A mad dash South

  When we say we follow the sun we mean it! So this weekend we grabbed an amazingly cheap and efficient car share from Bilbao to Almeria - literally from one side of the country to the other. Our van is now repaired but we've left it safe and sound as Sam isn't really ideal for 8 hour journeys, and we looked at flights and car hire before someone mentioned BlaBlaCar. We met our first driver Manu in Bilbao at around 9am and had an easy trip down to Madrid. After a short wait at the bus station we were collected by our second driver, Daniel, and made our way south to Almeria. We finally arrived at around 9pm and the whole trip cost us just €60 each. Pretty amazing.

Daniel, the driver on the second leg of our journey south

Daniel, the driver on the second leg of our journey south

Passing through Madrid

Passing through Madrid

The road south

The road south

IMG_2338.jpg

We hadn't seen family and friends here since our wedding last July and it was great to be back. I love wandering around Almeria. It's a city untouched by the tourism that has so altered much of the Mediterranean coastline of Spain. It's very Spanish and very Andalucian and after so many visits has begun to feel like home. On our first morning back we stopped in to say hello to Tio Javier, who is actually the cousin of Carlos' grandmother, at his workshop. He was in the process of painting a Madonna and child. His studio is so beautiful I had to capture some shots, he seemed both flattered and amused in equal measure. 

IMG_2342.jpg
A sketch for a wood carving

A sketch for a wood carving

Carlos with Tio Javier

Carlos with Tio Javier

The sculpture in progress

The sculpture in progress

IMG_2347.jpg
IMG_2348.jpg

  Just after we arrived on Thursday evening we also had the unexpected pleasure of meeting some of the actors here filming Ridley Scott's new movie Exodus in the desert near Tabernas. We were honoured to meet Aaron Paul, having just finished watching the series Breaking Bad. He's a charming guy, and I shared some of my favourite things to do here in Almeria with his wife Lauren.

I was a little embarrassed hence the pained expression

I was a little embarrassed hence the pained expression

Carlos also had a beard-off with Andrew Tarbet, who will play Moses' brother Aaron in the movie. I think Andrew won. 

Carlos with Andrew Tarbet

Carlos with Andrew Tarbet

City views

City views

One dog was very happy to see us - meet Raton, Carlos' golden retriever

One dog was very happy to see us - meet Raton, Carlos' golden retriever

  Over the weekend we spent the day in Cabo de Gata, the beautiful and unspoilt National Park where we celebrated our wedding. It's an incredibly special part of the world - a desert that feels more North Africa than Spain. We stumbled upon a meeting of classic car owners in La Isleta del Moro and explored the coastline and villages.

A traditional windmill in Cabo de Gata

A traditional windmill in Cabo de Gata

IMG_2351.jpg
The symbol of Almeria is based on a local prehistoric cave painting

The symbol of Almeria is based on a local prehistoric cave painting

IMG_2358.jpg
IMG_2359.jpg

  We love this part of the world, and in our ongoing search for a new home it's certainly tempting. Warm winters, few tourists, family and friends nearby, and above all the amazing energy of the landscape full of light and space.  The park is full of sleepy villages and unspoilt beaches, lying hidden behind the dark grass-covered hills.

IMG_2354.jpg
Beautiful house in el Pozo de los Frailes

Beautiful house in el Pozo de los Frailes

IMG_2370.jpg
IMG_2371.jpg

  On Sunday Carlos cooked a giant paella with his brother Jose Luis for all the Crespo cousins. It turned out pretty well, although I missed the scotch bonnet chilli that he normally adds! He toned it down for the Spanish crowd.  

The brother's at work in the kitchen

The brother's at work in the kitchen

The spectacular paella

The spectacular paella

Almeria's Americano

Almeria's Americano

  Last night, to complete our Almerian experience we stopped off at the kiosk bar close to the apartment for Americanos. Forget straight black coffee, this hot mildly-alcoholic drink is not only peculiar to Almeria but also to this bar. You can't find it anywhere else and on the weekends they estimate they sell over 500 per night. It's a mixture of hot milk, kola nut liqueur from Murcia, sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel, and it's delicious. 

 This morning we're headed back to Bilbao via Madrid with our car-share driver Daniel and some meetings before the final leg to Bilbao. And then we'll continue our journey west towards Galicia and finally Portugal. I, for one, can't wait until we come back to beautiful Almeria.