

An allergic reaction can be produced by a tiny amount of a food ingredient that a person is sensitive to (for example a teaspoon of milk powder, a fragment of peanut or just one or two sesame seeds). Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild symptoms such as itching around the mouth and rashes; and can progress to more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and on occasion anaphylaxis (shock).

There is no cure for food allergy. The only way to manage the condition is to avoid food that makes the person ill.
When we re-open Restaurante Cantueso on the 20th March 2015 after our winter break, we will have available on request, a menu with the allergens shown and a member of staff to advise.

In the past we have helped many families who come to Cantueso with children (who it seems suffer in greater numbers than adults) and made sure we cook dishes for them that are safe to eat.
No doubt we will also have diners again who tell us they are lactose intolerant and carefully select their starter and main but when they see Carmen’s home made desserts, they look thoughtful and say “well I suppose a little won’t hurt” 🙂 !

The new laws for food businesses relating to the labelling and provision of allergen information centres around a list of the 14 most common triggers.

• Cereals containing gluten namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, and oats.
• Crustaceans and products thereof (for example prawns, lobster, crabs and crayfish)
• Eggs
• Fish and fish products
• Peanuts
• Soy beans
• Milk and milk products (including lactose).
• Nuts (namely almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut and Macadamia nut (Queensland nut)
• Celery
• Mustard
• Sesame seeds
• Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
• Lupin seeds
• Molluscs for example: mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, snails and squid.

What do Photographers do on Holiday (part 2)?

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.

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Lake Vinuela from Cantueso

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The goat herders are a familiar sight around Periana, moving all the time in search of food for their animals

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We are often asked why the Lake is so blue in summer, and unfortunately we don’t know. Do you?

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There are many evenings like this in autumn and it is always a good excuse for a “sun downer”

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Olives thrive in rocky soil and Periana still has over three hundred families cultivating them for the local cooperative.

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No visit to Andalucia is complete without seeing the Alhambra Palace.

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The elegant architecture in Granada is just one legacy from the Moorish occupation over one thousand years ago.

Kees has a blog and you can see his entries regarding Cantueso here: http://www.kees-laurijsen.nl/blog/23153/2014_Spain_Cantueso.blog

and his website here: www.kees-laurijsen.nl

XII Peaches Day Festival

dia del melocoton 12On Saturday 2nd August 2014 the 12th Peaches Festival will once again be held in Periana. Unlike last year when due to economic restrictions it was held alongside the August festival, it will once again be a stand alone event.

During the day there will be the usual stalls and amusements set up along the main street with various free tastings, and a medieval market. There will also be the popular cookery competition; dishes for which should of course contain Peaches.

Later there will be an on stage Festival of Rock & Roll, with various tribute acts and then music with Dj’s until the early hours.

In previous years more than 5000 people came to the village and this year is bound to be just as lively. A stroll around the streets filled with the scent of peaches is bound to get your taste buds moving and suitable food and refreshment stalls will be available.

A little Peach History: It is thought that a resident brought the first seedling to Periana after a visit to Argentina 200 years ago and it thrived in the wonderful climate and fertile land. As the crop developed it was taken to neighbouring villages on the backs of donkeys and eventually became popular with buyers from Murcia and surrounding provinces. However it was not until the last half of the 20th century that the crop came to prominence being appreciated for its taste, aromatic scent, soft velvet skin, colour and culinary versatility and by the 70’s a good year would yield as much as 4 million kilos.

Sadly as so often happens in agriculture, the crops were affected by pests and several years of drought which led to a steady decline in production. This continued until about ten years ago when market demand encouraged growers to plant more trees and the municipality started to promote peaches once again. Hence this year is the twelth in which the village and visitors will get to party the night away.

If you have time come up and visit us at Restaurante Cantueso where Carmen our chef is sure to produce some very tempting dishes, and whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a box of these special fruits to take home before you leave.

¡Que aproveche!

Hidden Treasures near Cantueso with Geocaching

 

Dirk en Netty Eijlers at El Torcal

Dirk en Netty Eijlers at El Torcal

 

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.

