Monday December 28th 2015 – Monday January 11th 2016.
So off we set, myself, Marguerite, Brendan and Oisin on our second sojourn, the first being in Istanbul in 2012, this time it was to Malaga in Southern Spain and an exploration of the Andalucia region. From the brisk and breezy climate of cold Dublin to the warm climate of orange trees, magnificent cathedrals, churches and castles. terraced balconied houses, incredible food and drink and the happy Spanish vibe. We couldn’t have set off at a better time, through the throes of mid winter near the end of December to what seemed like mid summer to us Irish folk.
December 28th, 29th 2015 Malaga.
Having just come out of Malaga airport it still hadn’t dawned on us how hot it actually was, it was just amazing to see bright sunshine and dry pavements. Our first encounter with Spanish public transport was a bit weird, all we had was an itinerary with a rudimentary address in Malaga, the bus driver had no English so we had to work out what he said. It was nearly a disaster when I hopped off the bus at one point thinking it was our stop, which it wasn’t. The doors closed again and the rest of us didn’t get off, so I had to hammer and hammer the doors to get back on again. God knows what would have happened if the bus sped off without me and myself with no notion where I was.
We eventually got off in the town centre with wide marble streets and set about trying to find Pepa’s place, our first landlady in Spain and our first Air B and B. It was a bit of a task, Por Favor was the most used phrase asked to strangers here to find our street. Luckily we bumped into Pepa I think outside the Ispana cafeteria and bar where she was having a coffee and we found our first little bit of paradise tucked in behind the tapa bars, castles and cathedral.
I have no real idea at this stage where we visited on that first Monday afternoon and evening, all I know was that Oisin was on a quest to taste churros, a doughnut type stick that you dipped into a cup or mug of hot chocolate. This is the cool kiddies breakfast in Spain but you have to be fast, most places stop serving them after noon.
We did eventually find a place just off the square in Malaga central somewhere, a bar and also a cafeteria like most other places in Spain. The adults settled for a cool glass of beer whilst Oisin got his desired churros. That is the thing with this part of Spain, everything is so pretty to look at that you cannot stop taking photos, right down to small details like the balconies on nearly every building and intricate details on ceramic tiles adorning halls, doorways and arches of buildings.
Another cool aspect about Spanish culture is the tapas thing, instead of getting one square meal, you choose a bunch of things in the menu, I will elaborate the more I get into this review. All the different portions come out in three or four plates and you just sample a bit from each dish. One of my favourites was Calamari rings fried in batter, deep fried pieces of Squid. Bread was customary with your tapas and normally you are given bottles of olive oil and vinegar to soak the bread in, simply delicious. Lovely plates of Manchego cheese and incredible red wines. Ah, this is the life. Washed down with a Cafe Con Leche, a Spanish latte made with half espresso and half scalded milk.
I think we checked out a few other places, in particular a restaurant called Taberna el Piyayo that was adorned in ceramic tiles where we had some lovely wine and I had a nice meal of Iberian ham and egg and a nice strong Americano coffee.
I didn’t sleep great, the Spanish love their fireworks and they were going off intermittently during the night, I probably didn’t help the situation by having a strong coffee so late last night. Anyway was first up and showered when I called Brendan. We both set off to find a place serving coffee to go and orange juice to bring back to the apartment for breakfast.
I caught a short clip of the ambience outside the TragaTapas bar/restaurant in Malaga.
We were walking about the area near the Alcazaba, a fortress dating from 700 but completed in the 11th century, It was also in the area outside the Alcazaba I spotted my first Flamenco guitarist busker, I threw in a few coins.
Oisin on the Slide at the Amusement Park in Malaga.
This was a real twilight place, it seemed the later it was the better it became. The additional Xmas lights came alive and Malaga lit up.
A busking jazz group who moved about the main cathedral square in Malaga.
