I am writing the first part of this post (as I imagine I’ll finish it on a later day) curled up on the sofa with a glass of Spanish beer and my boyfriend by my side. The heating is on in our little apartment and the wind is howling around us. It is not quite how I imagined my Andalucian holiday, and my suitcase is testament to this – unworn summer dresses and shorts, one jumper that has been worn every day and a pair of leggings I had to buy from a tourist shop in Nerja.
Yet despite the dark clouds that speed across the horizon, obliterating the sunset, despite the winds that threatened to blow us off the rock face on our walk today, the view from the window of our apartment is still stunning. The hills are still horrendous to cycle up and exhilarating to cycle down. The cheese is still delicious, and the wine and beer still goes down a treat.
Frigiliana: in Spanish the ‘g’ is silent, and so I like to think the name of this town is pronounced “Fr-hilly-ana” – and it certainly lives up to its name! Whether it’s heading out on a cycle with a 1km elevation gain, walking up the steep steps of the town to explore, or setting out on a hike, from Frigiliana you are always either going steeply uphill or steeply downhill!
The hike we had decided to do was called El Fuerte, and recommended by James’ dad. We were under the impression (mistakenly, as it turned out) that James’ parents had done the walk the week before on their holiday to the region. We set out from Frigiliana along the main road out of the village that we had cycled up the day before. It had been slightly chilly in the town so I was wearing my shorts with a jumper and my cycling jacket, and James was in black jeans…. A few minutes after walking up that steep road we were both boiling hot!
The road takes a sharp left at the top and there is a dirt track away to the right – it is signposted to the national park and for various walks so we took the dirt track and were then climbing up even steeper, although luckily in and out of shade from the rock face to our left. The road goes through a tiny hamlet with four or five white houses and comes to a reservoir. Immediately to the left of the reservoir is a small path beside the garden of a house and then a series of steep steps. We started climbing up. And up and up and up.
The steps turned into slabs of rock and became gradually less and less like steps, and still we kept climbing up. It was so hot. Ridiculously hot. We couldn’t believe James’ parents had managed the walk due to the steepness of the steps – it was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, we were out of breath and quickly realising we hadn’t brought enough water, and wishing we had brought suncream!
After about half an hour of climbing up, there was a fork to the left and the path started to traverse the side of the ridge. Now the path dipped in and out of the trees, offering some welcome shade, and then opening up to display incredible views down to Frigiliana so far below, the sea, and the other mountains of the Axarquia region. At some points we were right on top of the ridge with the hillside falling away either side of us.
To the south, the towns of the Costa del Sol, to the north, just the hills, with no roads or houses visible. On top of all this beauty, the path was strewn with wild rosemary and thyme, making the walk smell wonderful. We were running out of water and rationing ourselves now.
Once we reached the end of the ridge there was a final, steep climb uphill, the vegetation more sparse and prickly, and we reached the top!
We had some cheese and some ham, ignoring the bread we’d bought out of worrying it would make us too thirsty. James called his parents to ask how on earth they had managed it, to find out they had actually done a different climb – although James’ dad was keen to impress on us that his climb was much higher, much longer and much harder! I went to the edge of the plateau to take a picture of Frigiliana, only to discover a cloud had rolled in from the sea and was rapidly filling the valley and moving towards us. Time to get off the top.
We made our way down slightly faster than we had come up, dehydrated and dreaming of ice cold cokes with lemon. I fell over on my bum twice in the rocky scree as we scrambled down, no harm done! Once back in the village we stopped at the first restaurant we came to for our cold cokes – delicious!
Frigiliana restaurants: as you may have gathered from reading my previous posts on Frigiliana, avoid the restaurants in the very first bit of town you come to, between the old and the new town. Too touristy. Go up the street slightly into the new town to La domadora y el león for a craft beer or a cold, fresh lemonade, a chat and a few pieces of tapas (try La Axarca, the beer brewed by the owner of the store).
we stumbled upon a craft beer bar in a converted garage, run by a Madrileño who had moved to the south several years previously, brewed his own beer (a very tasty American pale ale) and set up shop. It’s the kind of place where everyone mixes in together, chats to strangers, barriers broken by a mutual enjoyment of beer (or not in my case, the first night I enjoyed a lovely glass of cold fresh lemonade!)
Then for dinner (not before 9pm), head back towards the old town. We ate in two restaurants, each fantastic, each very different. The first was The Garden, a slightly posh restaurant set off the street at the top of the town. As always, we shared tapas, from morcilla on a bed of aubergine dip to the usual cheeses and hams, and everything was delicious.
Our second choice was La Fuerte which I spoke about in my previous blog on Frigiliana:
Had we looked at the menu we would not have chosen to eat here, as most of the dishes were “international” – hamburgers, pasta. But there was the “tapas plate” to share so we went for that and were ridiculously happy. La Fuente’s main dish is the tapas plate. The others are on the menu to keep the tourists happy but the tapas plate changes regularly and is what they love to cook. Delicate mussels, spicy chickpeas, couscous bursting with flavour, patatas bravas topped with fresh tomatoes, intensely garlicky alioli… We ate it all up and were content. We went back on our last evening in Frigiliana and the tapas plate was similar but different – moist, spicy chicken wings instead of lemon chicken, chickpeas with chorizo instead of spice, a salad of cucumber and orange. I couldn’t recommend it more.
More on the other various places we visited coming up….. (I am finishing this post from my bed in my Madrid apartment as the sun shines brightly outside, over a week after I began it!)