Last week in Spain folks.
Well like the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And so it is true about our time here living on the southern coastal town of Malaga, Spain. This week marks our final week calling Malaga home and exploring in and around the beautiful southern Spanish Andalusian towns and countryside. We have had a wonderful time and feel incredibly grateful to have been able to have such a richly rewarding Spanish experience here as a family.
We all agree that Spain, particularly Malaga, is a destination we have happily grown fond of and call home. And like the previous longer stay homes we’ve also had to leave – Langkawi Island and Buldana in rural India – it is always mixed emotions and a bittersweet feeling when we do depart. We feel all the places we have lived in hold a unique feeling. For instance, Langkawi Island was fun. It was the place where we officially commenced our adventure and celebrated Christmas overseas. India was incredible and can be best summed up with our experience of resilience. India was emotionally difficult to detach ourselves from, especially for me. The people we came to know in our nine weeks living in rural India Buldana and call our family and friends were many so this place holds a very special place in our hearts. We have discussed what Spain means to us all and this place can be best described using two words – vibrant and beauty. We have not made as many deep friendships here as we did in rural India, but we are all emotionally connected to the land and the culture and unrivalled history that is Spain.
On the one hand we are very excited about the next traveling chapter – a new place culture and people, but on the other we are sad to be leaving what we have grown used to and must leave behind as a memory. So this week is a celebration of everything Spanish while looking towards the horizon of Portugal where we make our home base in Lisbon for five weeks.
Thank you vibrant and beautiful Spain.
Viernes | Friday
After a great night mixing it up with the Language Exchange participants, Steve tells me that one of the men in his group mentioned a café in Malaga that makes the BEST coffee in all of Malaga. Okay I’m listening…Mia Café. The reason this knows this to be true is because he works around the corner from the café and gets his coffee there all of the time. So as you can imagine, being a coffee lover and all, I’m fairly keen to find Mia Café today.
Armed with Google Maps and three children eager to go out for a study-coffee date with mum we make our way to Mia Café. We found it easy enough, however the café is the smallest little shop in all of Malaga and there’s no way we could all sit there and do some Distance Education work. So we turn back and return to our churro café with the free wifi and large tables where we order smoothies and get some work complete.
Ash and Billie walk back to the apartment, as it’s 1pm and the churro cafe closes for siesta until 5pm. Dacey and I walk to the Spanish post office to send off her five postcards to her school friends back home. Dacey has decorated the outer envelope, and there’s no spare space to write names and addresses so we also need new envelopes. We take a number from the digital dispenser and wait in line for our number to come up on the digital screen. We ask the woman behind the desk if we could purchase envelopes and funnily the Post Office doesn’t sell envelopes for international mail. She directs me with lots of pointing and moving of her arms in the direction we need to go to buy them. We depart the envelope-less Post Office hoping we can find the shop we need.
It’s the shop that sells bits of everything –postcards, tobacco, key rings, souvenirs, cigars. We buy five perfectly sized envelopes and make a detour, as I still have this burning desire to actually try the best coffee in Malaga, to Mia Café. We order a muffin for Dace and a café latte for me while we sit in the tiny shop on a small but comfortable couch and start writing the names and addresses on the envelopes.
And so it is true! I can confirm Café Mia is the best coffee not only in Malaga but quite possible the world. Dacey is tiring of me telling her this fact over and over while she enjoys her chocolate chip muffin. I pay and tell the man who made the coffee it was the best coffee I’ve ever had here and I’ll be back. He gives a friendly smile and we are out onto the streets completely fulfilled.
We head back to the Post Office, purchase stamps and finally return to the apartment to share the good news about the best coffee in the world with the rest of my travelling family.
It’s Friday 19 May which means it’s our 5 month travelling anniversary (ie. 5 months since we left Australia) and we decide to celebrate this travelling milestone with dinner out at our favourite tapas café Casa Lola and see our favourite tapas waiter Miguel again. After all it’s definitely worth celebrating as we’re all happy and still talking to each other even after five months of living under each other’s noses.
We order a range of tapas dishes of chicken skewers, roasted potatoes, salmon, Open Your Eyes specialty of artichoke heart, tuna, bread and of course the obligatory tasty green olives. Miguel the friendly waiter is of course happy to see us again and greets us with a lovely smile.
