Jordan: The magnificent Red Sea

There is a long and great beach between Hotel Radisson Blu Tala Bay and the Red Sea. Beach chairs are available and they are not too close to each other. This way you have space and peace, also at the beach. This is a positive rarity.
Red Sea between Jordania and Egypt

The magnificent Red Sea offers something for each and everyone. You can see small, big, colourful, dangerous and poisonous fish in the sea. The corals and plants vary depending on where you are, but they all offer a beautiful and colourful show. You can also see small crabs, lizardfish and fabulous sea urchins on the sandy bottom close to the shore.

The difference in the sea life between Egypt and Jordan is the amount of venomous fish we saw in Jordan. It was quite exciting to see and photograph new fish species and venomous fish. In Egypt the sea life is more colourful than in Jordan.

Here are some of the fish we saw and photographed, and a few photos from other divers:

The Lionfish (Pterois Volitans) is part of the Scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae) species, which take their name from the venomous spines positioned on the dorsal fin. They are also voracious predators.

The Red Lionfish:

Red Lionfish Pun Siipisimppu
The Black Lionfish
 (Pterois Miles) is extremely beautiful.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 😉

musta siipisimppi pterois miles

We also saw a Lionfish which was a bit brown and beige. You find it on the left of the brain coral:

Siipisimppu Pterois Volitans

The Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis oxycephala), for example the Tassled Scorpionfish, is also part of the Scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae) species. It is quite a venomous fish. It is sometimes called  “false stonefish” as the resemblance to the Stonefish is remarkable. The mouth of the Scorpionfish is more hiorizontal than the one of the Stonefish.

A Scorpionfish next to a black Sea Urchin inside a small rock:

False stonefish_ tassled scorpionfish

Whilst I photographed a small Scorpionfish, it suddenly moved, which is rare, and “flew” away. I am glad it “flew” away from me, not towards me.

Skorpionikala ui

The Stonefish (Synanceia Verrucosa), is the most venomous fish in the world!

You better not step on one of these. You can be paralyzed and you can die. Stonefish use incredible camouflage to ambush their prey. They blend into their environment very well. They live in shallow waters and are a danger to bathers who may step on them.

It is not always easy to see if you are looking at, or photographing, a small Stonefish or a Scorpionfish. The sea sways you a bit and you cannot swim too close. We are yet not sure if we saw a Stonefish or not. I show you a few pictures taken by other divers:

stonefish 3

stonefish 2

Sea Urchins

We were lucky. A nice man from Lappeenranta, Finland, warned us about the hundreds of Sea Urchins (Echinoidea) just minutes before we stepped into the Red Sea.

Merisiilet

We moved carefully step by step until the water was about  30 cm deep.  Then we dove carefully into the Red Sea, sliding above the Sea Urchins and other dangerous species. I saw hundreds of black Sea Urchins. First I was a bit “scared” how all this will end, but then I relaxed and focused on the superb views around me, took photographs and remembered to keep my feet at least 60 cm above the bottom.

The Sea Urchin’s body, closed in a compact shell, is covered with spines which are mobile. The mouth is surrounded by strong teeth and opens underneath. This allows this echinoderm to crop algae.

merisiilikuva

We had invested in a new waterproof camera. Not a too expensive one, but a good one for amateurs like us. We took hundreds of pictures and also some videos. We spent half of the days in the Red Sea. I can warmly recommend this hobby.

During the 4th day something odd happened. I was stung in the sea. I wondered if I only imagined it. I could not see anything and no more stungs were felt. The next day I was stung maybe a hundred times. Small burning stings hit me everywhere. I got worried and a bit scared. My husband appeared next to me and when I got my ears above the water, he told me we were in the middle of a  cloud of Jellyfish. I took some pictures quickly and swam to the shore.

Stinging jellyfish Red Sea Jordan

I spoke with the life guard to check if he knew about these Jellyfish. He did. He said they should not be dangerous, but it could be a good idea to wait and see if I would feel sick or get red arms and legs. Then it would be good to see the doctor at the hotel.

No strange feelings or red skin! I was so happy. What an exciting experience, though I cannot recommend to try how many small electric stings feel. 

