We were so impressed by our visit to Barcelona last year, that within seven months we found ourselves back in Spain once again, this time beginning in the southern part. Brandon gave Emily some fun new trip planning and navigating responsibilities as well. Since we planned to stay a night in Bangkok to break up the journey, he put Emily in charge of working out the logistics of getting us from Bali, through Bangkok, and arriving in Spain. Emily researched transportation, accommodation, food, etc. She led us through the airports and got us where we needed to be at the appropriate times. Quite the ambitious project for an eleven year old, but she learned a lot and did a really nice job.
The Bang in Bangkok
We did have a surprise as soon as we checked into our hotel in Bangkok, however. I put a bit of my weight on the bathroom counter, and the entire unit immediately fell off the wall and came crashing to the floor. Bang! Not only that, but water was spraying fire-hose style into the room from the pipe in the wall where the sink used to be. Yikes! Then there was the fact that my ankle was swelling up at an alarming rate from being hit by the countertop as it fell. Ouch! Emily ran to tell the staff about the situation, while the rest of us tried to stop screaming as we hurried to get our luggage out of the quickly flooding room, dodging the spraying water as we went. Luckily there was another nicer room available for us which we were quickly ushered into, at which point I took up residence on the bed as I massaged my ankle with arnica cream and essential oils. Travel is nothing if not a chaotic adventure every once in a while.
Meandering through Malaga
We landed in southern Spain at a really lovely time of year, before most of the green gets baked away by the sun, and during the height of the season for nectarines which are delectably soft, sweet, and juicy, by far the best we’ve ever tasted. The peaches, apricots, and cherries were really quite glorious as well.
We began our journey in Malaga, where we did a bit of walking around, shopping, and eating in the old town. We got a small taste of the Arabian influence in southern Spain at a little restaurant where the food was delicious and the decor very memorable, with beautifully colored glass and beaded mosaic lights. We also spent some time in the lush greenery of the park along the ocean, which we were grateful for, because we didn’t see a lot of greenery elsewhere, and we’ve become accustomed to living amidst the abundant nature in Ubud.
During our time in Malaga, we especially enjoyed meeting with some friends we got to know when we were living in Costa Rica. They own the house we lived in for a while, with the big bathtub Aysia was born in. They now live on the coast near Malaga. Since shipping to Indonesia isn’t a very good option, we shipped a few items to our friends here, such as a new kindle, wide angle camera lens, and travel guitar, so we could pick them up during our visit. Apparently, shipping to Spain can be a bit tricky too, as we soon found out. We paid very high customs fees and barely got a couple of the items in time, because of paper work and regulations. We did get them though, after a lot of stress and phone calls and help from our friends, thank goodness, and we’ve really enjoyed having the wide angle lens this trip for all the amazing sights that have called for it. Emily has also really been taking advantage of having her new guitar to play on and write new songs with, and we’ve certainly enjoyed hearing her play for our family and the friends we’ve been meeting up with along the way.
Ronda, Ronda, Ronda. How we love thee! We were enchanted by cute little Ronda right from the start, it’s true. From her grassy farmlands and abundant wildflowers waving in the breeze, to her historical depth and charm, including her dramatic El Tajo gorge, plunging 100 meters down to the Guadelavín river below; Ronda in May is breathtaking. The rental home we stayed in was set among the rolling hills of the countryside, a five minute drive from town. Gazing upon Ronda from a distance and being able to take in the full picture of her radiance all at once, was an absolute pleasure, especially during sunset.
Of course, being in Spain, there are many delicious tapas restaurants, and Ronda is no exception. We even found a little French shop, La Chocolaterie, that serves dessert tapas, which our taste buds delighted in savoring. We’re now really beginning to think we’d like all our meals to be served tapas-style, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, please. What a fabulous way to eat; flavorful bites of food, abounding in all sorts of tempting varieties at inexpensive prices!
We explored the town as a family on the day of our arrival and then drove Brandon to the train station the next morning, so he could spend a few days at a retreat in Madrid, which he will expound upon in an upcoming post. While he was gone, we ran amok! Here’s where the story gets really interesting…Aw, who am I kidding, you’d never believe me! We’re very good girls, we are, it’s true. Instead, we met up with some really amazing new friends who also homeschool their daughters; we went shopping; we ate delicious food; we explored caves with 30,000 year old cave paintings (Cueva de la Pileta); we went bike riding through the fields of grass and wildflowers; and we took in the views from a town called Guacín, which overlooks the rock of Gibraltar and onto Africa beyond.
On the night Brandon rejoined us, we had a family music extravaganza with Emily and Marie providing the entertainment. Marie would give Emily an incredibly silly song prompt such as, “there are teeth in my popcorn,” or “angry ladybug,” or “stale macaroni.” Then, Emily would proceed immediately to improvise a song for us, incorporating the prompt into her song along the way. She did such a masterful job. We were all doubled over in laughter and tears. It was a highly satisfying way to spend an evening. What’s amazing is that Emily actually managed to turn these themes into nice songs with good chords, lyrics that made sense and had suspense and told a good story, beautiful melodies, etc. And, of course, we all appreciate Marie’s highly developed sense of silliness added artfully into the mix. Perfect combination! The next day we introduced Brandon to our new friends, as we visited with them one last time before we left Ronda that night.
Upon arriving in Sevilla, we found a new favorite restaurant called Duo Tapas, mere steps away from our apartment. Not only do they have exceptionally delicious tapas, they also have a brownie that is a new all-time family favorite. We definitely went back for more. We ate at another tapas restaurant in Sevilla where you pick your own tapas from the display case and put them on your plate. The tapas have different sized wooden dowels inserted into them, which determines their price. At the end of your meal, the waiter simply calculates the price of the bill based on the length and abundance of wooden sticks on the table. We found eating-out in Sevilla to be convenient, affordable, and delicious. There were so many appetizing options to choose from, of every cuisine imaginable, and of really great quality.
