So the Friday before my early morning flight, I was up late talking about possible housing arrangements in New Orleans for next year. I finally got a few hours asleep and then I was on the first metro headed to Barajas airport. Ashley and I met up right after getting off of the metro there and sped through Terminal 4 to get to the Iberia check in. At this point, we were an hour early for our flight, which is normally more than enough time at Barajas. Well, possible due to the transportation strike or just because Iberia doesn’t have enough staff, the check in line was forever long. By the time we got to the front, they had “closed” our flight and refused to check our bags. We then had to run and hurry through security with our large bags until we got to our gate, where we thought we would be the last to arrive. Not at all, since Iberia’s lack of appropriate staffing apparently stalled plenty of other people. We checked our bags at the gate, and waited at least 10 minutes for them to try to procure tags for them. When they couldn’t find tags, the pilot told us to just get on the plane so we could leave, and that our bags would be put into the hold and there was absolutely no way they could be lost.
So we’re on the plane and it isn’t very full at all. Since it’s still relatively noisy I end up reading about Andalusia and the Costa del Sol on my Nook for the entire flight. We get to Malaga a little over an hour later and head to collect our bags. Which are nowhere to be found. Great, just great. After waiting until the entire plane full of luggage has been put onto the conveyor belts we go to have a chat with the Iberia customer service reps. At this point, I am sick and tired of how ridiculous our travel experience has been thus far. Luckily, they are able to point us to where we can find our untagged bags and then we head in the direction of the shuttle bus we had previously booked. That part is painless enough; a super nice lady with a sign with my name on it points us in the right direction to get onto the shuttle. Which is actually a bus.
We board the shuttle bus and begin our journey towards the MacDonald Villacana Resort in Estepona where we will be staying. The drive is supposed to be about 50 minutes from Malaga but it takes a little over 2 hours since we have to make so many stops to drop other customers off. Finally, we arrive at the resort and we are literally begging God that they will have our room ready early so we can take a nap. They do not, we must wait another 2 and a half hours, but the restaurant is open so we head there for some food. I proceed to enjoy the best burger I have had since arriving in Europe. It was cooked medium, super juicy, and served with bacon and a friend egg. That made the day a little better. After lunch, Ashley and I explored the resort and had a look at the beach, which is only about a quarter of a mile from our room. Then, feeling hopeful, we go back to reception about half an hour early, but our room is still not ready. Ashley literally falls asleep on the couch while I read this great novel called The Last Duchess.
Finally, our room is ready & it has been drizzling rain all day so we ascertain it is definitely time for a nap. We lay down and nap for an embarrassingly long period, but wake up feeling much better. We decided to search out some food after a little while for dinner, and basically the only place open in the area is an Italian pasta/ pizza place across the street. We went there and I had the most amazing gambas pil pil pizza. Super delicious and we topped this off by getting dessert. I had banana coffee ice cream cake, and it was amazing. Then we went back to the resort and watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall before getting some more sleep.
On Sunday we are feeling much more refreshed. First off, we had some breakfast and then headed to the resort’s weekly meeting where they tell you all about the excursions and activities they have going on during the week. They also served some tinto de verano. After the meeting, we stayed at the pool bar for a free paella cooking lesson. We watched as the chef poured all of the different ingredients into a huge skillet and cooked enough paella for the 20 something people who were there to watch. Then we had paella with a side salad for lunch. After lunch, the sun was coming out and so Ashley and I hurried back to our room to throw on our swimsuits and head down to the beach. The sun stayed out for about 30 minutes before it was once again replaced by clouds. Another 30 minutes past and it started to rain. We went back to the room to rest and then decided to venture into Estepona by hopping on the local bus.
Once we arrived in Estepona, we wandered around the town. We first walked along the Promenade and saw the boats in the marina. Then, we walked through the historical center in order to see the old city walls, an old church, and the pretty squares in the center of town. As we were walking back towards the beach, we heard music being played and followed it to its source, an Easter procession! Our timing was perfect for checking out the procession, even though we hadn’t planned to see it at all. We got to see the bands, respected men from the church waving palm branches, and the “floats” carried by more than 20 young men. One “float” showed Jesus riding on a donkey, and the other was an image of the Virgin Mary.