We were hanging about around the cathedral square area, which had many outdoor bars and dining areas so this attracted wandering buskers such as the jazz band in the video above and an accordionist who was playing pleasant waltzes, a few beggars mingling in too. Wonderful drinking areas that insured we wouldn’t be cold in the night with neat little fire lamps blazing near the tables. I tried various beers, Sam Miguel lager I suppose works out like Spain’s answer to Tennent’s lager in Scotland but I still consider it a nice crisp beer, there was some nice local Malaga brands and Alhambra beer, Estrella Damm among others. Our final port of call for the day was the Mercado de la Merced bar and dining area, I never seen anywhere quite like it, groups of restaurants and bars like little stalls under one roof with a general seating area in the middle and an array of different Xmas cribs near the seating and the place was absolutely rammed.
December 30th Malaga / Seville.
I awoke first this morning again and woke up everyone else, we were meeting Pepa at the apartment at 11 pm so went for a walk in search of breakfast, we found the same cafeteria myself and Brendan got the carry out from yesterday. I settled for a Spanish fry up which was delicious, lovely thin sausages, real yolky fried eggs and lovely crisp Iberian ham. The orange juice made your eyes water it was that fresh and probably fell from a nearby tree that morning and of course, I have never turned down a cafe con leche, simply the business.
Today was the clearest and hottest day so far, we chanced upon this really cool second hand store which seemed to specialise in psychedelic clothes from the late sixties, I bought myself a psychedelic waist coat, Oisin spotted a bag that Marguerite might like and when she saw it she fell in love with it, so I bought it for her Christmas present and she got herself a lovely velvet hat and Brendan kitted himself out with a new pair of jeans.
So with taxi booked from the apartment, we met Pepa at eleven and handed back her keys and said our goodbyes, she took a photo of us on my camera. We would be back in Malaga for a night on the 6th January.
The trains were quite cheap and fast compared to Iarnod Eireann and buses even cheaper to travel, public transport being fairly affordable in Spain. I put on the last Harry Potter film for Oisin on the laptop, Deathly Hallows Pt 2, I timed it perfectly the film finished up fifteen minutes before the journey completed. Half the time I was looking at the film the other half of the time with my jaw dropped looking at the Spanish scenery, such as the mountain range we passed through coming out of Malaga.
Our next destination was the Hosteria Del Laurel in the heart of Seville, it took a bit of walking to find the place as the taxi can only drop you off at a certain part of the town, but once we found the place, we immediately set about exploring Seville.
Seville had a similar feel to Malaga, but seemed more local and with cool narrower alleys and streets that winded this way and that and some incredible musicians plonked in street corners earning their dinner for the night.
There was price differences in Seville, postcards and gifts seemed to be a bit cheaper and there was a concentration of more tapas bars and restaurants, although that is not to say Malaga had any less, its just I suppose some of the streets seemed narrower, so the eateries seemed closer and more in abundance.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you the first restaurants we stopped at on the first night in Seville, we were all walking around awestruck that sometimes you forget you have a camera on you. The first tapas bar we stopped at wasn’t too far from the hotel but all of the family voted that it was a bit expensive although it was nice food. There was a memorable harmonica busker who played a low down cowboy version of White Christmas which I liked and handed him a few coins but he got shooed away by bar staff. He started up at another place nearby playing the same tune, I wish he varied it, maybe played a little blues too.
We came to another children’s Christmas theme style park, that had a skating rink blasting out classic Christmas melodies, Oisin was in a wonderland. The Spanish really know how to look after the kids, lots of play parks, theme parks and amusements, perfect for family holidays.
Oisin having his first ice skate in Seville.
Walking about the streets we chanced upon an ice cream shop that was crammed with customers and I could see why, some of the loveliest ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life. La Campana was the name of the shop, I treated the family to a cone each, the chocolate ice cream was a clear winner for the majority whilst Brendan went for a coffee flavoured ice cream I think.
The first night was tricky trying to find our hotel, we were accosting people with Por Favor and Perdon and showing them our hotel receipt with the address, Marguerite could speak the best broken Spanish of the lot of us. Most gave directions of go left and left again and possibly a right. I don’t know how we done it in the end but we just walked into the square and there we were at the hotel.
