Fun in the sun with Michelle
As my blog post readers will know from a previous post, my Scottish pal Michelle has travelled all the way down south from Scotland to Malaga on a three-day visit to catch up with our traveling backpacking family as well as see the best of Malaga – the sights, its food and of course a little Sangria.
Here’s an overview of our three days of catching up and what we got up to together:
Day 1 with Michelle | Jueves | Thursday
Our first whole day together and it was a gloriously sunny day spent catching up and eating and drinking out in it – brunch at 11am, tapas at 2pm, Sangria at 4pm (hmmm might have been a little earlier), dinner some more tapas and vino Blanco – at 8pm Casa Lola. All of what I’ve mentioned (except dinner), was enjoyed sitting outdoors on the cobblestone streets of Malaga central soaking up the warm sunshine and the atmosphere. This is such a brilliant lifestyle and now we understand completely what travellers go on about when they say “you’ll just love Spain”.
Our dinner restaurant Casa Lola was full of diners that night that we were just grateful to get a bar table and three chairs inside! The girls wanted to get kebabs or sushi at another place, so it was a dinner date with Steve, Michelle and me!
The vibe was awesome inside too. The feel and look of the place is traditional Spanish – tiled walls, photographs hanging up, and waiters rushing about in between the tables and bar chairs. Glorious Spanish tapas were coming out on plates and we were salivating.
Two vino Blancos, a beer and tapas arrive to our table with a small bowl of green olives. I let Michelle and Steve read over the extensive menu while I soak up the atmosphere of this alive and bustling little restaurant.
- A special on the menu called Open Your Eyes with Tomatoes, artichokes Heart, béchamel cheese and ham
- Black pudding sausage with onion
- Iberian ham
- Smoked salmon with dill sauce
- Marinated tuna with red peppers mayonnaise and caramelized red peppers
- Homemade croquettes – oxtail and cuttlefish
- And other tapas I can’t recall!
Did I happen to mention it was…D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S!
The four girls show up at the restaurant from their dinner out together, and Billie and Dace are keen to head back to the apartment to watch some of their online drama shows, whereas Charlie and Ash are keen to pull up two extra stools and sit with us and chat at the restaurant. Our table waiter is a middle aged Spanish man called Miguel and for most of the night he was quietly polite delivering us our food and drinks. But then at the very end of the night, he handed the bill to Ash with a wry smile on his face and a shrug of his shoulders. There was no English uttered, but we all knew what was going on and enjoyed some fun Spanish antics between Ash and Miguel playing around with the who’s paying the bill game. We were laughing telling Ash she’d have to go in the kitchen and start washing the dishes! Ash thought that was a great idea and started telling Miguel how much she would like a job here.
Dinner for three of us was just 62 Euro and thoroughly enjoyed the tasty array of tapas on offer. Then arrived five Butterscotch snaps out of nowhere. Miguel has a smirk on his face so we smirked right back at him. It was the end of a fantastic night out and a final Spanish style cheers. Charlie and Ash seemed to enjoy that a little too much too for our liking!
We walked Michelle back to her Airbnb and then walked to our home but got a little side tracked and walked into a small vibrant bar full of locals spilling out onto the street at 11.30pm. Another drink, lots of selfies with the locals, and 40-minutes later we arrived home safe and sound.
Day 2 with Michelle | Viernes | Friday
I didn’t sleep all that comfortably nor soundly last night as the rain literally banged down heavily and loudly on our apartment’s external window awning plus after all the drinks I had enjoyed with Michelle yesterday and last night, I just didn’t need any extra sounds of banging for my sore and heavy head. I tossed and turned, finally waking up after getting back to sleep a couple of times throughout the night. It was then that I realised the tragic state of affairs outside: the change of weather overnight was not only wet, but it was cold and windy.
I met Michelle at the bakery again this morning after a sleep in, purchasing umbrellas along the way. We thought that we’d explore the Picasso Museum, but all the other tourists on a wet and wild tourist day in Malaga city thought exactly the same! The line outside this 2003 popular museum was so long we couldn’t see its end.