Continue reading

Periana Olive Oil Day and news update

picProgramme 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.

Olive Oil Ban in Spanish Restaurants

From 1st January it has become illegal to use the traditional cruet sets on tables which dispense olive oil, and as from now it must be presented in sealed bottles with labels to denote the quality, origin and production date.  And then after opening, even if you only use a drop, it must be thrown away!

DSC00646The Spanish government has introduced this law after a setback in the EU parliament last year when at first EU wide legislation was passed and then following lots of criticism from ecologists and politicians it was reversed.  David Cameron, UK prime minister, said he was against such legislation and commented:  “This is the sort of thing that deservedly gets the EU a bad name.”  Ecologists also argued that the waste packaging and added costs to both producers and customers made little sense and was simply protectionism.

The Spanish olive lobby did not give in and the new legislation is the result of pressure in Spain and follows Portugal and Italy who already have such laws in place.  It is indeed true that oil often gets mis-labelled with virgin being sold as extra virgin by unscrupulous dealers and the Spanish government thinks this latest law will help stamp it out.  They also argue it is to protect the consumer who might add a little to his salad or dip his bread into a dish of extra virgin oil when in fact it is only virgin!

DSC02191A large part of the problem stems from 2010 when olive oil prices dropped by 25% causing severe problems for the many small growers (often the only income for an extended family) and who only get one pay day each year.  This decrease was as a result of over production and lower demand, mainly due to the economic crisis, and with cheaper oil from emerging markets adding to the problem.

As restaurateurs we don’t think this legislation will help at all and the bigger worry is whether the government will decide to legislate on what is used in kitchens where by far the larger consumption takes place.  Many restaurants will ignore the law and some may get around the problem by using an alternative oil such as walnut or rape seed and having olive oil available on request.  Either way the law will not produce the hoped for result.

For the record we never use anything except our local grown “Periana Gold” extra virgin oil for everything except high temperature frying when it is not suitable.

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Major new walking route 650km long!

Stunning views await along the new route

Stunning views await along the new route

Part of the route passing by Cantueso

Part of the route passing by Cantueso, perfect for walking and cycling

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 route passes close by Canatueso

Olive groves and meadows close by Cantueso

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.

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One of many waymarkers

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.

Some sections of the route are easy walking

Some sections of the route are easy walking

Spring is an exceptional time to walk this route

Spring is an exceptional time to walk this route

August Festival in Periana

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From the 15th to 18th August the annual festival will take place in and around Periana. As last year it will now include the XI Peach Festival and is repeating many popular features including: Outdoor painting competition; municipal band performances on several days; The Cuban Show Band; Peach and Sangria tastings; cookery competion (using peaches of course); fireworks most nights; children’s festival; foam festival in front of the town’s fountain; The Seguridad Social showband; The spectacular Pasacalles and many more singers, dancers and other acts every evening until late.

There will be lots to see and do so go early and be prepared to stay late and best of all it is free.

A Day Out in Nerja

Nerja Caves - Cuevas de Nerja

Nerja Caves – Cuevas de Nerja

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.

Feeding Time!

Feeding Time!

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.

The World's Largest Stalagmite

The World’s Largest Stalagmite

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.

The Large Chamber Used for Music Concerts

The Large Chamber Used for Music Concerts

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.

 

Axarquia a Walking Wonderland

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!”

Derek's Walking Group in  the Cantueso Apartment

Derek’s Walking Group in the Cantueso Apartment

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.

Monfrague Viewpoint

Monfrague Viewpoint

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.

Black Winged Stilt

Black Winged Stilt

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.

El Torcal, so much more to see than just birds

El Torcal, so much more to see than just birds!

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

See also:

Nightingales at Cantueso.

Rio Frio a day out from Cantueso.

Birdwatching in Andalusia

The “Long Sufferers Walking Group”

 

 

 

What do Photographers do on Holiday?

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

Imagine waking up to this view every morning....

Imagine waking up to this view from your cottage every morning, but then…..

...and one morning things had changed. Extremely low cloud  gave this amazing shot of Lake Vinuela

…one morning things had changed. Extremely low cloud gave this amazing shot of Lake Vinuela.

