Now that our everyday busyscape is defined by the skylines a city draws, it’s easy to forget the huge vistas Andalucía offers, the paisaje on our doorstep. Just an hour or so drive from central Málaga, out past the airport towards Cártama, Pizarra and Álora to the Embalse El Tajo and the Chorro Gorge, you feel you are moving through immensity.
In the pure light of this January day, all colours are definitive, absolute. White farmhouses in bright green fields vibrate against the deep blue sky, and the acid yellow gantry at the entrance to the El Tajo hydroelectric plant shouts so loud you have to laugh.
En route, Álora looked moody from the motorway, more mundane on foot. Café Alegría in the main Plaza is a good place to stop for a mid-morning coffee and snack, cosy with comfortable ladies who surely have gaggled there since they were brides.
From Álora, you wind up to Bermeja. Soon you can trace (with the eye only unless you are very different from me) the spidery walkways of the Caminito del Rey (the King’s Little Pathway) threading the dizzy drop acros the El Chorro gorge to the dam, the Embalse de Gaitenejo.
Looking right across to all this beauty and drama is Hotel La Garganta, a sprawling ‘Complejo Turístico Rural’. Displayed among the usual rustic tropes – farm implements on rough stone walls, grape arbour over the terrace, chunky furniture and such, are old components from the plant, as reverently shaped to their old purposes as Easter Island figures.
Lunch at La Garganta is one delicious surprise after another: croquettes with kid in a red wine reduction, delicias of goat’s cheese rolled in a Rice Krispie cake coating of frutos secos; a silky-sweet onion soup that could raise you from your sickbed. The portions are for mountain appetites.
The quality and value of everything we ate on that sunny terrace seemed part of the whole abundant day, and on that note, I wish all Andalucid readers a 2015 with many moments of simple wellbeing, vibrant colour and as much sunshine as you could wish to bask in!
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