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.

FKL_4695 FKL_4700 FKL_4744

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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The Patio Festival in Cordoba an Andalusian Gardener’s Delight

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.

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New Wi-Fi Hotspot at Cantueso Cottages and Restaurant in Periana

Not many years ago people going on holiday wanted peace and quiet declaring that they didn’t want the intrusion of TV, however times change and we have found that nowadays satellite TV with plenty of channels is a must and at Cantueso we provide English and Spanish TV and Radio in all cottages.

Three years ago, as the world moved on, we provided Wi Fi access around the restaurant for the use of visitors. This has proved popular but now with the increase in usage particularly from the ubiquitous I Phone we have had to created Wi Fi hotspots around each cottage. The aim is to allow guests Internet access from the comfort of their holiday home. It is still available on the restaurant terrace and free to all customers.

Many people are surprised at how complicated Internet connections can be in Spain and ours is no exception. The signal is received from a nearby mountain and bounces onto three more peaks before going down to a ground station in Malaga and then by cable to Madrid. Normally all works well but in thundestorms we can experience “drop outs.”

Welcome Return to Periana of our Photo Competition Winners

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.

The Winning Entry of Vincent Ruis "Touch the Light"

The Ruis family: Vincent, Arno, Ike and Lena at Cantueso

Sugar Cane, the Lost Crop around Periana

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.

Canes like these are still seen alongside riverbeds and not to be confused with Sugar cane. They are tradionally used as a building material or even to make musical instruments.

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.

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Restaurante Cantueso goes Greener

There is something comforting knowing that somewhere in Spain our old cooking oil, long after it cooked your calamari, is running someone’s car.

Increasing oil prices and Middle East tensions make biodiesel fuel increasingly important as it is so environmentally friendly, renewable and above all cheap.  And when converting old cooking oil it makes even more economic sense.

For some years it has been a geeks’ paradise with “home brewing” DIY biodiesel kits costing a few hundred Euros, and as long as they could find sufficient used chip fat they had a fuel for their cars costing a few cents per litre.

More recently commercial operators have entered the market and will not only produce biodiesel from waste oil but also deal with unwanted by-products previously a problem for home producers.  For Cantueso, this means our old sunflower oil is now converted into fuel and we have a supply of soaps, hand and floor cleaners all from the glycerin that is the main by-product of the process and someone somewhere drives down the Autovia on Cantueso biodiesel 🙂

New Guide to Beaches in Axarquia

The new Axarquia Beach Guide from Cantueso

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 the author of our guide

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

1400 photos in a guide to Axarquia

See also the 14 pages of “Things to do” on our website.

GEOGRAPHICAL NOTE:

No doubt many readers will be as confused, as we sometimes are, regarding how Axarquia, Costa del Sol and Andalusia all fit together.

ANDALUSIA

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

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).

For maps and information on the regions of Spain see: Maps of Spain or Absolute Axarquia

Bad News for Train-spotters at Cantueso in Periana

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.

Thomas the Tank Engine Spanish Style

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.

Embankment near Periana

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.

Full Speed on the Flat Sections

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.

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Lake Viñuela the Spectacular View from Cantueso

From almost any part of Periana and the surrounding hills you look down on the spectacular scene of Lake Viñuela a man-made reservoir containing 170 million cubic meters of water and covering 700 hectares of land.  Obviously the content varies with rainfall and since the very low levels of 2009 the reservoir has built up much better reserves.  An interesting graph of current and past levels can be seen here.

Lake Vinuela seen from the Restaurant Terrace at Cantueso in Periana

The reservoir was originally muted in the 19th century but only became a viable scheme in the 1980’s and was achieved by damming the River Guaro.  This river and its many tributaries fill the reservoir and it provides potable water and irrigation for many hectares of arable land around the lake.  Fortunately before the flooding of the valley, excavations of various Neolithic and old Roman sites were undertaken and many of the artefacts found can be seen in Málaga museum.

The lake takes its name from the nearby village of La Viñuela which overlooks the valley.  It was originally a sleepy hamlet on one of the many routes up from the coast heading towards Granada, and provided a watering stop for the thirsty muleteers.  The old bar is still open and nowadays serves local workers and tourists.

A very pleasant trip can be made driving around the lake, noting as you go the eagles that soar above the lake and the many small birds along the shore.  There are many interesting detours and refreshment stops to be made at the villages en route.  These include: Canillas de Aceituno, Alcaucin, Periana, Riogordo, Comares, and Benamorgosa.  At the Southern end of the lake there is a very attractive picnic spot with tables and barbecues for public use.  A similar picnic area is also to be found below Periana where the River Guaro enters the lake.

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Cantueso’s Travelling Cat reaches Germany

The animal stories at Cantueso do sometimes have a happy ending and you may remember we were looking for a home for “Ginge” a marmalade cat who had taken up residence.

