Hola! We’ve made it to the southern Spanish coastal town of Malaga. It took us forever (well felt like it anyway) to get here from the capital city Delhi, India where we departed early in the morning (1.30am) on Good Friday 14 April and arrived into Malaga at 2.45pm on the same day.
As you can imagine we were both physically and emotionally drained! That of course was in part due to some other stressful factors which you’ve probably already read in a previous post called Drone Drama. Moving right along…
At this stage of the travel game it’s quite easy to forget about what we’re creating on this trip. So while the family were still dealing with the drone drama at the lost luggage counter, I zipped over to purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. I had been thinking that since we were moving countries there would be a word that could best describe our experience and lessons learned in each country. So we agreed that India’s word is RESILIENCE. And just by glancing out the window of the plane, the next word came to me: BEAUTY for Spain. And Chanel would be my first lesson in beauty.
Malaga is the sixth largest city in Spain with a population of 569,000 (2015) who are predominantly Catholic. It’s also one of the oldest cities in the world, having been founded 2,800 years ago in 1770BC. We’re staying on the 4th floor of an apartment building in a three-bedroom cosy and charming apartment in central Malaga. So it’s walking distance to just about everything we need. It’s a fantastic location (all credit goes to my wonderful husband Steve for being the accommodation researcher and awesome booking agent) and we have been completely propelled out of the Indian culture that we were so used to for three months and immersed into the new (and quite distinct from India’s culture) Spanish culture and lifestyle.
Here are some of the ways in which our brains have had to adapt already from this sudden shift in culture:
- Women are everywhere! There is an obvious freedom for women here versus over in India.
- Clean environment. It feels so green and clean here in Malaga. And there’s the Mediterranean Sea.
- Traffic is quiet. There’s no tooting of car horns allowed here whereas it was expected for safety and warning in India. Roads are smooth and without potholes. There are road rules which are obeyed and lanes that people actually use.
- Physical affection in public. I recall seeing a couple kissing and cuddling for the first day in Malaga and my eyes looked twice because I had grown accustomed to not seeing displays of affection between the sexes in India.
- Dogs – everyone has a dog on a leash in Malaga, whereas India has more street dogs than it can handle.
- Pigs – are cured for food here in Malaga. It’s a speciality. In India the street pigs were unfriendly scavengers.
- Language – Spanish versus Hindi or Marathi
- Meat is offered everywhere in Spain; very limited in Hindu vegetarian India
- Every café or shop sells alcohol, and it’s publicly displayed here but more hidden in India.
- Dress code is relaxed. Shorts, singlets, bathers. There’s no covering up the skin here in Malaga!
- Blending in. Here we blend in, whereas in India we were aliens, especially in Buldana and being stared at constantly.
- Religion – Catholicism with 1 single God versus Hinduism with over 330 million Gods and counting!
- Food options galore in Spain and they don’t use hot spices in their cooking. The biggest similarity is saffron (used in paella cooking). It’s the Mediterranean diet.
- Cafes are everywhere! Glorious cafes with delightful coffee, churros, tapas…
And although this list points out the relative ease of living in Spain, and true it is a lot easier, we are still missing India with all it’s amazing people and sights and culture. India definitely is a special place that on the one hand we love and on the other we loathe.
Being Good Friday, we arrived into the Malaga International Airport to a ghost town – it felt more like a big country town than the sixth largest city of Spain. It was simple hailing a taxi outside the airport for the six of us plus luggage but it was our introduction to the reality that not many people here in Malaga speak the English language. We showed the taxi driver our address and half an hour and 30 Euros later we had arrived to our destination. We had no way of contacting our Spanish Airbnb landlord, so we politely asked the taxi driver if he could call so they knew we were at the apartment.
We sat on the pavement with our luggage surrounding us in an extremely quiet street. The taxi driver had mentioned that it may be troublesome getting to this particular street, and we did notice sections of the street cordoned off by tape but there was no one in sight. Ten minutes later Juan (our landlord) approached with a huge smile. Juan is probably in his mid-sixties and does not speak a word of English. So he opened up the wrought iron glass double doors downstairs and we clambered into the small lift and went up to the 4th floor. We entered a beautiful brightly painted (yellow my favourite) apartment which immediately had a lovely feel. I recall seeing the photos on Airbnb and now it was all real.
