The restaurant closes for the winter from Monday 28th October and re-opens 1st April 2020.
Our self-catering cottages remain available throughout this time and full details are contained on other pages of this website.
The restaurant closes for the winter from Monday 28th October and re-opens 1st April 2020.
Our self-catering cottages remain available throughout this time and full details are contained on other pages of this website.
Rutas de los Olivos Milenarios de Periana
We have written before about Periana Gold the verdial type olive oil produced in the village cooperative and it will interest walkers and lovers of the countryside to see that three new walking routes around the olive groves have been established.
These walks are designed to show off some of the district’s ancient trees, one of which is thought to be over 1500 years old. Several others exceed a thousand years and all have been calculated by measuring the girth of the trunk one and a half metres from the ground. Each metre is thought to equal between 200 and 250 years. The oldest to be seen on the walk is known as “El Chato” with a girth of 7.4 metres. Various other wonderful specimens to be seen are known as “The snail”, “The shelf” and “Box Office” all names describing the shape of the trees.
The three routes vary in length and will take between 1.25 and 2.00 hours. The olive oil cooperative are offering guided tours or you may walk independently using maps provided, a link is here. You will see that the routes can be walked separately or joined together for a much longer hike.
The closest route to Cantueso is called “Ruta Cortijo Blanco – Rio Seco” and is 6.3 Km long and should take 1 3/4 hours. In fact Cantueso is along the route so you may start and finish here and no doubt need a cooling drink at the end ? Please make sure that you go prepared for walking in warm weather with proper shoes and plenty of water.
The cooperativo has also produced a special limited batch of Millennium oil using olives from the ancient trees. It can along with several other types be purchased from the cooperative shop in Periana.
For more information on walking in Axarquia see our website walking page here.
And if you are interested to read more about Periana’s Olive oil please see our previous blog here.
On Saturday 2nd August 2014 the 12th Peaches Festival will once again be held in Periana. Unlike last year when due to economic restrictions it was held alongside the August festival, it will once again be a stand alone event.
During the day there will be the usual stalls and amusements set up along the main street with various free tastings, and a medieval market. There will also be the popular cookery competition; dishes for which should of course contain Peaches.
Later there will be an on stage Festival of Rock & Roll, with various tribute acts and then music with Dj’s until the early hours.
In previous years more than 5000 people came to the village and this year is bound to be just as lively. A stroll around the streets filled with the scent of peaches is bound to get your taste buds moving and suitable food and refreshment stalls will be available.
A little Peach History: It is thought that a resident brought the first seedling to Periana after a visit to Argentina 200 years ago and it thrived in the wonderful climate and fertile land. As the crop developed it was taken to neighbouring villages on the backs of donkeys and eventually became popular with buyers from Murcia and surrounding provinces. However it was not until the last half of the 20th century that the crop came to prominence being appreciated for its taste, aromatic scent, soft velvet skin, colour and culinary versatility and by the 70’s a good year would yield as much as 4 million kilos.
Sadly as so often happens in agriculture, the crops were affected by pests and several years of drought which led to a steady decline in production. This continued until about ten years ago when market demand encouraged growers to plant more trees and the municipality started to promote peaches once again. Hence this year is the twelth in which the village and visitors will get to party the night away.
If you have time come up and visit us at Restaurante Cantueso where Carmen our chef is sure to produce some very tempting dishes, and whatever you do, don’t forget to buy a box of these special fruits to take home before you leave.
For many years we have extolled the virtues of Cantueso as a base for walking and associated pastimes such as birding or photography, and to aid less experienced walkers we have our own route guides. Below we are pleased to include a report by Derek Polley on his walking and birding in Axarquia following his third stay at Cantueso during April.
Derek had previously been here with another group from Northern Ireland on a couple of occasions and thought it would suit his church walking group, so booked the complete complex. Derek explains: “This is purely a walking group, although walks are planned round lunch, and coffee on the way home. We have been called an eating group which does occasional walks!! My birding just happens as we walk although I have been known to pick a route where I know there will be good birds!”
Birding around Cantueso
As well as the birds which can be seen in or around the site itself, there are also a number of possibilities in the immediate area, and further possibilities if you are prepared to drive for an hour to an hour and a half. There is also the Guadalhorce Reserve in Malaga which is only five minutes from the airport.
The birds seen in and around Cantueso itself have been seen either in April or September. Obviously some of them are summer migrants and will only be seen from April to September, others are resident and can be seen all year round.
Residents include Collared dove, Blackbird, Sardinian warbler, Great tit, Blue tit, Spotless starling House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Serin and Goldfinch. Crested lark is the default lark in the area but do not rule out Thekla’s lark which occurs as well.