The area arround Cantueso is given over to lots of Olive groves and at this time of year wild flowers abound.

The area arround Cantueso is given over to lots of Olive groves and at this time of year wild flowers abound.

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Even microscopic insects didn't escape Kees.

Even microscopic insects didn’t escape Kees.

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Even in Spring the nearby mountain Maroma, can some mornings have snow at the summit.

In Spring the nearby mountains.

We can't resist a photo of well known Cantueso resident Ping the cat.

We can’t resist a photo of well known Cantueso resident Ping our friendly cat.

All good days come to an end.....

All good days come to an end…..

...and finally after a hard days photography what better than a sundowner on your terrace?

…and finally after a hard days photography what better than a final shot with a sundowner in hand?
and for the technically minded the equipment used by Kees was: A Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the following lenses: Canon 24-70 F2.8; Canon 70-200 F2.8; Canon 100mm macro F2.8 and Canon 50mm F1.4 For the macrosa tripod was used.

Just in Time for the Better weather

 

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Preparations for summer seemed to be dogged by bad weather and our refurbishing of the pool at Cantueso Cottages has only just been completed.  This 12,000 € project is going to put a stop to water leaks which have plagued us for the last few years being both wasteful and expensive.  Many leak tests and other investigations were carried out but in the end we decided the only solution was to completely reline the pool and this has been done by Clima Pool Centre from Nerja, one of whom had the unenviable job of working up to his chest in cold water for much of the time.  Now it is finished we have a brighter blue colour and a non slip children’s shallow area.  And as I write the weather is giving us some glorious days. Take a look at our webcam and see for yourself.

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Another part of our complex to get the winter upgrade treatment has been the crazy golf area where we now boast a large 14ft trampoline, sand table and swings with much needed shade so that mum can sit and watch the little ones at play.

I’m Smarter than the Average Bear!

yogi

Yogi certainly was and it seems that either he or one of his family of admirers came to Cantueso earlier today.

Yogi’s table had the new “Para Picar” menu and were so pleased that they decided to leave this unusual thank you card in the kids playroom. (Well where else?)

We are pleased that the new menu ideas are receiving nice comments and we hope lot’s more of you will come and try them 🙂

Saffron the New Spanish Gold

It takes 250,000 of these flowers to make 1 kilo of saffron

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”

Driving from UK to Cantueso in Periana, Spain

 

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

 

www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/

www.eurotunnel.com/

The Rain in Spain falls mainly in Periana!

So I think Eliza Doolittle was mistaken as we are certainly not on the plains of Spain.

Last weekend Periana experienced the most rain for years with over 6 inches falling in a couple of days. In one period of four hours a quarter of the annual rainfall came down. More like a waterfall than rain and there was lots of damage to roads and low lying properties.

Fortunately despite the access road to Cantueso being unmade we escaped reasonably well and the main problem for the village was the blocking of the main road. As you can see from the photos there were rock falls and mudslides near the newly constructed “Mirador” which is on the left as you approach the village.

You can see a graph of the lake levels here. and then select La Vinuela from the drop down box. The line going almost vertically is the current level and is a good indication of the speed with which the water levels rose. Another interesting weather source is one we have mentioned before run by local man Harry Happe. His site www.malagaweather.com is one of only two in Spain that does manual forecasting rather than computer predictions. His site is a mine of weather information and even has links to a tracking chart that shows live flight arrivals to Malaga airport. And when you get bored with aeroplanes you can also see a similar chart tracking ship movements along the coast.

Final note for those of you, who like me work in “old money”, where the Spanish sites predict rainfall in litres per square meter this equals 1 millimetre. Therefore 25 l per sq/m = 1 inch.

All photos by kind permission of the Periana blog http://www.perianaypedanias.com/

Museum of Honey in Colmenar

Calle Posito, the home of Malaga Museum of Honey

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.

 
Very educational and informative displays

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.

 

Giant bee at work

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!!!

Opening hours

Tuesday – Friday:   10am – 2pm and 3pm – 6pm. Monday: closed

Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 2pm Guided visits: by appointment

Colmenar is about 8 miles from Cantueso in Periana and 13 miles from Málaga.

