Category Archives: Travel blogger

Sunny Spain – November and December

Day 9

We had pre-booked two tours before leaving the States. The first one was a Hop on Hop Off double-decker bus. We had done this in Montreal and thought it was indispensable for getting to know a city.

Unknown-1Unknown  In Malaga, however, it almost became an interruption, partly because the main part of the city is so walkable a car would be a bother, and the city tour on Hop On, Hop Off, is largely unnecessary for the visit. However, once we found the right HOHO bus stop–a challenge which wasted a whole two hours, we boarded, got a circling tour of even the non-walkable areas up in the hills, and were actually quite pleased to see a part of the city we would have missed–not that any of that part was a part we needed to do anything other than view it. The tour is narrated, and that is also nice, and we got some good pictures. And, you can literally hop on and off, so the length and destinations are completely up to you. For around $20 pp, it is a very good deal. In Montreal, it saved us many hassles and dollars finding parking etc. In Malaga, this was less important, as I said, since we could walk to almost everything we wanted to see–cathedrals, markets, tapas, architecture, so it was more of a city overview this time. Had we gone to the Picasso museums, we may have used our HOHO to get around to them. We ran out of time for that. Another reason to re-visit. You really can’t get too much of Malaga.    Unknown-3Unknown-2

The second tour will always been our most memorable day in Malaga–the cooking class put on by Spain Food Sherpas.

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Our guide, Simone, not from Spain, but quite knowledgeable, met us at the designated start point, and our first stop was the farmer’s market, Mercado Central Atarasanas, right in the main part of town by the beach.  The architecture of this place alone is worth the trip.IMG_2680

All I can say about this Mercado, is WOW! There wasn’t anything there I wouldn’t have shopped for if I had had our condo kitchen back at Los Amigos, but alas, we were in Carlos V hotel, a tiny little room without any refrigerator or microwave. But here is one of the most colorful and tempting booths–believe it or not LARD–flavored for any sauces or soups you may want to make. We so wished this were our hometown.  IMG_2661

After picking up a few things for our cooking class, we were whisked back to the Sherpa venue, to be instructed in making some tapas dishes–among which was the Spanish tortilla–a frittata-like egg dish with potatoes and veggies. Hunky

IMG_2699 Hubby did the honors, learned how to make this wonderful food, and has since been showing it off to almost any Sunday guests we have back at the river house. Good investment! The other tapas foods were olives, ham, bread, and some of the fruit from our farmer’s market excursion.

The Spanish-speaking chef did not speak English, but J managed to get the instructions right, and all turned out very well. We then went to table to enjoyed enormously.

Spain Food Sherpas at Plaza de la Merced, offers more than one type of cooking class, and I imagine we will sample another one next time we visit Costa del Sol. staticmap

We return to Boston on Day 10, and expect to live on these memories until the next time we are blessed to visit Spain.

Sunny Spain – November and December

LA1_resort-header-01_0Day 7 – Back in Mijas.

We took a break, knowing it would be our last day in Mijas and with our new British friends at Los Amigos Beach Club.

We had a paella lesson in the community room, and also learned how to make sangria. The resort had a new person teaching, so the crowd had to interact, and some of them had done this before. Great fun.  IMG_0074

Our poolside condo was the perfect location, and strangely quiet–but then it was December. Not a lot of swimming going on.

We relaxed, enjoyed our afternoon, tried to eat up all of the things in the fridge and gave away the rest.

In the evening, our friends Ken and Marjorie invited us to their condo for a party, and there the rest of our new acquaintences were gathered. It’s amazing how a good hostess can provide the perfect appetizers with just bread and condiments and some other yummies, but Marjorie had done this before.   Unknown-3

On our dinnertime the day before, we had shared our table with Ivon, and he offered,  now, to drive us to the train on Thursday for our excursion to Malaga. He had his car, having driven through France to Mijas.

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We got a picture of just how homey this place was to these English and Scottish friends. They thought nothing of driving to Spain, as we would feel traveling through States to a holiday.