We crossed paths with a fancy cookie shop on our way to visit the Alcazar, so upon trying a few free samples, we collected various types to carry along with us. They certainly came in handy when our energy began to wane during our explore of the very detailed and ornate Alcazar. It was originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings, and just so happens to be the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
After visiting the Alcazar we were quite hungry, so we found a nice air-conditioned restaurant nearby, and settled in for a feast, a rest from walking, and a respite from the Sevilla heat. When our tummies were filled, and our energy restored, we indulged Aysia and ourselves in a horse and carriage ride around the city to see the rest of the sites. Aysia had been talking about how much she would love to have a ride, ever since she saw the “ponies” earlier that morning, and it was just too hot to walk, after all. We sat in the carriage as the horses took us to see the monumental buildings, plazas, and park. Specifically, we saw such things as Plaza America, Maria Luisa Park, Plaza de España, the cathedral, the theatre, the university, the golden tower, and the Palace of San Telmo, which has the gallery of illustrious Sevillians on one of the facades; sculptures made in 1895 of twelve important people of the day. We even saw parrots flying between some trees along the route. After the carriage ride we went for some gelato on our way back to the apartment before turning in for the night.
Fun with Friends
La Herradura is located on a beautiful stretch of coastline right next to Almuñecar, where we spent the next week or so. While here, we met up with Elin and her son Kavi for the first time. We met Elin online a while back and she was so helpful to us as we were planning our trip, and then she spent so much time having fun with us, talking with us, and showing us around during our visit. Kavi and the girls were also great company for each other and played endlessly throughout. Such a pleasure to get to know them in person. One day we went to a peaceful and gorgeous beach together, along with a couple other families, one German family and one French family, where we whiled away the hours picnicking, playing in the sand and water, and collecting pretty beach rocks. The ocean was such an assortment of pretty clear blue colors.
It was so fun to get to spend time together as families. We were also able to visit with the German family at their home one day, which was a really nice opportunity to get to know them better. They shared with us a very tasty and beautiful, homemade raw chocolate-banana cake that afternoon, and some excellent vegetable curry for dinner. We are planning to visit the French family again soon as well, since we’ll be heading to their house for a couple of nights later this month, as we’ll be in France for the very first time!
We were also able to meet up with a couple of our friends who have recently moved to Spain from England. We’ve mentioned them before on the blog, Heidi and Chris, who we spent time with in Glastonbury last fall. They’ve settled in Orgiva, located in a beautiful valley not far from where we were staying on the coast. They’ve also been working on setting up a beautiful garden on their property, which we admired. We enjoyed visiting with them in their yard one day after a delicious lunch together at Baraka Restaurant in town, which serves quality Moroccan food. Thankfully, we were able to get together with them on another day as well, at a beach seafood restaurant which was also called Baracca, spelled differently. Our favorite item was the paella, absolutely amazing!
After saying goodbye to our friends, we took a short walk to a neighboring nude beach around the corner, where we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to undress, lay on our towels, and feel the warmth of the sun on parts normally unexposed. The rest is history! We enjoyed it for as long as we dared, not wanting to put sun cream on, and not wanting to get sunburned. We even ventured to the water for a moment to see how inclined we were to take a dip. Brandon got quite a bit farther in than I did, but we both quickly hurried back to our towels without much delay this time around. Next time, and we’ve decided there will definitely be one or more of those, perhaps we’ll be a bit more brave. We don’t much like being cold, but I can imagine it would feel really nice to go skinny dipping in the ocean. Perhaps especially on a beach that has nice warm water…
We drove to an apartment in Granada to stay a couple nights, mostly to check out the Alhambra, for which we booked tickets a bit in advance, due to its popularity and the stipulation that only a certain number of visitors are allowed per day. It is a city of Islamic palaces, which started out as a small fortress in 889. It has undergone many renovations and expansions since that time. Each new section, added by different Muslim rulers, followed the theme of “paradise on earth”. It’s gardens, views, intricately detailed carvings, designs, columns, fountains, reflecting pools, and grandeur certainly felt paradisiacal.
We also saw the Albaycín which is the oldest neighborhood of Granada, with narrow winding streets, dating from medieval moorish times, with alluring Arabian shops, cozy restaurants, and a beautiful view of the Alhambra from the San Nicolas viewpoint. We saw a flamenco performance here one night as well, where we especially enjoyed listening to the incredibly talented guitar players.
As a tantalizing side note, I can’t neglect to mention the chocolate mochi we found at a restaurant in Granada’s old town called, Take Me Sushi. It comes highly recommended as the best we’ve ever tasted!
During our last day in Granada we ventured to the nearby town of Monachil with our friends, Elin and Kavi, and some new local friends who also homeschool. We took a beautiful nature walk to the river across some hanging bridges and had a lovely picnic together, after which we joined even more homeschooling families back in the center of Granada for a nice long time playing and visiting in a plaza beneath the glow of the Alhambra at night.
Before returning back to La Herradura, we went to a really fun and casual pizza restaurant in Monachil with Elin and Kavi for an exceptionally late dinner, where we not only had delicious pizza, but some really amazing hot chocolate as well. We arrived home at 3am and went to bed even later! Ah, the Spanish schedule is really something unique, that’s for sure. Until next time, stay tuned for our excursions in eastern and northern Spain!