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The Spanish Fly - Travels in Spain

The Spanish Fly is a nom de plume of Paul Whitelock who first visited Spain at the age of 20. Now more than 50 years later, he has been to most parts of the country, including nine of the 12 islands. He has owned property in Andalucia since 2001 and has lived in the region for the last 15 years. This blog is a Travelogue about some of the places he has visited.

Nerja - a little gem
Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I’ve been to Nerja, on the coast east of Málaga, a few times. Despite being overrun with tourists and full of “guiris/expats” (immigrants from Northern Europe), I must admit I’ve always liked Nerja.



Why Nerja?

Nerja has a lot going for it: nice beaches, charming Casco Antiguo (old part), the Cuevas de Nerja (Caves), el Balcón de Europa, tasty tapas, usually included in the price of your drink*, friendly locals and proximity to one of the loveliest pueblos blancos in the whole of Málaga province, Frigiliana, just 15 minutes into the mountains (qv).

So, no wonder old friends of mine from England have been coming to Nerja for a holiday twice a year for many years. 

“Why not buy? It’d probably have worked out cheaper in the long run and you would have a capital asset,” I asked Ian and Christine.

They had an answer, but I couldn’t identify with it, me having bought and sold several properties in Spain over the last 20-odd years; four of my own and several for other people, in my role as a corredor (independent/unofficial estate agent).

Ian and Chris are one (two?) of the reasons I’ve been to Nerja a lot. They invariably invite the Meter Maid and me to join them for a few days. We can’t always, but we’ve been at least three times, and they’ve visited us also in Ronda on a couple of occasions.


Nerja 2004

It was around this time, a few years after we had bought our first Spanish property, Piso Blanco, an apartment with gardens and a shared pool in the Barrio San Francisco (qv) in Ronda, that Jeryl, the mother of my two children, Amy and Tom, and I visited Nerja for the first time.

We both felt Nerja had charm, and the edge over resorts like Lloret de Mar, Sitges, Salou, and, closer to “home”, Fuengirola, Torremolinos, Marbella and San Pedro de Alcántara.


Nerja 2024 - Monday

This time I treated my daughter Amy and grandsons Felix (7) and Jude (4) – “Hey!” - to a couple of days there. Although Amy has visited Spain often over the years, she’d never been to Nerja.

We packed the car with what we needed: a change of clothes, supplies and beach paraphernalia, and set off quite early (10-ish) and headed for Málaga, Then we took the motorway as far as Torre del Mar and after that the coast road for the last 25 kilometres to Nerja.

With a little difficulty we found our pre-booked accommodation, Casa María, checked in, parked the car and headed for Playa Burriana.


It was well past 2.30 so we headed straight to a chiringuito for some lunch. El Moreno was where we ended up and it was fine. The staff were very pleasant, and the food was pretty good, if somewhat pricier than I am used to up in the mountains. But, hey, we were on a nice beach, with lovely weather in early April. It was all good. And it got even better when Amy paid the bill!

Then it was beach time.

The boys loved it! They live in London – no beaches there – so the almost only times they get to the seaside are either when they visit us in Spain or go to see their uncle Tom, auntie Su and cousins Wilbur and Buckley, who live in Hastings, on the East Sussex coast.

Amy and I looked at each other. “They’ll sleep well tonight”, she predicted.

While Amy was preparing dinner, the boys were playing games on their “tablets”, so I nipped out for an aperitif, a beer. The first place I found was heaving with guiris (qv). Well it wasn’t yet 8 o’clock, and no self-respecting andaluz goes out that early!

Sure enough, the boys were really tired and after a salad, runny boiled egg, cheese and ham, they went to bed and sleep almost instantly.

Amy and I also took the chance to have an early night.


Nerja 2024 – Tuesday

I was awake early – call of nature. I tried to get back to sleep, but couldn’t, so I started this article, then got dressed and went in search of an early morning coffee (qv). It was 7.00 am.

I found a bar on a street corner, Las Cuatro Esquinas, where I seemed to be the only guiri. The other immigrants were probably still in bed sleeping off their resacas (hangovers) from last night. A bit harsh, maybe, but The International Club of Nerja was further along our street and it was pretty raucous with loud English shouts and laughter until late.

Back to the present, I ordered a second cortado, a chupito of Patxarán and churros (dos unidades). “Mmmm!”

My bill for two coffees, two churros and the Patxarán came to 5.40€, around 5 pounds. That is a-ma-zing!

After a break, during which I checked out the number of Indian Curry Houses in Nerja for a bet with a friend in Ronda, I returned to Casa María to see if the others were up. They were and were well into their desayuno (breakfast).

We had no coffee in the rental house, so we headed to the Balcón de Europa and plonked ourselves in the most expensive of the terraces, where we lingered for over an hour. During that time Amy and I drank two coffees each, the boys had juices and churros, or not, as Felix managed to knock over his glass of hot chocolate and Jude his pineapple juice. No matter.

Then we went to a small beach nearby, El Carabeo, which was as calm as a mill pond.




I nipped off to buy a couple of things and the wind got up. I bought a leather belt for 8 euros (my shorts were falling down) and popped into the English Bookshop, Smiffs, where I snaffled four second-hand books in excellent condition, for 8.99 euros.

By the time I got back to Amy and the boys, the sea had become a surfer’s paradise because of the winds, and sunbathers were getting dressed and leaving the beach in droves.




We left too and headed back to the house to pack and check out. We cancelled our plans to visit the Caves of Nerja and instead went to Frigiliana (qv), a quarter of an hour inland from Nerja.

We parked the car and went to a restaurant. The boys had already had some lunch, but Amy and I had not and we were starving.

We chose my favourite, El Sacristán, and settled at a table on their terrace overlooking the stunning countryside, the shimmering coast and the Mediterranean Sea. The boys played on the balcón, which is traffic-free and therefore ideal for families.

Felix wanted to buy something with the remainder of the pocket money I had given him and Jude, so we went for a walk up into the Casco Antiguo. Jude stayed with his mum.

We found some cool imanes (fridge magnets), so bought one each as presents for mum, Oma and grandad (me).