Juan communicated with us through a translating app. So he would speak Spanish into his phone, and it would translate (written form) what he said into English. We walked around each room, making sure we knew how to operate everything that was new and foreign in our new home for six weeks – the dishwasher, oven, microwave, washing machine (located next to the dishwasher in the kitchen), hanging clothes out the bedroom window on a pulley-system and the one thing the girls want most of all – internet. I was so tired I was amazed Juan’s directions were actually making sense!
Then Juan took Steve down to the local shop where we could buy some necessary items over the Easter weekend as most of the cafes and supermarkets were closed due to it being Good Friday. Ah that’s why it was so very quiet around here.
After a couple of hours of settling in, unpacking, and putting on a load or two of washing we watched a Good Friday parade just in our street. The kids were delighted to be here in a much more modern apartment and having a bit more of their own space. The open-style apartment lounge room has a large double sliding window that looks out onto the street below, and to our surprise the crowd of families and people dressed up in religious costumes started gathering. The tape was a barricade for people to stand behind. So we delightfully watched the street scene from above and saw an amazingly orchestrated Catholic parade with man carrying a large float with Jesus on it and young kids dressed up in detailed black and white religious ceremonial costumes. The band walked behind the Jesus float and the band’s music reverberated down the long and narrow street.
It’s that feeling you get when everything once again is simply and utterly foreign. The streets are unfamiliar, the language gets your tongue tied, and although we didn’t like the constant attention by the Indian’s staring at us, we did enjoy their assistance whenever we looked lost or confused in the streets. That doesn’t happen here. In Malaga we actually blend in, so there’s no more staring and if we are heard speaking English it’s assumed we’re English. But that means we are left completely alone. So we are having to adjust our ‘help us’ thermometer and start being more proactive seeking help rather than relying it to instantly come our way.
So today is about getting out the front door and into the streets. Pretty much it’s a lesson in getting lost and found in a new city. The best way to find your bearings in a new and unfamiliar place is to give the day up to being lost and being okay with that. The girls didn’t necessarily like doing it that way much, as we were stopping lots and checking maps and trying to read and then pronounce street names. But in the end we made it to the end of our street, to the supermarket, around the block, finding a coffee, and then to the city centre, and back again.
We found the Vodafone outlet in the main shopping area in Malaga’s city centre and purchased a sim so we now have a Spanish number. We were still feeling tired from the big travel day yesterday so we purchased ice cream from a city centre shop for way too much (25 Euro all up!). But it was way too nice to pass up on! We estimate that by the end of this week we’ll be much more confident with our directions and for each of us being able to find our way back home independently.
After stumbling across the Information Centre we collected some pamphlets on things to do and see, and noticed there was a bull fight occurring tonight at 6pm. It was only one of two bullfighting events held here each year in Malaga’s bullfighting arena. I’d never really given much thought as to whether I would attend a Spanish bullfight or not. The Info lady turned her nose up at the event, but said many people like to see it for the cultural value. Hmmm.
So after some debate, and then walking to the actual bullfighting ring in Malaga, we lined up to purchase four tickets at 20 Euros each. A hawker was trying to sell us his already purchased tickets, but we gratefully declined. Yes, it is out of the budget for the week, but it’s something Steve, Charlie, Ash and I were keen to attend. Billie and Dacey were a definite no (which is a good choice) and they were happy to have dinner and watch a movie back at the apartment together. Our agreement was that if at any stage it was too much we would walk out.
We caught local number 2 bus back to our apartment area (1.50 Euro each) and then pretty much headed back out via taxi (as there was only four of us) back to the bullfighting arena. There was a massive crowd building outside and women were dressed up in heels and dresses; men in suits. When Steve had purchased the tickets at the booth, the lovely lady told him that the ringside tickets cost up to 125 Euros!
