Interested in taking a vacation to Spain? It is a beautiful country filled with wonderful food, magnificent vistas, and amazing beaches. This is a recap of our fabulous trip to the Spanish area of Costa del Sol.
Three Weeks in Costa del Sol, Spain
Hubby and I have been traveling a lot since last September. I had a pent-up urge to get out and see the world (we were taking care of our ill doggie, Max, for five years). We spent six weeks in Italy during September and October, Australia and New Zealand in January and February, came home for a few days, and then jetted off to Spain in late February, expecting to stay the entire month of March.
The best-laid plans…
When Hubby and I decided to take a vacation this winter, we decided not to go to Florida yet again. We made the decision on traveling to Australia and New Zealand, and then we needed to come up with a place for the following six weeks. We thought, “Why not Europe?” We then took to researching where in Europe is mild/warm in the winter. Short answer? Almost nowhere. However, the Costa del Sol area of Spain is generally in the 60s, sometimes 50s (it was 60-80s while we were there). We figured we could live with that as the area where we owned our St Augustine condo (unincorporated St. John’s County on the Atlantic Ocean) was basically those temperatures in February.
Hubby decided on Fuengirola because it was pretty flat (the coastal side of the Sierra Nevada), and it is a huge British tourist destination. They fly down for the weekend throughout the year. We also met quite a few Brits that had retired to the area. That meant English-speakers would be well represented. I speak no Spanish, Hubby speaks kitchen-Spanish, and Sonny-boy would only be joining us for a week (his speaking is rusty, his understanding is quite good).
We arrived at Madrid airport which is huge. We cleared customs and then needed to take a suburban train to the main Madrid train station. We then hopped on a high-speed train that took us to Málaga. From Málaga, we took a local (that stopped at every stinkin’ station and took about an hour) to get to Fuengirola.
The apartment Hubby rented was right across the street from the Boardwalk and Mediterranean Sea. When you walked out the apartment door and turned left, you encountered the main tourist hotels. If you walked out of the apartment and went right, it was residential areas. We stayed in what we considered to be the sweet spot on a busy waterfront.
Fuengirola itself is extremely walkable. There are shops and restaurants everywhere. Outside of our apartment building there were five at the bottom restaurants floor, plus a convenience store.
The first week we simply sat around and recovered from our heavy travel schedule. We did take the time to go up the mountains to the town of Picos de Mijas.
We also went to the Bioparc, spent some time on the boardwalk and exploring the town. It was a very easy town to learn.
When Sonny-boy and his fiancée arrived, and we gave them a day to recover before we started on tours. They had been beach bums in the Dominican Republic before joining us, so were not very interested in the pebble beach on the Mediterranean. Their big ask was to go to Morocco.
As I mentioned in my newsletter, we looked and looked for a 3-day excursion to Morocco, with no luck. We decided on the 12 hour one-day tour so we could at least get a taste.
We went to Tangier, a very cosmopolitan city. We had a rough ferry crossing (a lot of people were very sick, the way back was smooth as glass), but the tour guide was fabulous, and the city was simply magnificent. Sonny-boy and his fiancée road camels (Hubby and I passed), we went to the rock caves, I bought a Persian carpet from the co-op (YAY! Hubby knew it was going to happen as soon as I heard the prices), and we spent sometime in the old part of the city wandering the twists and turns.
I wanted to go to the Rock of Gibraltar to see the monkeys. The macaques were, by far, the main draw to the island.
Old St. Michael’s Cave was actually quite beautiful. Sonny-boy took these photos for me to share!
There were a LOT of monkeys there. Far more than I expected. It is exstimated that their population is over 200, and it is the only wild monkey population in Europe (the Rock of Gilbaltar is UK).
The monkeys were hanging around outside when we went in to see the caves.
One of the monkeys decided he liked the solitary life a few miles of switchbacks below his mates.
The overlook views from where the caves are located were breathtaking, with spectacular views of the African coast.
The negative was our tour was awful (I hope you do better). I am not exaggerating; we got lumped in with French tourists so two languages made people unhappy, there were jump seats in the middle of bus that five people had to sit on. Those people could see nothing and it made for extremely cramped quarters (25 people in all), and all of us had to enter and exit the bus like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We paid to be uncomfortable for three hours. Oh goodie. Well, you can’t win them all!