December 31st 2015, January 1st 2016, Seville.
I awoke early again, it must be something to do with the climate, no bundling bed clothes around me to keep warm, or maybe I was just pinching myself looking at orange trees in the sunlight whilst having my morning roll up.
I got talking to the receptionist at the Hosteria del Laurel, the hotel was run by two brothers and a sister, one brother is a Flamenco guitarist and the other brother is a Flamenco dancer and the sister too, so we were living in the centre of Spanish tradition. Now time for my morning shower, did I tell you about this shower. Its the weirdest contraption I have ever come across, apart from the usual shower head it had various shower heads lined up from the top to the bottom, if you didn’t know what you were doing it came across like being stuck in a sinking U Boat, with leaks springing everywhere, eventually I got it to come out the main nozzle. Oisin was apparently in stitches laughing at the sounds of me coming from the bathroom.
Yesterday Marguerite and Brendan worked out a two way deal with some guides for today, we got tickets to go on a open top double decker bus with accompanying headphones to relay the history of Seville to us and later on a Flamenco show with the complete works and a drink included. We discovered that the Spanish are quite protective about their traditions, they wouldn’t be doing free shows in the bars with their traditional music, it was usually a drinks or meal deal with a Flamenco show provided afterwards.
It started raining during the bus trip so we trooped down to the covered section although the impact and view was ruined, so we decided to hop off and head for a restaurant out of the rain taking in a few shops on the way. We stopped at a nice tapas bar called Boca A Boca, a nice cosy restaurant that had a very appealing Andalusia décor. I can’t remember specifically what we had in the menu but it was lovely food. It was a busy enough place so we were lucky to get seats at a table there.
After that we went back to the hotel for a refresh before we set off for the Flamenco show. Getting sort of lost again, we were trying to work out what entrance from the square to our street was, was it the illuminated cow area or the shop front with the seventies disco lights. One stranger we accosted to get directions, Marguerite guessed from his broken Spanish that he was Scottish, to which he was and from Glasgow too. He was the first Scot we met on our travels in Spain and he made the distinction as it was raining at the time that this was only the third time that it rained in Seville since September.
We eventually found the place for the Flamenco show, I’ll spare you the name of the place as there is just too much info to take in at this point. But the show was fantastic, two Flamenco guitarists, five or six Flamenco dancing Señoritas and singers in colourful costume and three dancing sharp dressed men. We were treated to some amazing singing in all its traditional Spanish glory, amazing footwork and steps stamped out in time and beautiful intricate guitar playing. I tried to take a video clip on the camera but an usher came up to me saying photos were prohibited so I can’t show you my own clip.
We took the opportunity to visit one of the churches in town during a mass and taking a few cool photos although flash photography was prohibited.
Brendan spotted something in the Seville map that he thought would be of interest, the Metropol Parasol, a piece of art and architecture created by a German architect Jürgen, H. Mayer.
Places were getting harder to find but there was always places still open, you just had to cock your ear and listen hard, normally chatter coming from a side street. We found a busy wee bar down a side street and managed to get a few bottles of beer each. Another amble and we found a small tapas place blasting out classic seventies rock. We got a lovely sandwich and chips splattered with streaks of red sauce and streaks of mayonnaise which seemed to be a typical way we discovered throughout South of Spain. We also had a few nice glasses of red wine and Marguerite used her amazing charm to wring a deal with the barman as it was really, really packed out and we were very lucky to fit into the place.
By now it was getting late enough so we repaired back to the hotel where we were able to buy some wine from the bar there. Marguerite brought some home made cordial cognac with her and we headed out again to the Plaza Square to ring in the New Year and drink a shot of the cognac. There was some crowd gathered there and the atmosphere was fantastic. Although the fireworks show never happened or else it was taking place a few blocks back and the authorities didn’t tell anyone. It seems the state just thought that the local populace would just do the fireworks themselves, which they did. it was quite freaky you couldn’t see fireworks but you could hear them going off right beside you, even the parents were handing their children fireworks which I thought to be a bit crazy really.
