Sunday was back to being sunny and gorgeous again. We were told that, when it does rain, it does so for about a day at most and then goes away as if nothing had ever happened. There was no humidity and not a cloud in the sky.
Perfect day for the beach.
We put on swimsuits and comfy clothes and set out in search of a beachside restaurant Beth and Paul had told us about, La Familia. The majority of the little restaurants along the beach also have a gaggle of beach lounge chairs under umbrellas that you can hang out in and they will come serve you. At La Familia, these were all full, but we found a table on the patio and proceeded to enjoy some sangria and a little dessert.
To our surprise, Beth and Paul had the same idea. They joined us at our table and we spent the entire afternoon talking, drinking, taking pictures, and swapping stories. Beth and I each convinced our husbands to buy us some pretty beach pullovers from the vendor walking around.
We finished up with tea and coffee as the sun started to set, and said our goodbyes to our new friends. We decided to take a walk down the beach, which was so peaceful and wonderful. The sand is littered with small shells and stones but not in a painful way. The water was cold so I only dipped my feet in it then stayed on the sand. Stephen took some pictures of me on the rocks that we had seen from our terrace a few days ago.
It was very tranquil.
For dinner, we decided to splurge and go somewhere really nice. There was a restaurant called Max Beach right over the highway from our resort. It was on the water and split into two sections. The right hand side was a fine dining restaurant; the left side was a bar.
The food was incredible. The wine was amazing. There was a live harpist, candlelight, and the sounds of waves on the shore.
On Saturday, we didn’t have to wake up nearly as early as Gibraltar is only about an hour away along the coast. Unfortunately, this was the day nature picked to rain on southern Europe so we didn’t get the full effect of Gibraltar – namely, seeing Africa.
It was still very beautiful and it was great to be in a predominantly English-speaking area for a few hours. Gibraltar is owned by the United Kingdom. There is a border with a passport check and customs. However, according to our tour guide (who was delighted that we all spoke English so he could to the tour in English), they receive no financial assistance from Great Britain whatsoever. They have their own government, laws, school system, hospitals, social and economic structure and they are completely self-sufficient. It’s a relatively small city, only a few thousand live there. There are a plethora of churches and pubs, the streets are narrow, and the old city walls cut through the middle of the modern city.
Looming over the whole area is The Rock itself. It’s pretty impressive and somewhat intimidating, especially when you glimpse all the old cannons and battle turrets that dot the cliffs. There are still training facilities for various countries’ military units which still operate up on the mountain. On the whole, it’s fairly quiet and peaceful. There’s a bustling atmosphere down on Main Street where all the tourists go to shop, but up on the mountain itself, it’s quiet.
Even the monkeys don’t say much.
But they will jump on you.
Our tour guide dropped us off at a system of caves about halfway up the mountain and told us he’d meet us on the other side. The caves were lovely and actually house a natural theatre the locals use for concerts and shows. At the exit was a souvenir shop where I bought my requisite keychain and some water. I also bought some cookies.
Earlier, our guide told us to keep purses closed and anything wrapped in plastic out of sight as the monkeys identify that as food and will try to take it from you. He said there would be a few by the vans when we came out so to be careful. I did not expect a monkey to be right outside the exit of the shop.
Yes, he jumped on me.
I kept my cookies though. Take that, monkey.
The guide took us further up the mountain to show us the views (what we could see through the weather) and told us stories about the area, cracking jokes the whole time (I love British humor). It was a ton of fun and I would love to go back and just hang out there for a few days.
Or live there.
When we returned to our penthouse, we dressed for dinner and returned to El Cortijillo for Paul’s birthday. It was a lot of fun, filled with good food, good wine, some flaming sambucas and great company. We met some of Beth and Paul’s friends who lived in the same apartment complex as them and received multiple invites to various peoples’ homes should we ever visit England. We were peppered with questions about our accents (or, in my case, my lack of accent), our views on our new President, differences in language, and we compared “misconceptions” we all run into meeting people not from our country.
Needless to say, we returned to the resort a little on the tipsy side but looking forward to our beach day the next day. It was to be our last day and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than on the Mediterranean beach.
Granada is located about 2 hours or so north-ish of Málaga. In order to facilitate a full day’s trip, the bus picked us up at 6.20am. Yes, that says “am” and it was very, very “am.” The bus was comfortable and fairly quiet so, between napping, we watched the Spanish countryside roll by as the sun came up. We saw olive tree farms, which were really pretty.
Olive trees aren’t very large or bushy. Our tour guide, Paco, who spoke five languages fluently, explained to us that the olive picking goes in stages. First the green olives are hand-picked and washed and packaged for eating. The remaining olives on the trees are left to turn black. Once they turn black, nets are spread on the ground around each tree and the trees are shaken gently, causing all the olives to fall onto the nets. These are the olives pressed into olive oil. Paco was also very proud of the fact that the olive oil from that region was just that – olive oil. No other additives or preservatives.
Yes, we brought some back.
We arrived in Granada about 10am and were taken to what is known as “Old Granada” which is where the older buildings, their major Catedral and the small shops are located. There, Paco gave us a brief history lesson and then left us to our own devices for about an hour, afterwards we’d have lunch and head to Alhambra.
We decided to tour the Catedral and peek at the shops. If you ever do this, be sure to skirt the crazy women with herbs. They will grab you, hand you an herb and start prattling on about something Spanish and then want payment. I handed the herb back and walked off. It was weird at best.
The Catedral in Granada is gorgeous as well. Not nearly as immense as the one in Málaga but still full of beautiful artwork, statues, and stained glass. There are orange trees everywhere and there were two musicians outside playing flamenco music on guitars. They were incredibly talented and gave the whole place so much atmosphere. It was a small corner of history tucked in amongst modern buildings, cars and modern clothing.
We got back on the bus to head up to Alhambra, which wasn’t too far outside the city. We were greeted with gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, many of which were still capped in snow.
Upon reaching Alhambra, those of us who paid for lunch were taken to a restaurant for lunch. Now, in the US, if you pay for a lunch on a day trip, what do you get? A ham sandwich, a Coke, some chips and maybe an apple.
We had a full three course meal with wine in a private dining room.
After we were pleasantly stuffed and a little buzzed, we were taken to Alhambra and split up into groups according to language for the official tour.
Alhambra is breathtaking. And huge. And so full of goosebump-inducing history.
Alhambra was built by the moors when they occupied Spain and is where the Sultan lived with his wives and court. It is in this location that Christopher Columbus was given permission to find a sea route to India. (yes, goosebumps) The architecture is so incredibly detailed, with arabic carved into the tiles, the ceilings an homage to their religion and perfect symmetry in nearly every room.
We also saw the room Washington Irving stayed in when he visited in 1829, where he wrote the book Tales of Alhambra. Of course I bought a copy.
There are gardens everywhere and fountains. Loads of fountains as water plays a very important part in their religion.
The whole tour took about three hours to complete. We didn’t go see the summer home because, after 3 hours of walking, standing, and climbing stairs, the phrase “40 more minutes and most of it is stairs” was not at all appealing.
We returned to the bus and began the long drive back to Malaga, arriving around dinner time. Not really wanting to find a restaurant, we went to Club Marbella (our breakfast spot) for dinner and were pleasantly surprised with a live show of belly dancers with our food.
It was a long, tiring but impressive day and we were especially excited for our trip to Gibraltar the next day.