The third day of tours, Hubby had us booked for a tour to Alhambra. Sonny-boy, his fiancée, and I were all like “if we must.”
It was simply amazing!! I have never been to anywhere like it. I sincerely doubt there is anywhere else like it in the world.
Alhambra was a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Originally build by the Moors on top of Roman ruins; it was an advanced society and Muslim stronghold in Spain for centuries.
In 1492 (Spain was busy that year), Ferdinand and Isabella told the Muslims to convert or get out (they did the same with the Jews). Then, they altered the existing palaces to be more Christian.
On Sonny-boy and his fiancée’s last day, we took a walk down to the Castle of Sohail in Fuengirola. It is a free admission, and up a VERY steep hill with amazing views.
After Sonny-boy and his fiancée left, Hubby and I spent some time wandering the town trying to decide when we were going to go to Ronda, planning an overnight trip to Seville, and generally making decisions about our remaining time in Spain.
When President Trump issued the order that only American and UK citizens would be allowed into the US from Europe, Hubby and I took a hard look at one another and decided to book a flight home on Sunday the 15th, and cut our trip short.
When the rumblings came in on Friday that the Spanish government was going to lockdown the country on Saturday the 14th, I had Hubby cancel our flights on the 15th, and book us tickets home as soon as possible. We called a car for early morning, and we were off Saturday morning (3/14) before the sun came up, getting a flight home through Lisbon. We flew Air Portugal from Málaga to Lisbon (which reminded me of Jet Blue), and Lisbon to Newark (which was the same metal as the Iberia airline we flew over).
It was kind of surreal to see the flight attendents with masks on. Hubby has made it a practice of carrying Lysol wipes onto the planes for a while now, and we have been wiping down our “touch areas” of our seating area upon boarding.
Arriving at Newark, we sat on the tarmac for over an hour since they were “clearing planes.” When we pulled up to the gate, all the passengers queued up to deplane when, before we could exit, someone from the CDC comes onto the plane with forms. (In all the traveling we have done since the Wuhan flu was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, only one place has had forms before this … Morocco.)
We are all told to fill out the form, and have a seat (on the plane) until our plane was called. The prior plane waited 90 minutes to be called, not counting tarmac time. We were fortunate in that under 45 minutes later, we were called.
Someone SCREAMED at us to get in a single file (honestly though, with the complete cluster***** this was, that was the only rude person we encountered… all the rest of the officers, CDC staff, and customs agents were super nice in a trying situation), and then people did the forehead temperature thermometer to every passenger, and recorded it on those sheets we filled out.
After that, the CDC forms were collected, and it was on to passport control… where global entry was not working.
As we were waiting in line, one of the line mushers struck up a conversation with us that “in seven years I have never seen anything like this.” He mentioned he would go to lunch, and the procedure would change afterwards. The next day, different procedures once again.
After our passports were checked, they were taken away for a secondary. We all guessed (no one told us) that it was because we had been in either France or Spain, and they were checking passports against people’s temperatures while we waited in another line. That line went quite quickly.
So, 3.5 hours after we landed, we were all let out into the wild! Just kidding. As I suspected, we needed to self-quarantine for two weeks.
My son and his fiancée flew home via Toronto Friday evening. This was their scheduled flight from Lisbon. He said they filled out a form and 45 minutes later they were done. He is working from home during his self-quarantine; his fiancée is a nurse so she is off the next two weeks.
Oh, there was a warning for the African West Nile Virus on one of the screens at customs, so the guy next to me asked if “that is the next panic virus we are all going to die from.” I gave him the stink eye and he went into hysterics. If you don’t laugh…
That was quite the ending to a truly lovely trip. We currently have a cruise planned to Antarctica for next winter. After that cruise I want to go to Chile for a month. However, Hubby was talking about going back to Spain instead, and I am fine with that idea. We didn’t get to do everything we had planned, the area was fantastic (‘easy living’ was how Hubby described it), and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Spain. I am all for going back, spending a month based out of Fuengirola, or two weeks out of Fuengirola and then renting a car to drive across the country to Portugal for a few weeks afterwards. Decisions, decisions.
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