TORRE DE LA SAL, CASARES BEACH.
A fifteen-minute drive south from Estepona you will come to the Casares roundabout. If you can resist the lure of turning inland to explore the hills, it offers the perfect point at which to drive on to the beach. You’ll find a tiny squat one-up one-down watchtower – the Torre – along the beach. It dates from the days Barbary pirates scourged the coast.
But what you’ll find today on these quiet beaches are the beach restaurants, chiringuitos, which every visitor delights in. La Sal is one such. It is set just above the beach and is slightly elevated. You can sit on the terrace and enjoy the sweeping view of the coastline that stretches to the nearby once fishing village of Sabinillas and on and on to the hazy silhouette of Gibraltar to the south. You can pop down to the beach for a swim or watch your children pottering among the rock pools jutting out of the sandy beach into the sea. There are no tides or great depths to worry about. This is a Mediterranean shore.
And as you sip an ice-cold beer you will surely study the menu. One of the joys of chiringuitos is the seafood on offer. Fish is very popular in Spain. Even in the old days before refrigerated lorries were around, you would find small lorries – bone shakers – being driven rapidly towards Madrid with water dripping steadily out from the back. These lorries were full of fresh fish packed in ice. Today’s catch would be served in Madrid the very next day.
It’s hard to do justice to the range of fish still available – too many are Mediterranean fish that have no English equivalent. That will not affect your pleasure once you taste species of white fish like brotola or rosada and abadejo (pointed nose grouper, no less). Everything is a treat, from tasty sardines and simple clams in garlic and parsley to whole fish baked in a salt. Keep it simple – a crisp salad and chips complete a meal fit for a king. It brings a totally new dimension to the idea of fish and chips! And there’s paella and so much more to choose from.
And all this to be enjoyed overlooking a blue sea that can sparkle in the sun or can lie silvered and smooth as satin. Eating al fresco doesn’t get much better!
And once you’ve had your dessert and coffee, you can head inland for Casares itself, a small whitewashed typical Spanish village. As you get to the last bend of the winding road, you will be met by a breathtaking and hugely satisfying view of the town with its houses creating a near-abstract pattern of white walls and red and ochre tiled roofs, and a landscape spilling downhill in greens and browns. Everyone pulls up by the side of the road to soak in the view.
As for the town – well, that’s another delightful story!
La Sal / Carretera Nacional 340 / Km. 146.5 / tel 952 89 07 89. A word of warning: in the height of summer you’d be well advised to book your table!
Traditional House in the heart of Manilva