May 2002 Edition.|
Feature - The Real Andalucia – right on your doorstep.
Even while lazing on the beach on the hectic coastline of Andalucia, you cannot help but wonder what lies behind that impressive curtain of mountains, and a growing number of people are trekking inland to satisfy their curiosity.
Both tourists and residents are generally attracted to the Costa del Sol because of its sunshine, its beaches and its potential for outdoor living, but in reality the region has far more to offer than these things alone. Possibly its greatest feature is the immense variety, both natural and cultural, that is available within a relatively short distance. In other words, from the coastal resorts of the Costa del Sol, the real Andalucia is right on your doorstep, waiting to be discovered.
The occasional glance at the rugged peaks of the Andalusian Sierras, is no longer enough for the tourists, and a growing number of people are trekking inland to satisfy their curiosity. Although they are by no means the first to do so, these inland visitors are creating a welcome renaissance in the rustic tourist industry which, unlike the coast, is made up of charming little country ins and hotels, full of character and real Andalusian flavour.
Travel 100 kilometres in any direction and you will come across any number of fascinating sights and experiences; the hardest part is choosing which one to visit first. One of the closest and easiest routes inland takes in the little towns of Casares, Gaucin, Jimena de la Frontera and Castellar de la Frontera, the first of the famous Pueblos Blancos (white villages) that dot the mountainous hinterland behind the Andalusian coastline.
The nearest of these, Casares, lies at just three quarters of an hour's drive from Marbella, at the end of a road that gently winds its way up from the coastal highway amid pleasant, pine-clad hills. Coming round the last bend, you are suddenly confronted with the town and its tightly knit whiteplastered houses that pack a steep hillside. Casares is actually built upon a large rocky outcrop that fronts the southern tip of the Sierra Bermeja mountains and overlooks the fertile plain of the Rio Genal. With its houses draped over the rock, suspended well over 100 metres above the plain below, and with the dramatic silhouette of the old Moorish castle that occupies the peak of the outcrop, Casares offers a spectacle that has made it one of the most photographed towns in Spain.
Once inside, it is characterised by the steep, narrow alleys and sleepy atmosphere that so typify the white villages. The walk up to the castle is not only steep but also an experience-take a wrong turn and you might well walk into a courtyard full of chickens or washing hanging out to dry in someone's backyard - but the views at the top are well worth the effort. Unfolding in front of you is a spectacle of fertile plains, villages, coastline and the clear outlines of Gibraltar and the Rif Mountains of Morocco. It is uncanny to think that eight centuries before, a Moorish sentry was probably rooted to the very spot you are standing on. Although it is regarded by many as the quintessential pueblo blanco, because of its stunning setting, Casares' close proximity to the sea means it retains a strong coastal influence, which reduces its true mountain village credentials somewhat. To sample a more authentically preserved atmosphere, one has to probe further into the mountains of the Serrania de Ronda, to find a more isolated hamlet.
From Casares, the road inland follows the contours of the mountain before descending into the Rio Genal valley and up again, along the slopes of the Sierra del Hacho. The spectacular scenery along this route makes it a treat, all the more so in autumn, when the leaves of the forested hills brush the surroundings with strokes of auburn and ochre. Another unforgettable experience is approaching the nearby village of Gaucin by night, for as you draw nearer, the illuminated castle that overlooks the village suddenly appears out of nowhere, apparently suspended in a sea of darkness. For several kilometres, this apparition is your only companion, until you turn a bend and the village unfolds below it.
Situated over 600 metres above sea level, Gaucin fringes the south-western spurs of the great Serrania de Ronda mountain range on the north, while overlooking a valley that slopes down all the way to the sea, over 25 kilometres distant. Its name, derived from the Arab word guazan (strong rock), indicates the key strategic importance of its location, attracting a succession of Celts (who founded the town), Romans, Arabs and later Castilians, each of whom added to its spectacular castle. Like a true eagle's nest, imperial eagles, kestrels and vultures are often seen circling its towers, but on sultry summer nights they are joined by humans, as the castle courtyard becomes the stunning setting for classical music recitals.
Long notorious as a den of bandits and smugglers, Gaucin became part of a rich popular tradition that romanticised these often-tragic figures as free spirits and champions of the oppressed. As one of the first pueblos blancos to have become popular among foreigners, Gaucin's 'free spirits' are now mostly made up of the colony of foreign artists who have settled in this picturesque corner of Andalucia. From Gaucin, the road descends into the lush valley of the Rio Guadiaro, the produce of whose orchards is on sale at impromptu roadside stalls.