Then we found what Felix was looking for, a plastic ball with a gift inside for 1 euro. He bought two. Later we returned to the machine dispensing these trinkets; Felix bought another one and Jude three – pocket money all gone now, but they were happy!

Amy and I finally got to eat lunch at 5.00 pm! I chose lubina (sea bass) and Amy opted for pez espada (swordfish), not easy to find in London.

Then a quick play in the playground and it was back on the road for two-and-a-bit hours journey back to Ronda.

We all agreed we’d had a lovely time.

The boys went straight to bed, Amy went in the bath, and I popped out to the leaving “do” of our friend Victoria, who was going to be emigrating to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.



Free tapas in Nerja?

This a bit of a con. My tubo last evening, with tapa included, cost me 2.70€. In Ronda, where I live, I struggle to pay more than 1.50€ for the same size beer. If I order a tapa in addition, it costs 1 – 1.50€, so it’s about the same. But why, in Nerja, do they pretend the tapa is free? It’s b***ocks!


Barrio San Francisco

I wrote an article about the bars and restaurants in this popular Ronda neighbourhood back in 2008. I’ve updated it since (2023), but I see there is another new bar open on the square, and a couple have closed, so I need to do another revision soon.

Back to the "Streets of San Francisco" - Help me, Ronda (



We all know the term guiri, or, if not, we should – it’s what the Spanish call us foreigners.  But is the term good or bad; positive or negative; affectionate or nasty? Click below to find out more.

What is a guiri? It's what the Spanish call us foreigners - but is it good or bad? (


Early morning coffee

Spanish workers, the unemployed and senior citizens love to go for a coffee (and a chupito) first thing in the morning. I have also got into the habit.  Click on the link to find out more.

Early Morning Coffee (





© The Spanish Fly



Amy Gibbs (photo of The Spanish Fly, Felix and Jude)

Paul Whitelock (all other photos except main one, courtesy of La Sexta)




Amy, Amy Gibbs, andaluz, Balcón de Europa, Barrio San Francisco, beaches, Buckley, Burriana, Carabeo, Casa María, Casco Antiguo, Caves of Nerja, chiringuito, Christine, chupito, corredor, cortado, Cuevas de Nerja, early morning coffee, El Moreno, Felix, fridge magnets, Frigiliana, Fuengirola, grandad, guiri, Hastings, Ian, imanes, Indian Curry Houses in Nerja, International Club of Nerja, Jeryl, Jude, Las Cuatro Esquinas, Lloret de Mar, London, Malaga, Marbella, Meter Maid, mum, Nerja, Oma, Patxarán, Paul Whitelock, Piso Blanco, pocket money, resaca, Salou, San Pedro de Alcántara, Sitges, Su, Tablet, tapas, Tom, Torre del Mar, Torremolinos, Wikipedia, Wilbur

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Ronda, Happiest Town in Spain
Thursday, March 28, 2024

Ronda, Happiest Town in Spain
Thursday, March 21, 2024

By The Spanish Fly

Here’s an article from news outlet Diario Ronda telling us that the Ciudad del Tajo is the happiest town in Spain, heading a list that includes other favourites of mine, such as Nerja (2nd), Chipiona (3rd), Tarifa (4th), Santillana del Mar (6th), San Vicente de la Barquera (7th), Ribadesella (9th) and Zahara de los Atunes (10th).


The other two on the list are Peñíscola and Sanxenxo, which I have not visited. They have been added to my bucket list for later this year.

There are other great places, such as Arcos de la Frontera, Frigiliana, Montejaque, Setenil de las Bodegas and Zahara de la Sierra, but maybe the inhabitants of these villages are not HAPPY!


Here is a translation of the main points of the Diario Ronda article:


International Day of Happiness

Diario Ronda

20 March, 2024


Today, March 20, is the International Day of Happiness, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013.

Every year the international ranking of the happiest countries in the world is presented, in which Spain traditionally does not fare well at all.


To help Spain improve its position in the World Happiness Index, the sugar producer Azucarera has carried out a study, together with the consultancy YouGov, in which it finds out which are the happiest villages in Spain and why. More than 1,000 inhabitants voted for the 35 happiest towns in Spain, and the result was, in this order: Ronda, Nerja, Chipiona, Tarifa, Peñíscola, Santillana del Mar, San Vicente de la Barquera, Sanxenxo, Ribadesella y Zahara de los Atunes, followed by a further 25 towns.

The study concluded that, despite their differences, in all of these localities there are specific conditions that favour the well-being of their inhabitants, including an affectionate and cordial atmosphere, a slow and calm pace, a stress-free environment, enjoyment of the outdoors, and local cuisine.




A Recipe Book

Once this study had been completed, ranking 35 towns in Spain for their happiness, Azucarera gave these places a voice through their cuisine and modus vivendi. The company has combined both their life advice and their pastry recipes, key factors in being happy, in a recipe book.

The Recetario de los Pueblos mas felices de España (Plataforma Editorial) was co-written by the expert in emotional well-being Francesc Miralles, together with the residents of the chosen towns.

The recipe book is available in all bookstores, at a price of €12 (available in e-book for €5.99). It can also be purchased by accessing the website

The proceeds from sales of the book will go to the Fundacion Grandes Amigos (Great Friends Foundation), which fights against loneliness in older people.



Translation by Paul Whitelock


Note: The original Spanish version, as published by Diario Ronda, is available here: 

Ronda, Happiest Town in Spain (



20 March, Arcos de la Frontera, Chipiona, Diario Ronda, Don Pablo, Francesc Miralles, Frigiliana, Fundacion Grandes Amigos, índice Mundial de la Felicidad, Instagram, International Happiness Day, Montejaque, Nerja, Paul Whitelock, Peñíscola, Plataforma Editorial, Recetario de los Pueblos mas felices de España, Ribadesella, Ronda, Santillana del Mar, San Vicente de la Barquera, Sanxenxo, Setenil de las Bodegas, Spanish Matters, Tarifa, Zahara de la Sierra, Zahara de los Atunes

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Andalucía is beautiful
Thursday, March 28, 2024

Five of the 10 "most beautiful" provincial capitals in Spain are located in Andalucía, including the city in first place, according to an opinion poll. 

