(Sevilla –> Marrakech –> Sahara Desert –> Sevilla –> MALAGA)
Wednesday Jan 1, 2020 – Off to Malaga – Day 132
The kids were given such a long break from school, and so we decided that since we were already going to be in Sevilla, let’s take advantage and spend a few days exploring Costa Del Sol in Southern Spain.
We went to the Alamo car rental kiosk near the train station to pick up our rental car. At the desk, the agent asked for my international driver’s license. Doh!!!! I totally forgot it. Did not even cross my mind. He would not rent us a car without it, as it is their policy. However, he told me Avis would, and it was inside the train station.
So either we were going to Malaga by train or Avis. I told the Avis guy what happened and he did the best he could on price and got us a car. Great! After we finished, we walked to the parking lot, packed the bags into the car, and got in the mini SUV. Kel looks at me and says, “Isn’t this a stick?” Doh!!! One of these days I need to learn how to drive stick.
I ran back inside and after several minutes of searching, he gave me the keys to an even bigger car, a 7 person rider van. We had to spend even more money, but finally we were off, on the way to our next adventure together.
The drive there did not disappoint. I was not expecting anything after what I saw on the way to the Sahara, but the view of the mountains and the greenest of green fields were truly remarkable.
We arrived in Malaga by 4pm to our rented apartment, dropped off our bags and ran over to the square we drove passed, to get a late lunch. Found a perfect place, sat outside, had a cerveza and settled in. I ran around with the boys in the square which was nice to blow off some energy. We then headed back to our apartment, all of us looking forward to doing nothing and relaxing for the rest of the night.
Thursday, January 2nd – Laundry Day – Exploring Malaga – Day 133
We woke up determined to do some laundry. In fact, it was a necessity as we were left with the clothes on our back, after the past 12 days. 4 hours later and taking over almost all the machines in the local laundromat, we once again had clean clothes.
During the washing cycle I took advantage to go for a run and explore the city. The block our Airbnb was on was not the best. In fact, the building next to us looked abandoned. There was a building down the block where people were sitting on the stoop all day and night drinking. Our apartment was decent and clean, but the building itself had a creepy feeling. The first day we arrived, I parked the car in the garage and headed to the stairs to walk up the 3 flights to the lobby. I saw a sign that said, “caution: wet floor,” and I just figured they had just cleaned it. By the time I got up two levels, it was clear there was a leak coming from the ceiling with a big hole in it. The entire four days we were there, the leaked continued and the ceiling started to partially collapse. That was my only way up. I just kept thinking, doesn’t anyone care who lives here?
That is why I was determined to explore what was around us. The good news was, we were only 7 blocks away from the heart of Malaga, and it was bumping with people, restaurants, and stores. I then ran down to the Cathedral and over to the ocean, running around the lighthouse that was on the pier where the cruise ships docked.
There is an old Moorish Castle on the top of a Mountain about 600 ft up that I read about on a running site in the morning, as I was looking for routes. It said the direct walking/running trail was an extreme incline, and only those in excellent shape should attempt. I have to admit, that scared me a little bit. So I found a route that went up the back of the mountain instead. It still had to get to the 600 ft or so, but my hope was that since it was longer, the incline would be more gradual. Maybe it was, but it felt as steep as could be, and I even had to walk at times, but I felt so accomplished when I hit the top.
My plan was to run down the steep zig zag walking path that all the tourists use. As I headed down, it became clear to me that it was so steep that I could not safely run down. The views were amazing, and I knew I had to bring the family back here later, even if we went only halfway.
It was 3ish or so when we left the apartment, after laundry and my run, and lets just say the kids might have watched one too many hours of videos and had trouble adjusting to the real world. We took them to the center of town to explore, then we found a great tex-mex restaurant to eat at and got the order in minutes before it closed (a common theme on this trip). From there, I took them halfway up the trail to see the views, walked back to town and got some ice cream.
We explored for the next hour or so and it was just bustling with people. Found a guy who played amazing covers of American songs, and I just stood there in the square, listening and filming him. By the time we got home, everyone was ready to relax, as we knew the next two days would be full of exploring nearby towns, and they were!
Friday, January 3rd, Touring Costa Del Sol – Day 134
The two towns on our agenda today were Marbella & Ronda. While doing some research, I found we could stop or drive through three towns on the way to Marbella. This allowed us to drive along the coast route vs the highway route, which was inland.
First town we drove through was Torremolinos, a resort and beach town, but felt like there was not much to see at this time of year so we kept going. Next we passed through Benalmádena & Fuengirola which appeared to be beautiful towns as well, and we got our first views of the ocean during this drive. Finally we reached Marbella and got a parking spot right off the ocean.
We walked around the boardwalk, the kids played in the sand and collected shells, and then finally we found a cute restaurant below the boardwalk on the beach itself to eat lunch. The weather was just perfect, in the mid 60s. As we were heading back to the car, we saw acrobatic trampolines on the sand, and our next 30 minutes were spent watching the kids flipping in the air.
We finally got off to Ronda much later than we would have liked. In the old part it has a Moorish castle on top of a mountain. It has a famous bridge that was completed in 1793 that we wanted to see.
The drive there was the highlight of my day. It took me completely by surprise, seeing how beautiful it was through the windy switch back roads of the mountains. Having just come from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, I could not believe that this drive was even more beautiful. I kept saying to Kelli as I was driving, take another photo. Take another one here.
When we finally arrived, there we could not figure out how to get to the bridge. Google Maps was trying to take us down a hill on this very narrow, cobblestone, then a dirt road that was big enough for one car (and cars were driving up). I stopped the guy coming up and he confirmed, just keep going another 200 yards. As we kept going, it did not seem right, how are we going to the bridge if we are going further into this valley and the downhill was steep!
Finally, we made one last turn and it was clear what happened. This gave us a great view of the bridge from below, instead of taking us to the bridge itself. We were just able to snap a few photos before dusk quickly faded to night. Looking at our drive back to Malaga, it was 1.5 hours. That meant not arriving until after 9pm at this point. I was anxious to get out of there, especially if the road out was as windy as the road there. Luckily we went a different way and it was much safer.
Saturday, January 4th – Headed to the Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is the most visited site in Spain with over 3,000,000 visits per year. With that said, I never heard of it before this trip which just goes to show how much there is to see and learn. As a result of the popularity, all tickets to the castle had been sold out since we booked this trip in October. However, Kelli found a tour group online that could get us in for a small group tour, it just costs a lot more. It wasn’t until the morning that we realized that the tour got us in everywhere except the Nazareth Palace, which is the big draw. Oh well, I thought, at least it will be an experience.
An experience it was, as the grounds and the castles that we saw were truly spectacular. We were amazed! We were with about 20 others for 3 hours, and we had the only kids. All in all, they were great, as there was plenty of space for them to run around and get their energy out. Just a note, the Alhambra, as with many castles, is on the top of the hill, so be prepared to walk about a 20 minute incline to get there.
After the tour, we walked towards the car, hoping to find a place for a late lunch/ early dinner. One block from the car, we found an amazing vegan restaurant that was packed. Figured it was meant to be, as the meal hit the spot. Even Joshua, our carnivore, finished his vegan chicken burger. We headed back to the hotel, packed up and were ready to head back to Barcelona, as our most epic family vacation came to an end.