Entry 2€ or Guided visit: 6€ Gift pack included with the visit

Website: http://www.museodelamiel.com/

 

 

 

Sadly Millie has Died

No Menu del Dia for Millie

 

Millie our black lab has sadly passed on to doggy heaven.

She gave so much pleasure to us all and enjoyed what was for dogs, a long life (16 years). In England where she was an excellent gun dog, and here in Spain as Nicky’s constant companion, she took everything in her stride, never complained, never stopped wagging her tail, and was always eager to please.

Regular customers at Restaurante Cantueso may remember her wandering around the terrace, nose twitching, with an uncanny knack of spotting the table with fillet steak; mere entrecôte would never do. She never asked and would simply sit a few feet away, staring with those lovely brown eyes, something only the starving could resist!

Our thanks go to that wonderful vet Mario de la Torre Hernández (of Puente don Manuel) who looked after Millie and her sister Saffy for so many years, always going that extra mile to help both  animals and owners. Muchas gracias Mario

What a Nice Thank You

A very special gift to the staff at Cantueso, on show in the restaurant

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.

You Can’t Miss Us

 

An Gas Petrol Station at Puente don Manuel

Never shy to extol the virtues of Restaurante Cantueso and the view we have just secured a premier advertising site at our local garage near lake Vinuela. It is the only petrol station for miles around so we know that it will be seen by lots of people as they leave, and we just hope they keep driving up to Periana to see us.

Some People Never Learn!

 

February Sunset over Lake Viñuela

We should know better than to tempt fate by writing about the mild weather this winter as Mother nature has a way of reminding us who is in charge, and this last week she sent us very low temperatures and high winds. So much so, that the early blossom on our trees and shrubs now have been blackened by frost and Periana’s town fountain had a great display of icicles.

Periana's Frozen Fountain (courtesy Perianaypedanias.com)

On Mount Maromo there is snow at the very top and this makes for spectacular sunsets and one this week can be seen in our photo above which was captured from the Restaurante Cantueso webcam. During winter months the webcam struggles to cope with the low orbiting sun as it faces South and for much of the day sun shines directly onto the lens. The Malaga Weather website uses our picture alongside their own and it makes an interesting comparison as their camera faces West. You can compare them here.

Don’t They Know it’s Winter?

We have had the most wonderful three or four weeks in Periana with unseasonally high temperatures of up to 74° F (23° C) and no rain. Diners at our restaurant have been able to eat on the terrace every lunchtime and enjoy the views over Lake Viñuela. At the same time last year we had eight inches (200mm) of rain in one week!

Periana is very much a farming area and the three hundred or so families that grow olives have had beautiful weather for the harvest, which runs from November to March, but unfortunately lack of rain means the fruit is much smaller than normal. And considering they only get one crop and hence one pay day each year it matters.

Mimosa blooming early

The trees and shrubs are so confused that they are flowering about a month earlier than usual. These pictures were taken a week ago at Cantueso and we fear that a frost this month will upset things for the real spring.

Almond: Normally the first blossom we see

Walking Season is Here at Cantueso in Periana

The "Long Sufferers' Walking Group" who recently stayed at Cantueso Cottages

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.

Restaurante Cantueso Chef wins Culinary Competition Prize

Congratulations to Carmen

Carmen Muñoz our talented chef was awarded second prize in the Concurso Gastrónomico during the recent “Day of the Peach” festival in Periana.

During the week Carmen had been serving up several specials at Cantueso, using local peaches of course, and at the last minute on Saturday after Lunch service had finished she decided to enter the culinary competition which was to be judged at 8 o’clock. This gave her less than three hours, and she set to work creating a wonderful Tarta de Melocotón y Chocolate (Peach and Chocolate Gateaux). It consisted of a multi-layered chocolate sponge filled with peach and fresh ginger marmalade. This hotly contested competition received over forty entries from all over the area and Carmen received two hundred Euros as her prize.

Unfortunately in her haste she didn’t have time to take a photo and had to be back at the restaurant to run the evening service, so we can only assume the five judges liked what they saw and tasted. So much so, that when at midnight Carmen collected her certificate and prize all that remained of the entry was a clean plate!

