July 22, 2018 - Priego de Córdoba, Spain

Today's family expedition was to Antequera and we all went, in various cars and at various times.The exception was the Canadians who hadn't yet had a 'rest day' and decided to reacquaint themselves with swimming and reading; and Rachel did their washing!

When Max and I did our first Torrox photo tour in 2015, Kevan took us up to the Alcazaba, the Moorish fort high on the hill on the edge of Antequera, but we only went into the courtyard where we had lunch and took the inevitable photos. I was proud of one which had pampas grass in the foreground and the city and mountains in the background.

Elouise, aged 5, was keen to travel with Lucie, and as the trip took almost an hour, Lucie and Sarah had to think up games to keep her amused. She is very bright, articulate and imaginative, so keeping her amused was both fun and challenging. Sarah devised a game which involved one person thinking of an animal and the rest of us asking 'yes' 'no' questions to guess the answer. When it was Elouise's turn she came up with a hairless cat. I can't remember whether any of us guessed it in the general confusion of question and answer, or whether Elouise just got tired of answering irrelevant questions and told us the answer.

David cleverly found us a parking spot just beside a park which is on the edge of the main square. We walked down past a very well maintained white painted bull ring, clearly still in use, although I'm not sure what for. We didn't go inside but sat in the main square, the Plaza de Castile, to wait for the others. Sarah took Lucie and Elouise to find food to while away the waiting time. There was a group of cyclists in 'Antequera' red and yellow lycra in the square, presumably on their way to or from somewhere else, and I was intrigued by a large and powerful sculpture of entwined lovers on top of a huge rock which they are evidently about to jump off. Another landmark is the Puerta de Estepa, a gateway which now doesn't lead anywhere but when it was built in 1749 it led into the city from the Seville road. It was destroyed in 1931 as a hindrance to traffic, but restored, using some of the original elements, in 1998.

We had lunch in a little cafe just around from the square, then walked up a lovely flight of wide, shallow stairs, bordered by trees and high walls, passing a few churches on the way. We finally arrived at the top of the fortress wall, and I was eager to repeat my pampas-grass photo. Sadly grevilleas, of all things, have replaced the pampas grass. Very disappointing!  We went through the Archway of the Giants into what I have called the courtyard, but which was apparently a parade ground for the fortress. At the far end is the Collegiate Church, while just through the archway is a further set of steps which leads up into the fortress, past a strategically placed ticket office. Only David, Sam and I ventured up as far as this, while Sarah and the girls waited for the rest of the party.

We walked through the gardens, capturing even more spectacular views as we climbed higher. At one point there is a long walkway between pine trees and stone walls at the end of which can be seen the mountain range behind the city. The most prominent mountain is the Pena de los Enamoradas, The Lovers' Rock, shaped like the horizontal profile of a man's face. The legend is that a Muslim princess ran away with a Christian prisoner and they were chased by Muslim guards to the top of the mountain from which, rather than be captured, they hurled themsleves. This is obviously the origin of the sculpture in the square.

At the top of the garden there are more stairs leading up to the Homage Tower (the Keep) which we climbed, and from which there is a spectacular 360 degree view. Although built on Roman ruins, and maintained as a fort for centuries by the Moors, it was enlarged by the addition of two towers in the 14th Century as the Christians were coming south, and capturing Moorish territory. We had audio guides which told us of a bewildering number of battles, counter-battles and seiges which eventually concluded with the capture of the Alcazaba by Ferdinand 1 of Aragon in 1410.The square Keep has a bell tower which was apparently added by the Christians, and includes a large bell. From the Keep we walked along the ramparts to the White Tower. By this time, we had separated, and I was behind the others who arrived back in the square before me. In fact David was coming out of the Church on his way to bring the car up, and told me to tell the person taking tickets in the church that he had handed in mine as well as his. It seems the church is no longer used, and I found all the others there, the children running about and the adults sitting chatting on the sanctuary steps which brought me up a bit short, as it were.

The most unusual item to look at in the church is a reproduction of the 'tarasca', the float which led the Corpus Christi procession in Granada in 1760. On top is a woman representing Faith, and at her feet is a seven headed serpent representing the seven deadly sins. Quite an ugly thing really.

Sam and I had enough before the others and went to the cafe in the square to order a fanta limone each. It hadn't arrived by the time the others joined us; the waitress had evidently forgotten us, so our drinks eventually turned up with the rest. While we were there, Will, Bex and Charlie arrived and it was lovely to be all together in such a spectacular place.

On the way home it was my turn to entertain Elouise and we had fun telling each other stories. Because I started off with an eccentric version of Little Red Riding Hood, it was wolves, large and small, good and bad, who featured largely in all the subsequent stories. In Elouise's version of LRRH, Grandma hid under the bed, so I skirted around the axeman. Elouise's favourite word was 'basically' which she used frequently and with absolute appropriateness. At one point in one of the stories, a diversion got a bit out of hand, so she pulled me up with 'Now, where were we?' She is a delight, and I wish I had had more time to discover as much about the other children.

I made for the pool as soon as we got home, and discovered the Canadians still relaxing there. Rachel was reading 'Sweet Tooth' which she thought wasn't as good as some of his others, and I agreed, but said that she would find the end intriguing. She later told me she did!

Tonight we had a treat for dinner - a massive seafood paella which Will and Bex had ordered in Las Lagunillas yesterday. It arrived promptly at 8 o'clock, and we enjoyed another lovely evening under the  grapevine.

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