My blogging friend Marianne suggested we should walk down to the valley! A small feat after the other climbs we have done, so we planned it for afternoon, when the westering sun would illuminate the Puente Nuevo.
We ate mixed salad for two, which is a huge platter of lettuce, tomato, asparagus, beetroot, carrot, topped by fresh tuna and costing 4 euros at Bodega San Francisco, below the Old Gate. From there we could follow a track into the valley.
I was a slow walker, entranced by the profusion of wild flowers beside the path. It seems wonderful to me that no person has planted them, yet they are arranged in such glorious groups of colour and form.
Stuart is used to sitting for hours and sketching, so he did not mind waiting as I knelt amongst the vivid colours, trying to capture what my heart saw.
Imagine a gentle breeze whispering through a stand of Australian eucalypts (true!), the freshness of mountain air, clear vistas to surrounding hills, and the buzz and flutter of feeding insects amongst the waving grasses.
There was even one pink poppy amongst the red!
I wish I knew the names of these flowers, although some are familiar I have not seen them wild before now.
Just when I thought I had seen them all new ones would appear, or a bend in the track would reveal a whole field of colour!
We sought shelter from the sun in an olive grove where we sat on a pile or rocks, Stuart drawing the famous arches of the bridge while I rested and watched for birds. This little bunting (?) hopped by, rummaging in the fallen olive leaves. It is well disguised isn't it?
Beauty had me surrounded, wonder overwhelming me moment by moment, just look at these delicate jewels woven together on the rocky bank of the orchard.
A bee landed on these yellow flowers that spread delicately over the narrow path … can you see that dark insect?
These little explosions of light could be something from space, yet they lie modestly hidden in the undergrowth.
This one was reaching out to the extra light of the open track, and a bee landed on it as I was leaning close to take the photo. I was not so lucky with butterflies … each one moving before I could snap!
However a very pretty beetle stayed in place just long enough for a slow photographer.
The main incentive for the valley walk was to see the bridge from the west, so here it is, with a profusion of flowers in the foreground.
As the track took us higher again, back to the city, we looked over the olive groves and out to the mountains. The abundant yellow flower is fennel.
Today we leave our wonderful little hotel San Gabriel, exquisite and perfect, the building dating from 1736, yet equipped for discerning travellers of 2014. I cannot recommend it highly enough, if you dont mind the sound of a horse and carriage jingling and clopping along under your window now and then.