Back at our apartment, we went shopping for food at the local supermarket just around the corner. There’s also a local fresh food market called the Salamanca Market that houses small shops of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, and bread. Steve has already made some acquaintances at the market and one man there who sells us freshly baked bread each morning speaks quite good English. The woman who operates the fresh fruit and vegetable stall does not, and Steve is getting some daily Spanish lessons from her each time he visits.
The Malaga bullfighting arena has a capacity of 9,000 people. We think about 2,000 people attended this bullfight. So if that’s anything to go by, could we assume that the Spanish people themselves are opting out of watching the so-called cultural blood sport? Online there’s a turn against the sport with STOP BULLFIGHTING groups, but as I looked around the crowd there still was a healthy, albeit small, following for the annual Malaga Easter Saturday bullfight. If you’d like to know more about our experience watching the bullfight it has its own dedicated blog post titled Day 118 | Malaga Easter Saturday Bullfight | 15 April 2017 (out soon).
Happy Easter – and yes the Easter bunny did make it all the way over to our girls’ for Easter! Although Spanish supermarkets and shops are not excessively over-stocked with chocolate eggs and bunnies like they are in Australia. There were actually more difficult to find here.
After eating chocolate bunnies for breakfast, it was a wander out into the streets for this travelling family. This time we were wandering our way down to the beach and port area of Malaga.
We made it and there was a buzz of activity happening – cruise ships docking, surf wear shops, clothing market, ice cream shops, café and restaurants, play equipment for kids. There are so many palm trees lining the streets here that I sometimes forget where I actually am. At the beach, we headed straight onto the sand – the beach is a lot darker to what we are used to on Australian beaches. Women sun baked topless and people walked along the pathways with their dogs on leads. Does everyone in Spain have a dog or what?
Funnily that reminded me about an experience when we landed at Malaga Airport and we were waiting to disembark the plane. We heard this consistent meowing sound coming from the seats in front of us. I assumed it was the young Russian man’s mobile phone ring tone and wasn’t quite sure why he wasn’t answering it or turning it off. But then Dacey said she saw a little dog snuggling in the coat of one of the passengers behind her. Was she delusional? And in that moment, I looked down on the seat in front of me and noticed a tabby cat sitting in its soft padded cat cage. The Russian and Spanish quarantine must have some sort of arrangement for Russians to bring their pets on the plane with them to Spain – and they do it’s called a Pet Passport!
The girls have literally run out of clothes to wear from our travels through India. So today we walked all the way to the Larios Centro Shopping Mall and spent many hours and quite a bit of Euro restocking the wardrobe with t-shirts, jeans, knits, shoes, and underwear. We found a place that was similar to a Target store in Australia – perfect for buying lots of different kinds of clothing for all of us. Tick!
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Term 2 of school has commenced, and although the girls were not overly ecstatic about recommencing their Distance Education after having 3 whole weeks off adventuring all over India’s Golden Triangle with their cousins Luke and Harry, they made a great start and are back into it in Malaga.
Charlie received some grades back for her Year 11 and (one) Year 12 subjects and she came bopping and beaming down the apartment hallway with great results. I jokingly replied that this travel lifestyle works much better for her and her learning as it’s showing up in the grades she’s getting. Maybe we should continue travelling through her Year 12 year too?
The conditions here in Malaga are more conducive to a better school learning and study than they were in Buldana, India. Here are the main reasons:
- It’s not unbearably hot – in our final fortnight living in Buldana, temperatures were reaching 40-degree plus during the days and 30s at night without air-conditioning. But here in Malaga we are enjoying mid-20s most days which makes concentrating so much easier.
- Separate bedrooms – the apartment we rented in Buldana only had 2 bedrooms. So the four girls’ in the one large room meant none of them got any time apart. Here in Malaga we have rented a 3-bedroom apartment – so even though they still don’t have a room each (x4), at least they are sharing with only one other.
- Food options – in Buldana they were fairly basic and monotonous with no real café options to choose from. It’s rural India after all! But as you can imagine here in coastal Malaga – the sixth largest city in Spain – we are enjoying the full Mediterranean style of food options. Perfect brain food!