In Egypt we fell in love with the Picasso Triggerfish, which is part of the Balistidae species. There are some 40 different Balistidae fish. Here is a Picasso Triggerfish, which we saw at Port Ghalib, Egypt some years ago:

Picassokala

In Jordan we saw a a black Triggerfish (Sufflamen Chrysopterus), which was very beautiful.  It was a Halfmoon Triggerfish. Here is a picture of it with a small Lionfish:

Sufflamen chrysopterus_flagtail triggerfish_Ruostesäppikala ja siipisimppu

You can see more pictures on my Pinterest page. Welcome to follow my Pinterest boards.

We love the Red Sea:

Ile sukeltaa

Lähdössä mereen

I admire Jacques-Yves Cousteau. His incredible adventures in the sea have affected many of us. I think Cousteau has something to do with my interest to take some PADI Open Water diving courses 20 years ago and that I am now a great fan of the Red Sea. My husband shares my passion to explore the shores of the Red Sea and photograph the beautiful sea life.

Upea kokonaiskuva Red Sea Tala Bay

 

Waiting to fly to Jordan

Where is Jordan?

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is in The Middle East, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel to the west.

Map of Jordan and the surrounding countries
Where is Aqaba and Tala Bay?

Aqaba is situated in the southern  part of Jordan and is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is Jordan’s only coastal city. Tala Bay is a holiday resort 15 minutes south of Aqaba and very close to the border of Saudi Arabia.

Why Jordan?

We have travelled during the summer in countries around the Mediterranean Sea for more than 10 years. During winter time it is a bit cold in Europe, so we decided 5 years ago to visit Africa. We thought Egypt could be something interesting, mysterious and fun.

Egypti kamelimies
We love the sun, warm days on the beach, diving into the sea and photographing fish and corals. It is also wonderful to experience new cultures and countries, meet local people.

Exif_JPEG_422
We have visited Egypt 5 times. We are in love with the Red Sea.

fish in the red sea
In September 2013 the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland recommended to not travel to Egypt due to the unstable situation in the country. As a result of this all Finnish travel agencies cancelled all reservations to Egypt until April 2014.

We searched the web for other countries (to which Finnish travel agencies offer flight + hotel packages) around the Red Sea, which we hoped to visit again. We found Jordan and Israel. They both have some coral beaches on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea.

We compared Israels’ Eilat with Jordan’s Aqaba. Aqaba sounded more exciting and mysterious. Then we found Tala Bay, a sunny vacation resort 15 minutes south from Aqaba. No noise of a hectic town or traffic, great hotels, long beaches and promise of corals and exciting fish … that is all we needed to make our choice. Apollomatkat is the only one in Finland offering vacation packages to Tala Bay (and Jordan for that matter). If you want to go to Eilat you can choose between Aurinkomatkat and Apollomatkat. Both fly with Finnair.

Tala Bay venesatama kuva
The temperature in November in the southern part of Jordan was said to be quite warm. Forecasts promised 23-30° C during the day and 19° C or less in the night. This sounded very good.

Apollomatkat, which we had never before used, handled everything very well from the beginning. The website works well, the customer service is friendly and helpful and the list of hotels in Aqaba was surprisingly long. In Tala Bay you can choose between 3 nice hotels.

We chose Radisson Blu Tala Bay, as the pictures of it on the website of Apollomatkat were great, we were promised corals and fish very close to the beach, the hotel had a private beach and the website of the hotel gave a great overall feeling of the resort.

Radisson Blu Tala Bay web site Radisson at Tala Bay Jordania_6Radisson room pic
The hotel gave us great service already before our trip. We have a wish list regarding the room and the car service. I contacted the hotel, as Apollomatkat, just like all other travel agencies in Finland, cannot confirm if you get a balcony or terrace, if you are on low floor or high floor etc. We got all our wishes fulfilled with the kind help of the executive assistant manager at the hotel. To offer this kind of service is definitely a competitive advantage.

