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Part 6: Zahara de los Atunes, Tarifa, Marbella, Granada

12.6: Munich -> Girona -> Barcelona
13.6: Barcelona
14.6: Barcelona
15.6: Barcelona -> Madrid
16.6: Madrid
17.6: Madrid
18.6: Madrid -> El Escorial -> Toledo -> Cordoba
19.6: Cordoba -> Sevilla
20.6: Sevilla -> Zahara de los Atunes
21.6: Zahara de los Atunes
22.6: Zahara -> Cadiz -> Zahara
23.6: Zahara -> Tarifa -> Zahara
24.6: Zahara -> Marbella -> Granada
25.6: Granada -> Malaga
26.6: Malaga -> Memmingen -> Munich

21.6: Zahara de los Atunes
Gran Sol Apartementos, Zahara de los Atunes.
Weather: as usual: very hot, sunny, blue sky, no rain. A bit windy.

Day spent in Zahara, most of the time in the hotel, not doing much. We are basically recharging the batteries, after 8 days of very intensive travelling. We get up late, have breakfast, then swim in the pool with the kids. Shopping for food in the supermarket. At 7pm I bring the small girls to the beach for some swimming.

22.6: Zahara -> Cadiz -> Zahara
Gran Sol Apartementos, Zahara de los Atunes.
Weather: same as yesterday.

Day spent relaxing in Zahara until the afternoon. Some swimming in the pool, I walk along the beach to the southeast until the end. At the end there is a rocky promontory after which a new bay with a new beach starts. There is by the way a war ship with a helicopter in the sea off Zahara. The beach is not crowded. There are only a few people every now and then. Probably this is because this is still low season.

Stuff in the Dia supermarket in Zahara is quite affordable. Prices are quite close to prices in Germany and a lot lower than what we have experienced so far in Spain. If the accomodation was considerably cheaper (for instance if you stay in the camping) and the flight inexpensive, it would be possible to have a budget holiday here.

After 6pm we take the car and drive to Cadiz. The idea would be to have a dinner there and to have a look at the town. The trip takes a bit longer than expected, because on the motorway there is a police checkpoint. Perhaps they are looking for illegal immigrants?

Around 8pm we arrive in Cadiz. We park the car in a parking (2 Euro/hour), then start exploring the town. Cadiz lies on a peninsula and is surrounded by the sea. The access is via a land strip through which a motorway and a train line pass. There is the cathedral, which looks quite picturesque especially considering the location near the sea. Otherwise there is not much to see in Cadiz. Some narrow roads, a picturesque square here and there, but that's it. Cadiz is primarily a largish city, mostly modern, and doesn't have that much of a historic core or a picturesque tourist area. It's very well skippable, in favour of other cities in the area and in Andalusia. Compared to other cities in Andalusia it's a disappointment.

While in Cadiz, Shirley has a dinner with the kids in a Chinese restaurant. After that we walk briefly to the harbour area where there is sort of an event, with tents, some music and some reconstructions of 16th century ships (galleons etc.). Police checks at the entrance to the event area. I wonder if they are looking for terrorists or perhaps pickpockets.

We leave Cadiz at 10:30pm and are back in the hotel shortly before midnight. This trip is a bit heavy for the kids, who usually sleep by 8pm when they are home. On the other hand however it's a holiday and the kids can sleep until 10am if they like. The small one also sleeps in the afternoon.

23.6: Zahara -> Tarifa -> Zahara
Gran Sol Apartementos, Zahara de los Atunes.
Weather: same as yesterday. Today it is actually a bit more windy.

We spend the day until 6pm in Zahara. In the morning we do nothing, after 1pm we swim in the hotel pool with the kids.

Shortly before 6pm we leave by car for Tarifa. On the way we stop in a place in the sunflower fields with a nice view of the windmills. Behind Zahara there is a big windmill park with countless white windmills with big rotors. Beautiful sunflowers in full bloom.

Very close to Tarifa, at 6:40pm, we spot kites in the sky and stop to have a look. Turns out that this is a very big kitesurfing site, with restaurants, infrastructure, and a shop where you can rent kitesurfing equipment.
Lots of young people in cool outfits everywhere. Lots of slim young women with bikinis and good shapes. Compare that to the beach of Zahara where you find mostly obese or not so sexy women. Seems this is the place where to be if you are young.
Beautiful long beach with colourful tents and lots of people, strong wind. Many kitesurfers in the sea, surfing at high speed on the waves. Must be fun to do this kind of sport.

I shoot tons of photos. The light is perfect, the scenery and colours are great. Many cool shots. Natasha runs into the water with her trousers, he he he, I should have stopped her, but it's too late when I notice this.

