Vienes | Friday
We are attempting to learn the basics of the Spanish language with varying degrees of success. Some words are easy to follow; others enter my brain and I just can’t pronounce them correctly. I forge onwards and hope that another five weeks of immersion in Spain will help.
The food we are buying and consuming in Malaga is, quite frankly, simply to die for. This is no intentional exaggeration. However, I’m not sure if the food is amazing because we were denied the varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables while living nine weeks in rural India and we’re still overcoming that denied experience, or it really is truly the freshest and tastiest food on the planet! Either way, we are all thoroughly appreciating the range, quality and cost of food on offer here in Malaga. And unfortunately so is my waist line!
Just take the fruits for instance. They are delicious – freshly squeezed orange juice each morning, overgrown giant strawberries (even being giants they taste glorious and dazzle the mouth). There’s also ripe bananas, apples, and salads! Oh my goodness, yes having salad was definitely one food group we dearly missed while living in dry rural India. Assorted lettuce leaves, red ripe tomatoes, small avocados and crunchy cucumber. We’re living the dream and relishing the full gamut of the Mediterranean diet. Dacey and I also are consuming large daily doses of tasty green olives and freshly baked bread. We are in Spain! Why not!
And tonight was no exception. Steve purchased fresh salmon cutlets (and sausages for those in the family who don’t eat salmon) from the local Salamanca Market (aka our mini-Queen Victoria market) and potatoes, asparagus sticks (broccoli for those in the family who are not lovers of asparagus). Totally delightful and oh so repeatable. And with a glass of chilled vino blanco (white wine) I’m pretty much in food heaven for a home cooked meal.
Although our Airbnb apartment has seven single beds in it (3 bedrooms), it’s not really geared up enough in the kitchen for that many people. The cupboards are a little bare of cooking utensils and pots and pans. We have everything we need including oven, drill, 4-burner electric stove stop, microwave and a large upright fridge with freezer on the bottom. So when we cook in our three-bedroom apartment, we have to be creative and make do with what we have in the cupboards so we have two sittings at dinner time if the meal is something like we had tonight – meat and vegies. But I have previously made a spaghetti Bolognese and we could eat together.
Sabado | Saturday
Note: I will often refer to the area of southern Spain called Andalusia which is an autonomous community recognised by the Spanish constitution. The Andalusian autonomous community is officially recognised as historical nationality and the Andalusian territory is divided into eight provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville. We are located in the province (and same named city) of Málaga.
Here are some quick facts about Andalusia (or spelt Andalucia) province:
- The name Andalusia is derived from the Arabic word Al-Andalus
- It is the most populated and second largest autonomous community in Spain in area
- The capital is Seville
- It is located south of the Iberian peninsula, in south-western Europe
- It is the only European region with both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines
- Traditionally it’s an agricultural region, compared to the rest of Spain and the rest of Europe
- It has a rich culture and a strong cultural identity – the cultural phenomena that are seen internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely Andalusian in origin eg. flamenco, and to a lesser extent, bullfightingand Hispano-Moorish architectural styles
- It’s most famous people born in Andalusia – Antonio Banderas, Pablo Picasso (actually both were born in Malaga). There’s probably more…
- Extra note: Spain does not recognise British sovereignty over Gibraltar (due to not faithfully fulfilling Article X of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht), so according to Spain, Gibraltar forms part of the Province of Cadiz (sharing a 1.2km land border with the at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar). But I’ll cover this at more length once we actually visit Gibraltar (stay tuned).
So back to today. We hired a car to go road tripping for the day – 7-seater, six geared left-hand drive Renault for 81 Euros from a car hire company located near the Malaga train station. Steve walked to the car hire place which took half an hour and drove back to the apartment. As part of renting the Airbnb apartment, we also have a dedicated car space in an underground garage just up the road from the apartment. So last night we met with our landlord Juan who handed over the garage key for the shared garage.