ElectoPanel surveyed 4,000 Spaniards to find out which capital they find the most beautiful.


The crown jewel is Sevilla, which took first place with 14.4% of the votes. People were impressed by the mix of Moorish and Gothic architecture, as well as the cultural and gastronomic history of the city. 

Granada, with the emblematic Alhambra, the winding streets of the Albaicín and the breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada, received 13.9% of the vote, securing second place.

With 4.5% of the vote, Cádiz came in sixth, closely followed by Córdoba in seventh place. 

And Málaga came in ninth place with 3.6% of the vote.                    Plaza de España, Sevilla


Translated from the original German by Paul Whitelock


Isa Ibáñez

Paul Whitelock

The Olive Press (German version)




Here is the original German version:



By Elsa Ibáñez


Fünf der 10 “schönsten” Provinzhauptstädte Spaniens liegen in Andalusien, darunter der erste Platz. 

ElectoPanel hat 4.000 Spanier befragt, um herauszufinden, wo sie die schönsten Orte des Landes sehen.

Das Kronjuwel ist Sevilla, das mit 14,4 % der Stimmen von Menschen, die von der Mischung aus maurischer und gotischer Architektur sowie von der kulturellen und gastronomischen Geschichte beeindruckt sind, den ersten Platz belegte. 

Granada mit der symbolträchtigen Alhambra, den verwinkelten Gassen des Albaicin und der atemberaubenden Aussicht auf die Sierra Nevada erhielt 13,9 % der Stimmen und sicherte sich damit den zweiten Platz. Mit 4,5 % der Stimmen kam Cádiz auf den sechsten Platz, dicht gefolgt von Córdoba auf dem siebten Platz. 



Und Málaga kam mit 3,6 % der Stimmen auf den neunten Platz.



Albaicín, Alhambra, Andalucia, Andalusien, Cádiz, Córdoba, crown jewel, cultural history, ElectoPanel,  Elsa Ibañez, gastronomic history, gastronomische Geschichte, Gothic Architektur, gotische Architektur,  Granada, Kronjuwel, kulturelle Geschichte, Málaga, maurische Architektur, Moorish architecture, Paul Whitelock, provincial capitals, Provinzhauptstädte, Sevilla, Sierra Nevada

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Mini-break in Malaga
Sunday, February 25, 2024

Last week we treated ourselves to a couple of days on the coast near Malaga City.

We were going to the February get-together of the Costa Press Club, of which I am a member, so we thought we'd make a mini-break out of it.




On Tuesday late morning we set off by car from Ronda to Malaga. We were headed for Torremolinos, the eastern, relatively undeveloped end. No high rise hotels full of trashy foreign tourists, great sandy beaches and a huge choice of good value chiringuitos.

In actual fact there wasn't a huge choice in mid-February, as many were closed for their winter break or were undergoing repairs and renovations.

No matter, one of our favourites, Restaurante Familiar, was open. We found a table on the back terrace facing the sea. The sun was shining brightly from a bright blue sky. 

Since we were going for a gourmet meal that evening, we opted for a big house salad, a fritura malagueña and papas a lo pobre to share - it was plenty.

After a chat with a German family at the next table we drove into Malaga to our pre-booked hotel. Mr Google Maps took us straight there, to the two-star Hotel Goartin. It was basic, clean and well-priced at 59€, with an extra 9€ for a car parking space for 24 hours. We felt that was outstanding value.

After checking in and unpacking we walked to the Puerto de Malaga, where they've recently done a Liverpool, a Bristol, a Salford, by turning part of a scruffy industrial port into a recreational area with bars, restaurants, shops and a market. There's also an art gallery, the Pompidou Centre, an offshoot of the famous gallery in Paris.

We sat on the terrace in the first hostelry, opposite a three-masted, wooden sailing ship flying a Danish flag and registered in Copenhagen.

Then it was back to the hotel to get washed and togged up for dinner with other members of the Costa Press Club at the Restaurante La Alvaroteca just across the road. You can read about that event here: ImPRESSive! (



After a sound night's sleep, I popped to a nearby cafe, El Parque, for an early morning coffee and a read. When I got back, Rita was already up and making herself beautiful. We checked out, got the car and drove to the port again for breakfast at a branch of one of our favourite cafes, Granier








First of all, we popped back into the casco antiguo. Rita had her eyes on a pair of shoes. On the way back we came across a demo, one of the series of farmers' protests taking place currently throughout Europe. It was all very genial and orderly, although they were blocking the main road.








After a huge and tasty desayuno we browsed the market stalls for a while before going to the afore-mentioned Pompidou Centre to take in the temporary exhibition. With proof of our pensioner status we got in for half price, just 2.50€ each! We were glad it was cheap, as the exhibition was somewhat disappointing.






Back to the Beach








By now it was late afternoon, so we drove to Guadalmar, near the airport.

We've been there a few times. There's a delightful little bay with a great chiringuito, Mari Gutierrez. We sat at a table in the sun and enjoyed a great ensalada de la casa and "tanked" a bit of winter sun.

As we were down on the coast we popped into IKEA to check out a wardrobe we'd seen there before Christmas. It had been reduced by 20€ plus there was a further 10% off for IKEA Family cardholders, which we are. So, a veritable bargain.

Then it was back home to Ronda and the relative cold of the mountains.

We'd enjoyed our Away Days: great food, a bit of culture, meeting friends at the CPC, sunshine .....


© The Spanish Fly



All photographs by The Spanish Fly



Alvaroteca, Away Days, Costa Press Club, CPC, Granier, Guadalmar, Hotel Goartin, IKEA, IKEA Family, Malaga, Pompidou Centre, Puerto de Malaga, Spanish Fly, Torremolinos, 


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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I collect imanes, fridge magnets. Anything I come across that takes my fancy and is affordable.

From photos of my grandchildren to corkscrews and bottle openers.

