Andalucía: Great scenery, fantastic weather and improving accessibility for those with disabilities

andalucia name

andalucia scenery andalucia beach

There can be absolutely no doubt that the area of Andalucía in the south of Spain is a lovely place to visit on holiday. There are many places to visit, fantastic and varying landscapes plus gorgeous Mediterranean beaches.

   And all this while enjoying the very best of Europe’s weather. Of course, it is a wonderful place to live, too. My wife Lisa and I moved here last November but that is another story.

   Getting around most places in Andalucía, and elsewhere in Spain for that matter, is not a problem for the majority of people. Similarly, access to buildings is largely pretty easy and not worth a second thought.

   Not worth a second thought, that is, as long as you are able-bodied. For those who have physical disabilities, however, it is not always so easy but tourist sites and hotels are fine and generally the situation is getting better. Accessibility is something that matters to me as my mobility problems, caused by multiple sclerosis (esclerosis múltiple in Spanish), mean that I’m in a wheelchair when out and about.

   Now, in more modern towns and cities, or in developments that have taken place relatively recently, there are few problems. In Andalucía, you can see real differences.

   In many towns the pedestrian crossings regularly alternate between those at road level and those at pavement height; the latter also serving as traffic calming ramps. But, for a wheelchair-user, both are easy to cross because the road-level ones have proper dropped pavements each side while the pavement-level ones are just that, flat and level.

   However, not all dropped pavements are as good. In older towns, originally built well before the invention of motor vehicles, some facilities for the disabled have been added but not always with sufficient thought.

   To see this, we need look no further than the road right behind the medical centre in Cuevas del Almanzora, in Andalucía’s Almería province.. There, someone has felt the need to install a dropped pavement, which is a good idea for wheelchairs – so close to the medical centre. But why on earth has the bottom of it been left well above the road level? Dropped from the pavement height it may be but there is still a significant step to overcome. Words fail me.

   Then there is one pedestrian crossing with a dropped pavement on one side of the road but a full height kerb on the other. Of course, tourists and my fellow British expats may be tempted to laugh at such a situation but I could show everyone an example of something similar in the UK. There, a crossing has a dropped pavement on each side but, having crossed the roadway, you are then left on an island with a kerb to negotiate to enter the car park.

   Actually, talking about car parking, that reminds me about people from other countries using disabled parking facilities.  Disabled parking cards issued by any EU country are recognised throughout Europe but how they may be used depends on the rules of the country in which you are parking.

   So, a holder of the disabled blue badge from Britain must remember that here in Spain it does NOT give you the right to park in a ‘no parking’ zone like it does on yellow lines in the UK; it simply gives the authority to park in a bay designated for that purpose.

   Finally, a word about access to buildings. Fair’s fair, this is improving throughout Spain but we have to realise that what may be desirable may not always be possible. What can we do, for example, about an old town post office with its door at the top of five steps and with no room for a ramp or a lift? Not a lot.

   However, in the same town, the branch of one bank, Banco Popular, with a step up to its door has recently been completely refurbished, including moving the door to eliminate the step and provide a flat and level entrance. Good planning for those with disabilities and parents with children in strollers.

 

 

Essentially British ‘fish and chips’ has Spanish roots

fish and chips

Fish and chips, widely known as a typically British meal has a somewhat surprising history that includes that its origins are most definitely non-British. They can be traced overseas and one, importantly, to the south of Spain.

What? Not British? I can almost hear the howls of outrage coming from the ‘sceptered isle’1. But it is true, over the years the British have proved they have a knack of adapting ideas and products from elsewhere and that version becoming ‘British’.

There is no doubt, though, that fried fish originally arrived from Spain. It was taken to England by Jewish refugees

The story of the humble chip goes back to the 17th Century to either Belgium or France, depending who you believe. Now for the benefit of this blog’s American readers, let me make it plain that a British chip, as sold with fish, is not an American chip; Brits know those as crisps. Nor are they French fries exactly, British chips are more like a much slimmer version of American steak chips.