It takes 5 hours to fly from Helsinki to Aqaba. Most tourist take the travel agency’s bus. But as it usually takes a long time to wait for all people to come to the bus, and the bus drives to many hotels before ours, we started to use the hotels’ car service a couple of years ago. One more reason was a sad experience with Finnmatkat (which otherwise works quite well). The bus did not pick us up from our hotel in Egypt some years ago. (The guide did not answer her phones and no one knew what was going on. The hotel finally drove us to the airport. When checking up on this matter, we were told “the phone lines do not always work in Egypt, the bus was late and the guide forgot to inform the hotel and the customers about this.”)

Most hotels offer car service. It is smooth and fast. It does not cost more (or much more) than the bus service.

This was an introduction to my future stories about Jordan. I will write about Tala Bay, the history of Jordan, the corals and the fish in the Red Sea as well as a review of Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort.

Our passion since a few years back is to photograph in the Red Sea. I have hundreds of pictures from the land, the air and the sea. I’ll share the best with you.

Radisson Tala Bay Red Sea Diving picture_2 Ma`a as-salāma!

Greece: Megara, Nea Peramos and Pachi

Some years ago we decided to check for vacation houses in Greece. There were so many to choose from. We wanted to spend our time among the Greek and outside the tourist areas. We chose finally Megara, a town some 70 kilometers west from Athens. We had never heard of Megara, which added excitement to our new journey.

MEGARA

With our small budget we managed to find a very nice house with a pool, an olive tree yard and a great view from the top of a hill. I was surprised. We had luck finding such a house. It was a bit above our budget, but after seeing pictures of the place, we just had to book it. The hills outside Megara (population 23 000) are mostly occupied by sheep and goats, so to find a vacation house there, was quite a surprise.

Megara talon kyltti
The house was though only available for 9 days. We wanted to stay 14 days in Greece. The owner of the Megara house was very kind and arranged another house for us for the remaining 5 days. It was not actually a house, it was a terraced house, but that did not matter. This second place situated in Kato Alepochori, some 20 kilometers north from Megara. It was actually nice, to get to see two different places. Kato Alepochori is a small, nice town by the Gulf of Corinth.

Alepochori talo 2
After landing at the International Airport of Athens, we rented a car and drove towards west. The highway took us almost all the way to Megara. During the drive we saw Athens and the historical sites up on the hills. The sites are lit at night so you can enjoy them also when it is dark. The highway took us via Elefsina and Mandra to Nea Peramos and finally to Megara, which is located very close to the sea. Megara is part of the Attica region, which starts near Athens. After Megara, towards west, the next region starts. It is called Peloponnese and is a peninsula and a geographic region at the same time.

Nea Peramos

Nea Peramos, which we saw on our way to the house, locates at the bay of Eleftherai (Gulf of Kavala). The blue sea, the beautiful beaches and the fantastic white houses with red roofs are certainly views to enjoy. The area is also well-liked by archaeologists, as many ancient discoveries have been made here. During high-season Nea Peramos attracts many tourists. Otherwise it is a nice, peaceful town.

 A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE

We arrived at our vacation house late in the evening. It was very dark. We had taken the evening flight from Helsinki to Athens. In the darkness we did not see how the house really look liked or how big the yard was.

The next morning we decided to swim before breakfast. What a fabulous surprise it was to see that the house was big, white and beautiful. The design of it was awesome. A big terrace at the top floor and another one next to the swimming area. The pool was large and fabulous, just like the view down the hill.

Megara house pool_1

The yard had about 100 olive trees and many fruit trees and rosebushes. The view was amazing.

Oliivipuutarha

The pool area had a nice terrace and patio, with a big dining table, chairs, a huge white sofa with cushions and some nice well chosen decoration. Outside there was a big barbeque.

Almost everything was white and beige. And as the sun was shining brightly, the colours shimmered even more.

Megara house_1
We also noticed that the heat from last night had not settled. It was 39°C outside. That is hot for a Finn!

After breakfast we walked in the yard and enjoyed the great views from the terrace and the pool area. The countryside in Greece is awesome, with all the green hills, olive trees, the tractors, the sheep and the sheep dogs.

RENOWNED PACHI

After visiting a few restaurants in Megara, we decided to drive to the nearby beach village Pachi. It is a small town by the sea. It is renowned for the beautiful sea view and the many great fish restaurants. Local people drive to Pachi often. And many drive an hour to visit this awesome village.