So we gave up the museum idea and decided to walk back to our apartment via the local supermarket around the corner to purchase some delicious snacks from the local supermarket: cheese, pate, olives, smoked salmon, biscuits and other liquid delights. The supermarkets here have aisles upon aisles of alcoholic drinks to purchase…and they’re all so cheap!
We all relaxed in our apartment for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening and warmed ourselves up inside. We really loved chatting with Michelle about European life and everything in between from Scotland’s possible referendum to independence to men being sexy in Scottish kilts (Charlie and Ash think that’s just unusual). We also had the wonderful opportunity of sharing our rural India, Buldana experience with Michelle (there were tears describing some of the things we had seen and experienced there) and really appreciating the memories and time we spent there with Dr Moses, his family and all the other people we got to know so well. We still miss them all.
The night ended with Steve walking Michelle back to her apartment, unfortunately needing the umbrellas again. The wet conditions in Malaga was showing no sign of easing up.
Day 3 with Michelle | Sabado | Saturday
Today is our last day with Michelle. Her flight back to Edinburgh is 9.30pm tonight. And although we had hoped that the bad weather would subside, it didn’t. We forged ahead though, walking all the way through the city centre and along Malaga’s port and beach area trying to show as much of Malaga as possible to Michelle while we clutched umbrellas and wrapped scarves around our necks until we reached the beach area with its iconic sign standing on the sand – Malagueta.
We walked and we walked and we walked toughing out Malaga’s weather until we finally had to stop for food. The plan was no more tapas, rather something more substantial and filling – like paella! But as was the case everywhere in Malaga, everyone else was doing the same thing – eating inside out of the cold and the wet. There was no room at many of the café restaurants until we found one with hardly any people inside. We sat down but realised it would be overly expensive for our family of six to eat here with dishes starting at 12+ Euros each. So after getting the friendly owner to move tables and position chairs, we simply got up and left.
We just walked next door, and the man behind the bar allowed us to sit in the back area near an unused pool table and Billie and Dace played that game of soccer by turning the little men attached to the rod. Can’t recall its name… Anyway the food was good – pasta and baskets of bread for 10 Euros, shared plates of 5 tapas for 10 Euro, half portion sizes of fish and calamari for 7 Euros (well that’s what Charlie ordered but we received baby octopus which we didn’t enjoy). We told them they got the order wrong and received a plate of round calamari and a couple of coffees on the house. It was the best coffee I’ve had since leaving Australia too!
Michelle collected her suitcase from her Airbnb and we wandered over to enjoy Moroccan Shisha at the local Arab establishment, but they were extremely busy and extremely rude. So we left and headed to Steve’s favourite tapas and beer haunt in Malaga central for a final glass of Sangria before Michelle left in a taxi for the airport and home.
We’re going to miss Michelle – she’s such a fun person to be around! So happy we could catch up again.
Domingo | Sunday
And as soon as the Scottish leave Malaga, the sun comes out! So I send Michelle a note via Messenger letting her know that we really miss her company but not the cold and wet weather she brought with her (yes we are blaming the Scottish for this!). I feel terrible knowing that she spent two out of three of her days here with us in wet, cold and dreary conditions. I suppose we’ll need to make it up to her next time – another time another country! Hmmm…
After a sleep in and the sun shining again, it was exploring Malaga day today. This time a walk up Castillo de Gibralfaro (Castle of Gibralfaro). An elegant 10th Century castle that sits on top of the Montes de Malaga mountain range just inside the city of Malaga. This historical place is made famous by the three-month siege during the reconquest (Reconquista) by Catholic monarchists Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487 that only ended when hunger forced the Malagueños to surrender. Ferdinand’s moved in and made this his temporary residence after the victory. It also marked the first conflict in which both sides used gun powder.
So who were Isabella and Ferdinand anyway?
