This morning found us on yet another small prop plane, this time from Valencia, on the east coast of Spain, to the holiday island of Mallorca. We got back to Spain a week ago, thanks to a ferry from Tangier, Morocco, that dropped us in the tiny southern town of Algeciras. For most of our trip between the two continents we could see both Africa and Europe. We arrived later than we thought, the car rental place was closed, it was Saturday night and we had no hotel reservations — we knew we may run into timing snags (Moroccan/Spanish time) and didn’t want to lock ourselves into plans. So we hopped the bus 2 hours to Malaga. Arrived after midnight, found a great Barcelo hotel and we must have looked rough because the dear man who checked us in upgraded us to a junior suite — I’m certain he felt bad for us. We got into the room and of course couldn’t sleep, because Spain (for some reason we just cannot sleep in this country before 3am), so we got a couple of glasses of wine and played on the massive metal slide that connects the 1st and ground floor. Hung out in Malaga for two days. Went to a futbol game (that’s soccer to you non-believers) between Malaga and Deportivo. Final score was 1-1. Ties are common here. Also common: no beer (no alcohol sold in any stadium in Spain), no food except for chips and the occasional hot dog (that took 15 minutes to make, I love it all so much) and no one getting up for bathroom breaks. Also no merchandise, no high-priced peanuts or cotton candy in the stands. It is JUST. ABOUT. THE GAME. Tickets are affordable, people bring food from home and fans come early and stay til the very end. It was great. We rented a car the next day and set out to drive along the south coast of Spain. We started with 9 holes of golf in Marbella. I really wanted to put my lesson to use — and the game was SO FRUSTRATING, I HATED IT. AND NOW I CAN’T WAIT TO PLAY AGAIN. Afterwards we had beer and Thai food, ahhh, then got the hell out of Dodge and away from busy Costa del Sol. We wanted slow and quiet and calm, so we drove east to a little town named Frigiliana. Again, arrived late, around 10:30pm, without hotel reservations, and were lucky enough to find someone to check us in to the Hotel Villa Frigiliana, a place I’d read about online (London Telegraph website my new hotel-finding best friend). The place was so cute — a pueblo blanco set up in the mountains, above the Mediterranean, with little cobblestone streets (Anthony got his first taste of driving in these super narrow alleys). We passed a bar with two horses tied up outside. Two locals actually rode their horses to the bar. We saw one of them riding away a few hours later — we had opened a bottle of wine on our balcony (can’t sleep, because still Spain) and were watching the town wind down. The hotel was a little on the random side but it was fine in the end. Wandered around the streets the next day (I loved Frigiliana, one of my favorites I’ve seen yet) then headed further east to the region of Almeria, in the southeast corner of the country. The area is home to Cabo de Gata-Nijar National Park, a huge expanse of desert and beach. It was beautiful. We stayed in Dona Pakyta, a hotel in San Jose, another pueblo blanco, this one though set right on the water. It looked like Greece (I haven’t been yet but I’ve seen Mamma Mia). Our windows looked out onto the ocean, and when we decided to stay there a second night, they moved us to a room with a ginormous balcony overlooking the water. It was perfect. We watched the sunrise, had wine outside at night and went to the beaches during the day. Playa Monsul is the one I’d read about (thanks again Telegraph!) but all of the beaches were stunning. Also, the beaches are NUDE. Not topless — in Spain topless is not a big deal so no beaches are called topless, as they are just normal beaches — but the beaches we visited were ompletely-cay ude-nay. Tutto nudo. Free as a bird. Free Willie. One didn’t have to be nude to lay out, but should one get the urge, he or she could opt for that (the answer to your question is no). It wasn’t a big deal after the initial WTF except that it completely jacked all of my beach photos I’d planned to take, as I can’t be swinging a large lens around while the man next to me is hanging out in all of his glory. Thursday we headed north along the east coast to Costa Blanca to visit my aunt, Tita Gwen. Actually one of my mom’s best friends, she’s not my aunt by blood but might as well be — she’s known me my entire life and I couldn’t wait for her to meet Anthony. She lives in a small town called Jesus Pobre, between Javea and Denia, which are between Alicante and Valencia. We ate everything — paella, made in her outdoor kitchen in her special paella stove (why do I not have one of those), arroz a banda, which is rice with seafood bits, and fideua. FIDEUA. if you haven’t tried this you must must must — I’ve been to Spain many times and this was my first – and I’ve been missing out all of these years. We went to a flamenco show, set outside in a hotel garden next to the ocean. We had dinner next to the water in Javea, and now I am obsessed with this little town on the sea: cute little restaurants and shops on the ocean, chiringuitos (beach bars) everywhere and a great casco antiguo, or old town, nearby. It’s somewhere we may end up going back to and spending a while down the road… We also had lunch with Tita Gwen’s family for mother’s day (it’s the first Sunday in May here) and I thought I’d been doing well with my Spanish until then. I even caught myself praying in Spanish last week and having a full conversation with Dios en espanol. But here, at Tita Gwen’s lovely outside patio table, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying during lunch and I thought I’d lost my mind… then I realized they and everyone else in the town were speaking Valenciano, which sounds more like french and completely threw me for a loop. I have so much to learn. After three nights in Tita Gwen’s amazing house and in her lovely company (we felt like we were back at home, it was so so nice), we packed up our crap this morning and took our 1-hour flight to Mallorca, where we will be living for the next month. Living AND WORKING. My husband signed us up to WWOOF (organic farming, I had to look it up) on an olive estate on the island and starting tomorrow at 8am we are on. the. clock. Doing what I have no idea. This afternoon we arrived and got settled in. Anthony picked up a soccer game with two kids (of course he did) and I took a walk around the grounds, which are stunning — I feel like I’m Diane Lane under the spanish sun but without the great hair or weird husband. I saw goats and rabbits, then chickens (ew) and was attacked by bugs within minutes. I actually screamed out loud (to no one — this property is empty of people right now except for us and the head/only farmer) and ran away from the garden area, shaking out my legs and swatting non-existent spiders from my hair. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next few weeks. I will say, though, that I am CRAVING work. I cannot wait for direction and chores and a schedule. What is wrong with me?? So bring it on. Bugs and all. I’m just going to steer clear of the chicken coop. Also I am so looking forward to Anthony working on his Spanish. When we first got to South America a few months back, he would constantly walk into a place and say all of the Spanish words he knew at once, so someone would tell him hello and he would respond, HOLA! GRACIAS! every time he entered a room. I was waiting for him to make some sweeping motion with his arms like Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. He’s picked up a few more words since then and hopefully will know even more after these next few weeks on the farm. Pray for us. Gracias. You’re welcome.
Photos of all of the fun here.
Where we stayed in Malaga, Spain:
Hotel Barcelo (the hotel has a slide and a solid wine bar – nothing else matters)
Where we stayed in Frigiliana, Spain:
Hotel Villa Frigiliana
Where we stayed in Almeria, Spain:
Dona Pakyta, in San Jose (we loved this place, and had a beautiful deck overlooking the ocean)
Where we stayed in Alicante, Spain:
Tita Gwen’s house, in Jesus Pobre, near Javea. My tita, not yours.