But most are memoirs of places I have visited, in Spain, Germany and the UK. I’ve been further afield but that was in the past before I became a collector. So, no magnets from America, Australia, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Singapore nor the Soviet Union.






The largest autonomous region in Spain, Andalucía has eight provinces, each of which bears the name of its capital city.

In alphabetical order these are: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Málaga, and Sevilla.

Over the years I’ve been to every province and all the capitals, bar Huelva.

Oddly, I have no mementoes of a few of them, probably because my visits pre-dated the start of my hobby. According to my wife, my obsession.

So, there is no imán of my favourite capital, Córdoba, nor of the one I have been to most frequently in the past, Granada. Almería and Jaen aren’t on my fridge either.

I do, however, have magnets to celebrate my visits to Cádiz, my second favourite, and of Málaga and Sevilla, which vie for third place.




Best of the Rest in Málaga Province

Ronda is my favourite place in Spain. That’s why I opted to move here from the UK, 15 years ago.

I also love Montejaque, 15 kilometres away. I have a house there. I bought it three years ago as a renovation project in order to keep me off the streets. Casa Real is now a holiday rental.

Strangely, I have no iman of Montejaque, but I do have a car sticker.


I also fell for Frigiliana. I first visited this exquisite mountain village to the north of Nerja with my German pointer, Berti, for company. My wife was away in Germany convalescing after a serious brush with Covid-19 in 2021.

Nerja is good too, especially the caves, the beach and the Balcón de Europa. We go there often, sometimes to meet up with English friends who like to holiday there.



                                 Photo courtesy Malaga Hoy

The long confinamiento (lockdown) had just been eased to allow in-province travel. Like many down here I was desperate to get away after being cooped up for months.

A couple of months later, after my wife had returned home to me, we went to Frigiliana together to celebrate my 71st birthday.

Frigiliana is simply stunning. A great location, a vibrant casco antiguo (Old Part), fine restaurants and a buzzing atmosphere.

I would consider living there, but I would have to win the lotería first –property prices are sky-high!

I have a fridge magnet for another pueblo in Málaga province, namely Mijas.

I have visited many other places in the province yet have no imanes. Torremolinos (East) has great chiringuitos on its fine long beach.

Fuengirola (East) also has its charms. Cafetería Granier does great breakfasts and the vegetarian restaurant Vegetalia offers fabulous lunches. No meat, of course.

Puerto Banús has a Corte Inglés, and adjacent Marbella is home for our private hospital, and my German urologist.

San Pedro de Alcantara is charming with one of our favourite chiringuitos on the beach, our private clinic, and a good choice of restaurants.

Further along the coast are Estepona, Casares, Sabinillas, and La Duquesa, each of which have their attractions.


Restaurante Vegetalia L to R Rita and owner Katja [Photo: Paul Whitelock]



Beyond Málaga – Cádiz province

I adore Cádiz. I’ve been there six times in 20-odd years; with three “wives”, a stepson and my brother and sister-in-law. It just keeps getting better and better. Great Old Part, fabulous restaurants, fine beaches, the Cámara Oscura, the Cathedral, and the market.

Read about Cádiz here: Cádiz -¡Qué maravilla! - Help me, Ronda (

Other places in Cádiz province featured on my fridges include Arcos de la Frontera (great Parador de Turismo and views), Benaocaz (abandoned Arab village), Bolonia (beaches and Roman village Baelo Claudio), Caños de Meca (nudist beach), Grazalema (rainiest place in Spain and great views), Jimena de la Frontera (steep old village with great views and atmosphere), Medina Sidonia (very Roman, great views), El Palmar (long beach popular with campers  and nudists; good  restaurants), Setenil de las Bodegas (cave dwellings, stunning location and great bars and restaurants), Tarifa (where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean; African feel), Vejer de la Frontera (mountain-top village with fabulous views and super restaurants), Zahara de la Sierra (mountain-top village by a reservoir with good restaurants), and Zahara de los Atunes (beach resort on the Costa de la Luz).










    Photos:Cadiz [Maria Vizsla] and Tarifa [TUI]


Elsewhere in Andalucía

I have fridge magnets to commemorate my many visits to Sevilla over 20-odd years. With my first wife, Jeryl; my two children, Amy and Tom, when they were just kids; my elderly mother, Vera; a Welsh cousin, Roger; and current wife, Rita.

The best visit was last year with Rita – it was Autumn, and the temperature was just right. All my other visits were in the searing heat of Summer.

The highlights of Sevilla are too many to mention them all. Our favourites are: La Catedral, La Giralda, Plaza de España, Real Alcázar, Santa Cruz, and La Torre del Oro.

Places I’ve visited and liked elsewhere in the region are Almuñecar (Granada), Córdoba, Écija (Sevilla), Granada, Jaén, Motril (Granada), Salobreña (Granada), and Úbeda (Jaén).


Further reading:

Andalucía's 3 C’s: Cádiz, Córdoba, Ciudad Soñada (

Unsung cities: Cadiz - a light less ordinary | City breaks | The Guardian

El diario británico 'The Sun' recomienda visitar Cádiz por su gastronomía y su "ambiente diferente" ( 

Features III - costa de la luz - COSTA DE LA LUZ - Help me, Ronda (



Almería, Almuñecar, Amy, Andalucia, Arcos de la Frontera, Baelo Claudio, Balcón de Europa, Benaocaz, Bolonia, Cádiz, Cafetería Granier, Cámara Oscura, Caños de Meca, Casa Real, Casares, confinamiento, Córdoba, Corte Ingles, Covid-19, Écija, El Palmar, Estepona, Frigiliana, Fuengirola, Granada, Grazalema, Huelva, iman, Jaen, Jeryl, Jimena de la Frontera, La Catedral, La Giralda, La Torre del Oro. Málaga, Marbella, Medina Sidonia, Mijas, Montejaque, Motril, Nerja, Plaza de España, Puerto Banus, Puerto de La Duquesa, Real Alcázar, Roger, Ronda, Sabinillas, Salobreña, San Pedro de Alcantara, Santa Cruz, Setenil de las Bodegas, Sevilla, Tarifa, Tom, Torremolinos, Úbeda, Vegetalia, Vejer de la Frontera, Vera, Zahara de la Sierra, Zahara de los Atunes,

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Capital "Punishment"- Part Two
Tuesday, January 30, 2024

By The Spanish Fly


Not a punishment at all, rather a pleasure. I like to travel, although I'm not so keen on long-haul.