- Internet – we have been used to seeing that round spinning thinking wheel (Steve calls it the wheel of death) more often than not in Buldana when trying to upload school work or send emails back to Australia. It did work but boy was it slow at times. Having access to high speed internet here in Malaga has meant that the girls are getting their work uploaded more efficiently so they’re not wasting any time with that thinking wheel. That’s good for everyone.
So with the better internet upload speeds for school combined with the increase in sights to see and cafes and shops to experience, we are able to get the school learning components completed in the morning and we’re able to head out into the afternoon and explore Malaga, and hire a car on the weekends to see more of the internal areas of the autonomous community of Andalusia in southern Spain.
This week Steve and I have visited quite a few of the tapas bars and restaurants in downtown Malaga in the afternoons which has been a lovely way to relax and enjoy our first week of settling into Malaga. There’s lots of options to choose from – cured meats, tasty cheeses, fresh seafood, crusty bread and lovely vino. We love the tapas lifestyle of sitting outdoors basking in the sunshine in the middle of the city while the kids wander off to shops and ice cream stalls. Great opportunity to watch the world go by and do a spot of people watching. I’ve also tried the Spanish Sangria drink – a blend of red wine, lemonade, and pieces of freshly cut fruit. Served in a nice big glass with a straw, its chilled and definitely refreshing. Could become quite dangerous to my ability to run effectively too! But if I am to continue living the Spanish way and enjoy their Mediterranean diet, I will need to do some exercise otherwise I’m not going to fit into any clothing I own right now.
So on Tuesday Steve and I went for a run along the bike paths meandering throughout the city – 5 repeats of 2-minute runs 1-minute walk. Taking it easy ensuring my toe problem (Morton’s Neuroma) does not impact my ability to continue running. I have my orthotics in but it’s been probably near enough to two years since I last ran. We did the same on the Thursday, this time running down to the beach promenade area and completing 7 repeats of 2-minute runs and 1-minute walk. Feeling good.
Today marks the first week since we arrived to Malaga, Spain. We have five more weeks to go. Today Charlie sits her Year 12 Health & Human Development SAC this morning for an hour, and then I’m taking the girls out for a coffee and something sweet. Churros are a Spanish favourite but they don’t always have the chocolate dipping sauce like they do in Australia. We wander down to the town centre, stopping off at a Camera shop in the hope that they can assist me with my Macro lens that won’t click onto the body of my camera all that easily. The shop assistant tells me it’s a build-up of grime, but I’m not 100% sure about that. The Macro is the least used of all my lenses, and my other lenses are all clicking on okay? Hmmm…
As another month goes by, we work out what our expenditure has been that month and track it against our year to date figures. Our budget is $250/day that includes EVERYTHING – flights, accommodation, food, sightseeing, car hire, activities, clothes, other. You spend it and it goes in here (lol).
So here goes…
@ Day #29 | 19/12-16/01 | $392/day
@ Day #54 | 16/01-10/02 | $246/day
@ Day #85 | 10/02-13/03 | $166/day
@ Day #119 | 13/03-16/04 | $216/day
So far we are tracking to plan.
In The Near Future…
Charlie and Ash are going to enjoy a weekend away in London. Charlie did some online research and found some well-priced flights with EasyJet to Gatwick Airport from Malaga. She and Ash are off – no not to visit the Queen – but to catch up and stay with the English family we met in Hoi’An, Vietnam five years ago – Francesca, Callum, Tiegan, and Quinn. When we met them they were towards the end of their family travels around the world over 11 months and we had so much fun meeting and getting to know them in Vietnam. In fact, they were one of our biggest inspirations for our own family travels overseas.
The teenagers are tickled pink to be away from their parents for a long weekend and I’m happy that they’re confident enough to take something like travelling to England on by themselves! Such fiercely independent young women. What an adventure! They depart on Friday 5 May and return Monday 8 May with carry-on luggage only. Don’t worry the drone is not going with them!
Woohoo, they’re very lucky teenage girls.