Only 3 000 people live here. It took us just 10 minutes to drive from the house down to Pachi. This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in the evening and enjoyed dinner at.

Pachi by day

You drive into Pachi along its only main road. Best to park the car some hundred meters from the first fish taverns, as the small center of the village fills up with cars of the locals quite quickly after eight in the evening. And you might not reach your car, if you do not know who has parked behind it, beside it and in front of it.

The fish taverns and restaurants are fabulous. We tried the one our house owner had recommended. (I think it was a friend who owned the place). No one else was at this restaurant but we decided to try it anyway. The owner did not speak English, so he took us to the kitchen where we could pick our own fish and sea food. This is excellent service – not experienced back home in Finland.

The dinner was quite good but the price was too high compared to the food and the prices in some nearby restaurants. Next time we ate at another place and the food was excellent. The prices were not very high. We had some tasty grilled fish, big grilled prawns and some squid and cuttlefish with tasty Greek salad (Horiatiki in Greek).

It was quite a thrill to sit at the terrace by the sea, watching small fish swim and dance in the sea, enjoying the magnificent sunset and the different colours in the sky and sun rays glitter on the sea.

Pachi by night

It was hot, above 35°C, though it was past nine in the evening. The cool breeze from the sea was welcome.

 THE GREEK LANGUAGE

The Greek language is an Indo-European language. I have not studied it. I tried to learn a little before our vacation, but compared to Finnish, Swedish, English, Italian and French, I found the Greek language to bit a bit hard to learn in one month. I learned a little though. Perhaps you might find this helpful on your next visit to Greece:

Kalimera (Good day), Kalispera (Good evening), Poso kani afto (How much does this cost), Kalo (Good), Efharisto (Thank you), Ena trapezi ja dhio (A table for two), Bira (Beer), Horjatiki salata (Greek salad), Metaliko nero (Mineral water) and Aspro krasi (White wine).

Also these you might find helpful: vodhino (beef), hirino (pork), arni (sheep), arnaki ghalaktos (lamb), psari (fish), kavuri (crab), midhia (clam), gharides (shrimp), annguri (cucumber), kremidhia (onion), domata (tomato), portokali (orange), fraula (strawberry) and psomi (bread). Tha ithela na pliroso brings you the bill.

One day I decided to go shopping in Megara. I had seen a Miu Miu store and was sure to find something nice in there. As the store had a summer sale, I knew I might afford a few dresses or shirts. My husband took pictures of the city. One photo was just awesome. It shows you what Greece is. A scooter, an SUV and an old tractor in the same picture, in the city.

Megara city traktori

Portugal: Praia Grande and Cabo da Roca

HONEYMOON BY THE ATLANTIC OCEAN

We love the Mediterranean Sea. For our honeymoon we decided though to try something new and we flew to see the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. We searched the Internet for hotels by the sea. I also asked tips from my Portuguese colleague. We were looking for a place on the west coast.

I tried to learn a little bit Portuguese before our trip. I started with these: bom dia (good morning), fala ingles (do you speak English), sim (yes), nao (no) and onde e (where is). The rest I looked up in the dictionary, which I had with me most of the days.

The seaside hotel Arribas at Praia Grande was our final choice, as it offered so many things we were looking for. The huge Atlantic Ocean was just some meters from the hotel, which also offered a swimming pool larger than we have ever seen. The swimming pool was 100 meters long. It is one of the largest saltwater swimming pools in Europe. The beach next to the hotel looked inviting.

Hotel pool and the PG beach

PORTUGAL – HERE WE COME

As always, it is fantastic when the travel day finally arrives. The sun was shining in Finland when we waited for the taxi to take us to the airport.

Waiting for the taxi to the aiport
We flew to Portugal with Finnair. By the time we got to the airport, clouds were spreading over the clear blue sky.

Flying with Finnair
TOWARDS PRAIA GRANDE

Praia Grande is one of the best beaches in Portugal. It takes less than one hour to drive there from the Lisbon International Airport. To visit the famous Costa do Estoril and Cascais is easy as they are just 20 minutes to the south from the hotel. The beautiful and historic town of Sintra is just a 15 minute drive to the east.

