If you wondered why we haven’t posted in the last couple of weeks, well the title of this post will probably have answered that question for you.
Yes, we have been on a little sabbatical again, this year to Spain’s Costa Del Sol.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip.
After the awful experience we had with Olympic Holidays in Greece last year, we decided to book an apartment rather than rely on a company to tell us where we were going to stay, so instead we headed to AirB’n’B to look for a place.
We searched various locations including Bodrum (Turkey) and Seville (Spain) but decided on the Costa del Sol, because it was cheap and had a lot of things to do, including climbing. We found a few apartments and contacted them, but it is us and soon issues started to arise. Many of the hosts state one thing on their profile, such as proximity to the beach, access to the pool or local amenities and we spent a lot of time on Google Street View gauging what their idea of 200m was and realising that in many cases, it was more like 2km. Also there are differences on pricing depending on your location and before you sign up to the website you will often get a lot cheaper price than you end up with, it gives you the out of season quote (which seems a bit sneaky to us)
We found one apartment near Malaga and agreed the proximity to the beach was worth the sacrifice of no pool, we messaged and was glad to get a message back, but the host (Little Miss Sunshine) was not the most helpful and we ended up having to contact AirB’n’B in order to resolve the problem. In the end we just gave up on the apartment and started our search over.
Our new search found a studio apartment in in La Cala de Mijas. By this stage we had found flights with British Airways. The host of the apartment (Mia) was very helpful she even agreed to pick us up from the Train Station in Fuengirola.
So the day came, we were going on Holiday, woohoo!
The flight was great, what a difference BA was to EnterAir! It wasn’t just that we could understand the cabin crew, but also the quality of the service and assistance, from the check in desk to the in flight service. The crew were always on hand to help and even chat.
We landed and headed to the train station, The Costa Del Sol train system is great if a bit slow and you really don’t need to get a transfer if you are heading to Fuengirola or Malaga, but beyond that you would have to learn the bus schedule, in order to continue onward. Thankfully we had a nice host who collected us from the station and drove us to her apartment – even supplying us with a bottle of Cava as a welcome gift.
Mia came from Finland fifteen years earlier as an exchange student and in the best romance novel traditions, fell in love with a sultry Argentinian student and the pair never left, now they have a little blonde haired daughter (who may it seems be part cat!!)
The apartment is in a three sided ten storey tower block that is a mix of rentals and residents, it however isn’t in La Cala de Mijas as we believed but fifteen KM down the coast in Calahonda. This isn’t a big problem, but it is a little less picturesque and closer to the Autopista Del Sol, the main highway that runs along the coast of the Costa Del Sol and is apparently one of the most dangerous roads in Europe.
The complex is the aforementioned tri-sided tower and then a series of villas that circle a large garden and big circular pool, that though unheated is fresh water and very well maintained – mostly by Jaredo the lifeguard, this man is quite a part of the place, a 60+ Spaniard who we suspect speaks Basque rather than Catalonian, for even the resident Spanish seem to struggle to understand what the hell he is talking about, we however had no clue, because his way of dealing with ‘No Comprede’ was to repeat but faster and faster, until we faned acceptance and understanding, agreeing or just pulling faces that finally satisfied him.
So the apartment, was a simple studio, that was like that scene in 500 Days of Summer, where the main couple pretend to live in the showrooms in the warehouse, Everything from cutlery to bed was bought en-mass, it would seem from the Swedish home store that is just north of Torremolinos. Everything it seems except the random Chinese family in the bathroom!
We spent the first night acclimatising to our temporary home, searching the surrounding area and finding a local supermarket and a complex with a few restaurants. There seem to be a lot of Chinese, Indian and Italian restaurants. Then next morning sort out the sea. It was a bit of a walk, across the Autopista via bridge and down a narrow lane, but we found ourselves alone on a sandy La Playa. A lazy day on the beach and then back to sunbath around the pool. – Side note don’t use last years sun tan lotion, it goes off and does a lousy job to protecting you, yep we got burnt!
Once settled in we started to seek and search more. First off was Fuengirola. We have a friend whose family lived in the town for years and so we were armed with a map of local spots to seek out, like the church square and the coffee shops where the locals sit in the early mornings, sipping brandy and dipping Churro is Hot Chocolate and filling the air with clouds of thick cigarette smoke, we however settled for just the churros and coffee with a splash of brandy. The deep friend batter isn’t something I’ve tried before, but having tried it, I can also say I won’t be trying again either!
Then it was off to the Bio Park to see all the beautiful and cool animals.
This is a great place, not your usual zoo, animals live in large enclosure and often in together, the allusive Red Panda’s (that seemed to have gone on holiday that day), were in a space with some otters, a family of orangoutangs and some African gazelle.
We met some new animals too, like the Binturong.
See Places to go for more on this and others (coming soon).
We rounded up the day with Vegetarian Paella back in the town and at the strangely name Spanish restaurant ‘La Gondola’. The first meal out and it seemed finally we have somewhere where not eating meat would not be a problem. The dish was massive and a ‘doggy bag’ was needed.
See the Food and Drink post for more (coming soon).
The next day was a special one in Spain. The Night of San Juan the Mid Summer’s Eve Festival. We spent the day on the beach and then headed out late to join the locals in La Cala De Mijas. The festival is a yearly event to celebrate the Summer Season.
Participants build bonfires and burn dolls and at midnight jump over the flames three times before running into the sea to let seven waves lap over their feet (or more) in order to start afresh and promise a year of beauty.
This was truly one of the highlights of the holiday. We drank, paddled in the sea and then headed to the town square to dance and sing the night away. The magic of Spain and certainly of somewhere like La Cala is it’s like two towns in one, early on in the night all the British tourists head to the Irish Bars for dinner and beer, then head back to their apartments and villas around 11pm. Then the locals come out and eat, drink and party until the early hours. We are not keen on all day English Breakfasts or a traditional East End Pub in the middle of Spain or loud shouting and binge drinking and nor are we early risers, we found ourselves eating late lunches and later dinners with the locals, just how we would have wanted it anyway. The festival showed this to be true too. The tourists seemed to vanish even before the fires were lit and the party in the square seemed filled with more, Dutch, Scandinavians and the locals. Whole families from toddlers to granny were all gathered and dancing the night away to cheesy YMCA and LA Bamba and the like.
Mijas Pueblo is the ubiquitous unspoiled White Village of houses up in the hills. We headed up to take a look and spend the day. Now being good climbers we did take our shoes with us and seeing as the hillside was the best chance of finding actual rocks we packed them in our bags and set our for the two buses up first to Fuengirola and then up the steep narrow roads to the all white houses and donkey rides.
What we found though picturesque was a bit of a let down, very quiet and nothing special. The best bit was the local artisan shop, that sold pottery and art, we could have bought out the shop with all it’s brightly painted ceramics and pretty crockery.
We wandered the quite streets, up and down stairs looking for somewhere to eat that served vegetarian dishes, but found nothing, even the Tapas restaurants were lacking more than one or two, or they suggest pizza, by now I was sick of pizza and pasta.
But in our meandering we discovered something else, Mijas’s sport climbing and roadside bouldering.
We bouldered a bit on the bottom of the routes and finally got to use our shoes in hot weather.
This ended our first week and because of how much to do we will continue this in part two and in our Food and Drink Post and What to do posts all coming soon.