What’s more, I do not intend to discuss how the best chips should be cooked as individual tastes vary considerably. Even Lisa and I have different views on the subject!

However, talking of origins, it may seem strange but chips seem to have been invented in Belgium as a substitute for fish. When the rivers froze over and fish could not be caught, they began to cut potatoes into fishy shapes and frying them instead.

Inside a freiduria in Cadiz, Andalucia.

A freiduria in Cadiz, Andalucia.

Around the same time, fried fish was introduced into Britain by Jewish refugees from Spain. Even today, Andalucia is famous for its fried fish shops, locally called freidurias.

Back in 19th century London, as a result of the Jewish refugees, the fried fish was usually sold by street sellers from large trays hung around their necks. The famous author Charles Dickens referred to an early fish shop or ‘fried fish warehouse’ in his well-known novel Oliver Twist, which was first published in 1839, where the fish generally came with bread or baked potatoes.

St George killing the dragon.

St George killing the dragon.

And this was well before the competing claims made on behalf of London’s Joseph Malin, himself a Jewish immigrant, and John Lees, of Mossley a part of today’s Manchester, to have opened the first fish and chip shops in the early 1860s.

So, like other things that are supposedly ‘British’, fried fish and chips appear to have come from Spain and Belgium respectively. They may have been ‘married’ in England but neither can claim to have originated there.

* What else is traditionally British but isn’t really? Well, the game of polo came from India, tea bags were invented in the USA, pubs were introduced by the Romans and England’s patron saint of dragon-slaying fame was not English at all. He was born in an area that is in modern-day Turkey.

1 ‘Sceptered isle’, from William Shakespeare’s King Richard II, Act 2, scene 1.

 

You can ski on real snow in southern Spain

ski1

Now, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. The weather here in southern Spain is not all sun, sun and yet more sun. It can get really cold too.

Where Lisa ad I live, that’s a natural feature of our desert-like climate where clear sunny days are followed by clear starry cold nights.

But even daytime temperatures are much lower in some areas. In under a three-hour drive from leaving home, on a warm and sunny day, we can reach an area where winter clothing is the usual wear in autumn/fall, winter and spring. That, along with skis and other necessary equipment for real snow; nothing artificial here.

Yes, southern Spain’s region of Andalucía, includes the country’s Sierra Nevada mountain range that overlaps the border of the provinces of Granada and Almeria, where we live.

The mountains include Mulhacén which, at 3,478 metres/11,411 feet above sea level, is the highest point of continental Spain. In comparison, that is more than three times the height of Snowdon in Wales and 2½ times that of Scotland’s Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest point.

In Spanish, Sierra Nevada means ‘snowy range’ and the area is a popular tourist destination. It is one of Europe’s most southerly ski resorts made possible by high mountain peaks in an area close to the Mediterranean Sea. Just below the mountains is the city of Granada and, not far away, those of Almería and Málaga.

In 1986, Sierra Nevada was named by UNESCO as a Bioshere Reserve, and in 1999, a large area of it was declared a Spanish National Park, owing to the region’s biodiversity and its broad range of mostly floral wildlife and its rich and varied natural landscapes.

Sierra Nevada National Park occupies 86,000 hectares/212,500 acres which, together with another 86,000 hectares of the surrounding Natural Park, make up an area of protected land that measures over 170,000 hectares. Both the ski resort and the Sierra Nevada Astronomic Observatory (at 2,800 metres/9,200 feet) are inside the national park.

ski2ski3The ski resort is open from November until May and has 110km/68 miles of pistes over 1,200 vertical metres/4,000 feet. It is renowned as being a place where you can ski in the morning and enjoy a drink as you sunbathe on the Mediterranean coast in the afternoon. Some are even brave enough to ski in bikinis on the last day of the season in May, known as la bajada en bikini, which is said to be an unmissable day of champagne and near nudity. Anyone for a day’s skiing in May?