Isabella I was Queen of Castile married Ferdinand II of Aragon. Their marriage resulted in the fusion of two separate kingdoms which became the foundation for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Charles was the first king to rule Castile and Aragon simultaneously in his own right, and as a result he is sometimes referred to as the first King of Spain). Isabella and Ferdinand were known as Catholic Monarchs of the newly united Spain at the dawn of the modern era.
Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista whereby Christian Iberian kingdoms opposed and conquered the Muslim kingdoms (began in 700 and ended in 1492) and the Spanish Inquisition which ordered the conversion or exile/torture/death of Jewish and Muslim peoples (started in 1478 and ended in about the 1760s).
It was in 1492 that Ferdinand and Isabella ordered the segregation of communities – creating closed quarters which eventually became known as ghettos. They also furthered economic pressures upon Jews and other non-Christians by increasing taxes and social restrictions. In 1492 the monarchs issued a decree of expulsion of Jews, known formally as the Alhambra Decree, which gave the Jews in Spain four months to either convert to Catholicism or leave Spain.
Out of Middle Ages historical curiosity…
Isabella and Ferdinand had five children. Their second daughter, Catherine of Aragon was betrothed at the age of three to Arthur, Prince of Wales heir apparent. They married in 1501 but Arthur died just five months after marrying Catherine. Catherine then married Arthur’s younger brother King Henry VIII and by 1525 due to not providing a male heir and his infatuation with another woman Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII wanted his marriage to Catherine annulled and the rest is history. What I have read up on and about Catherine describes her as an amazingly strong and well liked woman of the era and I highly recommend reading more about her life and the set of values she held close to her heart.
Discovering the New World…
Isabella and Ferdinand supported and financed Christopher Columbus who was given the name Admiral of the Ocean Sea by the monarchs. He discovered the Americas and brought the knowledge of its existence back to Europe. It was his 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the New World and to the establishment of Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century. These new land findings generated an influx of wealth into the new unified state of Spain, which made Spain the major powerhouse of Europe from the end of the 16th Century until the mid-17th century and was the largest empire until 1810.
Walking up to the Castillo de Gibralfaro is both a steady incline and long one, but it’s a beautiful walk on a sunny day as we contemplate exploring new world’s back in the time of Columbus. We stop every so often and soak up the impressive view over the city and port of Malaga; at one point we were so high up we could actually peer inside the La Malagueta bullring which we attended our one and only bullfight on Easter Saturday.
We feel privileged being able to appreciate these amazing views and its significant history at the Malaga fortresses and castles. Equally, we are appreciative to have the world as our classroom – world schooling. The history lessons I was exposed to at school conducted in a boring classroom with an equally probably boring teacher has been surpassed finally! Living in Malaga has opened up the history books for me once again, and this time round at the age of 43 I’m open to learning and understanding the layers of history and its important characters. Simply making the historical connections from monarchs to explorers to castles is a highlight. Being here, at a place written in the history books is brilliant and I’m so looking forward to more of my world schooling learning as we travel in and around the Andalucia region and other parts of Spain. I’m really looking forward to seeing Barcelona.
Lunes | Monday | Public Holiday
Today is Labour Day or May Day in Spain. Many of the local shops are closed while the Spanish are out at the beach lying on the blackish sand or on a beach bed soaking up the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. There is a chiringuito (beachside café bar) to order tapas and drinks way too easily here too! This is the Mediterranean beach lifestyle at its very best.
However, we arrive fairly late in the afternoon and there’s a sea breeze picking up which makes it a tad too cool for my bikinis and white skin to make an appearance but not so for Charlie, Billie and Dacey who enjoy a dip. We plant ourselves on a mound of green grass under a swaying palm tree and watch the world go by. Seagulls scatter, older Spanish women walk along the water’s edge topless and proud, couples try taking the perfect selfie, and lazy bodies consumed by a book relish the last of the public day’s sunshine. The bikinis, drinks and eating pescaito frito (fried little fish) while relaxing on a sun bed (2 beds and a thatched umbrella for 20 Euros) will be booked in soon when the temperature gauge rises a little bit more. But for now we are happy to just observe.