After coming away with a bargain, you cross the river and start the short but steep ascent to the market town of Jimena de la Frontera. Blanketed by an expanse of cork and olive trees that covers the hills surrounding the village, Jimena rises steeply up a solitary mass of rock in an otherwise gently undulating landscape. The need for protection against raiders and invaders explains the reason why the early inhabitants of Andalucia chiselled their villages into steep rocks rather than building them on the flatlands, where they would be far more vulnerable. It is out of this isolation that the pueblos blancos - the embodiment of Andalucia - were born. Extending from Jimena onwards to far beyond Jerez, most towns and villages have the suffix de la Frontera, meaning 'of the frontier'. It is a reminder that for almost two centuries this was a frontier region that saw almost continuous warfare, in which towns passed from Moorish to Christian hands and back again. When the town of Jimena finally fell to the Castilians in 1434, it passed into the possession of the feudal lords of Medina Sidonia.
Directly south of Jimena, at less than 20 minutes drive from Sotogrande, lies the intriguing village of Castellar de la Frontera. This little hamlet is one of the few left that is entirely encased within the ramparts of a well-preserved fortress. By the 1970s, however, the village had become too primitive, so the entire population was moved to nearby Castellar Nuevo, the new village built on flat land. German hippies were later attracted to the deserted Castellar Viejo for the very reasons that had forced its original inhabitants to leave it. While some of the foreigners occupied houses in the village, others added to its medieval appearance by constructing makeshift huts outside the walls. Their settlements gained notoriety for a while, but now Castellar is once again becoming a popular attraction and the 'foreign residents' have opened up little bars, ins and shops that sell handmade products. (Excerpt from ”Essential Magazine”)
Activities - Cable skiing in San Pedro.
Water skiing is usually something done on the ocean with rented equipment from one of the many chiringuitos on the beach. A different type of water skiing has been offered for a while on an inland lake next to San Pedro in the Guadalmina area. The attraction is called “Cable skiing” and is simply a mechanically run wire that is strung in a circle on the lake. Instead of hanging after a boat you will hook onto the wire and waterski like normal. The only differnce from normal waterskiing is that you cannot jump in the waves from a boat. Several can go at the same time and the attraction is quite popular among inhabitants who would like a different waterski experience or who do not have the possibility of going on a short and expensive ride on the ocean. Follow the signs “Cable Skiing” from San Pedro and see if you are able to master the challenge of the lake. Take a look at the operator's website.
Evening guide - Japanese dining in Westin Bayshore hotel, La Quinta.
There are not too many Japanese restaurants in the Marbella area, and those who exist differ in quality. We can, however, highly recommend the new Japanese restaurant in the new luxurious Westin Bayshore Hotel in La Quinta. The restaurant is called “Kaede” and serves top quality sushi, sashimi, and maki, and other fried variations of the Japanese kitchen. The atmosphere is typical Japanese with great views to the fantastic tropical garden of the hotel. You can choose to sit at a teppan-yaki frying tables with a cook preparing your dinner in front of your eyes, or you can get a table in the Pagoda style part further into the restaurant. If you choose to sit by the frying table you should expect to smell somewhat fried the rest of the evening, but it is nevertheless a great experience. Call 952 762059 to reserve a table or check out the hotel website.
Events - The Russian National Ballet visits Marbella.
The ballet enthusiasts have something to look forward to when the National Ballet of Russia performs “Sleeping Beauty” in Ciudad de Marbella Theatre with music by Tchaikovsky. The performance takes place on Friday May 10th at 10 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the theatre and in El Corte Inglés. More info on phone 952 866961.
The Supertramp concert in Malaga on April 25 was a nostalgic déjà vu. The old guys were still impressive and all the good old songs were played. The new material did not turn on as much enthusiasm in the crowd of 5000 fans, but all in all the concert was worthwhile. It is expected that U2 and The Cure will show up in Malaga in the upcoming months, and we will keep you posted of possible dates on our website's newsflash.
Municipal news - Marbella mayor Jesus Gil is prosecuted.
Marbella Marbella mayor Jesus Gil is prosecuted - The Madrid provincial court has rejected the appeals placed by Mayor Jesús Gil's lawyers against the decision made recently to hear the case against Gil known as the “caso Sermosa”. The prosecution is calling for Gil to be sentenced to six years in jail and a ten year ban from holding public office. The Mayor is accused of embezzling public money by means of the sale of properties in Avenida Ricardo Soriano and Calle O'Donell in Madrid. Also accused are the former manager of the municipal company Contratas 2000, José Luis Jiménez, and businessman Benigno Vázquez. The trial will take place sometime this year. The new Mayor of Marbella is now Julian Muñoz, the previous right hand of Jesus Gil.