Back to the hotel for the night to put a New Year message onto Facebook, send a few texts and to have a glass of wine before we retired for the night, we put on the TV and watched the Flamenco channel for the last hour, a nice way to end the night.
We went to look at the Metropol Parasol on Friday afternoon but it still wasn’t open to the public, I can imagine some of the views you would get at the top of the cityscape.
Today was a pretty laid back day, we just took it handy strolling along at our own pace, it was decided to we would hire a horse and cart today to see Seville from a different angle to the bus tour.
January 2nd Seville / Cordoba.
I think we had to catch a train at eleven or twelve pm to Cordoba so we had a bit of time to wander about for the last time in Seville, find a tapas bar and write out a few postcards or something like that. We came to a nice place with an outdoor area called Alvaro Peregil, a tapas bar with excellent service and amazing food, the area was delightful with orange trees everywhere.
Just as we were about to get ready to leave the Alvaro Peregil place some spontaneous folk music started up in the adjoining bar which we discovered was still part of the place we were at. First we heard verses of song and hand claps and then a tin whistle joined too. I could barely contain myself, I whisked out my small camera and caught a bit of the action. We were also treated to some of their unique Seville Sangria, an orange flavoured wine which was gorgeous if not a bit too sweet.
It was off after that to catch our train to Cordoba, so back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and into a taxi to Seville train station. A thing I noticed about the Spanish train stations, there was always extra armed security around and you had to put your backpacks through a scanning machine. The Spanish aren’t taking any chances after the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks, so that extra security is needed.
Cordoba was fairly effortless, the train journey and the taxi straight to the hotel, the only thing that wasted time was the hotel receptionist taking a particularly long time in registering us into the hotel, but once we were official he gave a little smile and everything was cool. I wish I had taken a photo of the place as it was a class wee hotel. My room looked out into the cityscape that was Cordoba with fantastic views of some of the tall spires and churches in the area.
We had the munchies so it was an onward march to find the nearest tapas bar and get eating and drinking merry. We sat down at an outdoor eating area that had different tables each side for different restaurants, we had waiters in red shirts whilst the tapas bar at the other side had pale blue shirts. While we were waiting about fifteen minutes for someone to take an order, two musicians started up in the middle to make some money. Eventually someone in a red tee shirt came and abruptly told us they were closed which was kind of annoying after waiting that time with mounting hunger.
I think that diversion came to some good as we must have came to the finest eating house in Spain so far, the food and drink was incredible, the name of the restaurant was called Bodegas Mezquita.
The waiters, chef and everyone was really friendly, they had a particular brand of beer unique to Seville called Cruzcampo, a lovely crisp lager that was highly recommended.
To say at the very least, we were pretty stuffed after that but at the same time, I have never seen food disappear so fast it was that delectable.
Cordoba has a lovely vibe about it, cool hippy type pubs, lovely cafeterias and restaurants and some cute gift shops tucked into its streets and its architecture was second to none, beautiful churches, amazing cathedral and castles all over the place. I noticed that there was extra police officers around Cordoba and warnings occasionally, to be on the look out for pick pockets.
We visited a bar for a snappy beer, it had cool funky rock music blasting out of it and fairly young clientèle, Oisin asked for an orange juice as they had an amazing looking juicer machine. He got an amazing looking drink, I must have been half cut at the time as I couldn’t get a decent photo of his drink.
We came across a curious wine, sherry and chocolate shop called La Casa Del Pedro Ximenez that specialised in Cordoba sherries and wines, extremely nice ideas for gifts and some scrumptious dark chocolates. And a beautiful dark haired young señorita with excellent English who helped charm us to part with some cash for gifts, a lovely little shop worth a visit.