The wide beachside promenade stretches along the Playa de la Malagueta and is perfect for a stroll or bike ride further down to the other beaches. There’s about 15 or so other beaches in Malaga but Playa de la Malagueta is the closest to the city centre. I discovered that this main Malaga beach, with its iconic sand coloured Malgaueta sign, is actually man-made. At 60m wide and 2,500m long, it’s a completely artificial beach made from sand imported from the Sahara Desert.
Martes | Tuesday
Today was a normal day. The girls went to the gym with Steve while I stayed back at the apartment in a peaceful wake and getting lots of writing done. I’m enjoying the travel lifestyle especially since I get the time and opportunity to write each and every day. I’m no longer a prisoner of the crazy triad: work-cook-clean that starred so prominently in my previous life back home. I feel like a bird let out of its cage, and I’m loving it.
The girls had been wanting to get their ears pierced, so when they returned from gym I walk down to the local tattoo shop. It’s aptly called Tarantula Tattoo and since they’re all under age, I as mum needed to give consent to their ears being pierced. Charlie is getting her ears pierced again after they closed up; Dacey is getting her seconds re-pierced after they closed up too; Billie is going for number three; Ash is getting her nose pierced after the one she pierced herself closed up. I think we’re here to buy the shop!
Tarantula Tattoo is run by a young Spanish man who on first impressions looks intimidating and scary. But as you get talking, he’s such a lovely, friendly, gentle man. He and his partner run the shop and between them have tattoos all over their body and a couple of pet tarantula spiders locked away in a glass cabinet (eek!).
Now my 16-year old daughter Charlie girl wants a tattoo. Yes I know I can hear you all screaming down the internet lines…
“No,” I say.
She tells us she’s been wanting one for ages and ages (hmmm she’s only 16?).
She threatens me and says she’ll just go and get it herself then (she doesn’t have the Euros).
She tells me she’s sure about the design; she knows exactly what she wants (I remember 16…thoughts change).
She questions why she has to wait until she’s 18. (Then she can pay for it herself if that’s what she really, really wants.)
“Because that’s just how it is darling,” I reply smiling and shaking my head as I walk away.
The challenges of taking not one, or two but since 31 March THREE teenagers on the world backpacking journey plus a tween seems like a crazy proposition to many level headed people. And I agree it is at times quite crazy. But most of the time it’s fun. And I’m clear that I’d rather be having these conversations over here abroad rather than at home any day.
Tonight I cooked up a storm for the family. I haven’t been in the kitchen all that much since travelling. The kids seem to be in there making their own dishes or we’ve been out a lot. But tonight I created a tasty and hearty gourmet meal: fillets of salmon, marinated chicken, roasted potatoes, asparagus, carrot, broccoli and slices of thick Arabic pita bread. We have a Halal butcher around the corner who sells meat and Arabic bread and other delights from the Arab world. The Arabic man who runs the shop is practising his English on us as we order our items and luckily at this time of the afternoon just before siesta, there’s a young Spanish woman who speaks English very well who is nice enough to help with the translating between us. Unfortunately, the 1/2kg marinated Halal chicken I purchased reminded Dacey of an Indian curry (really?) and she was the only one who didn’t enjoy the scrumptious dinner all that much.
Miercoles | Wednesday
Today has been a weird day. As I’ve been walking along the streets of Malaga, I have been seeing my friends on the street. I’m noticing aspects of the faces of people I know in complete strangers as they walk by. It might be similar facial characteristic or a feature of their hair or nose or eyes, but it’s been happening to me all day today. I’m wondering what’s that about? Maybe I’m missing my family and friends from home? Is that a sign of homesickness?
We head out – Charlie, Billie, Dacey and me with the drone to see if we can launch it and get some video of the areas of Malaga we now know well. Unfortunately the drone went awol, and crashed into a palm tree leaving scuffs from the turning blades on the trunk. Luckily it went left (as right was a road) and Dacey helped by hanging onto the drone as it was still wanting to fly even after crashing! This drone is like having a troublesome kid in the house. Charlie turned pale (not the first time) and got swiped by the blade when she pulled the battery pack from out of it to turn it off. We pack it up in its bag and head to the beach with no collateral damage. This afternoon was spent lying on Malaga beach and enjoying the beach scene and the warm sun.