Perhaps because of my background in foreign languages, I developed a real wanderlust from my late teens onwards.

As a result, over the course of half a century I've clocked up a surprising number of capital cities, thirty-four, in fact.

Surprising for me, a working class lad from the sticks. Others, like my younger brother, Simon, or my friend Nick, will no doubt scoff and say: "Is that all?"

Well .....

In Part One I wrote about the 18 European mainland capitals I've been to. 

Here's Part Two - The Rest of the World. 16 more capital cities I have visited.




Ajaccio, Corsica - a two-week holiday with the family in the late 90s.







Corfu Town, Corfu, Greece - a two-week holiday with the family in the late 90s.


Eivissa/Ibiza Town, Ibiza - Jeryl and I spent a week on the island in 1975. Not too touristy back then. That's where we first discovered el nudismo, nude swimming and sunbathing. Illegal, but tolerated.





Heraklion, Crete - We went to Crete a couple of times during our "Hellenic phase". Once before kids, and once after.

Great island. Heraklion is quite stunning (see photo).

Loved the walk through the Samaria Gorge, and the best breakfast ever afterwards!

The fabulous sandy beaches on the south coast were empty (back then!). Nudism was very popular.


Mahón, Menorca - I was in a wheelchair/on crutches for this family holiday in 1989. I'd ruptured my Achilles tendon playing squash a month or so before. We had a great holiday, despite the restrictions imposed by my "accident".

Strangely, most people seemed to think I was also mentally disabled. They didn't speak to me direct, but asked my wife what was wrong wirh me!

We spent loads on that holiday: a hire car and lots of meals out, but it was worth it - one of my best family holidays ever!


Mahón is the home of mahonesa/mayonesa, by the way.





Palma de Mallorca, Mallorca - I've been to Palma a few times over the years.

With my first wife Jeryl when we were in our 20s; on a family holiday, way back in the 80s; to attend a conference/training week with LifePlus in 2009; 

and again with soon-to-be-wife Rita at Easter 2010.


Rhodes Town, Rhodes - The second-largest Greek island. Jeryl and I went on holiday with two friends, Ian and Christine

We still see Ian and Christine most years, as they love to holiday in Nerja, Andalucia, where we often join them for a couple of days.




San Francesc de Formentera, Formentera - Jeryl and I caught the ferry from Ibiza and spent the day there. Totally unspoilt back then (early 80s).


Valletta, MaltaJeryl and I spent our delayed honeymoon on the island in 1975. Jeryl hadn't had time to get her passport changed. As a result we got some funny looks when we checked into our hotel. Different times!

We returned many years later, when Jeryl attended a conference there.

A dusty place where local drivers don 't have a clue! Nudism is tolerated.


Victoria, Gozo - Just north of Malta, we went to the island for the day on that first visit in 1975. Charming and undeveloped.





Copenhagen, Denmark -  A short weekend visit in the 1980s. The Little Mermaid is lovely.


Oslo, Norway - Also a weekend visit in the '80s, tacked onto a business trip. Very cold, very expensive, but very beautiful.


Stockholm, Sweden - A third weekend visit in the 80s. Don't remember much about this trip.





Eastern Europe

Moscow, Soviet Union/Russia - We were invited to The Soviet Union in 1991 by Russian friends who had stayed with us in Warrington the year before. I was still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, our kids were very young, seven and three, but we managed it and had a good time. Moscow was stunning, I have to say. Red Square, St Basil's Cathedral and The Kremlin are amazing.

The 'highlight' of our trip was when the coup d'etat took place on 19 August. We were staying in a mountain camp in what is now Georgia. We woke to martial music on the radio and a very sombre mood in our host family, Sacha and Rita. We were trapped, no vehicle movements were allowed and all Soviet airports were shut. We were due to fly home in the next few days. I started making plans to escape over the mountains into Turkey and to fly home from there.

Then it was all over. After two days Boris Yeltsin clamboured onto a tank in Moscow and saved the day. Life more or less returned to normal (NOT, I suspect, for those who had organised the coup!) and we we were able to fly home as planned.

The Soviet Union started to break up over the course of the next few months. Soviet after soviet declared independence until by 8 December 1991 The USSR had ceased to exist.


Prague, Czech Republic - Our visit to Prague was another based around a business trip. Amazingly, at the same time our daughter Amy was touring there with her Oxford University Orchestra. Amy is an oboeist.

Prague is in my top two favourite capital cities alongside Edinburgh (qv). What a beautiful place, from the Charles Bridge over the Danube to the Old City, the 63 churches in the historical centre alone, and, of course, the beer!

We saw Amy perform and visited some famous brewhouses.



Funchal, Madeira - A beautiful island. No sandy beaches, but who cares? Went way back in the mists of time. 







Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - We love the Canary Islands. We used to visit a lot back in the day. Of the seven islands in this archipelago, off the west coast of Morocco, we have been to five. Las Palmas is the capital of the eastern three islands: Gran Canaria, Formentera and Lanzarote.




Santa Cruz de Tenerife - We've been to Tenerife more than any other Canary Island. We've stayed in the north and in the south, we've visited Mount Teide, the highest mountain on Spanish territory, and we've attended a wedding in La Orotava (see here).

Santa Cruz is the capital of the four western islands: El Hierro, La Gomera, La Palma and Tenerife.





Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Our group had an overnight stay in Dubai on our way to Australia (qv). It was dark when we arrived and foggy when we got up to go back to the airport. Not at all like the photo to your left.





Singapore City, Republic of Singapore - We had a stopover at the airport here on our return flight from Australia. I popped up to the roof terrace at the airport, but you cannot believe how hot and humid it was!