There were other weird liqueur, spirits and gift shops around Cordoba where I picked up various gifts and postcards and I couldn’t resist it after reading about it in a book Marguerite gave me called The Devil’s Picnic by Taras Grescoe, a miniature of 160 % alcohol proof Absinthe, one of the small ones which you usually buy in a pack of five, of Le Diable Jaune Absinthe. Grescoe’s chapter Absinthe Suisse is worth a read, he is trying to seek out the true original elixir that apparently still exists in parts of France and Switzerland, the stuff that pre-dates the prohibition law passed by both countries in the early twentieth century. The original stuff went underground so still existed but was unlabelled, so kinda like Ireland’s Poitin, you can still apparently buy the bootleg absinthe in parts of Switzerland from absinthe devotees. Personally the Diable Jaune stuff was mainly just pure alcohol and after reading the review later it was just a Spanish imitation that wasn’t distilled and not the real thing really, Diable Jaune’s speciality mainly being great wine makers. There are some nice authentic Spanish ones too and it should be noted that Spain, Ireland and the UK never did outlaw absinthe, so distilleries have flourished in Spain, whilst the other two countries, it never has been a serious market compared to whiskey, vodka, brandy and gin.
After another bit of walking about it was time to get a supper, we stopped at another tapas place called the Casa Rubio Bar. I opted for a square meal this time rather than tapas, I think I went for the Bacalao frito con vizcaína – Spicy biscay style cod in tempura and was served with the chip style we seen in that tapas bar on new years eve, with streaks of mayonnaise and red sauce. I have to say that this was incredibly delicious and Marguerite’s and Brendan’s tapas looked lovely too. Casa Rubio Bar is worth a visit with friendly staff and nice cuisine.
I think we went back to the hotel after that and settled down for the night, I started messaging Jerry through Facebook about my travels so far and that I was taking a few sips of my first absinthe and staring out into the night scape from the back room window.
January 3rd Cordoba / Guadix.
We popped out for a bit as you didn’t have sign out too early but I think there was a schedule, we had to catch a train and then a bus to Granada. We went to check out the cathedral which was very convenient as it was just across the road from the hotel.
Firstly the train journey was incredibly fast, about less than thirty minutes, I can’t remember where the bus pick up was but we had to get a taxi I think in between to the bus terminus and then just over an hour and twenty minutes to Granada. I think we had to get a taxi to the next bus station or something as it was in the other side of town and got on a bus to Guadix. When we got to Guadix bus station a taxi was hailed to bring us to the Hotel Palacio de Onate. The taxi dropped us at the wrong address so we had to find the hotel ourselves.
Guadix is probably the smallest town in our itinerary with only a handful of pubs and restaurants, hotels and not as touristy as previous places, so all the more interesting, off the beaten track. We found there was a lively outdoor Christmas market with some cool sounds blasting out, we seen a few of these markets in other towns but nearly three quarters of the Malaga and Seville markets were selling leather handbags. The one in Guadix was quite special and their scope of craft impressive. There was one stall that appeared obsessed with old compasses, sea maps and old style compass maps. There was a crepe stall blasting out a hip hop/reggae/South American hybrid music, nice stuff. A Swiss guy with stall of replica ceramic Swiss house models and Norwegian models, strange pipes, gnomes and strange little tinkly bells. Some delicious tapas stalls that served a nice bottle of wine too.
We headed back to the hotel for the night and I think I had a few pints in the hotel bar before heading to bed, stayed up for an hour to upload photos into the computer from the previous day.
January 4th Guadix.
We had a bit of a lie in today and headed into town to check out some of the shops and the general area, there was a bit more local feel to the place a kind of working class feel, very earthy and there were parts of the town that were completely empty, so maybe recession strapped too. Oisin got the munchies and was craving churros, so we stopped at a cafeteria/bar called Versalles for our breakfast, who served up some nice food and possibly the biggest serving of the churros doughnut I ever saw.
We took a walk up to the tourist information office in the square, we wanted to find info about how to maybe visit the cave houses or for some sort of tour guide, even maybe hiring a car. There was a small tour train but that was closed at the moment but we found out about Alfredo through the tourist office, I think he was Guadix’s only horse and cart man so we arranged to meet Alfredo in the square. His business was known as Alfredo: Ruta a las Cuevas – Route to the Caves and he had two horses and a really cool looking carriage.