We took the evening flight and drove in the darkness towards the hotel. I had a map, but as it was quite dark and the street signs were not always seen, we got lost around Sao Pedro De Penaferrim. We experienced the friendliness of the Portuguese, when we stopped at a small cafe to ask for help. I did not speak Portuguese and the café owners did not speak English, but that did not stop them from helping us. Body language works well. On top of that we got some huge and tasty sandwiches with us. We had not eaten much during the day, so the simple sandwich tasted marvellous.

Just before reaching the Atlantic Ocean we drove through the small city of Colares.

Colares region by the sea
COLARES

Colares is a wine region. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC means the system of protected designation of origin for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products from Portugal).

Colares wine_2

Even before there was a “Portugal”, the region of Colares was a place of human movement and settlement. The Norwegian Sigurd I conquered and held Colares for a few months in 1108. The Moorish occupied the area later on and around 1147 the region fell in the hands of the Crown, as Afonso Henriques conquered it. In 1801 the municipality of Colares included 1930 inhabitants and by 1849 it had more than 3300 inhabitants. Nowadays around 7500 people live in the area.

PRAIA GRANDE

The sound of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean is something everyone should experience. We got a nice room towards the sea. It was amazing to just sit on the balcony and watch and listen to the Atlantic Ocean.

The AO

The Terrace Restaurant with a panoramic view over the sea is the perfect place to taste special dishes. You can choose between traditional Portuguese and international dishes.

Hotel dinnerYou can reach Praia Grande also without a car. Take the bus from the airport (Aerobus 1) to Entrecampos. Then take the train to Sintra. From Sintra you can take the bus to Praia Grande. Just as the name suggests, this is a large beach and is a particular favourite among surfers and bodyboarders and has become a regular host of championship events in these sports.

Praia grande

The hills on the south side of the beach are huge. We took a stroll on the sandy beach before hitting the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

First day at PG

CABO DA ROCA

Not far from the hotel you find the westernmost point of continental Europe. We had heard of it and wanted to see it. During the ancient Roman period the area was called Promontorium Magnum.

Driving to CdR

The place is so beautiful. In the west you see the huge Atlantic Ocean, in the other directions green hills and rocks surround you. The Cabo da Roca lighthouse overlooks the promontory towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Cabo da Roca from the sea

The cliffs here are more than 100 meters high and cut into crystalline rocks. We took pictures, enjoyed the scenery and felt the cool wind blowing from the Ocean. I could smell the salt of the sea.

Ile at CdR

I recommend to visit Cabo da Roca. You can eat at Restaurante Cabo Da Roca enjoying great food and fabulous scenery.

Next to the restaurant you find an old monument. Below the cross you find the text written by the 16th century Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões (1524 – 1580):

Aqui…

Onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa…(Camoes)

Ponta mais ocidental do continente europeu

In English something like this:

Here…

Where land ends and the ocean begins…

The westernmost point of continental Europe

After our trip to Cabo da Roca we drove back to the hotel, put on our swimsuits and ran through the hot sand and dove into the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing feels better than the hot summer sun and the cool waves of the sea. After a few hours on the beach my skin was pink. July is quite hot in Portugal. At least for a Finn.

Ile and the AO

Spain: Estepona, Fuengirola, Marbella and San Pedro

TIGERS AND GORILLAS

One day we visited Fuengirola and its zoo (Biopark Fuengirola).

J entering the zoo

Fuengirola is a town on the Spanish Golden Coast, 24 kilometers west from Malaga international airport, and about 30 kilometers east from Marbella. The sandy beach is 8 kilometers long and has been awarded the Blue Flag disctinction by the EU. The seaside promenade Paseo Maritimo is very popular and quite crowded with hotels.

In addition to the nightlife Fuengirola offers golf clubs, mini-golf, horse drawn carriages, watersports, nautical cruises, tourist restaurants, bars and many fashion boutiques.