I've spent time in Australia, but didn't visit the country's capital Canberra. I did visit two state capitals: Adelaide (South Australia) and Sydney (New South Wales), both of which were impressive.

I was there, in Adelaide, as leader of a group of teachers on a Socrates study visit to look at Teaching Gifted Children.



The Americas

I've been to North America, once, but not Central or South America. Although we spent time in some great places - Anaheim, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, San Simeon, Seattle - we didn't go anywhere near the east coast and the capital Washington DC.

I enjoyed the places we visited, mostly staying with relatives and friends, but we we were distinctly unimpressed with the food, except chowder in SF, and hated the blatant discrimination towards Hispanics.


© The Spanish Fly


See also: 

Capital "Punishment"- Part One (


Tags: Adelaide, Ajaccio, America, Amsterdam, Anaheim, Australia, Austria, chowder, Copenhagen, Corsica, Denmark, Dubai, Formentera, Ibiza, Los Angeles, Madrid, Malta, Moscow, New Orleans, Norway, Orson Welles, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Russia, San Diego, San Francesc, San Francisco,  San Sebastian, San Simeon, Seattle, Singapore, Soviet Union, Spanish Fly, Stockholm, Sweden, Sydney, UAE, Valletta, Victoria, Vienna, Washington DC 

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Capital "Punishment"- Part One
Monday, January 29, 2024

By The Spanish Fly


Not a punishment at all, rather a pleasure. I like to travel, although I'm not so keen on long-haul.

Perhaps because of my background in foreign languages, I developed a real wanderlust from my late teens onwards.

As a result, over the course of half a century I've clocked up a surprising number of capitals, thirty-four, in fact.

Surprising for me, a working class lad from the sticks. Others, like my younger brother, Simon, or my friend Nick, will no doubt scoff and say: "Is that all?"

Well .....

Here's Part One - The Western European Mainland. 18 capital cities.


Western Europe

Amsterdam, Netherlands - official capital, but see The Hague (below). Have visited a couple of times, once privately and once with work. Canals are great. Rijksmuseum also.





Andorra la Vella, Andorra - tiny principality squeezed in between France and Spain. Went for a day when I was in my 20s. Don't remember much, except that the duty free was cheap.







Athens, Greece - been a few times, pre- and post-kids, on the way to the islands of the Cyclades. Impressive monuments, Acropolis and Parthenon, and a great atmosphere.




Berlin, Germany - Surprisingly, I've only been once. That was in the winter of 2009, while courting Rita. We stayed with her younger son in the former East Berlin. Jojo did a great job as our tourist guide. I liked the atmosphere. An interesting, vibrant and cosmopolitan city.





Berne, Switzerland - passed through when I was hitch-hiking my way round Europe in 1977 with my first wife, Jeryl. We didn't linger - too expensive! And pretty boring1


Bonn, West Germany - The former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany before re-unification. Drab and boring.


Brussels, Belgium - often regarded as a boring and dull place, far from it in my experience. I loved it when I went with my wife Jeryl way back; again with my daughter Amy following her graduation in 2004, and subsequently, in 2005, as leader of a Socrates group of sixth-formers from St Helens, Merseyside, where I was the adviser for modern languages with additional responsibility for EU educational programmes (now no longer available since Brexit!).



Cardiff, Wales - I've been the odd time over the years, notably for a Six Nations rugby match at the then new Milennium Stadium, since renamed Principality Stadium.


Douglas, Isle of Man -  I spent a week working on the Isle of Man in around 2003. A colleague and I were loaned out to the Manx Education Department to inspect the modern languages  provision in the island's secondary schools. Got to see a lot of the island, as we travelled around to different towns. A nice, friendly place with fantastic countryside and great beaches.




Dublin, Ireland - Only been there once, which I don't really understand as I loved the place. My wife Jeryl had business there so I tagged along. We stayed at the Sheldon Hotel for a long weekend. Apart from the fact that they wanted to charge us extra to use the pool, sauna, etc, everything was fine. Big argument, where I pointed out that in England hotel facilities are free for guests. We used the facilities a lot and didn't pay a penny!

We took the DART north and walked back. 

The Guinness was spectacular, if expensive. This was in the late 90s. It's even dearer now, I hear.


Edinburgh, Scotland - Shortly after meeting Rita I suggested a Magical Mystery Tour. All she knew beforehand was that she needed to pack warm clothes. It was January 2009. When we got to Malaga airport and checked in she realised we were flying to Edinburgh, Scotland. What she didn't know was that we were travelling onward to the Isle of Arran. I had a timeshare there and it was the AGM. We enjoyed a fascinating dinner with a Murder Mystery theme. Rita didn't understand a word of what was said at our table. To be honest, nor did I? The Scots accent is rather impenetrable.

We did some walking and viewed most of the island. It was lovely.

On the last day, Rita ricked her back, so our last two days in Edinburgh, she stayed in bed. I, on the other hand, had a great time. I did the free walking tour of the city centre. Wow! Our guide earned his generous tip.


Lisbon, Portugal - Rita and I went in 2014. My English cousin Alison is married to a Peruvian diplomat, Jesus. They had been posted to Lisbon and it was an important wedding anniversary. So they threw a party and invited us. We drove from Ronda and enjoyed a fabulous few days. My brother Simon and his wife Marilyn, my cousin Gloria and another distant relative Wendy were also there. Other than that, we didn't know anybody.

Lisbon disappointed me. I'd always wanted to go, but I found the centre grubby and shabby.


London, England - Of course, I've been to London umpteen times. The first was a school trip to visit art galleries (I did Art A-level). The second time was to watch a friendly between England and Germany at the old Wembley stadium, when I was a university student. All that was when I was a youngster.

I had cause to go later in life, as both my kids were living there. When I was courting Rita around 2009/2010 we went also. We've been a few times since. We did the main tourist stuff, ie Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, etc. We also saw Tom, my actor son, in several plays in the West End, A Clockwork Orange, Waterloo Sunset, Yerma, to name but three.

But, London is not for us. Too big, too noisy, too dirty, too loud, too expensive.