We spend over half an hour in this place, then continue driving towards Tarifa, which is not far away. We leave the car in a guarded parking (approx. 2 Euro/hour), then start exploring the city. There are not that many sights either, but the historic centre of Tarifa is really picturesque. Narrow roads, whitewashed houses, every now and then some old building. lots of shops, pubs restaurants catering to a young crowd. The harbour has direct speedboat connections to Tanger (hydrofoil boat). Some travel agency offering whale watching tours. Right adjacent to the old town starts the Tarifa beach, a long strip with soft white sand.

I guess Tarifa is a place where to spend an active fun holiday, since if offers kitesurfing, whale watching, a nice beach, and a good number of restaurants and pubs. In addition, Seville, Cordoba and Granada are accessible by daytrip in case you are interested in history and local culture.

After a dinner in a Chinese restaurant we leave Tarifa at 9:45pm.

24.6: Zahara -> Marbella -> Granada
Hotel Los Girasoles I, Granada. No idea how much this place costs, because we had booked a quadruple room for 63 Euro in the Cedran hotel and we ended up here (see below). Anyway, it's a triple room, quite small, clean. The problem is that the A/C does not work (no fun to sleep in such a place when the daytime temperature reaches 37°C). The toilet is a small room with no windows and no fan to suck out the air, which means that whatever you do in the toilet, everything can only go into the room (however after taking a shower I notice that there is no steam in the toilet - so perhaps there is something sucking out the air after all?). Very good breakfast included. The guy in the reception only speaks Spanish, which makes it difficult to explain things unless you are fluent in Spanish. The room faces a noisy street with traffic until well after midnight. No elevator.
Weather: more fresh than yesterday, overcast around Algeciras, sunny again in Marbella with temperatures around 30°C. 37°C in Granada when we arrive. As usual no rain.

We leave the hotel in Zahara shortly before 12pm, then start driving towards Granada. The idea would be to make a stop in Marbella and perhaps one in Malaga, if time allows. We'll spend the night in Granada and, after visiting the Alhambra the next day, get back to Malaga. That is because I'm thinking that it's better to concentrate the majority of the tiring driving in one day in order to have a more relaxing day after that.

Very strong wind on the road between Zahara and Tarifa and even beyond that until almost Marbella. Makes driving tiring, because you have to constantly focus on the road and be prepared to correct the direction whenever a strong wind burst pushes the car out of the lane. This Citroen Picasso rental car is not good at keeping on the lane - it easily gets pushed away by the wind. It does not help that the road is full of curves and goes up and down the hills.

For the first time in Spain I experience real traffic on the roads. Until now I have seen very little traffic on the roads, but today (Friday) there are lots of cars on the street and some brief traffic jam around Algeciras.

We make a stop at a Carrefour hypermarket in Algeciras around 1pm, buying some groceries. Since it's lunch time, the kids have a lunch in the cafeteria. Then we continue driving towards Marbella, arriving around 3pm. At 3:15pm we have parked the car in a parking (3 Euro/hr) near the beach and start exploring the city.

Marbella supposedly is the place where the rich people meet with their expensive yachts, something like a Montecarlo in southern Spain. In reality Marbella is a clean beach city, with a nice waterfront full of restaurants and a not too impressive beach. Lots of skyscrapers facing the beach most likely with holiday flats. Pricing level in cafés and restaurants is average for Spain. In summary, it's an ok place for a beach holiday, but actually a bit boring.

At 5:15pm we start driving towards Granada. I've already given up on the idea to visiting Malaga and am instead looking forward to arrive in Granada in the early evening and do some sightseeing there after dinner. There is now less wind but the motorway still sucks - too many curves.

After a refuelling stop on the motorway (surprisingly the petrol on the motorway costs the same as in the cities, i.e. there is no "motorway surcharge"), we reach Granada at 7:15pm. After some searching we manage to be at the Cedran hotel at 7:30pm.

When I try to check in, the lady in the reception can't find my reservation. It turns out that somebody for some reason has cancelled the reservation we made through hotelopia.com and the hotel Cedran is full. The cool thing is that we have already paid for the room (the amount has been booked from the credit card) and nobody has cared to inform us about the cancellation. I'll email hotelopia.com about this and ask for an explanation about what happened.

Anyway, we are all there in the lobby and this girl is frantically calling other hotels, looking for a room for us. Around 8:30pm or so she informs us about the new place, the hotel Los Girasoles. This is actually very close to the hotel Cedran, but getting there by car takes half an hour, because we get lost in the maze of streets in central Granada.

At 9pm we are finally in this hotel. We check in, get into the room and unload our bags. After that we park the car in a nearby parking. Cost is 1.80 Euro/hour, max 18 Euro for 24 hours.

After that, at 9:30pm we walk to the nearby Chinese restaurant which we spotted and have some dinner. Then we walk around a bit and shortly before 11pm we are back in the hotel. There I notice that the room has not cooled down in the meantime, despite the A/C having been running for over an hour. It appears that the A/C is broken. I go down to the reception but apparently there is no other room available. What a shock after a long day in the heat. Everybody is upset. After a long day of travelling, getting into a bad hotel is the worst thing that can happen.