Unfortunately, Steve returned after collecting the car in a bit of a fizz, as the 7-seater car we did not really fit in the narrow car parking space assigned to our apartment. So he had to park it in another car parking bay directly opposite the underground entry-exit. Obviously smaller cars are easiest in and around Malaga city, but our family of six just doesn’t fit into a standard 5-seater…
Steve didn’t have an international driver’s licence on him, as he did some research before leaving Australia which indicated many places do not require one. But in Spain we had read conflicting requirements online. So we were half expecting not to be given the car. After receiving the okay call from Steve, I went about waking the kids up out of their “it’s Saturday we want to sleep in all morning”, we were all dressed and ready (amazing I know) to go and were at the garage within 45-minutes. Getting the car out of the confined space was a bit tricky too. Stressful! But Steve managed it well with a lot of eye helpers on each side of the car.
We’re road tripping to the Spanish town of Ronda about 100km inland and west of Malaga town. We took the inland approach following the A357 and A367 rather than the coastal route (which we did on the way home). It was an amazing journey just sitting in the car and looking out of the window and taking in the unbelievable scenic route along the motorways. We also hired a Tom Tom GPS (12 Euros extra) so finding our way around and onto the correct motorways was made a lot easier, especially when all of our focus for not only the driver but passengers as well was on making sure Steve didn’t automatically move into Australian driving habits – being used to right hand drive cars and driving on the other side of the road. The worst part of driving was trying not to do what’s so natural and automatic when driving through roundabouts and turning left and right from traffic lights – so counterintuitive. But we made it in one piece.
Here are some photos of the drive to Ronda via the inland route.
And here are some photos of the drive back home to Malaga (from Ronda) along the coastal route.
Welcome to Ronda
We drive for approximately 1.5 hours and arrive just after 1pm to one of the oldest towns of Spain. It’s a tad cooler today; the air is crisp and we all feel it as I am constantly opening and closing the passenger side window to snap away at the passing scenic route we are witnessing from the car. The A357 is three-lane smooth motorway for the majority of the driving journey to Ronda and a free ride on the way there (no tolls). The spectacular scenery of intimidating mountains and stark white wind turbines scattered along the mountain peaks are a highlight to behold. We see hundreds of white wind turbines standing stoically tall and strong across the Andalusian hilly landscape. We pass farms that together form a colourful patchwork across the rolling land as far as the eye could see. It was absolutely gorgeous and just took our breath away. Thankfully Steve kept his eyes on the road ahead.
To read more of our experience in the town of Ronda itself please read the special blog post titled Day 125 | Three: Snippets of Spain | 22 April 2017
After spending just shy of four hours walking around and admiring the magnificent views from the township of Ronda, we return to our car (note: carparks are hard to find on a Saturday) and drive the scenic and often called the more difficult coastal route to Fuengirola Beach for a dinner stop and a wander around. The coastal drive was everything we expected – challenging, winding roads up mountains and back down again, tight corners. Ash got car sick so we stopped off a couple of times to stretch the legs and settle the stomach.
The beach of Fuengirola is a 7km stretch of sand and water with an extensive beach front promenade called Paseo Maritimo Rey de España. We Google a fish and chips in the area and discover Dory’s Chippy is the place for us. After finding a vacant car spot on the promenade and working out that there was no charge for after 6pm (basic Spanish coming in handy!), we walk to the restaurant where we are greeted by an Englishman who runs and operates it. We sit outside and strike up a conversation between the tables with two retired British men who have called Fuengirola their home for the last 15 years. We spoke about how cold it has turned today, and they too were unaccustomed to the cold snap complaining that they had never experienced anything like this in the 15 years of living here.
We relished the fresh pieces of cod fish, battered and deep fried and the small serves of gravy, coleslaw, tartare sauce and heaped plates of chips. Unfortunately, they were out of the apple pie and cream (darn) but did we really need it after devouring plentiful serves of fish and chips…did we?!
Fuengirola is certainly a place to be in the summer months for a taste of the real Mediterranean seaside holiday. Located along the coastal area called Costa del Sol, which is many say the most scenic and emblematic driving routes of Spain, there are long expansive stretches of beaches, high rise apartments, and plenty of tourists (well apparently when it’s warm). The place has loads to offer too – water sports, swimming, sun baking, multi-country cuisine restaurants, bars and cafes with a large variety of apartment living and small supermarkets (mini-marts) for everything one would need for a summer holiday. We are even thinking of catching a train back down here from Malaga when it warms up more.