We move on as tonight at 9.30pm we have booked in to see a Flamenco show at Malaga’s Flamenco Arts and Gypsy Culture. We arrive just after 9pm and are allocated to table number 5 which is at the front of the stage to the right hand side. The entertainers appear – four men and one woman – on the darkened stage and take a seat. The introductory guitar work is impressive – fast moving fingers over the guitar strings I’ve ever seen performed live. After a short time, the woman stands up and starts her flamenco dancing. If the fingers moving across the strings was fast, her amazing footwork of tapping was super impressive. I wonder how anyone be that coordinated? Two feet moving and tapping on the wooden stag floor, and her arms up over her head and her wrists twisting and turning. Wow. Just wow. I love seeing the whole five of the flamenco members watch and spur each other on. A real community feel and appreciation of their performing art.
We thoroughly enjoy the hour and a half show which cost our family 102 euros. I enjoy researching the history and famous entertainers of the Flamenco. It’s a fascinating story which helps me appreciate the songs and performances on the stage tonight especially the stern looks on their faces while singing and dancing.
If you’d like to read more about Flamenco and the gypsies of Spain please refer to Day 152 | Eight: Snippets of Spain | 19 May 2017 (posted soon).
Sabado | Saturday
I can’t help myself but I’m motivated to get out in my shorts and runners and take a brisk walk down town. Yup…you guessed it…Mia Café is my new motivation. I head straight to Mia’s for a writing date by myself while the kids and Steve head off to the local gym for a workout.
Later that afternoon we all head down to Malaga’s port area to hire ebikes for an afternoon ride, but they’re all hired out. We walk around the port area anyway and check out the boats. The large catamaran is hired out privately for group parties every Saturday so we watch it depart off into the Mediterranean sunset while groups of partygoers climb on board the tourist boats dressed up in all kinds of party costumes that celebrate hens and buck’s turns. They really go to an extraordinary effort here. We wander back to the city area and stop off at Steve’s favourite beer haunt where they sell the cheapest cerveza (beer) and tasty (and cheap) Sangrias with a complimentary dish of green olives. While we sit and enjoy the late afternoon here, the kids go for a walk to get some ice-cream. An English couple who have been sitting outside at the same tapas bar as we were approach us and hand us a double pass ticket for Malaga’s hop on hop off bus which expires the next day at 4.30pm. They’re not going to be using them, and we accept their kind offer.
We return home with the plan on watching a movie and having a quiet night in. Billie and Dacey head to their bedroom and watch their movie while Steve and I watch a movie called The Imitation Game that is based on the biography on British mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing’s journey cracking the WW2 Nazi enigma codes that helped bring an end to WW2 two years earlier.
The teens, Charlie and Ash, are getting ready to hit the town of Malaga tonight as there is a series of public concerts being held in the central area. We walked past them being set up. They have a great night out and expel some of that built up teen energy with a fun night out by themselves. People are curious when they find out that we have three teenagers on this year away trip and want to know how we keep them safe? But it’s no different to what I employ at home, if they want to go out with friends and into the city or a party.
Domingo | Sunday
We let the girls sleep in as Steve and I creep out of the apartment and take a tour of the city we know so well on the Hop on Hop off bus passes that the English couple gave us last night at the tapas bar. It was an ordinary tour. Not sure if it’s because we already know Malaga so intimately by foot, or because it’s such a compact city compared to other spread out cities, but the stop and start of the bus and hordes of tourists getting on and off was a little time consuming. Maybe we’re just impatient. But it did feel weird being a tourist again. These open top tourist buses certainly attract short term holidaymakers and the European weekender market as the bus was full of them wanting to explore Malaga as quickly and efficiently as possible for their short stay. Again we feel so grateful being able to stay six long and slow weeks here in Malaga and explore the city deeply and at our own pace.
We did see something we hadn’t yet seen in Malaga and that was the spiral road up towards the castle and the views of the houses and apartments built on the slope. We walked up the pathway to the castle, but this was the back entrance where buses and cars can take to get to the top. It was a picture perfect view too!
