Monday, April 18, 2011

Costa del Sol

Ashok and I made a pact when we got married that we would always be together for our wedding anniversary irrespective of work or any other commitments, given that we had a long distance relationship. This year it was on a wednesday, and it made no sense to take the day off and get back to work the next day, so we came up with the brilliant plan of taking the whole week off :D !

After having fallen in love with Spain and more specifically, Andalucia...

....we decided that we would visit the Costa del Sol before we cross Spain off our list. Costa del Sol has everything for everyone - beaches, mountains, historical places and a rarity - great weather throughout the year and good food.

We had chosen a resort by the beach in Mijas Costa and the nearest town was Fuengirola, separated from our resort by a row of charming villages.

Although the town shows unmistakable signs of growing urbanisation, the narrow streets, the Castillo de Sohail (a Roman fortress converted to an Arab fortress), the open parks and all a stone's throw away from the sea make it worth visiting. Another town close by is Marbella, also known for its Plaza de Torros.

We are not the spend-the-whole-day-lying-around-in-the-sun kind of people given that we have done it willingly and unwillingly for more than 20 years in India before coming to Europe. Fortunately for us, Mijas Costa is suitably located close to the highways leading to many major tourist attractions.

Seville
This is the capital of Andalucia and according to us, one of three important historical cities in Andalucia, the other two being Granada and Cordoba. To describe Seville in a few words, I need to quote a friend of mine who said 'The city has character'!

Seville is also renowned for its bull fights (even though the birth place is Ronda). The Plaze de Toros is one of the oldest bullrings and is definitely worth seeing. Although I am curious to learn what the bull fighting is all about and see it happen, I am never sure I can sit through it, so I was not all that disappointed to learn that the bull fights happen only in certain months (most commonly between April and June) and there wasn't one scheduled when we were there.

The Alcazar in Seville is like the twin sister of the Alhambra in Granada and serves to be one of the best examples of Mudejar architechture. The construction began in12th century and it has been through many invasions and renovations. Patio de las Muñecas (Court of the Dolls - shown in the photo below), Patio del Yesso (Court of Stucco) and the Patio de las Doncellas (Courtyard of the maidens) are simply breath-taking and you keep walking around, craning your neck with eyes devouring all you can while listening to the audio guide and never once thinking about the time !

The Seville Cathedral is massive and is beautiful in its own way. What I loved was a tilted mirror placed in a vantage position on the floor through which you see the cathedral upside down and focus on the ceilings.

Nerja
Nerja is known for its caves and the balcony of Europe. We didn't even know this place existed until we saw a travel brochure. When we got there, we were in for a real treat !

The caves stretch for almost 5km even though only a small part is open for tourists. I can solemnly say that I have never seen such huge and magnificent stalactites and stalagmites in my entire life. Can you spot the guy behind the metal railing in the left of the picture shown above ?That should give you a perspective of how huge this formation is !!

Inside the caves, these formations form a natural amphitheatre where concerts and shows are regularly held. The best thing to do would be to catch a flamenco show and watch the colors flow and the feet tap with the imposing background !

The balcony of Europe (one view is shown in the pic below) is a short drive from the caves and completely lives up to its name !

Be prepared to be speechless for a while when the view first comes into view ! There is a beautiful promenade that leads to the sea and when I stood there and watched the sunset, I had this feeling of serenity and a strange calm wash over me and I was completely absorbed in it and silent (if you know me, you would understand why it is a big deal :D) for a few moments (oh..well, how long did you think that would last !?)

Malaga
The best way to explore Malage is by a horse-driven carriage :D ! There is something incredibly romantic about the clop-clop sound (am wondering if it comes from girls liking knights and traditionally there are no knights without horses !) especially when you are leaning on your loved one's shoulder and riding through a picturesque street.

Malaga is a huge city and after having visited Moorish villages and towns, this urban place does not hold one's interest for long which is why a 1.5 hr quick guided tour (and doing it in style never hurts, does it :D?) helps you get a good glimpse of all the important places and choose what to want to visit.

Benalmadena

Benalmadena is a town known for its boating trips - tourists are taken fishing and are given fresh sea food (obviously not interesting for herbivores like us) and the beautiful promenade along the sea. One can spend hours walking here and having occasional breaks either by shopping or sipping Italian espresso.

The aquarium in Benalmadena could be interesting if you can appreciate a wickedly large star fish, spider (or is it a tarantula ?) and a glass walkway with sharks (which you tell yourself are harmless and you try not to think about Jaws) swimming above your head !

Algeciras
Algeciras is a historic Mediterranean port. It is also a city of Churches, Monastries and above all, a beautiful square in the centre of the town that comes alive with festivities. All around the square are small cafes and restaurants where the locals enjoy tapas.

We could have made another day trip to Gibraltar if not for a teeny tiny thing called a 'visa' and an immigration officer who is unlikely to forget me for quite some time !

Interesting.....
- I saw so many oranges in one day than I have seen in my entire life !


- I did not have to get up early to watch the beautiful sun rise (this was at 8:30 am :D)

- Famous metadors apparently get paid like football stars !

- There were nearly 200 Indian restaurants in Costa del Sol although we never saw any desi tourists (not that I am complaining since Spanish cuisine is not really vegetarian friendly)
How/Why ? God bless the English tourists who love Indian food and who flock there regularly !

- Groceries were ridiculously overpriced everywhere (everything was almost twice as expensive as Munich and Munich is one of the most expensive places in W.Europe!)
How/Why? Recession and economic instability leading to inflation ?!

On another note, the trip to Costa del Sol did not let us cross Spain off our list, in fact we are going back again...rolling eyes.....
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