UnknownWe had a great time, went back to our condo to pack for our last leg of the trip, and then watched BBC till we were sleepy.

All good.

 

Sunny Spain – November and December

Day 4 – New friends

We awoke Sunday, December 3, and made our breakfast of Spanish ham, eggs, toast and apricot jam, all available at our very satisfactory grocery on the premises of Los Amigos Beach Club. Since our condo had a full kitchen, there was no problem making our own breakfast, and this was delicious.     Unknown

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After breakfast, we  wandered out to the patio and the pool area, and even though the mid-60 degree F temp was pleasant, no one was  going to go swimming. We did find our neighbors sunning themselves on their patio.

exterior-view We were planning to sit on the chaises farther away from them, since we didn’t want to intrude, but they struck up a conversation and seemed to want to engage.

Soon Gordon and Edna from Scotland, and Ken and Marjorie from England, were warmly letting us know we were going to be chatting for some time, so we pulled our chaises to face them, and happily got to know them better.

It seems, that even though we had visions of meeting a lot of Spanish people, we were destined to be connected more with the Brits, who had vacationed here for many years.

They had a lot of stories to tell us, and most of them were of England and Scotland, not of Andelucia.   europe_map

We didn’t get the feeling they were planning to do the tours we had planned, and their whole demeanor was that Los Amigos was kind of a home away from home, which was familiar and comfy. In fact, they were amazed that we had made the journey for a 10 day stint, rather than the fortnight they regularly scheduled.

Ivon passed by and said hello, and he seemed to be part of the group as well. His condo was across the path from ours.
We stayed until lunch time, and decided to do some exploring, since our British friends and hinted that there were other eateries beyond Farro Playa across the street, and besides, as I said, Farro Playa had closed December 1, so we thought we had better find new adventures in eating.   There was a small cafe on the Los Amigos grounds, but it seemed to be ordinary food, and we wanted local color (or colour).

nearby-restaurantsWhat we found was a little strip mall in walking distance from the condos, with a couple of Spanish food restarants and the Punjab Indian restaurant, plus a convenience store with trinkets, water, T-shirts, etc., and other goods.

We were thrilled we could reach this little mall on foot, and knew then that we wouldn’t be needing a car, or be stuck with hamburgers at our grounds cafe.

We dined on the terrace on Indian food at the Punjab, and found the lamb and vegetarian dishes lovely and affordable.

DSCN1927We had enough leftovers to have an adequate supper with some crackers and cheese appetizers from the Los Amigos grocery. Oh, and I forgot to mention the delicious white wine.  We are not finished experiencing Spanish wines, but this adventure will have to wait till our next visit because we didn’t have enough information for this trip.

Refecting back on this day, I realize there is nothing pressuring us to find the exotic every day. We so enjoyed finding out that we could feel at home in Mijas, and that our planned touring didn’t need to be a frantic daily event. Unknown-1

 

We walked back to the condo, put on beach shoes, and headed back across the street for an evening walk along the Sea. We could get used to this.  Sunset on the Mediterranean in Milas

 

Sunny Spain – November and December

Day 3 – A side tour to Ronda and Marbella

We pre-booked a tour to Granada to see the Alhambra, and decided that would be Monday’s excursion. But after talking to Irene at the front desk yesterday, we decided on two more tours–one to Ronda in the mountains and one to Gibraltar.   map_of_andalucia

We considered also going to Tangiers, but after reading the reviews on experiences others had there, we decided to forget battling vendors and being accosted for Euros and coins, and thought we could do this on a return trip if we wanted to chance it.

So today, our trip to Ronda started at a congenial 8:30 a.m. bus stop in Mijas, on our timeshare premises, and we boarded thinking this was a completely spontaneous trip that we knew nothing about.

The mountain top city has deep historic routes, and the tour promised a visit to a bull ring, its museum, some wine tasting, beautiful vistas and historic architecture.

But, before we even thought about what we would find in Ronda, we were rambling through the coastal city of Marbella, where we would stop for a more leisurely visit on the way back.

Leaving Marbella, we took in the rocky road, curving highway and moderate climb to the 2400 ft. elevation of our destination.

