Saturday, November 30, 2013

Costa del Sol

Church of Mijas, with the sun setting over the Mediterranean in the distance

We spent a wonderful week in southern Spain, visiting our friend Mariann. She lives in the adorable old town of Mijas, high up the rocky mountain above the Costa del Sol, between Málaga and Marbella. We met Mariann when she came to Maison Conti to do some etching in our studio. She later came back and Rick taught her how to do photogravure. It has now been four years since she invited us to come down and see her part of the world. In the interim she has bought two  houses, completely refurbished them, and opened a print making school, This fall she just finished organizing her little Casita Carmella as a guest house and asked us if we would like to be her first "guinea pig" guests.

Mariann and Rick in the local restaurant on the evening we arrived in Mijas
The week that we were free to go coincided with the week Mariann was busy preparing for an exhibition at Alfajar in Málaga. We were able to help her in various ways as she raced around her studio, printing, framing, pricing and cataloging.

Casa Rol, Mariann's house and studio in Mijas

The weather was pleasant all week and the working environment pretty spectacular! The view from Mariann's top terrace is panoramic. Mijas is known as the white village. It is kept sparklingly clean. This is an extremely agreeable place to spend time, particularly in November, when back home people are bundled up in thick coats and fleece lined boots.

The view from Mariann's terrace

Mariann's studio is very beautifully and practically set up. I really enjoy watching other printmakers at their craft. I learn so much, as we all do things quite differently.

Mariann's studio

Mariann has always impressed me with her focus and energy for her art. She has also created several beautiful spaces in her adopted home on the Costa del Sol (she is Danish).

Mariann's studio and print room at Casa Rol

Her latest project was the transformation of a little house named Casita Carmela a few minutes walk from her home. She has fixed this lovely little place up to be a vacation rental. This is where Rick and I stayed. After spending a week here, I can highly recommend it as a destination!

Interior of Casita Carmela

 I must say that the highlight of every day was the sunrise. The terrace of the house looks out to the sea, and at this time of year the sun both rises and sets over the Mediterranean. I took photographs every day as the spectacles were different and glorious each morning.

sunrise 1

sunrise 2

sunrise 3

sunrise 4

You get the idea!

Sunset was not too bad either. Although we could not see the sun dip below the horizon from our vantage point, we could see the wash of color painted on the cliffs. From Mijas one looks out to Gibraltar and Morocco, both of which are visible from many vista points.

sunset coloring the cliffs

 The Costa del Sol is a very crowded place, as you probably know. There are acres of modern condos lining almost the entire coast. From the vantage point of Mijas, it is much more interesting than the close up ground level view.

view to the Costa del Sol from Mijas

It seemed a great privilege to begin each day bathed in light. At home temperatures were close to freezing.

Rick basking in morning sun

Mijas itself is a very charming and ancient town. I suppose that nowadays its main industry is tourism, but not more than a century ago it was a town which had been supplying very important products to international markets as far back as Roman times. Olive oil, rope and baskets, honey.

Mijas' museum of local history

Like Montmirail, where we live in France, Mijas is without modern shopping malls or other such blights on the landscape. Unlike Montmirail, however, it is really a hopping place with rather a lot of restaurants to choose from, lots of little touristy shops and many places for visitors to stay. We were certainly not the only travelers visiting Mijas in mid-November.

Mijas point of interest: ancient chapel

 Mijas is very well maintained. There are a couple of parks which offer panoramic views.

Mijas park

And the famous donkey taxis which were implemented in the 1970s when local workers discovered they could make more money hauling tourists than straw.

Donkey Taxi  

There were a couple of days when Mariann was not in need of our help in the studio, and we took the opportunity to visit a few places nearby. Our first adventure was to the very beautiful and historic town of Ronda. The last and only other time we had been in Andalusia, we were with our friends Barbara and Craig. That was almost ten years ago. We remembered Ronda so fondly because of the very enjoyable time we had there with them. We wanted to repeat the experience.

One of the amazing bridges of Ronda and a view from the bridge

Ronda sits high above a picturesque valley. The palm trees and grand colonnaded buildings give it a glamorous and romantic air. I couldn't describe it better than Rainer Maria Rilke:

The spectacle of this city, sitting on the bulk of two rocks rent asunder by a pickaxe and separated by the narrow, deep gorge of the river, corresponds very well to the image of that city revealed in dreams. The spectacle of this city is indescribable and around it lies a spacious valley with cultivated plots of land, holly and olive groves. And there in the distance, as if it had recovered all its strength, the pure mountains rise, range after range, forming the most splendid background.

Hotel in Ronda

The Islamic influence on the architecture of Andalusia is one of my favorite things about this part of the world. During the middle ages, when northern Europe was deep into its dark ages, southern Spain was in the midst of a flowering of culture and religious tolerance not really experienced since.

museum in Ronda

We had a typical Spanish lunch in a pretty restaurant in Ronda and spent the entire afternoon wandering through town.

Ronda restaurant

On another free day we went to Marbella, one of the most popular spots on the Costa del Sol.  The historic old town is charming, but definitely geared towards tourists.

street in Marbella

To my mind, the best thing about the town was the Museum of Contemporary Printmaking. There you can see original prints by Picasso, Miró and Dalí, as well as many lesser known but equally wonderful Spanish artists.
streets of Marbella

I was much more impressed with Málaga. As usual, we had to get to the historic center of this large and sprawling city to find the gold. I was quite impressed with its architecture, historical sites, ambiance, restaurants and museum. I could have spent a lot more time there. Málaga is the birth place of Picasso and they have a museum dedicated to his work. It is marvelously informative, with a wonderful video, lots of work from all of Picasso's oeuvre, a great bookstore and even ancient ruins from Phoenician times in the basement of the building. A beautiful etching press that Picasso used was also on display.

Cathedral in Málaga

We enjoyed the grand plazas and beautiful buildings.

pedestrian Plaza in Málaga

We met up with Mariann and a few of her friends for a drink at an attractive café and afterwards migrated further down the street for some tapas.

El Jardin Restaurant

We then helped celebrate the opening of Mariann's exhibition in a beautiful shop just across from the cathedral. What a great location.

Mariann greets visitors to the opening of her exhibition at Alfajar

And then it was time to come home. Luckily we still had a little sun left of this side of Europe, and I have been enjoying some beautiful sunrises right from my own windows, but no question about it, southern Spain is a marvelous place to be, especially in November!

1 comment:

  1. You Nancy did as Monet with his cathedrals ! You "paint" sunrises in South Spain and Rick is like a Maja on his couch in the light ! Can guess easily how this vacation was a real one.