Ginge waiting for his breakfast. Photo from visitor to Cantueso Cottages

At Cantueso we have 10 self catering cottages as well as a restaurant and Ginge had made many friends from all over the world, but sadly none packed him in their cases.  He was so friendly and popular that he was in danger of becoming overweight.  And after being “sorted out” by the vet one customer at the restaurant offered to take him and give him a new home in Caleta some 35 k away, but Ginge was back in Periana just over 24 hours later!  Motorways and rivers it would seem could be taken in his stride.  After this and another attempt at re-homing we reluctantly paid a rescue centre PAD in Mijas to take him.

Now a year on and they have just told us he has at last found a home in Germany.  We don’t think he will walk back from there! Well done PAD.  This follows a previous cooperation with PAD when we had to re-home the last of a litter of seven pups raised at Cantueso by a stray dog.  One puppy also went to Germany and another to Finland.  We still get a Christmas card from that one 🙂

Mijas Floods

Some of you may also have read about the floods in December which swept through the kennels and cattery and sadly some animals were drowned.  A link is given here so that any animal lovers out there who might like to support the excellent work they do can get more details.

Baños de Vilo and Guaro a short Trip from Cantueso in Periana

Newly renovated Banos de Vilo

On one of those days with a few hours to spare you might consider visiting the old Moorish sulphur baths at Baños de Vilo (Baths of Vilo) which are about three kilometres outside Periana.

The baths are sometimes described as Arab, Moorish or Roman and no-one knows for sure how old they are.  Certainly they were in use during the latter half of the 18th century and fulfilled the Koranic obligations for Muslims which obliges them to wash before prayer. I n the 18th and 19th centuries visitors were the nobility and high society from all over Spain.

The Thermal Pool has a year round temperature of 21 degrees C

The medicinal properties of the spring water also attracted many people with skin problems and the brave can still bathe in the water which is a constant 21 degrees centigrade all year round.  This temperature is about four degrees above the average for the area and means the baths can be classified as thermal.  The underground supply constantly refreshes the pool and its sulphurous smell can be observed from quite a distance.  Recent studies have shown the waters to contain: sulphites, chloride, calcium, sodium and magnesium and has a flow rate of .3l/sec.

Fast Flowing Stream alongside the Baths

The baths and associated buildings fell into disrepair in the last century and it was only after the purchase of the property by the Periana Council, about twenty years ago that repairs were undertaken.

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Birdwatching in Andalusia

Flamingos in Andalusia

Flamingos on Laguna de Fuente de Piedra

Spring is upon us and in some parts of Andalusia seems to be slightly earlier than usual. Here in Periana we already have a good display of Almond blossom and many plants are showing their appreciation of some really warm days. Not only does our climate attract birds but the migratory route across the straights of Gibraltar funnels many species to the area. In Spain there are over 500 recorded species and about 270 of these breed whilst here.

Serious birders will head for the area around Tarifa or Doñana and hope to see Andalusian and Iberian specialities such as: Spanish imperial eagles, Andalucian hemipode, glossy ibis, spoonbills, whiteheaded duck, red knobbed coot etc etc. The list is endless and there is of course the added bonus of travelling in areas of outstanding beauty with impressive cultural and historic heritage. The sweeping plains, salty marshes, evergreen forests, wild olive trees, oaks and firs together with unusual flora and fauna ensure a steady stream of visitors. (Both feathered and plain varieties).

Eagles are just one of hundreds of migratory birds seen in Andalusia

The main crossing point is Tarifa just 14km wide which doesn’t seem much even for small birds such as swallows which in any event migrate thousands of miles. However 15% of the birds attempting the crossing perish each year and this has a knock-on effect for other countries further down the migratory route. In any year you may see some of the following species using this highway: Cuckoos, black storks, white storks, red kites, ospreys, honey buzzards, hen harriers, snipe, oystercatchers, avocets, puffins, bee-eaters, gulls, wheatears and many many more.

The best time for birdwatching is before the heat of summer and many visitors like to combine walking with birdwatching and photography. The hills and mountain ranges around Cantueso in Periana is ideal walking country, with walks of every degree of difficulty, from a family amble to more serious assault courses up Mount Maroma.

Last February we hosted over three thousand flamingos on Lake Viñuela just below us, they were no doubt en route to join their friends on Laguna de Fuente de Piedra a little further north. This famous lagoon is about an hours drive away on the A45 near Antequera and has the largest breeding colony of great flamingos in Europe. Eight to 12,000 pairs and many other species such as: gull billed tern, slender billed gull, kentish plover and montagu’s harrier all breed here. Best to visit before June as the water tends to dry up in the heat of summer.

Spain is one of the best countries in Europe for birdwatching

Please also see our website section on walking, photography and birdwatching.

Websites and books for further reading:

http://www.siren.org.uk

http://www.andaluciabirdsociety.org

“Birdwatching on Spain’s Southern Coast” by John R. Butler