Late this afternoon as I sit quietly on the couch in our apartment while the girls finish off bits and pieces of their Distance Education work, I make connections with some family and friends via Messenger. It’s lovely hearing from them, and having a quick chat.
The backpacking travel lifestyle can be a lot like living in a bubble – there are no demands on my time like work, cleaning, shopping, walking the dogs, getting the house warm, netball training. We are backpacking. Life has been drastically simplified. I feel like a rose bush or a hydrangea that has been pruned back to its core. All the long spindly bits of my life, that was once blooming and then perished, are gone and I’m back to the bare basics. So that makes me a bundle of potential growth. Maybe I’m getting myself ready for a growth stage? What could that be? Of course those who know me would realise I have a few plans up my sleeve for the future, but nothing set in stone. I think that’s exactly where I’m at now that I’m thinking out loud about it. I’m looking into what’s actually next for me in this thing called my life.
I grab for a book that’s been sitting on the shelf underneath the coffee table of our loungeroom apartment since we unpacked three weeks ago. It’s a book I purchased way back in the only bookshop in rural Buldana called How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be – the 25 Principles of Success. I start reading the first chapter and I’m hooked. This is perfect timing.
Jueves | Thursday
Today Ash purchased a subscription to the music app Spotify. A family subscription so all six of us can download music and listen to it while we’re on the go. All morning we were excitedly registering and downloading songs and we’re very happy to have music back in our lives again. But I have had issues registering due to my country of registration as my laptop IP defaults to Spain and can’t be overridden by Spotify. Ash contacted Spotify online help and chatted with a woman called Sherryl for quite some time trying to sort out the issues but for Dacey and me, we are without Spotify for the time being…annoying.
Steve got straight into downloading all his favourite artists – Billy Joel, Phil Collins, Talking Heads. It’s great to see him so happy and free. I really notice how music has its own unique way of touching our hearts and transporting us back to another time, another place. Steve started reminiscing and reflecting on his life – everything he’s done and not done. I realise now that music is very powerful for the soul. Here-here to music in our ears!
Everyone is going really well with their Distance Education and studying in Spain. I don’t think they’ve done so much school work in their entire lives due to the nature of Distance Ed being classroom distraction free. Charlie is getting the best marks she’s ever gotten, Billie is flying through her work and Ash and Dacey, although at times share their angst at having to complete certain tasks on time, are doing well too. So it’s a tick so far for Distance Education. The only thing about any online learning environment is that it’s a bit of a hindrance connecting with teachers for real while traveling and living in a completely opposite time zone than in Australia. Charlie has spoken to her Biology teacher this week to clarify her SAC, but for students more like our Ash who is more than happy to complain and struggle without getting assistance, getting her to organise a convenient time to Skype call or seek clarification is a little hard on us as supervisors and parents. Ash is yet to really embrace learning as her own as she’s not at all interested in studying or seeking help a lot of the time. And this has raised some heated discussions and disagreements and a subsequent falling behind a little with her tasks and submissions. London is on the line and it looks like we’ll be cancelling her ticket unfortunately.
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Tomorrow two lucky girls – Charlie and Billie – board a plane on their own to Gatwick Airport for a long weekend stay-visit to Brighton, London and catch up with our traveling friends Francesca, Callum, Tiegan, and Quinn. We met this amazing traveling family on their 11-month RTW (round the world) journey in the middle of Vietnam, a place called Hoi’An (one of our favourite places in the world) five years ago. Ash was originally meant to be going with Charlie, but due to some behaviour issues over the past few weeks, she ran out of chances and the ticket went to Billie (it cost some pounds to make the change but we were able to change it).
One very happy daughter; the other not talking to us. Oh the joys of parenting…