A Postcard from Ronda

February 2017 I set off to visit Ronda, southern Spain in search of almond blossom…

header 1Arriving at Malaga airport I quickly found the bus to the city centre coach station and from there a bus to Ronda.  Considering I don’t speak a word of Spanish I found it very easy and everyone was helpful – but doing your research before you go is highly recommended.

It was a sunny 15°C when I arrived, but as the bus wound its way up into the mountains of Andalucia grey clouds appeared and it began to rain. Fortunately it had stopped raining when the coach pulled into Ronda. Clutching a map (yes a paper thing not an electronic version) and dragging my suitcase behind me I set off in search of my hotel.

It was now mid-afternoon and my plans were find the tourist information centre, explore and find a shop to buy my food for the week.  And a bottle of wine…

The tourist information centre staff were very helpful supplying me with bus timetables and the obligatory postcards for sending back home.  I always send real postcards but apparently it is out of fashion!  Last year the UK’s oldest postcard manufacturer shut down –  see link.

Ronda is a beautiful little town, one of the white painted villages know as ‘pueblos blancos’ that adorn the hilltops in Andalucia.  It sits atop a towering limestone escarpment through which the Del Tajo river has carved a spectacular gorge.  Spanning this gorge is the even more spectacular Puente Nuevo bridge.  There are walkways along the top of the escarpement with superb views of the surrounding countryside but the best views of the bridge are from the valley below.

_MG_1087On the way back to my hotel I found a small local supermarket and bought my provisions for the week – bread, cheese, salami, apples and some wine.  Having not brought a bottle opener I was faced with a very limited choice of wine – there was just one with a screw-top.  I am sure it could have doubled as paint-stripper but after a while you got used to it!

Later that first evening the rain started again – only this time it was relentless; the water pouring off the gutter-less roof and the noise echoing around the hotel’s somewhat utilitarian courtyard next to my bedroom window.

It was still raining hard the next morning but staying in my room was never an option – I was going to explore.  So with a packed lunch and my camera bag I set off;  I found the path that zig-zagged its way down through beautiful almond trees and into the valley below.  The almond tree flowers before the leaves appear – the flowers ranging from white to pink cover the trees.  They really are beautiful – even in the rain.

Thankfully the rain stopped around midday and I enjoyed a lovely picnic surrounded by pine trees.  Suitably fed and watered I decided to carry on along the dirt track into the next valley – great views of the mountains, surrounding cultivated farmland and barking dogs. And just as I decided that it was time to set back again – you guessed it – the rain returned – this time accompanied by a strong wind.  Battling back to the hotel into horizontal rain wasn’t much fun – but the wine tasted better for all that effort!



Checking the forecast later that night I found that the rain was disappearing and the sun was due an appearance late the following morning.  I decided on a bus trip to another pueblos blanco – Sentinel de las Bodegas –  famous for its houses built in and under the rocky cliffs.  It was beautiful and the buildings were incredible – thoroughly recommend a visit if you are in the area.



The rest of my week in Ronda was spent exploring the town…



…walking in the surrounding countryside enjoying the views…


…but mainly just enjoying the fabulous almond blossom from early morning until the sun went down._MG_1003





Graffiti, street art and all that…Part 1

Graffiti  “writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place”

It’s been going on a while – from early caveman right up to the present day.  If you are interested in its history there are some very good posts/blogs about already… check out the wikipedia post for quite in-depth information.

And at what point does it become street/urban art? Well I guess if the artist has the owner’s permission which is presumably what is happening in urban areas where there is a vast wealth of street art which is often used by TV/film crews as colourful backdrops. These areas have even become tourist attractions in their own right.

Whatever its history, the invention of the aerosol spray paint can certainly paved the way for those graffiti artists to get out there are do their stuff…

wordsMany pieces are combinations of the above – often by solo artists but also sometimes done by collaborative groups.  Graffiti is now a world-wide phenomena.  The content varies greatly – art, humor, political, gang-related, derogatory, religious – you name it there is probably a piece out there somewhere.  Not that it is that easy to read as graffiti artists often use their own secret codes.

Love it? Or consider the work of the devil?

love devilWell I love the colours and vibrancy of graffiti (and yes I also like colour charts and peeling paint but that’s for another time!) – anyway here’s a small selection of graffiti I have found on my travels…

bird syd

And finally for now – the one from the bus stop on the way to work – especially for my friend Howard who thought I was stopping for a coffee – but who now thinks I am bonkers when I told him what I was really doing!












A Postcard from Mellon Udrigle…

For the past few years I have been going away with a group of friends from a local camera club – mainly up to Scotland but a few other places as well.  Here’s a short review of the October 2017 trip to Mellon Udrigle and the surrounding area – and of course a few images.

Up in the western highlands of Scotland lies a peninsula known as Rubha Mor – surrounded by Gruinard Bay to the east and Loch Ewe to the west.  To the north lies the Atlantic and eventually the Arctic Ocean – but more of that later.  Mellon Udrigle is on the north eastern side of the peninsula – a small cluster of houses, crofts, a camp site and a white sandy beach.  From the beach where there are stunning views over to the Summer Isles and the mountains of Sutherland, Coigoch and Assynt.
MC beach

Down the single track road back towards the main road the views can be rather special too, especially if the late afternoon sun makes an appearance.
panoDriving down the western side of the peninsula alongside Loch Ewe you pass through Aultbea and Mellon Charles.  We have been told that ‘The Perfume Studio’ is worth a visit – it is small café, craft shop where they sell their home-made soaps and perfumes – there is also a photographer’s workshop…but it’s the thought of a brew, a cream scone and free Wi-Fi that beckons us!  There are great views out over Loch Ewe or at least there would have been if it wasn’t blowing a hoolie with horizontal rain lashing the windows!

Driving back the rain briefly stops and the sun appears – we stop for a quick shot of a rather splendid sculpture of a lady with a camera – the owner having kindly placed it in their front garden for all to enjoy. We also grab a few shots of an old tractor as one does.

But it’s a glimpse of a pier caught in a shaft of sunlight that intrigues – we set off to investigate. We explore it from various angles – the car park, the jetty, the beach and up the hill!
mc boom
Loch Ewe has a surprisingly strong maritime history – from fishing to ships carrying iron ore to be smelted in the furnace at Poolewe in the 16th century, and then during World War II it was used as an assembly point for Arctic Convoys.  Ships from British, American and Canadian ports gathered here before sailing through with supplies to the northern ports of Russia.  Inevitably these convoys attracted the hostile attention of the German Navy and what we thought was a pier was actually part of a boom defence installation that spanned Loch Ewe across to Firemore Sands in the west to deter U boats.

There was also a military base – the huts have now been demolished but the concrete bases and other relics remain; elsewhere in the area you can find the remains of anti-aircraft gun towers and other wartime installations.

If you are in the Aultbea area there is a small museum with lots of local history with personal memories from local people about the area during wartime including the Russian Arctic Convoys – definitely worth a visit.
Further west are the lovely Inverewe Gardens (National Trust for Scotland) which are also worth a visit – even in late October there was plenty of colour about in the beautiful walled gardens.
_MG_5067There are lovely walks through the gardens and into the wooded headland and quite often there is an exhibition in the house – all of which is free to National Trust Members (from any country – just show your pass).




There is also a shop and a café which was suitably equipped with freshly baked scones (amongst a variety of other goodies) and yes you guessed – there was also free Wi-Fi!  As we didn’t have any internet whatsoever back at the house this was a most welcome facility.Mosaic

Somewhere I certainly wouldn’t recommend visiting is the infamous Gruinard Island, located in Gruinard Bay – in 1942 scientists from Porton Down experimented with the deadly anthrax virus there and for many years it was quarantined. Whilst there have been some attempts to decontaminate it, it seems some experts still don’t think it is safe!

Of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Scotland without some weather and we certainly had some – including the forerunner to Storm Ophelia which caused rain, strong winds and strange skies but fortunately didn’t hit this part of the country.


And there was even a rainbow or two…rainbow Laide jetty

So if you are ever up in the western highlands of Scotland don’t forget to stop a while and explore – you never know what you might find.