Mangustit 2
The zoo was renovated in 1999. The old animal cages were destroyed and the animals were given more natural homes. There are about 90 species in this zoo, including mammals, birds and reptiles. The mongoose and the tiger especially caught my eye. You can also see parrots, a leopard, bats, gorillas and crocodiles. If you want you can join a free guided tour.

zoo leopard


SAN PEDRO ALCANTARA

We asked the personnel at our hotel to recommend a restaurant for us. First they listed a few ones in Estepona, but they were expensive restaurants for tourists. We wanted to experience something local and traditional. To sit with local people and eat good Spanish food. We got a tip of a nice place in San Pedro Alcantara, just 5 kilometers from the hotel. The small town is full of great restaurants. They do not always speak a lot of English at the local restaurants, but that did not bother us. We got a table even though we did not have a reservation. The place got packed quite quickly after it opened at 8 p.m. The food was fabulous. We ate grilled prawns with garlic and herbs, grilled fish, boquerones fritos, tasty clams and mussels. And tasted some very good wine.

Boq Fritos


MARBELLA

Most people have heard of Marbella, the beautiful city on the Spanish Golden Coast, where the rich and famous like to hang around. Also golfers like to visit Marbella and its golf clubs. The population is about 120 000. We visited Marbella one very sunny day. Already in April Marbella was warmer than most of the summer days in Finland. The boutiques were nice but expensive, the selection of restaurants and pubs is wide, the old town is beautiful, the seaside promenade offers a fantastic view towards the sparkling sea and the city itself and the beach is crowded during the summer months.

Johanna Marbella

The harbour is crowded with fabulous luxury boats. Puerto Banús harbour is very popular. Around 5 million people visit it every year. The restaurants around the harbour are expensive due to tourism. If you like luxury, harbours and crowds, this is the city for you.

Ile Marbella


ESTEPONA

Estepona is a town about 34 kilometers west from Marbella and 83 kilometers from Malaga international airport. The area is known for fertile valleys crossed by small streams and a mountainous areas dominated by the Sierra Bermeja, which reaches an elevation of 1,449 m at the peak of Los Reales.

Estepona has many beaches, which stretch along some 21 km of coastline. It is a popular holiday destination. The most popular beach might be the Rada Beach, which is over 2 kilometers long and has golden sand.

Estepona beach
You can enjoy different kinds of sports, museums, the marina, the many tapas bars and restaurants as well as the shops in the town. Selwo Aventura is an interesting park (north of Estepona), where you can see birds, mammals and reptiles (kudus, Asian elephants, white rhinoceros, giraffes, African rock pythons, green iguanas and the brightly coloured scarlet ibis). There are also a wide variety of plants. The park offers adventure days and exhibitions.


FLAMENCO, TAPAS AND CREMA CATALANA

I recommend to visit Spain. The Spanish Golden Coast is just one of the many places worth a visit or two. In the middle of the Spain you find the capital Madrid, with a population of 3 million (in the metropolitan area almost 6 million). Madrid is known for the nightlife, the flamenco, Picasso, great restaurants and for many interesting museums and beautiful churches.

La Sagrada Familia
On the east coast you find the city of Barcelona, known for the artist Joan Miró ,
La Sagrada Familia (which will perhaps never be finished though the work started in 1882), the long beaches, La Rambla (a very long park road), the nightlife, great restaurants, the many museums and green parks as well as for football and the Futbol Club Barcelona (Barca).

The northern parts have many nice cities and towns. Maybe the most known of them is Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia and the destination of a Catholic pilgrimage route.

The Spanish Cuisine is very good. The tapas, the paella (Spanish rice dish), fried fish, the chorizo (sausage) and Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), clams and mussels, garlic prawns, tortilla espanola (Spanish Omelet) and the olive oil are all tasty and delicious. Just like the red wine.

Paella
For dessert you can choose fresh fruit, Manchego cheese or Crema Catalana, which is the Catalan name and version of the French dessert, crème brulée. Or try a Churro (Xurro) and you won’t be hungry for hours. It is a sweet Spanish doughnut, a fried pastry. Do like the Spanish do – dip it into hot chocolate!

Spain: Gibraltar, Ronda, El Tajo and Puente Nuevo

HOTEL DIANA PARK

My husband had visited Spain and Costa Del Sol many times as his parents had a house in Torremolinos. I myself had only visited Mallorca and the Canary Islands, so the mainland was still on my wish list. This was the reason we chose Spain as our spring break target some years ago.