After we disembark the Hop on Hop off bus, we walk past Malaga’s Cathedral during mass enter it. Building of the cathedral commenced in 1530 and was completed in 17th Century with only one tower. It is sometimes more commonly known as La Manquita (one-armed) due to this fact. The money allocated to constructing the second tower was sent over to the American War of Independence but other tourist pamphlets say the money was used on emergency public works in the province. Again we are gobsmacked at its grand Renaissance architecture with lofty high ceilings and intricately carved columns. It’s not unlike other European cathedrals we have visited, but each time we get to enter the inside of these holy places it’s simply breathtaking. From where we are staying in Malaga, at night time we can see the top of the lone tower lit up against a deeply dark blue sky. Magical view from the inside and out.
On the way home we stop by at Dulces Dreams (dulce is sweet in Spanish) for carrot cake and coffee. They make the second best coffee in Malaga but the very best carrot cake. OMG it’s so delicious. Between tapas, vino and now carrot cake (please make carrot cake part of the Mediterranean diet) there is no way Spain will ever be my place of fitness.
In the late afternoon we all swim at Malagueta Beach and enjoy take away pizzas (6-10 euros each) on the beach. We also enjoy a couple of Coronas on the beach. There’s no concern or rules about not consuming alcoholic beverages on the beach here, it seems drinking alcohol is part of the Spanish way. We watch men walking on the beach with a large tray full of plastic cups filled with red fruity Sangrias or green minty Mojitas with an ample amount of ice in them for lazy beach goers for 5 euro! The convenience is hard to refuse at times.
The girls enjoy a swim with lots of entertainment and frolicking around with each other. For some reason Dacey is particularly fascinated about shark attacks. She always has been. She searches for them on YouTube and watches videos of them all of the time. This fascination though is not at all helpful to her when swimming in the ocean and she worries about being attacked. So we watch Dacey’s antics of running in and out of the water, clutching onto Billie to try and avoid the crashing waves and making many funny faces and noises. You’d think she’s acting the way she’s behaving in the water. But unbeknownst to her a Spanish family set up near us who are celebrating a family member’s birthday. They also start watching Dacey’s playfulness in the water too and they laugh at the antics along with Steve and me. Even the homeless man on the other side of us watches her from his beach set up and has a broad smile across his face. We all agree that Dacey should take up acting. Dacey finally gets into the water and being a man-made beach there’s a sudden drop in the depth of the water from only a metre or so in from the shore. They finally coax Ash into the water too and the four kids enjoy hours in the Mediterranean Sea together. It’s a lovely sight just watching them playing together.
It’s another reminder of how great it is to be travelling with our family and the deep connections we’ve all been able to form with each other. Sure there are difficult times but the better times make up for all the crappy times. Back home we as parents were always so busy with work and the kids with school that we all seemed to live quite independent lives. It can be likened to the lyrics of ships that pass in the night. We’ve always been a close family, but this time away has consolidated our connection even more. And today at the beach seeing that connection in action was just lovely to sit back and watch.
Lunes | Monday
This afternoon we book ourselves on a catamaran cruise that takes us out for a 1½ hour sailing journey onto the Mediterranean Sea. We thought the cruise might be tourist empty being a Monday and all, but the catamaran is full. Glad we booked. We’ve noticed more and more holidaymakers in Malaga these last couple of weekdays as the peak summer time approaches. And with its port, a large ocean liner stops here weekly with tourists. We sit at the front of the catamaran on trampoline style mesh with the water directly below us while older tourists sit up on the deck area at the back and side of the boat. It’s sunny and flat so perfect for a swim out there and yes Dacey is a little worried about swimming due to the risk of sharks. She has researched the last shark attack that occurred in Malaga and I hope she didn’t see the last sighting which was just last year further along the Costa del Sol.
But she jumps in anyway with Charlie and Billie from the front of the catamaran and makes a big splash. I prefer to walk down the aluminium stairs that lead to the water and gently immerse myself in the cool water and swim out to Steve and the other swimmers. It’s deep and the water is quite cool but it’s refreshing. I couldn’t come out here and not take a dip! We dog paddle out there with my legs and arms luminous under the water. The sea is so clear and so deep and so vast. I’m swimming in the Mediterranean is all I can think about as I look over to the land and then over to where there is nothing but an expanse of water and where my sight finally meets the horizon.