By this time, we were getting really hungry, so we headed back to the beach to find a Chiringuito. Chiringuitos are small restaurant/ snack bars right on the beach. We found a really great one called Paco’s and decided to go there. We shared a liter of sangria and some seafood croquettes to start. I think that seafood croquettes are even better than ham and cheese croquettes! For my main course, I got white fish, and it was very fresh tasting…. Soo good! We had to have “sin cake” for dessert because the restaurant made it home made and it is a tradition in Spain during Santa Semana, holy week. The cake is super sweet, and covered in honey. I was sooo incredibly full after this amazing dinner. Ashley and I both enjoyed the food and the atmosphere – the place was right on the beach and at least for the first half of dinner, we could hear the bands from the processions echoing out towards the sea.
Before going back to the resort, we stopped at a supermarket nearby the bus station, relieved to find it open. We stocked up on some food for the week, and then waited forever for the bus to arrive to take us back to Villacana. We ended up waiting for like 40 minutes since the bus arrived 20 minutes later than it was supposed to. In the mean time, I made friend with a little dog name Rocky who had a super sketchy owner… I felt really bad for the whole thing and while I did this Ashley tried to look inconspicuous to avoid being shot 😉 I mean it was an interesting bus stop. We saw a lot of displays of affection by young couples (gag), a few homeless people, and a bunch of smoking bus drivers.
At last our bus arrived and we were back at the resort in like 15 minutes. When we got back, I read for a bit before falling asleep so I could get a solid 8 hours before my Monday adventure. Ashley had to wait for her friend Victoria to arrive from the airport, so she stayed at the resort and they had a nice day at the beach. I got up and got on a charter bus to go to the white village of Mijas, which is situated high up in the mountains with a breathtaking view of the Costa del Sol. It took over an hour to get there from Estepona, but it was worth the trip. On the bus, our tour coordinator Lisa handed out maps with all the major tourist attractions. We had only 3 hours to explore, so I moved fast. I saw most of the museums and churches on the Agenda, as well as the charming streets of the white washed town. Interestingly, the town has several shrines built into the mountains or free standing of saints, which were fun to take a look at.
The old fortress which the town was founded along is still mostly intact, and the area along the walls has been turned into a garden. I walked along the ancient walls, colored beautifully with the garden on one side and a panoramic view of the valley below leading out to the ocean on the other. I also go to visit a bullring built in 1900, which has housed several famous bullfighters and is renowned for its unique shape, which is more like an oval or a square rather than a circle like most bullrings are. After walking the streets and seeing burros everywhere, I eventually decided to succumb to the tourist pressure of taking a ride on Mijas’s famous burro taxis. Forget it that I was wearing a dress; I had 5 inch spandex shorts underneath, so I went for the old school burro taxi. I got up on a calm 8 year old donkey and paraded along the main road in town and then around the town square before hopping off the ornery yet adorable burro.
I still had plenty of time after my burro ride, so I snatched up some really pretty souvenirs, got my postcards and shot glass, and stopped at the supermarket to get a few things I hadn’t been able to the day before. Finally, I headed to the Wine Museum on St. Sebastian Street and did a wine tasting of wines of Malaga. The waiter was super nice and apparently bored since it wasn’t very busy yet. He gave me a full glass of each of 3 delicious wines from the Malaga region. First came a white, then a red, then a sweet white, all served with cheese aged 400 years and crackers. The whole thing was amazing, but the sweet white wine I had at the end was actually the best wine I have had in my short drinking life. The sweet flavor was fruity and light and the smell was tantalizing. I splurged and got a bottle to go. I got back to the bus just in time, and rode back down the mountain with all the cute old couples and families back to the resort.
While we were driving I was envisioning going to the beach upon our return because the sun was out and shining. Over the course of our drive though, it started raining. My visions of the beach vanished. Instead I headed to the indoor pool and sauna when I got back. After being there for a while, the rain started to stop so I went back and showered. Throwing on sweats and a hoodie I headed down to the beach. The temperature had dropped quite a bit with the rain, so it was a little chilly. I walked for about an hour along the beach, and then stopped to read for a while before heading back to the pool area to use the wifi. The most beautiful thing occurred while I was reading in the sand, a full rainbow came through the clouds; one end appeared to disappear into the ocean, and the other stretched towards the distant mountains. The rainbow receded quickly and only lasted about 5 minutes, but I really felt as though I was the only one who saw it since the rest of the beach was deserted.
When I got back to the room, I fixed myself a pina colada and went about cooking some pasta with tomato, pepper, and tuna sauce! It turned out pretty good, although a bit of a carbo load, veggies and protein was involved. Then I did some homework before going to bed early since I had to wake up at 6am the next morning.