Luxembourg City, Luxembourg - I've been to The Grand Duchy a few times. Jeryl and I went a few times pre- and post-kids. Our hosts were always Jac and Dan, a Welsh couple and our good friends from university. They both worked as translators at the European Commission.

Dan committed suicide when their two kids were really young. Jac decided to stay in Luxembourg, where she had carved out a good social life and was a leading figure in the international church there. She stopped working at the EC and set herself up as a piano teacher. She does it to this day.

After my divorce from Jeryl, I visited Jac a few times. I'd fancied her when we were undergraduates, but Dan got in first. We enjoyed a summer romance when she invited me to spend the summer of 2008 in Luxembourg helping her daughter Miriam and hubbie to renovate a house for them to live in.


Madrid, Spain - Madrid. The first time I went was with my first wife, Jeryl, when she had a business trip there. That was in May and it was already way too hot and humid!

The second time was when I attended an educational conference there on Inspecting Schools in around 2006.

My third visit was as recently as 2022, when I took my second wife, Rita, there to buy a car. See here.


Paris, France - Beautiful Paris. I've been there a number of times. What a fantastique city! I've done all the sights, I think: Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Pigalle, Arc de Triomphe, Rive Gauche, Notre Dame.





The Hague, Netherlands - The seat of the Dutch government and the administrative capital. I attended a study visit there as part of the European Union's Socrates programme. Educators from all corners of Europe attended.





Vienna, Austria - Went with Jeryl before kids. Very impressive city. The Prater was delightful. Memories of the film "The Third Man", starring Orson Welles.









© The Spanish Fly


Tags: Adelaide, Ajaccio, America, Amsterdam, Anaheim, Austria, chowder, Copenhagen, Corsica, Denmark, Dubai, Formentera, Ibiza, Los Angeles, Madrid, Malta, Moscow, New Orleans, Norway, Orson Welles, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Russia, San Diego, San Francesc, San Francisco,  San Sebastian, San Simeon, Seattle, Singapore, Soviet Union, Spanish Fly, Stockholm, Sweden, Sydney, UAE, Valletta, Victoria, Vienna, Washington DC 

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Christmas Tour of Deutschland Part 5 – Talheim, Knittlingen, and Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg
Monday, January 1, 2024

During the rest of the week before New Year, we had two meals out scheduled. One with our hosts in the local Italian ristorante, MELARANCIO, and one in a vegan restaurant for the non-meat-eating side of the family.


   Talheim, New Year’s Eve


 We also had visits planned to friends. Helen, a retired Hausarzt (GP) and Jürgen, a Steuerberater (tax adviser); and Judith, Rita’s former step-daughter.     


The best-laid plans …..

Most of what we had planned fell through, for a variety of reasons.

The meal at Ristorante Melarancio went ahead as planned. We had a great time, good Italian-style food, good company and a hefty bill (compared to Spain).

                                  Giuseppina Ruggiero, Owner Ristorante Melarancio, Talheim [Photos:]


Our planned visit to Helen and Jürgen was cancelled when Helen’s elderly father had a stroke and had to be admitted to hospital. Helen needed to take care of her mother who was home alone.

Rita visited Judith, prior to the latter being admitted to hospital for an operation to remove a tumour via endoscopy. A day later Judith was at home and in good spirits.

The planned visit to a vegan restaurant with Johannes, Rita’s eldest son, Juliane, his partner, and their nine-year-old daughter Lyre, also didn’t happen. Instead, we had a nice vegan lunch at their home in Knittlingen, coincidentally the twin-town of the villages Montejaque and Benaoján, near where we live in in Andalucia.

When we got back to Talheim we learned that Hans, former husband of Rita’s sister Birgid, had died that afternoon. He had been admitted to hospital the day before after suffering a stroke where they discovered he was in the final stages of leukemia. Nobody knew. He passed away peacefully in his sleep, aged 92. His daughter Silke was at his side.


Saturday, 30 December 2023


Rita, youngest grand-daughter Lotta, and I went shopping in Heilbronn, the biggest town/city round here. Lotta needed some sportswear for climbing (her main hobby), and I found a couple of bargains for me: a pullover and a fleece.

The fleece I got in WOOLWORTH. Remember them? They went bust in the UK in 2009. 

[On 26 November 2008, trading of shares in Woolworths Group was suspended. All 807 Woolworths stores closed between 27 December 2008 and 6 January 2009, resulting in 27,000 job losses. Woolworths Group plc entered administration on 27 January 2009, and it was officially dissolved on 13 October 2015. The collapse of Woolworths was a symbol of the credit crunch and financial turmoil in the UK at the end of 2008.]

I got myself a Hefeweizen and a Bratwurst for lunch, while the girls had something altogether healthier!



                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Instagram


The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing. In the evening we watched Amélie, a well-known French film starring Audrey Tautou.


Silvester (New Year’s Eve)

Another hanging-around sort of day, in anticipation of the end-of-year celebrations.

In the morning I trimmed my beard, got showered, donned my new pullover and listened to several podcasts on the BBC Sounds app. Highlights were an interview with Dame Esther Rantzen, aged 83 and in the final stage of cancer. So clear, lucid and interesting and pleased to be still alive at Christmas 2023.

I can only recommend this free app. You can download it on your mobile. BBC Sounds.


Dinner – raclette and good conversation - was followed by "Dinner for One" on the television. I've written about this German tradition previously, here.

As always, although we've seen it loads of times over the years, it's hilariously funny!

Then, shortly before midnight, it was fireworks and Sekt on the street outside. The Germans really take Neujahr seriously.

They sort of compete to put on the best display.




   Photo: Amazon


1 January 2024

We were late to bed, of course, but our flight home to Spain from Baden-Baden is not until the afternoon of New Year’s Day, 1 January, so alles gut!