We climb back up the stairs and sit in the warmth of the afternoon sun as we dry off. On our way back to shore a woman sitting on the other side of catamaran yells out and points to a pod of dolphins she’s sighted in the distance. We see the arch of their backs – dark and shimmering as they come to the surface. The catamaran skipper drives out to where they were sighted but they seem to have disappeared. Until we see them again right in front of us and the dolphins dart and glide effortlessly under the water right next to our side of the boat. A highlight to end a perfect day out on the Mediterranean Sea.
Martes | Tuesday
I have trouble sleeping last night, and I’m still reading articles and flicking through Facebook when I come across The Independent’s breaking news post that a terrorist attack has occurred in Manchester. It’s really not until we’re all up having breakfast in our apartment when we all hear the news of the tragedy that has occurred at the hands of a suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert.
And as much as we feel safe here in southern Spain we are reminded of the threats. There are so many Spanish police patrolling the city in cars, on bikes and in their vans. They’re really on every corner, especially in the city centre. Does this scare us? No not really. We’re aware but not fearful to the point of being discouraged to travel. To put it into perspective the actual potential risk of us being in the middle of a terrorist attack or bomb threat is so small that we are more likely to be involved in something we do each day like driving a car. It does make us think how horrible the world and some of the people in it are, but it doesn’t stop us from our journey of discovering the amazing world and people in it. Building bridges, not walls is the way of the future. Communication, not wars is also the way of the future. I hope the next generation of leaders and thinkers, like my kids, can learn from the mistakes of the past and find solutions to these many and varied issues that impact all of us.
The kids read about the tragedy online, so they are a little concerned about actually being in the vicinity of Europe while a suicide bomber kills innocent people at a concert. I’m just glad we haven’t had access to television so we haven’t been consuming the news channels and the media’s saturation of these types of events so that we start thinking it’s happening everywhere and all the time which then makes us fearful that we are likely to be involved in one.
So we are grateful to be waking up this morning, and every morning in fact. Our thoughts go to the victims and their families. I hope our generation and future generations can challenge the this seemingly complex issue for our race. In the wake of this tragedy, I decide that today is the day to renew my creativity and inspiration. So I walk down to the Centre Pompidou Malaga public museum only to discover it’s closed Tuesdays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. And today is a Tuesday! So I fill in some time before meeting Steve and the kids by strolling around the back streets of Malagueta beach on a bit of photo walk by myself. Still filling by bucket with creative pursuits.
I meet up with my family at the beach, but just as I’m getting comfortable my phone rings. It’s a delivery man who can’t speak or understand any English trying to inform us that he’s at the apartment delivering Steve’s new computer. Hmmm…and we’re at the beach. Steve walks over to a Spanish man we often see at beach who operates a beach chair hire business to ask if he speaks English and he could help with the ‘lost in translation’ moment. He responds, “a little”. That’s good enough and Steve calls the delivery guy back and passes the phone to the Spanish man to talk to the delivery man if he could wait 15 minutes for one of us to race back to the apartment. But then my phone cuts out – the Vodafone sim has run out of credit. A friendly woman seated nearby with her friends offers the Spanish man the use of her phone to make a return call to the delivery guy. Amazingly, it all works out and we can collect the delivery at a collection facility only 14 minutes away from our apartment between 4 and 8pm.
I leave the family at the beach to go into the city centre to recharge my phone at the Vodafone store. I stop by at Dulces Dreams for another delicious carrot cake and coffee. I’m having trouble getting back in touch with Steve so I head back to apartment. After they get back from the beach, Steve walks to collect his new Levona Yoga 500 touch screen lap top and we spend the evening setting it up and trying to work out how to install the English language on its system! Steve manages to pull it off so now he’s known as the computer geek of the family.
Miercoles | Wednesday
We leave the apartment early to hire ebikes – but again they’re all hired out. It really is starting to get busier here in Malaga. So we book six ebikes for the following morning. Steve walk back to the apartment with the kids while I take the opportunity to wonder down to the Centre Pompidou Malaga public museum to see the permanent collection as well as a special exhibition of French designer Philippe Starck. The exhibitions are amazing and I’m so glad I came to it. There are paintings but also other mediums including displays and digital art.