Alfredo took us out into the outskirts of Guadix which is basically a mountain range transformed into a community, people carving their homes out of stone, the caves of Guadix, home to many people for the last twenty years or more. It was a bit chillier up here on top of the range, there was a wind blowing and it was quite cold, but the sights were amazing.
We stopped off at another bar and cafeteria, all of the places in Guadix gave you free snacks if you had a beer in their place. One thing stood out about this bar, it had pictures of flooding disasters that occurred in Guadix in 1973, quite morbid stuff to have up in the wall.
We went for another walkabout and came to a tiny bar called Bar Cervantes run by a man called Miguel, the space was tiny enough for maybe fifteen or twenty people comfortably or thirty five people would be uncomfortably packed. But this was the most chilled bar I’ve ever walked into and Miguel, the barman and owner is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was playing a radio station on the telly called Radio Clasica, that wasn’t just classical music, there was folk and Flamenco and seriously old stuff from the gramophone era, vaudeville Flamenco from the 1920s and 1930s by the sounds of it. It reminded me of Reels to Ragas hosted by PJ Curtis on Lyric FM. It was just wonderful to hear something like this in a small pub. We got some beers and Miguel gave us these delicious chicken bits and bread for free, this was fantastic, you get your dinner and beer together for the price of the beer, a bit like paradise really and I think Miguel really liked our company too. It was Miguel who introduced us to that almighty and strong beer, Alhambra Reserva 1925. My curiosity had got the better of me, I asked Miguel about the green unlabelled bottles on the counter behind him. It turns out the glass is labelled or stencilled in itself, but a very, very strong beer.
Later in the hotel bar after a few pints with the family, I headed off on my own for a while to suss out a few other pubs in Guadix. La Bodeguilla was a narrow enough pub that had a fair crowd in it, you got free nut snacks with your glasses of beer and it seemed amiable enough but not the same without the others.
I went into a second bar called Bodegas Calatrava, just around the corner before the hotel and had another glass of beer there, they also gave free snacks with the drinks. It seemed a cheerful enough place.
I had a final pint in the hotel bar and headed off to bed, Oisin was in the other room. I foolishly took another sip or two of absinthe, would regret this in the morning.
January 5th Guadix – Granada – Alhambra and Granada again and Guadix.
The schedule today was to catch a bus to Granada, taxiing to the great Muslim palace, the Alhambra from Granada bus station. The cab ride to the Alhambra was entertaining as the cab driver was Swiss and had excellent English, he gave an interesting history of Granada and was glad that we chose to come here as he felt the people in the region to be some of the warmest friendliest people in Spain. He relayed the funny story about the wee tourist train here, that it doesn’t have suspension, so when it goes over the cobblestone everyone hits their heads of the roof of the carriage.
There was a small queue for the Alhambra, well a bunch of queues, one for people who had booked in on line already and the other for people just buying tickets there and then. We apparently came at the best time, had we turned up on speck to buy a ticket say, in June or July, you wouldn’t get in, everyone in the summer books on line, you would be waiting all day to buy a ticket. We were also told that the entire length of the Alhambra and its estate is about 5 Kilometres long which is a lot of walking and was a lot of walking. While we were in the structure, we were told a few times to carry our backpacks in front of us due to a high rate of pick pocketing and stealing.
The Alhambra was an incredible place, incredible calligraphy, art, amazing arches and ceilings, beautiful fountains and waterways, orchards and gardens. The tourism there still seemed to be busy enough for them never to have to shut it down for the winter, which means it operates the whole year round and why not, the climate is very much the same if just a little cooler than Malaga or Seville.