We flew to Malaga and rented a car. Driving late at night is always an experience, as you can see all the city lights glimmering in the dark. We drove to Estepona, which is about 70 kilometers west from the Malaga airport.

We passed Churriana, Benalmadena, Mijas, Fuengirola, Marbella and San Pedro. They are all cities worth seeing, depending on what you are looking for during your holiday.

Hotelli Diana Park_Espanja

Hotel Diana Park was our choice during this trip, as it situated very close to the A-7. We would drive around every day, so being close to a major highway was preferable. The hotel was actually quite nice though it had only three stars. This neat budget hotel, with an awesome pool, is situated at Carretera De Cadiz Km 168, Estepona, Spain.


GIBRALTAR

It was Easter weekend and the weather was great. After Finland’s cold and snowy winter, Spain’s 16-24 C was awesome weather for us. The sun was shining every day, though not every hour. The day we drove to Ronda, it was partly cloudy and some light rain occurred for one hour, but that did not matter at all.

We decided to visit Gibraltar and drove towards La Linea (de la Conception). It has a history of being the place where many illegal immigrants enter Spain. La Línea is a major supplier of fruit and vegetables to Gibraltar; other industries include the manufacture of cork, liquor, and fish paste. It also had an important military garrison with substantial fortifications and a port. La Línea has 14 kilometers of beaches, named La Alcaidesa, Santa Barbara, El Burgo Sobrevela, Portichuelos and Torrenueva. Some have been are awarded each year a blue flag by the Coastal European Authorities.

La Línea made headlines under Araujo’s Socialist predecessors in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was dubbed a “ciudad sin ley” or lawless city. At the time, drug dealers, smugglers and other criminals made their living in the Andalusian border town.

La Linea

Gibraltar is seen from far away. But it is such a small place – only 6,8 square kilometers and a population of around 30 000. Half of the area is protected area.

Gibraltar is known for the Rock of Gibraltar, which is 426 meters high. The World War II tunnels, the Cable Cars, the Gibraltar Botanic Museum and the Gibraltar Museum are some interesting places to visit during your days in Gibraltar. The subtropical Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm summers attracts tourists from all over the world. If museums are not what you look for, you can spend the day shopping and visiting different cafeterias, bars and restaurants.

La Linea 2

The Official Gibraltar Tourist Board Website tells you in detail what to do and enjoy while staying in Gibraltar.

Gibraltarin torilla


RONDA, EL TAJO AND PUENTE NUEVO

It took us about one hour to drive up the mountains from our hotel to Ronda. Huge green hills surrounded us during the drive and the views were fabulous. When we arrived in Ronda, I thought “what a marvellous town”. The town is situated 750 meters above the sea level.

Ronda city
Ronda is the biggest of the Pueblos Blancos in Andalusia. These “white towns” are small towns from Malaga and Sevilla to Algeciras which are characterised by whitewashed walls and red tiled roofs.

Ronda P Nuevo

El Tajo canyon in Ronda is so amazing. Ronda was heavily affected by the Spanish Civil War. Chapter 10 of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, describing the 1936 execution of Fascist sympathisers in a fictional village who are thrown off a cliff, is considered to be modeled on actual events at the time in Ronda. It is also said that modern bullfighting started in Ronda.

bullfighting

We visited the restaurant of the  Don Miguel Hotel. I can warmly recommend Don Miguel. Excellent food, kind service and awesome view towards El Tajo canyon. The prices are not as high as one would think. Soups start at 5.40€, fish at 12,50€ and the meat dishes at 11,50€.

Three bridges, Puente Romano, Puente Viejo and Puente Nuevo span the canyon. The 120 meter deep canyon split Ronda in two. Therefore the architect José Martin de Aldehuda and the construction manager Juan Antonio Diaz Machuca decided to build a beautiful and strong bridge. The building of Puente Nuevo, the tallest of these three bridges, commenced in 1751. It took 42 years to complete. 50 workers died building the bridge. Beauty has its price.

Ronda

Travel stories by Johanna Hurmerinta

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