I return completely full up of creative thoughts and inspiration and write for the rest of the day. I make dinner in tonight spaghetti Bolognese and pasta for Billie and Dacey, Charlie makes her Spanish signature dish salmon fettuccini, and Steve and I share sweet chilli prawns on a bed of rice. Joseph, our Spanish friend who own and operates the bakery at the Salamanca Market, calls Steve to rain check their catch up and asks if we can make it for Friday night.
Jueves | Thursday
A great day to get out and explore further afield on ebikes. Angie who works at the hire place is French and a very friendly person. So from 11am until 3pm we have the ebikes and a map. The bikes cost 80 euros for half a day hire. They’re so much fun, especially with the electronic component making it quite easy getting up hills and back to the hire place on time! We head out along the shore line, passing many of the picturesque beaches of Malaga:
- La Malagueta beach
- La Caleta beach
- Los Banosdel Carmen beach
- Pedregalejo Las Acacias beach
- El Palo beach
- Penon del Cuervo (the crow’s rock) beach.
Charlie has brought her drone along to get it up in the air again and get some of this magnificent scenery from above. It hasn’t been in use all that much lately as we had issues with connectivity and control. We need to have limited electrical interference for it to work and be fully under the flyers control. So this is a perfect day to do this at one of the beaches. She succeeds and is a whole lot happier and more confident now.
We stop at one of the beachside restaurants the Costa del Sol is famous for: chiringuitos. Pedregalejo beach is our destination for lunch to try the skewered sardines the chirinquitos are famously known for. We are early for lunch – it’s only 1pm – so we get to pick wherever we want to sit and it’s beachside dining today with a few wide umbrellas overhead. The whole sardines arrive along with a vino and beer, and we pull the meat off the small fish. It’s very tasty and very salty. We each order a main meal, while Steve and I enjoy seafood paella.
When we arrive back to the hire place, Angie greets us with her larger than life smile and we thank her for the recommendation of visiting these amazing beaches. She has lived and worked in many different parts of the world for her young age including living in Shanghai, China for 7 months. We chat about living and travelling in China which inspires us to include China on our itinerary this year.
We head a little later tonight and celebrate our final night out in Malaga. Since we had a large lunch, we’re having something small tonight. And because we’re catching up with Steve’s friend Jose and his wife Mar on Friday night, tonight is our final night to live it up before we depart Malaga and Spain via an overnight bus trip on Saturday night to Lisbon, Portugal. It’s a visit back to Casa Lola and we’re disappointed that the restaurant is full and we’re thinking we will miss out. But of course with Miguel working he approaches our family group and tells us to wait “un minuto” and gives us a cheeky wink as he walks away. In moments Miguel is arranging two tables together and we’re seated inside for some tapas and more vino (maybe one too many for me) and another late night. We had so much fun together as a family out in Malaga. Great memories.
Viernes | Friday
This evening we are out for dinner with Jose and his wife. Jose runs his own bakery shop inside Salamanca Market where we purchase our fresh produce each morning. Malaga is his home town, but Jose has spent some time living and working in London in his younger days so he can understand and speak English quite well. This has enabled Steve to chat with Jose each and every morning and get to know him.
But before dinner, we meet Jose out the front of their children’s school – it’s a Salesian school of 900 students just up the road from our apartment. All of us walk there and watch the Catholic event as Jose’s two boys are dressed up as angels participating. The girls were not overly impressed with having to sit through a religious ceremony in Malaga, but it was a window into how the Spanish people and our new friends Jose lives. The girls are going off doing their own things – Charlie and Ash are heading out for dinner and Billie and Dacey are heading back to the apartment to chill out and eat leftovers in the fridge.
Jose informs us that they’re Catholics but not practicing Catholics and are very impressed in how the education is delivered at this school. Their two boys are 6 and nearly 8 years of age and are very cute dressed in white gowns with fluffy wings strapped on their backs. A big band marches in down the aisle after the cute little kids dressed as angels, and the noise they make is at once magnificent. I feel wholly Spanish in that moment as I’m sitting with our friends and watching their kids in this Salesian school’s church.