About midway on the roughly hour and a half ride, we stopped at a tourist respite for a bathroom break and a chance for pastry and coffee, which was an efficient operation where coffee was delivered buffet-style, in cups for black espresso and in glassware for our cafe con crema. I didn’t want to eat too much because I was still a bit unsure how well I would do if the mountain got steeper and the road curvier. But, I did opt for a flaky breakfast pastry in the end, and all was well on the rest of the ride.

We first got our bearings when the bus left us off at a terminal, and we saw that a walk through the city wouldn’t be too daunting or mysterious, and we could probably find our way back. We decided, at first, to stay close to the tour guide, but he was not very engaged, and we were a bit disappointed.  DSCN1946 (1)

What we did not expect, was making new friends, originally from Iraq, and who now lived in England. N and L were doctors, who had fled Iraq rather than fight with those who would eventually ransack their towns, dig up graves of their ancestors, and make it impossible to return. This couple were gentle of spirit and had a deep faith in Jesus. They were surprised we shared their faith, as they had wondered if any Americans were thinking of end times and being prepared for what they believe will surely continue to be an upheaval for Christians and Jews. They were encouraged that we shared their faith and their concerns.

We continued the guided part of the tour, seeing the bull ring, which was built in a Neoclassical architecture in the late 18th century,  and the museum,   DSCN1969 (1)         DSCN1962 (6)             DSCN2002 (1)

and hearing about how integral bullfighting is the the Spaniards and how revered the matadors are. The museum reflected that from the costumes, even an Armani designed matador costume, to the trophies and art. Entering the bull ring itself, there was an echo of times past and present in the air.   DSCN1959

As we traveled to the gorge area to look down on the El Tajo River, we were given a history of the area.  IMG_2326

Originally settled by the Celts in the 6th century, Ronda was part of the Roman Empire, and by the 15th century was dominated by the Islamic peoples, until conquered and deported by Christians around the time of the Spanish Inquisition. You can feel, from the guides telling of the story, that Christians aren’t the “good guys” in the minds of the Ronda conquered Spaniards, and the Christian influx into a city which had roots in Islamic architecture, thinking and people, was not welcome.  IMG_2312 (1)

Ronda, like many areas of Spain, has a mix of Islamic and Christian influence, and the roots for both go deeply into everything from its buildings to its culture and food. Unlike many of Europe’s cultures, Spain is a heady combination of so many extremes, it is impossible to take it all in in one visit.

There are three bridges in Ronda: Puente Romano (or Puenta San Miguel), Puente Viejo which is the old bridge or sometimes known as the Arab bridge and Puente Nuevo, which is the tallest, almost 400 ft. and overlooks the Tajos canyon, where some stories tell of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, featuring Spanish Nationalist militants being thrown over Ronda’s cliffs during the Spanish Civil War.  bridge-over-the-gorge-photo_14903772-770tall (2)

 

 

 

 

Unknown I suppose if we imagined ourselves in the Old West of America on a visit to a ghost town, or maybe a steamboat ride somewhere on the Mississippi, or even some of the Spanish missions in Texas, California, or New Mexico, we could get the rush of feeling you get when whoosed from the present back into these times, but really, we have nothing that feels centuries old, except the Rocky Mountains and the Sequoias.

But, it is hard to convey the extreme parting from the present one feels when enveloped in ancient history, surrounded by so much foreign information all at once.

We left the group to find a tapas lunch in town, and then strolled a bit by the bridges again, and talked to N and L about their journey.

When it was time to head back to Marbella and Mijas, we were so glad this was a tour we had booked.

In Marbella, we learned that this coastal resort in the Sierra Blanc is home or second home to many rich and famous, including the King of Saudi Arabia.
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On our return to Marbella, we rushed through the city trying to keep up with the tour guide, while detouring to get some gelato, and peeking into shops, then trying to find our group again so we wouldn’t be left behind for the bus ride back to Mijas

We arrived back at Los Amigos Beach Club, feeling overwhelmed and happy that we had entered into history with such magnificent sights.