Summer visitors include Cuckoo, Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, House Martin, Swallow, Red-rumped swallow, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Woodchat shrike
In summer it is usual to see eagles and other birds of prey from Cantueso. These occasionally hunt the valleys on either side of the complex. Expect to see Bonelli’s eagle, Short toed eagle, Booted eagle, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel in season. Griffon vulture is a possibility as well.
The walk along the old railway line to Ventas La Zaffaraya can also be productive. As well as common residents you can expect to see Griffon vulture, red-billed chough, black wheatear, stonechat, corn bunting, raven, peregrine, and in spring and autumn migration anything may turn up. I have seen spotted flycatcher, redstart, whitethroat, golden oriole and turtle dove.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area.
Cross the valley to Alcaucin and walk up the valley into the mountains to the nature reserve and you will find many of the above species as well as Jay, Coal tit, Crag martin, Great spotted woodpecker, Alpine accentor and Wood pigeon.
El Torcal is an hour’s drive to the North-west (see also.) As well as spectacular limestone scenery it has a good range of birds including Griffon vulture, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Rock bunting, Blue rock thrush, Black redstart, Sub-alpine warbler and Melodious warbler. Another thirty minutes North to Antequera brings you close to the breeding flamingo colony at Fuente de Piedra lagoon. A lot of what you will see there depends on time of year and water levels, but it is worth a visit if you are in the area." El Torcal, so much more to see than just birds!
If you are flying in and out of Malaga the Guadalhorce reserve is only 5 minutes drive from the airport. It is well worth a couple of hours en route to Periana, or leave early and check it out before you drop the car off. It has a wide variety of wetland species and is a migratory stopover in spring and autumn. The list of species is long and varied and includes White-headed duck, Kingfisher, Marsh harrier, Yellow legged gulls, Black winged stilt, Glossy ibis, herons, egrets, ducks, waders and terns – including Gull billed. The reserve is good for breeding warblers including Zitting cistacolas. In summer it is very hot, there is very little shade, and if water levels are low there will be fewer species. However in April, May and September anything can turn up on migration to and from the Straits of Gibraltar. Google Guadalhorce and you will find a lot of trip reports with a lot of stunning birds, including a feral flock of Monk Parakeets.
All photos courtesy Derek Polley
We have noticed that both professional and amateur photographers just cannot resist the many photo opportunities that exist around Cantueso Cottages in Periana Spain, and this last month Kees Laurijsen from Dongen in Holland was no exception. He has kindly allowed us to show some of his photos here and because it has been so hard to select just a few we have added a link here to many more.
Like many other photographers and artists Kees found that the light in spring time Andalucia has a marvellous clarity, ideal for landscapes with mountain backdrops or lake views. Early mornings can offer sultry mists before the sun has burnt off the dew and at the end of the day there are sunsets to keep the shutter working. During the day there are lots of birds, wild flowers, insects and the ubiquitous olive trees which are so much of a feature of our area. All of the photos below were taken either from the terrace of the cottage where Kees and his wife stayed or close by.
Kees is a very talented professional photographer and examples of recent work can be seen on his website at: www.kees-laurijsen.nl
......and for the technically minded the equipment used by Kees was: A Canon EOS 5D Mark III with the following lenses: Canon 24-70 F2.8; Canon 70-200 F2.8; Canon 100mm macro F2.8 and Canon 50mm F1.4 For the macrosa tripod was used.
Preparations for summer seemed to be dogged by bad weather and our refurbishing of the pool at Cantueso Cottages has only just been completed. This 12,000 € project is going to put a stop to water leaks which have plagued us for the last few years being both wasteful and expensive. Many leak tests and other investigations were carried out but in the end we decided the only solution was to completely reline the pool and this has been done by Clima Pool Centre from Nerja, one of whom had the unenviable job of working up to his chest in cold water for much of the time. Now it is finished we have a brighter blue colour and a non slip children’s shallow area. And as I write the weather is giving us some glorious days. Take a look at our webcam and see for yourself.
Another part of our complex to get the winter upgrade treatment has been the crazy golf area where we now boast a large 14ft trampoline, sand table and swings with much needed shade so that mum can sit and watch the little ones at play.
We are often asked for advice about driving to Spain and one of the main questions is whether it is better to use the Ferries or go through the Channel Tunnel and which is cheaper.
An example of our own trip to the UK last month will help to clarify some points. Periana to Colchester is a trip of 1400 miles going through the Tunnel and 700 if using the ferry from Santander or Bilbao to Portsmouth. Using the ferry means that you can drive to Santander from Periana in one day of hard driving, mostly motorways which are excellent and we managed the 550 miles in 9 hours plus a couple of stops. The ferry departed the next day so a night in the town was necessary.