After the service, we head out for an authentic Spanish dinner near where Jose and his wife Mar live. Their friend Elaina comes along too with her three-year old boy. We sit outside and enjoy amazing authentic Spanish cuisine that our Spanish friends happily order for us all to share – long pieces of raw fish smothered in a yellow olive oil, mashed potatoes with tuna, boiled eggs with tuna stuffed inside them, flat pieces of tender cooked chicken in gravy, seafood extender salad, octopus salad with a tomato salad, and of course bread. It was so lovely and so cheap! The other thing I notice about the Spanish is that they share their meals – so everything is ordered and comes out on a plate and that plate gets passed around and we push a small bit of food onto our plates. Then round two – if you’re still hungry – and it occurs again. Love, love, love this culture. And along with a couple of local beers it made for a wonderful and enjoyable night out.
We shared stories of life in Australia and Spain, while Jose was translating to his wife Mar who does not speak English. It was an amazing insight into their lives and their way of life. Both Jose and Mar are beautifully kind and happy people, and getting to know them has been a privilege. Their Spanish friend Elaina and her three-year old son also came along for the dinner after the Salesian event with their children. Elaina grew up in Madrid, but her work at a bank has moved her around the country. She speaks more English due to the nature of her work and has settled down more and has been living and working in the Old Town of Malaga for 15 years now. Another lovely woman whom we have been able to get to know.
I love mixing and getting to know the locals. And of course I get to ask the burning questions I have to gain a greater understanding of another’s point of view about the issues impacting their lives, their country and their perspective on the world. It really is interesting to note that at the end of these conversations with locals we are all not that different in our needs and wants.
But I think with all these late night, and consumption of alcohol, I need to catch up and dry out for at least a month! Again we do not start eating until 10pm and we are still there on the side of the street at 12.30am! As we sit outside on tables and chairs beside the kerbside, we notice that police on motorbikes close off sections of the road and wonder what is going on. And then it appears – a procession of people on a Camino journey. The women are dressed in amazing flamenco outfits, those ones that hug the female body and then frill out at the bottom of the skirt, while the men wear suits. They are following a brightly lit trailer being pulled by two bullocks. There’s such commotion with men, women and children following the religious trailer that sparkles in the dark night. I race over with my camera to get some photos and video of the procession.
Jose and Marl’s two young boys are tired and they’re showing it – their eyes look tired and they want to go home. We say goodbye and give the two Spanish kisses – one on each cheek and feel a sense of sadness for having to leave them.
As I’m walking back to the apartment with Steve from our night out, I receive a Messenger message from Ash. It reads:
“Don’t be angry.” Hmmm…I read on.
“Sorry we are still out, had trouble finding where to eat & now we are having shisha cos YOLO & it’s the last night.”
They arrive back at the apartment at 1am very grateful that I’m not angry and they got to have an experience out in central Malaga. No more shisha.
Sabado | Saturday
It’s pack up day. And although I’m a little tired and nervous about packing up all of our belongings once again, we complete the pack up relatively easily and we have quite a few hours spare to go for one last visit to the beach.
But before we do that we need to say our goodbyes to all the people who we have made friends with here in Malaga, especially our friends from the local Salamanca Market. Steve has visited this market each and every day for 6 weeks so he’s seen Jose for bread and advice on all things Spain and Margalete (I think that is her name but sorry if I have got it wrong) for the fresh produce at her little store and the quick Spanish lessons for Steve. Their advice and generous giving of their time to answer questions and the rich sharing of their lives and their families with us made our stay here in Malaga all the more rewarding and harder to leave. Steve bought a bunch of flowers for Margalete too. Very sad.
We walked to the beach, I had a 15-minute beachside massage for 10 euros with a Chinese woman called Catherine and we spoke a little Mandarin. A dip in the Sea and then a walk back through Malaga central to say goodbye to Maguel from Casa Lola, our favourite restaurant in Malaga with the Spanish signature two kisses for goodbye.
We closed the door on our first successful Airbnb apartment just after 7pm waving to Juan the apartment owner and hailed two taxis around the corner who drove us to the bus terminal. There we grabbed some snacks for the trip, worked out where our bus was that we were meant to be catching and then we were gone at 9pm on the motorway towards the border and into Portugal for our next adventure.
After 9 hours of a very uncomfortable and not much sleep, we arrive into the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon. Let the next adventure begin.