Felicidades Carmen!

Smell the Fruit on Peach Day in Periana

IX Día del Melecotón, Periana, Spain Saturday 30th July 2011

Another special day is coming up in Periana with lots of festivities as the village comes out in force to celebrate this special crop for which the village is justifiably famous. The day will see competitions and entertainments all day in the main streets and continues well into the night.

The most important competition is the Concurso Gastronómico when anyone can enter a special dish in which the main ingredient is Peaches. It is always strongly contested and there are three prizes of 100€, 200€ and 300€.

Last year more than 5000 people came to the village and this year is bound to be just as lively. A stroll around the streets filled with the scent of peaches is bound to get your taste buds moving and suitable food and refreshment stalls will be available.

A little Peach History: It is thought that a resident brought the first seedling to Periana after a visit to Argentina 200 years ago and it thrived in the wonderful climate and fertile land. As the crop developed it was taken to neighbouring villages on the backs of donkeys and eventually became popular with buyers from Murcia and surrounding provinces. However it was not until the last half of the 20th century that the crop came to prominence being appreciated for its taste, aromatic scent, soft velvet skin, colour and culinary versatility and by the 70’s a good year would yield as much as 4 million kilos.

Sadly as so often happens in agriculture, the crops were affected by pests and several years of drought which led to a steady decline in production. This continued until about ten years ago when market demand encouraged growers to plant more trees and the municipality started to promote peaches once again. Hence this year is the ninth in which the village and visitors will get to party the night away.

If you have time come up and visit us at Restaurante Cantueso where Carmen our chef is sure to produce some very tempting dishes, and whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a box of these special fruits to take home before you leave.

¡Que aproveche!

Stay Healthy While on Holiday at Cantueso in Periana

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.

Never Trust a Restaurant with a View!

Or so said that famous moaner Michael Winner in his column in the Sunday Times last week. He went on to say the reason was because they thought the view was enough, and then continued in familiar style to slag off Min Jiang the restaurant on top of The Royal Garden Hotel in London.

We cannot comment on the London restaurant but we certainly don’t agree with his tar them all approach. We add below a photo taken a month ago at Restaurante Cantueso just so that Mr Winner might see what a good restaurant view really looks like. Pity he cannot visit Periana and sample some of Carmen’s cooking as he might then agree that there are always exceptions to any rant 🙂

A View to Match the Food!!

Another Sherry Aunty?

Summer Menu and Drinks at Restaurante Cantueso.

We have just introduced our summer à la carte menu and will again also be offering some special seasonal drinks in addition to our usual wine list.

Carmen our chef has created a new summer menu combining some old favourites with new seasonal dishes and intends to offer a daily special starter, main course, and dessert. She has also revised our popular six-course tasting menu.

And of course it wouldn’t be summer without a few special drinks. Pimm’s of course, and now that Sherry is a trendy drink again, we will try to tempt you with the likes of Rebujito a cocktail of chilled dry sherry mixed with soda or Seven-up: an ideal thirst quencher for the weary traveller and typically popular at Spanish ferias.

Sherry known in Spain as Jerez, has of course been popular in Britain for centuries and in the main it was British families such as Sandeman, Osborne and Byass that in the 18th century cornered the market producing a high octane wine (typically 15-20%) which is fortified with brandy. It can only legally be described as sherry if it is produced in the “sherry triangle” of southern Andalucía.

In the past sherry has been known as a drink for weddings or funerals and of course Christmas wouldn’t be the same if aunty didn’t have a glass or two of Bristol Cream, but now there has been a strong revival with wine lovers discovering the likes of manzanillas, finos, palo cortados, amontillados, and olorosos. A different taste for every occasion and every meal. Maybe in the past you have tried Pedro Ximenez poured over ice cream, or a crisp well-chilled fino with olives or tapas. Fino and manzanilla are perfect accompaniments to Spanish food and soups of many styles. The two can be used interchangeably in cooking and are well suited to steaming mussels and other shellfish, or as an ingredient in soups.

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