We hailed another taxi to bring us to a tapas bar in the city centre looking at a few shops on the way, I fancied a tee shirt for myself, I think I recognised the calligraphy from one of the walls at the Alhambra. We eventually settled into this small tapas bar called La Antigualla that was subtly lit like a nightclub and had some pop music playing out of the television. We ordered three pints of lager and the barman presented us with delicious burgers free to eat with the drink, a nice touch. We got talking about music and then folk music. The man’s name is Luthier Ahmad Al Haj Ibrahim and he was originally from Syria but settled in Granada for about fifteen years, he is a traditional musician who plays and makes the stringed instrument called the Oud. His bar was a nice stop off point and when we ordered a second round of beers more lovely burgers appeared. I ended up going back to that gift shop and buying the tee shirt, I wanted to buy a memento to do with the area of Granada, Oisin got a cool hoodie too with Granada and some lovely knot work on it.
As we tried to make our way towards a taxicab to go to the station, the crowd suddenly swelled. unbeknown to us, a crowd was gathering for the Granada 3 Kings Christmas Parade so it was quite freaky not been able to escape the crowd for ages. We eventually managed to make it up a side street and into the back streets till we could flag down a cab, it was the busiest I have ever seen in a town in Spain. But the cab managed to get us to the bus station where we still had an hour to mill. Granada at this time had a huge cloudburst of rain, never seen rain quite like that for a while but you could hear it walloping of the bus station roof. We got more beers in the station bar and because it was Three Kings day they were giving out free food, so I was completely stuffed by the time we had to board the bus plus we were drinking the Alhambra Reserva 1925.
We walked a short bit into the town centre and straight into Bar Cervantes which was pretty full this time round and Miguel the perfect host. The rest of us wanted another drink but I asked for a cafe con leche as I was still full up from drinking earlier, the coffee was delicious and revived me, perhaps a little too much. They enticed me to have a glass of red wine in the second round in which I relented, we watched a Spanish news channel that was showing all the different parades that had happened around Spain over the evening, it was an interesting watch.
I think it was an early rise tomorrow as the 10 or 11 am bus was booked from Guadix to Granada, so we all headed for bed to get an early night.
6th January Gaudix – Granada – Malaga.
The journey through the Granada mountains through to the Malaga mountains was stunning and I was starting to get excited again, it was getting hotter and sunnier.
When we finally got to Malaga we got a taxi as far as it would go, the street leading to Petit Palace was too narrow, but not a bother, registration was fairly quick, they were a professional lot and fairly friendly. Into the elevator to the fourth floor and room 401. We got a plush spacious room, me and Oisin got the bunk beds and Marguerite and Brendan got decent sized single beds and loads of power points to charge stuff. We immediately unpacked a few things, started charging up a few things and got out in search of the tapas experience again.
We stopped at a restaurant called Taberna el Mentidero for a few tapas and some beer, there was a nice selection of food there, the fried dog fish was absolutely delicious, fried in a sort of batter, it looked like nuggets but was much much nicer. It was nice to be back in Malaga.
I think we just milled about slowly around the town centre up near the Alkazaba structure and the cafes around there. We stopped at Cafe de L’abuela which was a nice outdoor location looking over the space towards the Alcazaba, there was a juggler who was rather good and caught my attention for a bit. Some drunk guy turned up then and started to holler some mad sounding Flamenco acapella to a bemused drinking and eating public. Cafe de L’abuela was expensive enough I suppose considering its location, Marguerite wanted to buy wine advertised at 14 Euro, but it turns out it was a glass of and not a bottle of wine. We just had beers and some short snappy tapas. It was a great place though to mill about in and write some postcards.
There was some great music creating a nice atmosphere in the street. We stopped at another tapas bar in one of the main streets, wider marble streets, the ambience here was amazing, helped by the Flamenco inspired folk rock of Johan Hagstrom, originally from Sweden who played Flamenco guitar and Chiara Bolignari originally from Italy who played accordion, playing this amazing music.
We had a few beers here, some nice tapas, can’t really remember what, but no complaints twas lovely and of course, the chocolate cake I got to share with Oisin. I had a few more drinks with the family and decided to split for a while and team up with Johan and Chiara and go on a bit of a ramble.