25.6: Granada -> Malaga
Hotel Novotel, Malaga. 76 Euro (special offer) for a nice room in a four star hotel near the airport. The room has everything, even free WLAN, soft comfortable bed, functional bathroom with hair dryer etc. The room has a double bed and a bed sofa which has been configured for the kids to sleep in (we booked a room for 2 adults + 2 kids). Breakfast not included in the room price. The hotel is near a Carrefour hypermarket, Burger King and McDonald's fast food outlets.
Weather: sunny, very hot, up to 39°C in Granada in the afternoon. Blue sky with no clouds. In the evening on the way to Malaga we cross a mountain range; temperatures there drop until 20°C. In Malaga it's 25°C at 11pm.

We wake up at 9 something am, when the room service tries to open the door. Shirley only got a few hours of sleep because of the heat. At 10am we go down and have breakfast. After a not so great night we are rewarded with a good buffet breakfast. Wouldn't have expected such a good breakfast in a place like this. Maybe the hotel Los Girasoles is not that bad after all.

After breakfast Shirley asks in the reception if she may stay until 4pm, so that she can rest a bit, since she could not sleep the whole night due to the heat. Some discussion, the max. they can allow is 1pm. I suggest to Shirley that I will drop her off with the kids in an Etap hotel until 4pm. It's 39 Euro only and Shirley can rest there while I do some sightseeing of Granada before we start our visit of the Alhambra at 5pm.

So we pack our stuff and at 11:30am we are in the reception, I hand back the room key and at that point the discussion starts again. The reception lady explains that the cleaning lady only works until 2pm, therefore if somebody checks out after that the room will not be cleaned. I explain the reason for the room extension (A/C not working and not enough sleep). The cleaning lady who is there acknowledges that the A/C is not working in room 206, which makes me wonder why they didn't fix the problem if they knew that the A/C is not working. The next customer will certainly complain again, especially now that the summer is starting.

Some more discussion, one more phone call to the management and this time we are allowed to stay until 4pm. The hotel will simply not sell the room to another customer today (which is actually understandable - how can a hotel sell a room with no A/C with ambient temperatures close to 40°C?).

So Shirley gets back to the room. I bring the big bags to the car parking and after that, at 11:40am, start my tour of Granada.

A wedding is going on in the church next to the hotel. Lots of people in fashionable dress. I slowly walk up the street towards the cathedral. Lots of buildings with interesting, ornamental façades. Looks like one or two centuries ago they cared about the artistic side of architecture in Granada.

On the way, I spot a bank with ServiCaixa terminals. When I booked the Alhambra tickets in the Internet, it was mentioned that I could pick up the tickets in one of these terminals with the credit card which had been used for the booking. I try, but somehow there is only the option to buy tickets, not to pick them up. Looks like I'll have to pick up the tickets at the Alhambra.

Around 12:20pm I reach the cathedral. A very impressive building, in Gothic architectural style. Around the cathedral there are no big open spaces, i.e. the cathedral is adjacent to the maze of narrow streets, but here and there there are some small picturesque squares. Lots of shops and restaurants catering to tourists. This seems to be the interesting area, or to put it differently, the tourist zone.

At 1pm I reach another picturesque square, Plaza Sta Ana. There is another church, where another wedding is going on. In the tourist office I just spotted I ask for a place from which you have a good panorama view of the Alhambra. The lady here is helpful, but does not greet customers with a friendly smile. She draws a point on my map where I'll have to walk to. It's somewhere in the Albaycin area.

So I walk towards this place. In the meantime it's very hot and the sun is very strong. Maze of narrow, winding roads going up the hill. Every now and then an interesting building. I sort of get lost, because my map doesn't show all roads. A couple of times I switch on the GPS unit on my phone to check where I am.

It's almost 2pm when I find this playground area, from which you have a direct view of the Alhambra. There is still something which interferes with the view but to get a better view you'd have to be on the roof of one of the buildings of the area.

I take some shots of the Alhambra, then start walking down again, and am back in the square at 2:30pm. Shirley calls me and we agree to have lunch at 3pm in the Chinese restaurant.

While I walk back to the hotel some horse carriages with people in traditional Spanish clothes pass by. No idea what these people are doing. Perhaps they are actors paid by the tourist office to make Granada more attractive for tourists, or they are members of a local folklore group who are parading today.

At 3pm I meet Shirley and the kids. She has done some shopping with the kids initially, then let the kids sleep in the room. We head to the Chinese restaurant and have some late lunch (actually it's not usual in Spain to have lunch at this time).