Not really a hardship as Santander has some excellent fish restaurants including El Serbal a Michelin starred place that must surely be the cheapest in Europe. Lunch menu 35€ or 8 course tasting menu with wine for each course 85€, no service charge or extras for seven sorts of bread, water, appetisers etc. And when did you last get a glass of wine for 3.60€ apart from Cantueso J
The Brittany Ferry takes about 23 hours, with comfortable cabins and good restaurants as you would expect from a French boat. They describe it as a cruise and certainly their flagship the Pont-aven has all the facilities you would expect on a cruise.
Depending on the day and time you travel the journey can be one night or two, and things have improved so much in recent years that even travelling with pets is possible. There are pet friendly cabins or kennels and an exercise area on deck.
So far as costs go it was on this occasion about the same as going through France where the tolls are high and of course the extra mileage means a lot more fuel and usually two nights in hotels. Much depends on how much time you have and whether you wish to make it a leisurely drive or a sprint.
We shall make the return journey in February and that will be even easier and cheaper as there is a ferry leaving Portsmouth at 10.30 a.m. which arrives in Spain the next morning at 09.30 a.m. meaning no need for hotels just one night on the boat and the drive down to Periana.
On balance: the ferry saves time, can be cheaper (particularly if you book a reclining seat rather than a cabin!) and much more relaxing start or finish to your holiday. I particularly like the booking website for Brittany Ferries because you can go online and change your route, timings, accommodation etc. at any time before travelling without cost penalties. Makes a change after the cheapie airlines rip-off the customer policies.
Any minus points? Not really but remember the Bay of Biscay can be lumpy in winter J
Do you suffer from: respiratory problems, asthma, high blood pressure, anaemia, fatigue, rheumatism, liver disease or even intellectual exhaustion? Well if you do, there is help available through the magical properties of honey. It is claimed that different types of honey have a variety of medicinal properties and the main types in Málaga include: Orange blossom, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Chestnut and even Avocado. And whilst we offer no guarantees regarding the efficacy of these claims ): we do recommend this as a day out from Cantueso, especially if you have children.
The recently opened museum is a little off the beaten track, tucked away in a back street of Colmenar, but well worth the effort to see and learn about honey. A good starting point is the 15 minute film in several languages which introduces the visitor to the beekeeper’s world, charting its history going back 8000 years, and describing the complex work of the bee. You can then wander around the museum which has lots of interactive displays, exhibits and finally a shop which sells honey, beeswax, soap and other associated products.
The museum has been set up by the Beekeeper’s Association of Málaga who proudly display the eight types of honey which have been awarded their “Seal of Quality.”
Einstein it seems noted the importance of bees and is quoted at the museum as having said:
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”
It is a good thought provoking quote even though it seems he never said it!!!
Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 2pm and 3pm – 6pm. Monday: closed
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 2pm Guided visits: by appointment
Entry 2€ or Guided visit: 6€ Gift pack included with the visit
The self-styled Longsufferers’, a walking group from Northern Ireland has spent a week at Cantueso for a second time. The group is comprised of retirees who nonetheless undertook a number of quite extensive walks in the Periana region. “Peter the Walker” as we know him, says: “Members see Cantueso as offering classic walks with stunning views direct from the doorstep, the flexibility of having individual and group-prepared meals as well as the restaurant service, combined drives and walks within a reasonable distance and a great pool to unwind in after the exertion!” Peter also told us that a number of the group combined their week at Cantueso with stays further afield including Seville, Cordoba and Granada.
Many other visitors to Cantueso enjoy our prepared route guides and we all have Peter to thank for his kindness in preparing them. We hope to add to them in the future.
Please also see our web page giving more details about this area of Axarquia and other walking links.
Or so said that famous moaner Michael Winner in his column in the Sunday Times last week. He went on to say the reason was because they thought the view was enough, and then continued in familiar style to slag off Min Jiang the restaurant on top of The Royal Garden Hotel in London.
We cannot comment on the London restaurant but we certainly don't agree with his tar them all approach. We add below a photo taken a month ago at Restaurante Cantueso just so that Mr Winner might see what a good restaurant view really looks like. Pity he cannot visit Periana and sample some of Carmen's cooking as he might then agree that there are always exceptions to any rant :)
an Andalusian Gardener’s Delight
Cordoba the one time capital of Moorish Spain rates high on the things to do list of most tourists and whatever time of year you visit there is always much to see. Top of the list is the architectural wonder the Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque Cathedral). However during May there is the Patio Festival which gives us a unique opportunity to step into private homes and to see marvellous displays of plants and flowers in private gardens and patios. You cannot help but marvel at the variety of the decorations and plants, at a time when the geraniums, roses, carnations and other flowers are in full bloom.
For travellers in search of authentic experiences, this tradition is ideal. Cordoba's streets and plazas are a delight to explore, but the city's private houses--many hundreds of years old--shelter beautiful little corners which are waiting to be discovered.
Cordoba's patios capture the essence of Andalusia in a tiny space, isolated from the rush and hurry of modern life and whilst they open in the first week of May many displays remain during the rest of the summer.
Our photos were taken two weeks ago after a very severe winter and will no doubt continue to flourish with better weather. From Cantueso in Periana it takes about 2 hours by car and is an easy drive.
The Ruis family from Utrecht in Holland returned last week to collect their prize of a free Lunch having been placed first in the 2008 competition. The competition was held during the year and any photo taken in or around Cantueso was eligible for entry. It was very nice to see them again and to meet their latest arrival, Ike. All the original entries can still be seen here.
At Cantueso Cottages and Restaurante we are often asked by visitors to recommend a beach and always found it difficult to offer adequate information due to the numerous possibilities along this part of the Costa del Sol.
Now thanks to our front of house manager Jo Mitchell's hard work during the last few months, we have her own personal recommendations for some of the many beaches between Malaga and Nerja. Her illustrated guide runs to over twenty pages and will be available to visitors staying at Cantueso Cottages.
Jo is a sun worshipper and spends much of her free time on the beach and writes from first hand experience. She includes a wealth of information on each beach and will guide you to: lively beaches, those ideal for children, secret coves, the best beach-side bars and restaurants, or even a nudist beach.
See also the 14 pages of "Things to do" on our website.
No doubt many readers will be as confused, as we sometimes are, regarding how Axarquia, Costa del Sol and Andalusia all fit together.
Andalusia is a Spanish Autonomous Community with regional government and has the greatest number of inhabitants of any region. It is sometimes called the Lake District of Spain having over 300 lakes and reservoirs. See our blog on Lake Viñuela.
It has a benign climate boasting 3000 hours of sun per year, with many kilometres of golden sandy beaches and those beautiful natural ports which have made it a safe haven for navigators for centuries past, and now plays host to many thousands of tourists from all over the world.
COSTA DEL SOL
Within Andalusia is the COSTA DEL SOL (The Sunshine Coast). It is that part of the Southern coastline of Spain which stretches from Gibraltar in the West, to Almeria in the
East. The Northern boundaries are not always easily defined and here in Periana we are sometimes said to be “Inland” Costa del Sol.
Axarquia is a district (comarca) within Andalusia. It stretches from Malaga to Nerja along the coast and inland as far as Alfarnate hence we title Jo's beach guide La Axarquia (Costa del Sol East).
From almost any part of Periana and the surrounding hills you look down on the spectacular scene of Lake Viñuela a man-made reservoir containing 170 million cubic meters of water and covering 700 hectares of land. Obviously the content varies with rainfall and since the very low levels of 2009 the reservoir has built up much better reserves. An interesting graph of current and past levels can be seen here.
The reservoir was originally muted in the 19th century but only became a viable scheme in the 1980's and was achieved by damming the River Guaro. This river and its many tributaries fill the reservoir and it provides potable water and irrigation for many hectares of arable land around the lake. Fortunately before the flooding of the valley, excavations of various Neolithic and old Roman sites were undertaken and many of the artefacts found can be seen in Málaga museum.
The lake takes its name from the nearby village of La Viñuela which overlooks the valley. It was originally a sleepy hamlet on one of the many routes up from the coast heading towards Granada, and provided a watering stop for the thirsty muleteers. The old bar is still open and nowadays serves local workers and tourists.
A very pleasant trip can be made driving around the lake, noting as you go the eagles that soar above the lake and the many small birds along the shore. There are many interesting detours and refreshment stops to be made at the villages en route. These include: Canillas de Aceituno, Alcaucin, Periana, Riogordo, Comares, and Benamorgosa. At the Southern end of the lake there is a very attractive picnic spot with tables and barbecues for public use. A similar picnic area is also to be found below Periana where the River Guaro enters the lake.
The lake is well stocked with fish (Carp, Trout and Bass) and sailing is allowed but only with non-motorised craft. Fishing licences are required and need to be obtained in Málaga with lots of bureaucratic hoops to jump through and not really practical for short visits. Some people say you need to take an examination before being granted a licence but the Costa del Sol tourist office says otherwise.
The department for more information is:
Provincial Delegation of Agriculture and Fishing in Málaga.
Avenida Aurora, 47
Tlf: +34 951 038 200
The following site gives more details on fishing in the lake but you are advised to check the latest situation with the office above.
For further information regarding the villages that surround Cantueso please see the “Things to do” section of our website. You can also check the current view on the live webcam at Restaurante Cantueso.
On one of those days with a few hours to spare you might consider visiting the old Moorish sulphur baths at Baños de Vilo (Baths of Vilo) which are about three kilometres outside Periana.
The baths are sometimes described as Arab, Moorish or Roman and no-one knows for sure how old they are. Certainly they were in use during the latter half of the 18th century and fulfilled the Koranic obligations for Muslims which obliges them to wash before prayer. I n the 18th and 19th centuries visitors were the nobility and high society from all over Spain.
The medicinal properties of the spring water also attracted many people with skin problems and the brave can still bathe in the water which is a constant 21 degrees centigrade all year round. This temperature is about four degrees above the average for the area and means the baths can be classified as thermal. The underground supply constantly refreshes the pool and its sulphurous smell can be observed from quite a distance. Recent studies have shown the waters to contain: sulphites, chloride, calcium, sodium and magnesium and has a flow rate of .3l/sec.
The baths and associated buildings fell into disrepair in the last century and it was only after the purchase of the property by the Periana Council, about twenty years ago that repairs were undertaken.
The authorities in Andalusia now promote these type of baths under the name “Thermaland” and have decreed that they will “work towards promoting the touristic exploitation of mineral and thermal springs, and to renovate other abandoned baths.”
Thermaland was funded with 200,000€, 90% of which came from an EU grant. The grant was designed to take advantage of growing health tourism in Europe and has enabled the baths and other buildings at Vilo to be renovated.
The hamlet of Baños de Vilo is attractive particularly in springtime with the surrounding land covered with wild flowers and a short detour will bring you to Guaro the source of the river of the same name. The river Guaro is important for the area in that it is the main supply for Lake Viñuela which dominates most views of the valley surrounding Periana.
After a narrow entrance into the village of Guaro the road opens out and there is plenty of parking near the source of the river. A noisy waterfall at the base of the mountain wall directs the water flow down the river to the lake below.
There is one restaurant in this otherwise sleepy village where you can obtain refreshment and enjoy wonderful views of the valley.
To find the baths from Cantueso go to the village, turn right at the roundabout and then take the road towards Mondron. Just after leaving the village boundary there is a fork in the road and it is best to keep left signed to Mondron. After a short while you will see the turning right to Baños de Vilo which is signed, but not very prominently. You will then find the baths on the left after a short while. The road is quite wide at this point and parking on the road is possible. To also visit the village of Guaro continue up hill and follow signs, about three kilometres more.
For other trips around Periana see the “Things to Do” pages on our website.
Spring is upon us and in some parts of Andalusia seems to be slightly earlier than usual. Here in Periana we already have a good display of Almond blossom and many plants are showing their appreciation of some really warm days. Not only does our climate attract birds but the migratory route across the straights of Gibraltar funnels many species to the area. In Spain there are over 500 recorded species and about 270 of these breed whilst here.
Serious birders will head for the area around Tarifa or Doñana and hope to see Andalusian and Iberian specialities such as: Spanish imperial eagles, Andalucian hemipode, glossy ibis, spoonbills, whiteheaded duck, red knobbed coot etc etc. The list is endless and there is of course the added bonus of travelling in areas of outstanding beauty with impressive cultural and historic heritage. The sweeping plains, salty marshes, evergreen forests, wild olive trees, oaks and firs together with unusual flora and fauna ensure a steady stream of visitors. (Both feathered and plain varieties).
The main crossing point is Tarifa just 14km wide which doesn't seem much even for small birds such as swallows which in any event migrate thousands of miles. However 15% of the birds attempting the crossing perish each year and this has a knock-on effect for other countries further down the migratory route. In any year you may see some of the following species using this highway: Cuckoos, black storks, white storks, red kites, ospreys, honey buzzards, hen harriers, snipe, oystercatchers, avocets, puffins, bee-eaters, gulls, wheatears and many many more.
The best time for birdwatching is before the heat of summer and many visitors like to combine walking with birdwatching and photography. The hills and mountain ranges around Cantueso in Periana is ideal walking country, with walks of every degree of difficulty, from a family amble to more serious assault courses up Mount Maroma.
Last February we hosted over three thousand flamingos on Lake Viñuela just below us, they were no doubt en route to join their friends on Laguna de Fuente de Piedra a little further north. This famous lagoon is about an hours drive away on the A45 near Antequera and has the largest breeding colony of great flamingos in Europe. Eight to 12,000 pairs and many other species such as: gull billed tern, slender billed gull, kentish plover and montagu's harrier all breed here. Best to visit before June as the water tends to dry up in the heat of summer.
Please also see our website section on walking, photography and birdwatching.
Websites and books for further reading:
“Birdwatching on Spain's Southern Coast" by John R. Butler
A wonderful day out from Cantueso in Periana is a visit to the tiny village of Riofrio (cold river) about 45 minutes drive away, and a Mecca for lovers of caviare or if your pocket won't stretch that far, to a plate of trout. There are fourteen restaurants within the village of only 300 inhabitants and they are host to over 400,000 visitors each year, all thanks to the well stocked river and local fish farm.
There has been trout fishing in the river recorded for hundreds of years but it was not until 1964 when an enterprising family came in search of the perfect waters for their fish farm that the full potential of this natural resource was realized. The cold, fast flowing water comes down from the Sierra Nevada and provides an ideal place to grow not only brown trout (500,000 kilos each year) but also Mediterranean Sturgeon. They normally have 98,000 sturgeon in their pools, separated by age rather than size, all thriving in the most perfect environmental conditions.
Riofrio caviare can be found all over the world in Michelin starred restaurants or corner shops for the wealthy such as Fortnum and Mason's. There, Cold River Caviare retails at £50 for a 30g tin half the price of wild beluga which is becoming much more difficult to find. But why so expensive if it is farmed?
At Riofrio they are proud to be the first and possibly the only certified organic sturgeon farm in the world. They have shunned the use hormone supplements in the fish diet, preferring to let them grow naturally and more slowly. In this business patience certainly must be a virtue as sturgeon only mature between the ages of 15 and 20. Up until the age of about nine the females cannot be told apart from the males. At maturity the females will weigh around 30kg and will yield maybe 4.5kg of roe
When the fish are thought to be ready to spawn the “farmers” use modern ultrasound scanner technology to check. Harvesting the eggs too early will result in dry eggs which have not yet absorbed the crucial fat from the fish's body. Too late and they may lack definition and structure. When seen to be ready the fish is then sacrificed in what is almost a surgical procedure. After being stunned the fish is operated on by one of the staff who dressed in suitable surgeon like attire removes the eggs. Millions of them for further refining and washing in salted spring water. Finally the caviare is placed into tins and allowed to mature like a good wine for three to six months.
At Riofrio they are also keen to explain that they use every part of the sturgeon: the flesh is smoked, marinated or tinned; the oil goes to the pharmaceutical industry and is used in cosmetics and food supplements; and even the grey skin finds use in Italian handbags.
How to find Riofrio.
The village is just two minutes from the A92 motorway which runs from Malaga to Granada. From Periana you take the road towards Mondron A7204 and shortly after passing the olive oil factory above Mondron there is a right turn signed to Alfanarte. Follow this along a pretty but winding road. Through Venta del Rayo (watch out for massive speed bumps) and just before the motorway you will see a left turn signed to Riofrio. It is easy to miss as the biggest sign is that of a hotel but if you do end up on the motorway go in the direction of Malaga and take the first exit to Riofrio.
If you are staying with us at Cantueso Cottages ask for a map.
When to go?
If you avoid July and August you will not find it crowded, and in autumn and winter it is still very attractive with walks along the river and surrounding area well worth doing. The temperature however is always several degrees colder than the coast, in fact last week when I came by at 8 o'clock in the morning it was zero degrees, so take a coat.
Even in winter there are still several restaurants open and you will be amazed at how many ways there are to present trout if you don't fancy caviare.
There are many stories told about this hamlet, mostly apocryphal, and all involving terrible deeds during the civil war. Some will tell you, the inhabitants were rounded up and shot or that they were involved with feeding the bandits in the surrounding hills and because of this the roofs of their houses were removed to prevent anyone living there.
The fight against the bandits went on for many years and to avoid the residents being able to provide shelter or sustenance they were put under much pressure by the Guardia Civil. They were in fact finally forced out by a decree which only allowed them to be there during the daytime. This meant living in a nearby village such as Frigiliana and walking to and from El Acebuchal every day and as there was no motorised transport back then, totally impracticable. All the inhabitants finally left in 1949 and the cottages quickly became derelict and in many cases roofless. Spanish people in recent years have called the hamlet “Pueblo el Fantasmas” or village of ghosts, due to the 50 or so years that it was deserted and derelict.
The hamlet has a history stretching back to the 17th century and as you first approach it is hard to see why anyone would wish to build a house in the bottom of a ravine, partly shaded and with such sloping terrain as to make you walk permanently with one foot higher than the other. However, as so often is the case, man sees opportunities and subsistence farming was possible with a few animals grazing on the hillsides above the cluster of cottages and vegetables grown on the slopes. There was also an inn in El Acebuchal where the mule trains would pause on their journeys from the neighbouring villages of Torrox, Frigiliana, and Nerja up into the Granada region carrying fish, fruit and vegetables. These same mule tracks nowadays provide excellent walking routes and you will constantly be surprised, coming across old abandoned farms with trees still producing fruit just waiting to be picked for the refreshment of the weary traveller.
After the civil war ended, there were a few feeble attempts to re-settle but it was not until 1998 that one of the original families was able to renovate a house in which to live. This was Virtudes and Antonio “El Zumbo” the parents of the present owner of the bar, Antonio Garcia Sanchez, which has also been restored. Since this first renovation there have been many others no doubt speeded up by the arrival of mains electricity in 2003. The little church has also been sympathetically restored and the first Mass for 50 years was held in 2005. The hamlet which is divided into an upper and lower cluster now has smart looking reformed cottages some offering accommodation for visitors.
To visit El Acebuchal you can either drive down a mainly un-made track, or walk. Driving is straightforward as you leave Frigiliana towards Torrox, after about two kilometres, look for a right turn with a wooden sign to El Acebuchal. The road from here is a mixture of asphalt or unmade. At times it becomes quite narrow and passing can be difficult. Thankfully traffic is very light and you may get the whole way without passing another vehicle. Once you arrive it is possible to find parking just past the bar near the church.
The area around El Acebuchal is a walkers paradise with a walk to Puerto Blanquillo which starts along the ravine as you enter the hamlet. It is a walk of about 4 km, climbing up to an altitude of 800 m. El Acebuchal is at 500 m.
In the other direction you have the opportunity to walk from Acebuchal to Cómpeta a distance of 13 km. The return trip will take you about 5 hours so only for the fit. A good compromise is to have a car drop the walkers off at either El Acebuchal or Cómpeta and then drive round for the pick up.
Whichever walk you choose the sights are amazing with flora and fauna to get your cameras clicking. There are plenty of birds to see at the appropriate times as the area is on a migratory route.
The bar/restaurant does have a sign saying roast goat, suckling pig etc are available by prior order. It is closed on Mondays and there have been reports that the opening times can be a little haphazard.
If you are staying with us at Cantueso Cottages we can help you with directions and would always suggest it is worth calling in to the bookshop “Pasatiempo” in Torre del Mar as they have an excellent selection of routes covering our area.
Please also see our “Walking in Axarquia” pages of our website.
A dream holiday shouldn't turn into a nightmare. We all know the scene, standing in line waiting to check in at the airport and wondering if your cases are overweight. For years the lies of your bathroom scales were acceptable but now you fear those extra kilos could soon turn into pounds sterling. Then you run the gauntlet past a crone with fried hair that looks determined to make you pay for her hangover. As David Jason once remarked: “Did she get her money back from the charm school?”
With low-cost airlines trying every trick in the book to make sure your holiday costs more, they have been reducing baggage allowances, even cutting down on the odd carrier bag and one quietly reduced the hand luggage sizes so that you would have to check it in and pay a penalty. And as if that is not bad enough consider that in July or August with one well known “low-cost” carrier, a case of 23 kilos would cost you £180!
This is no way to start a holiday and especially with babies and children, so we thought we would try and help families cut down on extra luggage by providing many more items to save you packing them. Not just the usual high chairs, buggies and cots but also essentials such as sterilisers, baby baths, changing mats, blenders, baby alarms, potties, toys, booster seats, books and so on. Just as importantly we have tried to make the cottages at Cantueso more child friendly and have enclosed the terraces on some and paved them so that toddlers can be kept in sight whilst they play safely with toys provided. Inside we have also had a safety survey to ensure that there are stair gates where required and that all electrical items and plug sockets are guarded and of course there are no dangerous items or harmful chemicals stored under the kitchen sink.
If you would like to know more about our child-friendly self catering cottages please see here.
Definitely not, because although in the village the shops and businesses do not normally speak more than a few words of English you will certainly get by. But and it is a big but, you will certainly get lots of fun out of your visit if you try a few words, and out in the campo if you meet a local they will almost certainly not speak English. So why not try a few words and a little sign language, it goes a long way and you will find the local people very friendly and appreciative of your efforts.
If you do decide to try and learn a few words the first thing to remember is that there are different versions of Spanish. The main language of Spain is Castilian and you could say this is the equivalent of the Queen's English with the local dialect (Andaluce) being compared to a broad Scots accent or Geordie. There are other regional languages in Spain such as Catalan which is spoken around Barcelona and Basque spoken in the extreme north. You need to learn Castilian. Most Spanish courses you will find in the shops will be this version but sometimes in the discount bookshops they will have discounted courses that are often teaching South American Spanish.
If you do decide to have a go there are many cheap beginners courses on Cd's. Ideal for playing in the car or at home for a few weeks before your holiday. They all give you the basics of pronunciation, phrases and numbers.
Look out for the BBC Quick Start Spanish about £10 or The Michel Thomas Language Builder course, about £15. The latter has a unique way of teaching without lots of grammar or writing things down, and you will be in good company as it seems to have been the choice of celebrities, politicians and major companies.
Maybe you can also splash out on a small dictionary but whatever happens you should pack the Rough Guide Dictionary and Phrase Book (£4.99) it is invaluable.
After you have arrived jump in and try out your phrases it will be fun and your confidence will slowly build. At our restaurante and for guests in Cantueso Cottages we have a rule; that we always try to answer in whatever language the visitor uses. But down on the Coast the opposite is the rule with shops and restaurants all having English speaking staff, which can be very irritating, because when you try out a few words of Spanish the reply usually comes back in English making you wish you had not tried.
When David Beckham went to Real Madrid the Open University had 1700 more people signing up for Spanish that year. Beckham went from strength to strength with the language and is no doubt proud that his first sending off was for telling the ref he was “hijo de puta” the son of a whore!
Many people are surprised to learn that Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and a typical harvest can yield almost a million tonnes, of which almost half comes from our Axarquia region.
Much of this is extra virgin olive oil, which is basically the juice of the pressed olives with the water removed. It is the highest grade and to qualify its acidity level must be less than 1%.
The village of Periana is surrounded by olive groves where the Verdial variety is grown producing an oil of the highest quality. The climate, soil, method of cultivation, and production processes all go to create “oro verde” or green gold. A golden yellow oil with intense bouquet and sweet fruity flavour, gentle on the palate, ideal as a dressing or for cooking.
The Periana Olive Oil Cooperative is situated in the centre of the village and has over 800 families as members who in turn look after over 300,000, centuries old, olive trees. We at Restaurante Cantueso are proud to be members of this organisation
Periana Gold has been awarded many accolades from around the world and continues to be milled at low temperatures via a mechanical process and without the use of any chemical additives. Tours of the factory are possible and there is a small shop selling olive oil and associated products. Their website may be seen here.
Being close to the growing areas means that the olives can be transported to the mill in very short time, thus helping to keep the acidity down. Olives are a labour intensive crop with little assistance from mechanical aids. Whole families are engaged from the very young to grandparents all helping at different times in the growing cycle.
It is of course an unusual occupation in that there is only one “pay day” each year and then much depends on world prices, as this is nowadays an internationally traded commodity. Sadly the straightened times we live in have affected Spain’s olive growers with prices falling by as much as 25% last year. Over production and falling demand are blamed for this drop.
Arriving in Malaga province by air, you cannot fail to notice the vast areas of olives covering not only the flat lands but also the most severe slopes and always with never ending lines and geometric patterns. The thousand-year-old tree is at the heart of the provinces industry and also provides the key ingredient for Malaga’s distinctive cuisine.
Olive trees are well chronicled in the bible, Greek legends and elsewhere. It was of course an olive branch in the mouth of a dove that told Noah the flood was over, and winners at the Olympic games are crowned with a wreath of olive leaves. The Olive is the longest living tree known and can be up to a thousand years old, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that they live on sap from April to October. The harvest is normally between November and April.
In a similar way to the fig tree, olives seem to thrive when planted in between rocks or with their roots constrained, which considering the terrain in our valley is just as well.
In October it is a good time to make pickled or seasoned olives. The green fruit is not yet ready for the oil factory but can be “sweetened” to make the familiar tasty appetiser often given as tapas in bars. In years gone by stuffed and pitted olives were prepared by hand, but now one machine can do in an hour what previously took ten women a whole day.
Green Olives Andalucian style.
Take a quantity of olives and beat them with a tenderiser mallet or rolling pin. The idea is to break the skin to allow the alpechin to escape. This is a watery liquid and if it remains the olives will be acidic. Soak the broken fruit in a bowl of water for eight to ten days changing the water every day. When they are soft they can be stored in salt water, vinegar or olive oil ready to receive a marinade later.
Produce a marinade as follows:
Mix garlic, salt, oregano, ground pepper, red pepper and oranges and after straining the water add the marinade with fresh water sufficient to just cover the olives. Leave for a few days to absorb the flavour of the marinade. Quantities? Guesswork, according to how pickled you like your olives. A starting point is to make several strengths of marinade and then have a tasting session after a week or two.
Store with marinade and water liquid in glass preserving or recycled jars.
In the event that you don’t get around to preserving your own olives we at Restaurante Cantueso still sell boxes of marinated black olives.