© The Spanish Fly


Tags: 1 January, Amélie, Audrey Tautou, Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg, Benaoján, Bratwurst, Hefeweizen, Heilbronn, Knittlingen, Montejaque, Neujahr, New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve, raclette, Ristorante Melarancio, Silvester, Talheim

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Christmas Tour of Deutschland Part 4 – Uetersen to Talheim, nr. Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg
Thursday, December 28, 2023

Following our three busy days in Dresden, the bad weather in Schleswig-Holstein condemned us to stay indoors, apart from a short trip to the food market in Uetersen on Friday morning. We bought several nice cheeses, vegetables and some fish, and then it was back to the warmth of Birgid and Uwe’s apartment.


Saturday 23 December 2023

The bad weather had caused massive disruption on the railways. We weren’t sure if our train to down south would run.  In the end it did.

We had to change trains in Hamburg. There, on the platform, I was interviewed about the disruption on the railway by German TV for the Evening News.

We got our next train and for the first few hours of the journey there was no problem, other than the price of beer on the train and a grumpy waitress.

Then as we approached Kassel (Hesse), we were told there was a blockage on the line and that only one track was open. Expected delay 40 minutes. That meant we would miss our connection in

Würzburg (Bavaria). Never mind, there would be another. Wouldn’t there?

There was, and we were met at the station in Heilbronn by Rita’s daughter Katrin.


Christmas Eve

Heiligabend, as it’s known in Germany. This is when the main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening. It’s also the evening when presents are opened around the Christmas Tree.

                                          Heilbronn Station

A visit to church in the late afternoon is also important in South Germany where Roman Catholicism is more prevalent than die Evangelische Kirche.

                                         Christmas dinner

That’s what we did first, then it was presents, followed by dinner – überbackene Auberginen- und Zucchini an gebratenem Lachs mit Kartoffelbeilage.


Christmas Day

This is a quiet day, when families stay at home, or, in Talheim, we go to an open-air carol service by the lake in the village.

                                  River Neckar near Talheim

This year in the afternoon we went for a long walk through the vineyards by the River Neckar, eschewed the Carol Service and spent a relaxing evening in, playing board games.


Boxing Day – der Zweite Weihnachtstag

The main highlight today was the children’s theatre in Heilbronn. The play was 'Sindbad der Seefahrer' (Sinbad the Sailor). Brilliantly staged, the six actors entertained us for just over an hour. Great stuff!






                           Photo courtesy Theater Heilbronn

In the evening our hosts put on a family get-together for a Mexican meal. Expected were 15 humans and two dogs. We actually had 16 humans - Jojo's  friend Vincent, a GP, joined us.


To see what happened during the rest of the week between Christmas and New Year, look out for Christmas Tour of Deutschland Part 5 – Talheim and Maulbronn, nr. Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg


Photographs: unacknowledged photographs by The Spanish Fly


© The Spanish Fly


Tags: Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg, Boxing Day, Christmas, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Tour of Deutschland, DB, Deutsche Bundesbahn, Dresden, Hausarzt, Heilbronn, Heiligabend, New Year’s Eve, Silvester, Spanish Fly, Steuerberater, Talheim, Uetersen, Zweiter Weihnachtstag





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Christmas Tour of Deutschland Part 3 – Dresden II
Thursday, December 21, 2023

After all the excitement of the right-wing demonstration on Monday evening, it was back to normal on Tuesday. I got to know the breakfast waiter Mohatman from Syria and we had an interesting chat.


Dresden by Day


After a hearty German breakfast, we drove to the Altstadt.

First up Rita needed a new pair of boots, so the first thing on the agenda was to find a shoe shop. We ended up in the Altstadt Shopping-Zentrum. The first shop was way too dear, so we sought out a Deichmann store.

In another shop I found a delightful wooden elephant head to add to my already large collection.

I had spotted a Tchibo shop. Originally a coffee brand and coffee shop, they also sell a random selection of clothes, kitchen accessories, gifts and souvenirs.

I bought a couple of presents for our hosts later in the week, ie Rita’s daughter and family, and enjoyed a tasty coffee while I waited for the others.


Together again we headed for den Striezelmarkt, the oldest, largest and widely reckoned to be the best of the Weihnachtsmärkte in Dresden.

We eventually tracked down a stand selling ½ metre Bratwurst.

We each had one!

I washed mine down with a Weihnachtsbierlecker (delicious).

After lunch, we wanted to do a bit of tourism:

Die Frauenkirche, an ecumenical church, was a pure delight.

The Semper Opera House was unfortunately shut, so we consoled ourselves with a coffee in the Café in the C. Bechstein building. This is a celebrated café on a par with the Sacher café in Vienna, Austria.


After our coffee, in my case a beer from the Czech Republic, I popped upstairs to take a peek at the pianos in the Bechstein showroom.

What a delight! The piano I liked best turned out to be their most expensive model, a grand piano on sale at 193,000 euros! Their cheapest was a reconditioned upright for just 2,000€.


Back to the boat

Home time – it was getting dark – and starting to rain. I went to the ESSO petrol station for supplies.

A small bottle of Sekt for Rita, some Bier for me and a Schweineschnitzel. Supplies delivered I went upstairs to the breakfast cabin of the paddle steamer and watched the TV News, followed by “Der Kommissar und das Meer”.

Then to bed and dreams of the gorgeous Bechstein pianos.


Wednesday and check-out time

We had a hearty breakfast the next morning before setting off for the long journey back to North Germany, a super supper of Asparagus soup, breads and spreads, and bed.



Looking back, I had thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to the former East Germany. Dresden ranks highly with other fabulous cities that I have visited: Barcelona, Berlin, Bristol, Bruges, Brussels, Chester, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Madrid, Moscow, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Prague, San Francisco, San Sebastián, Seattle, Vienna, and York.



The Spanish Fly


© The Spanish Fly


Tags: Altmark, Altstadt, Altstadt Shopping-Zentrum, Barcelona, Bechstein, Berlin, Bratwurst, Bristol, Bruges, Brussels, Chester, Cologne, Copenhagen, Czech Republic, Dresden, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh, Frauenkirche, Madrid, Moscow, Munich, North Germany, Oslo, Paris, Prague, San Francisco, San Sebastián, Schweineschnitzel, Seattle, Semper, Spanish Fly, Striezelmarkt, Vienna, Weihnachtsbier, Weihnachtsmarkt, York


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