At 4pm we take our remaining bags from the hotel and bring them to the car. After an ice-cream (near the hotel there is an ice-cream parlour selling ice-cream for 1 Euro/scoop - lowest price so far we found in Spain) we drive to the Alhambra.

There is also a bus which brings you up to the Alhambra, but I want to minimise the walking Shirley and the kids have to do. It's very hot today, and they'll have to walk a lot anyway in the Alhambra.

Driving to the Alhambra somehow involves driving out of the city centre, onto the speedway ring surrounding Granada, and then back to the Alhambra towards the north-east.

Around 5:10pm we arrive at the parking. There I park the car in the P3 parking. Later I notice that the P1 and P2 parkings would have been closer to the entrance, but never mind. We walk down towards the entrance and pick up the tickets and a map of the Alhambra.

The Alhambra site consists of two parts: the Alhambra fortress itself and the Generalife palace and gardens. The Generalife palace and gardens is a combination of very nice gardens with fountains and ponds surrounded by cypress trees and a Moorish era palace. The palace is quite interesting, still has Islamic era stucco decorations.

It's actually 5:30pm when we start our visit of the site. At 7pm we'll have to enter the Nasrid palace, and it turns out that we do not have enough time to comfortably visit everything. Even in the Alhambra fortress we'll have to rush from a place to the next. We should perhaps have allocated six hours for the Alhambra. It's a very big site and there is a lot of shadow everywhere, so that even in the summer heat it's not a problem spending a lot of time there. In addition, the kids can have a lot of fun in the gardens, so a family could even spend an entire day at the site and have a picnic there.

It's already after 6pm and we are still in the Generalife palace area and we have to be at the Nasrid palace by 7pm. We rush to the fortress and start walking the recommended circle.

Another wedding is going on in a church in the Alhambra fortress. Must be wealthy people if they can afford to rent this place. Lots of sexy women in stylish dress and guys wearing formal and elegant attire. There are almost 40°C of heat and the men are completely covered from neck to toe. Here the women have an advantage, because they are allowed to wear close to nothing and show a lot of skin.

Lots of tourists by the way. Shortly before 7pm Alissia and I enter the Alcazaba fortress. Very short visit, I spend some time there just to take some photos of the view which is really great. Shortly after 7pm we queue up at the Nasrid palace. I should mention that with your ticket you are only allowed to visit certain palaces once. There is a check at each palace where they keep track of who is entering which palace and when.

The Nasrid palace is very nice. Well preserved Islamic era architecture, which arches, wall carvings, ponds, impressive architecture. However that, having travelled a lot, I have seen much more impressive Islamic era palaces than this one. To make an example, the mosques in Isfahan are orders of magnitude more impressive than this palace. Even the newly built Grand Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat is way more impressive that the Nasrid palace. The Nasrid palace is probably interesting, because it is an example of such an architecture in Europe.

After this palace it's almost 8pm. We head back to the car. There I key in the address of the playground I spotted today into the GPS navigation system and try to drive there for some evening panoramic shots of the Alhambra. I almost manage to get there, the only problem is that the last part of the road on the Albaycin hill is only open for cars of tourists staying in a hotel on the Albaycin hill. So I simply take some photos of Granada from another viewpoint.

Shortly after 9pm we start driving to Malaga. It's a mostly easy drive on a motorway with little traffic and by 10:30pm we spot the Novotel hotel in Malaga. Then it takes another 10 minutes to get there because the GPS navigation system has old maps and they have changed the roads so much recently in Malaga.

We check in at 10:45pm in the Novotel. A very intensive day is ending. We are all quite exhausted. I go out again looking for some drinks for the night (have to use the car to look for a place). We sleep after midnight.

26.6: Malaga -> Memmingen -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, blue sky and hot in Malaga.

I get up at 9am, then wake up Shirley and the kids at 10am. We check out at 11:20am, then drive to the nearby airport. There we refuel the car, then return it at the National car rental. Easy to find the returning office, because it is located in the parking at level -2. Quick returning procedure: they do not even have a look at the car, just take the key and the papers and ask me to sign a paper,

At 12pm we walk to the Ryanair check-in counter, which is in terminal 2. The check-in proceeds smoothly, and again they accept the baby stroller as check-in luggage at no extra charge. Several people in front of us are repackaging their suitcases, because they exceed the weight limits.

After the check-in, at 12:45pm we rush to the gate. After the security check there is an area with restaurants (fast food and others). We stop for lunch briefly at a Pizza Hut outlet, then at 1:15pm proceed to the gate. We are there shortly after 1:20pm and despite the flight is leaving at 2pm we are already almost the last ones to check-in.

The plane takes off at 2:15pm. We are all spread around the plane, but at least Natasha is not too far away from the mummy and I can see Alissia. The plane lands in Memmingen at 4:33pm. By 5:05pm we have retrieved the car (the guy from the parking service brought it to us) and are driving back to Munich. Before 6:30pm we are back home.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon