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„Wir waren Anfang April für 5 Tage in CASARITA und haben uns sehr gut erholt! Wir waren schön wandern und spazieren und haben die Frühlingssonne genossen.  Die Zimmer sind gemütlich und Madita hat in dem Babybett sehr gut geschlafen."
Katrin Schröder, Talheim, Baden Würtemberg

Our Green Day Out PDF
 

By Paul Whitelock


alt  The Olive Press Green Guide to Andalucía June 2009

 

What could be better than an eco-friendly train ride and a healthy walk back through a protected landscape, followed by a meal made from organically grown produce? Paul Whitelock describes two options for a green day out in the beautiful valley of the River Guadiaro, in inland Málaga province. 

The pretty staThree generations of walkers take a resttion at Benaoján

 

WE’VE  done “our green day out” twice in recent months, in December and in April, and once in each direction.  Whatever the season or whichever way round you do it, it’s a fantastic way to spend a half day.

In fact, the valley of the River Guadiaro between Benaoján and Jimera de Líbar offers several options. Either catch the 10.24 train from Benaoján-Montejaque station for the seven-minute train ride to Jimera de Líbar and walk back to your car in time for lunch in the former railway-shed-turned-restaurant El Muelle, at the cheap-but-cheerful Bar Stop or Bar Cantina Estación, or at the Hotel Molino del Santo, a restored olive mill, a short walk from the station. Or do it the other way round and walk from Benaoján to Jimera in time for a late lunch in another former railway shed, now the acclaimed Restaurante Quercus, or for tapas in Bar Allioli, before catching the 17.03 train back.

The GranaText Box:   The Granada to Algeciras train threads its way through the valleyda to Algeciras train threads its way through the valley

 

Whichever way you do it, you’ll walk through some of the most stunning scenery around.  The fast-flowing Guadiaro, which winds its way through the valley, accompanies you for large parts of this walk, as does the single-track railway line which takes trains from Granada to Algeciras along a picturesque route built by Scottish engineer, Sir Brodie Henderson, at the beginning of the 20th century.

 With the sheer limestone mountains of the Serranía de Ronda on one side and rolling hills, lush with vegetation, on the other, this is a really pretty way to get those leg muscles working and your heart pumping. 

Three geText Box:   Three generations of walkers take a well-earned restnerations of walkers take a well-earned rest

Whether in the middle of winter when everywhere is still green, or in early spring when the wild flowers are blooming and the trees blossoming, you’ll marvel at the beauty of nature.  In the summer set off early or late or you’ll frazzle in the sun.

En route you’ll see rabbits, goats and wild boar, as well as pretty butterflies and circling griffon vultures.  You’ll meet other walkers too, who are all friendly and game for a chat.  The last time we did this outing, we met Spaniards from all over Spain, several Germans and some Spanish-looking ladies who spoke perfect English – they were Gibraltarians, glad to escape the narrow confines of The Rock to enjoy the wide open spaces of this part of southern Andalucía.

Lunch at Asador El Muelle is a hearty good-value affair, with a wide choice of meats and fish grilled on their wood-burning stove, supported by hearty salads and porra antequerana, a tasty cold soup made from blended tomato, bread and garlic with a tuna garnish, not dissimilar to the more well-known gazpacho.  The meat and fish main courses are hearty plates full and are enjoyed by a predominantly Spanish clientele, always a good sign.  You escape from here for about 15 euros per head, including drinks.

At the more fundamental Café-Bar Stop you can get a hearty three course menú del día for about eight euros, bread and  wine included, if you can get a seat.  This is a very popular eating place, run with utter efficiency by the formidable Anita.  But note that they are closed on Saturdays.

Even cheaper, but charming nevertheless with its outside terrace  on the station platform and a super display of flowers, is the Bar Cantina Estación.  No menu of the day, but a choice of about                                                                     10 platos del día at realistic prices.  On Saturdays they have a barbecue with a good choice of meat and fish to whet the appetite.

The restaurant at Hotel Molino del Santo is another matter altogether.  This is high-class dining.  Owned and run by Andy Chapell and Pauline Elkin, this place is very popular with locals as well as visitors.  So much so that you need to book at weekends.  Voted one of the 100 Best Hotels in the World by Trip Advisor in January 2009, the menu changes regularly and has a good selection of vegetable and salad dishes.  The ingredients are largely organic and either home-grown or sourced locally.  Top dish is habitas con morcilla, manzana y beicón, baby broad beans sautéed with black pudding, apple and bacon pieces.  Allow about 30 euros per person, including wine. The hotel offers a special discount of 35% on room rates  for Olive Press readers booking within three days of planned stay, if they mention the paper.

Another option, a half kilometre’s walk away alongside the river, is Hotel Molino Cuatro Paradas, which boasts one of the finest dining terraces in Andalucía. But you need to ring first to check that they are serving lunches.

In Jimera de Líbar Estación, Restaurante Quercus, also in an old railway shed, is the more expensive of the restaurants described here, but it’s worth every penny.  This place has quickly gained a reputation as one of the top restaurants in Andalucía. Run by local ladies María Luisa Martín and Pepa Garcia, Quercus offers a really healthy menu, using ingredients from their own huerta or from local farms.  There are countless specials every day, and lots of vegetarian options.  Try the timbale of baby broad beans and avocado with a carpaccio of langoustines and roasted cherry tomatoes and crispy slices of young leeks.  A full meal with wine is about 40 euros a head.

Another interesting but cheaper option is the village bar in Jimera de Líbar, right by the station.  Bar Allioli, now run by Englishman Paul Darwent and his Danish wife, Synnøve, this locale is loved by the villagers as well as being popular with walkers on a budget.  A wide range of excellent tapas is always available, as well as tourist information and a small delicatessen selling foreign products.

So that is “our green day out”. The walk is highly recommended and so is the food, whichever direction you go in and wherever you choose to eat.  Enjoy!

FACTFILE

Time:  2.5 to 3 hours

Difficulty:  easy to moderate

Equipment:

Sun hat and factor 25 sun protection

A stick is handy for the occasional incline or rocky bits

A camera is a must

Water

Train times:

Benaoján to Jimera de Líbar:  08.11*; 10.24; 17.09; 20.22

Jimera de Líbar to Benaoján:  08.23; 13.38; 17.03; 20.11*

Single fare: 1.60 €

* Weekdays only

Places to eat:

Asador El Muelle, Estación de Benaoján , tel:  952 167 508

Bar Allioli, Estación de Jimera de Líbar, tel: 635 668 132 - closed Tuesdays

Bar Cantina Estación, Estación de Benaoján

Café-Bar Stop, Estación de Benaoján – closed Saturdays

Hotel Molino Cuatro Paradas, Benaoján, tel: 952 167 129

Hotel Restaurante Molino del Santo, Estación de Benaoján, tel:  952 16 71 51

Restaurante Quercus, Estación de Jimera de Líbar, tel:  952 18 00 41

Bibliography:

Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay Spain, edited by Kathie Burton, published by Alastair Sawday

Dining Secrets of Andalucía, by Jon Clarke, published by Santana Books

Walking in Andalucía, by Guy Hunter-Watts, published by Santana Books