Marbella boasts leading European Rolls Royce dealer - Not only is it the Spanish town with more luxury cars per square kilometre, Marbella is also one of the places in Europe where the most vehicles of this type are sold. C. de Salamanca is the second dealer in western Europe for sales of Rolls Royce-Bentley. Last year the Marbella branch of C. de Salamanca sold 747 luxury cars made by eight manufacturers, the most popular being the Land Rover which sold 377 vehicles, the third highest figure in Spain. Similarly 133 Jaguars were sold, the fourth highest figure in Spain, 11 Rolls Royce-Bentleys, the second highest sales figure in Western Europe, 11 Maseratis (top figure for Spain), 7 Ferraris and 9 Aston Martins (double the total for the rest of Spain).
Repaired beaches take another beating - Last week the Costa del Sol was once again beaten by the “levante” (easterly) wind, undoing much of the work that has just been completed to repair damage caused at the beginning of this year. The tourism industry on the Costa del Sol has called for permanent measures to protect the beaches from the weather.
San Pedro – New route of N340 opens in May
The 40,000 vehicles that use the N-340 through San Pedro will have an alternative route in May when the first phase of the southern bypass, linking Las Petunias and El Ingenio is due to be reopened to traffic. The road has been closed for the last six months for improvements. The progress on the next phase of the road currently under construction between El Ingenio and Guadalmina has been held up due to irregularities including the invasion of the course of El Chopo stream and land classified as a green zone. The road will probably finish in time for the summer season.
Estepona – Free accupuncture to residents
Residents of Estepona over the age of 60 are to benefit from free acupuncture sessions at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic in the Hotel Paraíso. The local Social Welfare Department has set up this new scheme to help many old age pensioners cope with their ailments. Anyone interested should go to the Gabinete Geriátrico Municipal in Calle Terraza to apply to be included in the programme.
Mijas – Possible extension of golf course
The Town Hall is studying the possibility of providing 80,000 m2 of municipal land to extend the nine hole golf course currently under construction in El Llano de La Cala. In exchange residents of Mijas would be eligible for a 30 % discount on green fees at the course.
Marbella Eiendom News - The market is still strong.
Many participants in the real estate market in Costa del Sol are somewhat surprised by the sustained demand from both international and domestic clients. The most common explanation heard is the introduction of Euro notes and coins in January. However, we feel that the picture is somewhat more complex than that. After all, the Euro has existed since 1999 and currency risk has not been a factor since then. Also, England is still the strongest market even though it is not an EMU member. The relief that the Euro introduction was successful and people's acceptance with the new notes have contributed to the sustained demand. However, Marbella's reputation as a safe and sunny haven with high life quality has improved after last year's turbulence. The world is almost back to normal and the front troops of the upcoming age wave in Europe are more convinced that Marbella is the place to retire. The average age of buyers have increased slightly and is now around age 50-55. We can also see a clear tendency that young families are moving to the sunny coast of Spain. The internet age enables employees to be less dependent on physical presence. Many ask themselves why they should postpone increasing their life quality. Infrastructure, schools, health care etc are well developed in Marbella, and this enduces many to act according their dreams.
Within a few months we will introduce a new villa project in the Marbella-area. The villas will be prices around EUR 600.000, and will be a great contribution in satisfying the high demand in this price range. We will come back later with details on this project.
We also have received the exclusive rights to sell luxury apartments in the private wing of the 5 star Kempinski Hotell near Estepona. The apartments are unique and fully furnished. All units will have rights to use all the hotel facilities, and the hotel can rent out the apartment when it is not in use. We will add details on the project on our website during next week. Prices start at EUR 200.000.
As mentioned above, Marbella's mayor Jesus Gil stepped down in April and awaits prosecution in Madrid within the year. His “right hand” Julian Muñoz has taken over as mayor, and it is expected that the policies will conitune as before. However, many expect that it will be more difficult and time consuming to obtain building licenses in the future. For some time rumours have claimed that several promotors have paid money under the table to the administration to speed up licensing processes and increase permit chances. With the fall of Jesus Gil, the Madrid authorities will now follow the Marbella administration with eagle eyes, and we have already seen that some recent licenses have been temporarily withdrawn awaiting a closer look by the new administration. Some scandals may well surface in the next months, and we expect licenses to be harder to obtain in the future. We recommend that potential buyers evaluating new projects check that the necessary permits are in place before signing up for a project. We will in any case not sell projects without the necessary licenses in place.
Because of work pressure and vacation we did not send out a newsletter for April. We hope that our potential buyers and previous clients appreciate the newsletters, and do not hesitate to send us your views. We also remind you that our web database is not by far as large and updated as our internal database due to technical incompatibility between the bases. The web database will give you an impression of what we can offer. For specific updates on availabilities just send us a message and we will send a fresh list matching your requirements. Also, do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to inspect properties and projects on Costa del Sol. Have a nice spring!
Phone/Fax: (+47) 22503012
Mobile: (+47) 97121313 / 91754607