It’s also haven to a large number of British retirees (we met two of them) who come here to retire with the better weather. The subtropical climate of Malaga province, I read in a tourist book, suggests an average of 324 days of sunshine! In high summer season (June-September) the beaches are apparently lined with chiringuitos (beach bars) and hamacas (beach beds) which are hired out for the day.
We start our drive back to Malaga, and our TomTom GPS tells us to take a toll road past Marbella Beach to get there. But a quick Google search informs me that we don’t have to go along the expensive toll roads. We get caught out on two paying 2 Euro and the 7 Euro on another. Finally, we find A376 and we cruise home after a long day.
As we are in Malaga, we are looking for a petrol station to fill the tank up. Do you think we could find one. Even Google Maps directs me and then Charlie to a ghost petrol station. We are in the car driving around the streets of Malaga and it’s getting dark. There is no petrol stations. We finally pull up next to a couple walking along the pavement, and ask for help. It’s hard with the language but the word “gas” works. The man motions for us to follow him in his car that is parked just ahead. We wait on the side of the road. And wait. He is having trouble opening his car door. He returns to us waiting on the side of the road and tells us his key is broken! We have a large metro bus turning the corner behind us, and we need to move. We edge forward until the big bus can squeeze past us and the man tells us in basic Spanish and lots of hand movements to go straight, turn right at the lights and then left and then “BP”. We thank him and are on our way. We find it and fill up.
Domingo | Sunday
Today is a day for exploring in and around the city of Malaga. Steve has returned the car this morning, full of petrol and no dents! Steve got caught up in a Women’s Fun Run for cancer in the city while walking back with women everywhere running in bright green sponsored t-shirts. The kids enjoyed a sleep in and then a rude wake up call. Out of nowhere, sirens and loud whistles could be heard from outside in the streets. We open the double windows of our apartment and poke our heads out and see that there are police cars and people in the streets with some kind of protest happening. We are happy to confirm it’s a protest rather than a terrorist threat (which actually happened, according to the paper, in Malaga at an Easter Saturday parade). I go downstairs with my camera and Charlie and I get stuck in the middle of a fire brigade protest – men walking holding a long chain with their mouths covered with tape and hundreds of people following – walking down the narrow streets near our apartment. The Spanish certainly know how to pull together a loud and chanting crowd!
This time we coaxed the kids with ice-cream promises to come along and look, see and climb Alcazaba de Malaga. This is one of the greatest monuments in Malaga, but my children don’t think so.
The Alcazaba is built on a spur and contours to the slope of the hill that overlooks the port area. It’s a climb to get to (kids still not happy about that!), and it’s set high up and expansively spread out. The fortress construction began in the 8th Century when Malaga was the principal port of the Moorish Kingdom, but most of the actual structure dates to the 11th Century. The structure is built from limestone which has a habit of crumbling easily so the fortress has been under extensive renovations since the 1930s. The inner palace was built between 1057-1063 when Moorish emirs (leaders) took up residence. It wasn’t until 1487 when Ferdinand and Isabella lived here after conquering the city.
The palace has three courtyards – Patio de los Surtidores (Jets of water) with a row of archways leading to the Torre de la Armadura Muejar (16th Century carved wooden ceiling that I just loved photographing), Torre de Maldonado (marble columns and a great view of the city) and lots of bougainvillea. The Patio de los Naramjos (Orange Trees) and Patio de la Alberca (Pool) are the other two beautiful courtyards to see at the citadel and they’re just beautifully restored and lovely to be in. Steve and I enjoyed the walk up and stroll around the Alcazaba, while the two younger ones sat under the shade of an orange tree half way up. The older girls, Charlie and Ash, decided to do their own thing and met up with us later in the afternoon. Sometimes you got to pick your battles, and this was not one.
It’s quite easy to lose your way once inside the citadel. It’s a rabbit warren of open patio spaces, intricate archways, unusual doorways so we of course lose Billie and Dacey for a bit. But they’re a little over the whole “let’s go and see a fort kids” from us especially after seeing the many amazing forts in our Golden Triangle tour only two weeks ago in India. The Spanish forts are markedly different, but for the younger ones they’re probably the same-same with a whole lot more tourists to dodge. After 2pm each Sunday the Alcazaba area is free to enter and so too is its close neighbour Gibralfaro fortress (which we plan on visiting with the kids next Sunday).
