Thursday, 16 January 2014

Nerja, Andalucia, Spain: I'm sitting here, facing a large, room-width window that gives a view of the tops of three clumps of bamboo and, beyond them, nothing but dark blue Mediterranean to the straight horizon, where the heavily overcast sky fills in the rest of the picture. A Mozart piano piece is playing from someone's laptop and I have a mug of tea on the go. Earlier, after waking from the first unbroken night's sleep in years, we went by public bus to the Cueva de Nerja, extraordinary underground caverns first 'discovered' by five local teenagers in 1959. I've been to stalagmite and stalactite-stuffed caves before – in both Kefalonia, Greece, and the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia – but this time it was actually even more awesome than I could have imagined. Absolutely enormous spaces with tremendous columns, including the world's largest (thus found, anyway!). When e came out, we went looking for the sink holes the boys first found – not hard, as they were right behind the ticket booth, with metal fences around them – and then carried on up the hill path that led from the entrance to the parking lot.

The sign said it was 10km/4 hours to the top, but we just walked until we'd had enough, talking, oohing at the view of either the caves, the ravine or, most spectacular, the cloud that covered the top like dirty shaving foam and which eventually chased us back down, slipping between the trees like the fog from a Stephen King novel.

Back in Nerja, we walked up and down the tiled streets of the old town until we found the very local restaurant – all Formica, chrome and large TV screen behind the bar – where we sat at a paper-tablecloth covered table and ate potato and onion salad, bread, sardines, gambas al pil pil (shrimp in spices and olive oil), grilled vegetables, deep-fried calamari and, best of all, eggplant (ok, aubergine then) cut into strips, dipped in a light batter and fried, and then dipped in something they call black honey in this area, but which tasted to me not unlike sweet plum sauce, like you get in Chinese cooking. Was so delicious I ended up putting it on everything. And did I mention the two glasses of tinto (ie, red wine)?

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