Johan and Chiara have been in Malaga for about three months busking and playing gigs about the city, they also done the Canary Islands over the summer and South of Spain in general. We had a few drinks and went off to a kebab place for a meal deal of a chicken burger and a can of Sam Miguel. I got back to the hotel at 1 am and hit the sack for the night.
7th January Malaga / Marbella.
Got up, into the lift and out for a walk around the square, the sun was cracking the stones, bought a coffee to go and wandered about the place for a while. Went back had a shower and we all packed up the cases, handed the pass keys back to the reception and asked if they would look after our luggage for a few hours.
It was such a fun and lovely day, we went exploring the Alcazaba. We stopped at a tapas bar called Ispana on Thursday morning, they do a lovely breakfast deal, a sandwich with manchego cheese and crisp Iberian ham, a fresh orange juice and a cafe con leche for 3.50 Euro, which is great value and delicious.
The Alcazaba is a gorgeous looking fortess with gardens, archways and paths leading high above the cityscape, built in the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century and considered to be the best preserved citadel in Spain. there is also the remnants of a Roman theatre dating from the 1st century next to the entrance to the Alcazaba. Most of the info here is taken from the Wikipedia article on the Alcazaba.
We stopped at a cafeteria that was doing ice cream and I bought everyone a cone, nice to have an ice cream on a sun splashed day. We went for a trip down to the dockside area and on to one of Europe’s biggest Ferris Wheels, the Mirador Princess.
We got the bus from Malaga to Marbella and met Donna Callaghan, an old friend of Marguerite’s from Glasgow at a cafeteria, on the journey down it was mostly coastal and we saw the most incredible sunset. Donna welcomed us into her home, put out some food and drink, we talked and got merry.
8th, 9th, 10th January Marbella.
Over the next three days Donna took us on a tour of Marbella and San Pedro, exploring some of the best tapas bars and cafeterias, some of Donna’s favourites. We explored a nice chunk of San Pedro and the weather was exotic and gorgeous. Considered to be like spring over here this would compare to my Irish summer in 1995, lovely and warm with a very mild breeze. On Saturday we visited a seaside restaurant and a tapas bar that looked like it could have been in the Caribbean coast and met some of Donna’s friends later on that day. Also on Saturday we just walked slowly around an area of San Pedro that seemed to be full of exercise equipment, children’s playgrounds and cool walkways. There was a skating rink and a nice wee cheerful bar playing chill out sounds and cheap beer for a Euro a cup, a great vibe.
On the Saturday Donna suggested we visit the supermarket as it would be closed on our final day on Sunday. So I got my tobacco, coffee and various other things some for presents and some for myself and a twelve can pack of Sam Miguel at only 6 Euro.
Donna’s villa is a gorgeous house with marble floors, a lovely front garden and driveway and the most picturesque back garden view, looking off over to the mountains and a golf course at the back.
On the final day Sunday Donna drove us about twenty kilometres from Marbella to a mountainous village called Ojen, all the houses were in dazzling white and sprinkled all over the side of the mountain, referred to as white pueblos houses. It was a wonderful looking place, cool narrow streets that went uphill around corners, chilled tapas bars and cafeterias, happy families and lots of dogs.
On the final night Donna gave us each a Christmas present, laid out a feast of food and uncorked a few bottles of red wine. We all took turns to sing some songs and talked into the small hours. She was the perfect host and a perfect end to our Andalucia trek.
11th January Marbella – Malaga – Dublin.
Donna drove us to Marbella bus station and waved us off as we headed to Malaga bus station and then the airport. When we got through security I bought a bottle of Mari Mayan’s Absinthe for 20.90 Euros, rated as one of the more authentic ones, I learned how you take it proper, dilute to taste with ice cold water and watch it louche, it turns paler or opaque, kind of like the way Guinness settles from the cream.
Stepping off the plane at Dublin airport we immediately start to shiver, welcome back to wintry Ireland, now we have two and a half months to wait to get anything barely resembling Malaga’s or Marbella’s winter time. What a fantastic break and worth checking out, Andalucia is the place to go for your late December break.