Of course we stopped off for an ice cream which was thoroughly enjoyable and wandered back through the crowded winding streets of the Malaga centro to our apartment.
Lunes | Monday
Charlie is sick today. She woke up with a sore throat and heavy head. The poor thing spent most of the day in bed while the others completed their school work. The others think she’s lucky!
In the afternoon Steve and I walked to the local gym and purchased a 50 pass session which we can all use. We are all permitted to attend this gym (adults and children), which I think will be good for our sporty type kids that like to be more active than not. It’s unfortunately my loss that out of four children, none of them love reading books as a past time.
I attend the 55-minute Yoga session and Steve went in and did a gym session. By the time my yoga session was over, I was literally dropping to my knees! The yoga session was intense (rather than relaxing and gentle which is what I’m after) and I spent most of the time in the session with my bum up in the air, legs and arms stretched out and my eyes wide open watching the yoga instructor’s moves as he was talking in Spanish. He was an extremely fit and flexible young man with trendy tattoos covering his arms. But his ability to stretch and move his body in all types of directions and ways was a sight to be impressed with. Personally I think I went a little too hard my first time doing Spanish yoga considering I hadn’t been doing all that much in the way of intense stretches; other than walking and a couple of runs in the last couple of weeks I hadn’t done much at all. Oh how I miss the little Buldana yoga instructor and his gentle yoga style and deep relaxing voice. He was mesmerising in such a different way.
Martes | Tuesday
Charlie was still not feeling well this morning, and she spent most of the day at the table in the lounge room completing currently school work and getting ahead. I woke up with an aching body and pains in every arm and leg muscle from the yoga session last night – every muscle in my arms and legs were sore! Now I’m wondering how I’m ever going to get myself back to that Spanish yoga class and not have negative muscle memory.
In the afternoon we went for a brisk walk through the city centre and down to Malaga’s port area. Billie and Dacey made another deal with Steve for ice-creams on the way: they would walk with us if they could buy ice cream! It was a sunny day and the sky was a striking crystal blue so we four decided to take a ride on the magnificent non-permanent ferris wheel set up near the beach/port area. A 12-minute ride and three turns of the wheel (gives a wonderfully different perspective of Malaga city and since we’ve been wandering Malaga’s streets now for over a week we are quite familiar with the different landmarks and sites from this high up.
The ticketing says it is Europe’s largest itinerant ferris wheel which I though was a very unusual and unattractive way of marketing a tourist attraction especially in English. Maybe it sounds better in Spanish – El mirador itinerante mas grande de Europa. Hmmm maybe a little better. But it made me look up the word itinerant and it means traveling from place to place. And as we disembarked our sightseeing pod, we could see the non-permanent base of the attraction.
Miercoles | Wednesday
Today was one of those days that I personally prefer not to occur. The four girls were out of sorts with the world. Each daughter seemed to display one of the following: lethargy, emotional, homesickness, anger, and happily informing us at any chance they got that we are terrible parents for taking them away from their life for a year and they couldn’t stand being with us all of the time any longer. Right-e-o thanks for that feedback! So I felt that I could address one of those concerns – that we were not heading home any time soon. The other assertions were a work in progress, but I knew those intimately already.
As parents, Steve and I are not longing or hanging out for the day of realisation, but we are looking forward to a time when the girls in some point in their lives realise the risks and challenges we have actually taken and faced to pull our family out of its normal homely life and routine and pursue our dream of slow travel around the world with our children for a year. I’m hoping they also come to see what an adventure it actually is (was) and how expensive travel actually can be when you’re paying it yourself! Anyway…it’s all worth it.
Steve and I decided it best to vacate the negative space that seemed to surround us in our apartment and let them have some sister time together. Steve and I walked to the gym, and since I was still too sore and emotionally fragile to attend the Yoga class on offer at the gym, I happily wandered around the local neighbourhood armed with my camera snapping photos of some amazing graffiti art and buildings and laneways I stumbled across.
We walked to a little cafe after gym, enjoyed coffee and sports drink and gathered our resolve to re-enter the house of teens. We sat outside at the cafe and watched this Spanish man go about his normal life.
We arrived back to the apartment to the four girls getting ready to head down to the beach for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea at 7pm! They were still less than warm towards us, but much better than before we left the apartment. And although it was a slightly warmer today than the previous, I was thinking it was too cold for a swim but I shut my mouth and minded my own thoughts. What did I know? After an hour or so of the teens changing their minds and clothes many times and their dislike for us had subsided somewhat and we were invited to come down to the beach with them and maybe get fish and chips for dinner.
But after a quick Google search we couldn’t locate a fish and chips shop near the beach in Malaga. In the end we grabbed a piece of pizza each from the 24-hour pizza cafe in the centre of the city and walked to the beach watching the calmness of the Mediterranean Sea. Charlie, Billie and Dacey ended up going in for a dip which they tell me was refreshing once in! It’s still a little too cool for me, especially at 7pm in the evening.
After an average day, we experienced a great night together as a family. The weather was warm, balmy and lovely for a late night stroll and we enjoyed seeing what was on offer at this hour of the day down at the beach and port areas. We chatted about changing up the routine so that we could incorporate the Spanish siesta into our daily schedule. Each day from 2-5pm most of the city centre shops and cafes close for the traditional nap, which is often the time we head out of the apartment after finishing school work. We were back operating better than ever together so we ate more ice cream!
And just in time too as we have a friend coming to visit us tonight all the way from wee cold Scotland.
Jueves | Thursday
We get to hang out with my Scottish friend Michelle Adamson who has flown from Edinburgh to Malaga to catch up with us over the next three days (Thursday-Saturday). How great is it living in Europe to have a friend come over and catch up with us and explore the Spanish town of Malaga just like that! It’s just something we Australians don’t have the luxury of knowing or doing – being able to jump on a plane and land in another country for a few days of sightseeing and catching up. Michelle has done loads of travel in and around Europe and the world, and lived in Majorca for two years when she was younger as well as more recently Melbourne, Australia for nearly five years. But she’s never been to Malaga or the southern Andalusian area of Spain before so it was a perfect excuse.
This morning we met at the Teatro Cervantes just near Michelle’s Airbnb and started off enjoying brunch and a coffee at the bakery but progressed very quickly to fresh fruit and ice filled red Sangrias and tapas! What better way to catch up with a friend than with the afternoon sun shining in the middle of Malaga with all this delightfully tasty food! And this is something Michelle does not get much of living in Scotland: the warm sun and blue sky!
We haven’t seen each other for 1½ years since working together at Salesian College Sunbury in the newly formed Development Department and that time in my life feels like a zillion years ago. It was so wonderful catching up. Steve and the girls walked down to meet up with us after completing Distance Education and we enjoyed more tapas and more Sangria’s before returning to Michelle’s cute little Japanese inspired Airbnb where we tried to help open up her front door! But we couldn’t. There seems to be a secret way to open front doors here in Malaga (we had the same experience with our apartment too), but this one was proving more difficult and stubborn. So much so that we had to ask a couple who were upstairs in another apartment to come down and assist.
Finally, we opened it up and there was a certain way of turning the key and pushing the bottom part of the door. So Michelle practiced opening it numerous times until confident, and then we wandered back to our apartment where Michelle handed out some Scottish treats! UK made and branded Cadbury and Galaxy chocolate (oh so nice and creamy) and traditional Scottish Tablet and All Scottish Shortbread Rounds. But the best of all (majority vote) was the Tunnock’s Chocolate Mallow – just like a super sized Aussie chocolate royal biscuit minus the layer of jam. But boy does the marshmallow taste soooo good. More please! Now I didn’t think we’d be taste testing some of Scotland’s sweet treats in Malaga did I?
We have really enjoyed and appreciated catching up with family and friends while we’ve been on the backpacking road throughout 2017. It’s been just wonderful seeing my parents for two weeks Pete and Rob in rural India, Buldana, Steve’s sister Andrea and our nephews Luke and Harry for 2½ weeks at the end of our Buldana stay and the Indian Golden Triangle tour, and now my friend Michelle here in Malaga.
Unfortunately after enjoying a wonderfully sunny week, with the arrival of our Scottish friend came the cold and wet weather.