Melva (a friend of ours from Oklahoma) met us in DC. We left Dulles at about 7:30 pm, though the flight was scheduled for 6:20 pm. We arrived in Madrid at 7:30 am (1:30 am US time). I hate sleeping on planes.
Got to Plaza Mayor via bus 385 pst each, vs. 3,000 they wanted for a taxi. From there, we took a cab for 500 pst. I wondered why the taxi had a lisp, but soon discovered that everyone there had the same pronunciation problem. It turns out that Spaniards pronounce the letter ‘z’ as ‘th,’ as opposed to the Spanish I’m used to from North America. We had lunch in the Plaza, hard salami sandwich. We took the opportunity with the layover in Madrid to visit the El Prado Museum, and saw works by El Greco and Goya. Then went to Museo Thysson, and saw works by Picasso and Dali. We got the name of a tapas bar from the desk at La Dolores. We had tuna (tasted like it came out of a can) with tomatoes, olives, anchovies, cheese, and squid.
We called Villacana (our resort) to ensure we would have a key when we arrived. It takes 200 pst to initiate a call. We slept for a couple of hours in the airport as the plane for Malaga was late, and left a 10:30 pm instead of 9:30. Once there, we rented a car and left Puerto Banus at 11:30 pm. Fortunately, Hertz upgraded our car, so we had plenty of room. Wouldn’t you know, we took a bypass by mistake, and had to double back to Estepona. We finally got to Villacana condo about 1:30 am after picking up the key from Felipe’s Bar.
Got up at 2 pm and watched the rain until about 4 pm. Drove to Marbella and had some excellent prawns for lunch. The girls (KK and Melva) ordered smoked salmon, but they thought it was raw (it wasn’t) and they followed it up with salads to get full. That meal was about 7,000 pst. We had to present our parking ticket to the desk, after getting out of the car, then we had to put another ticket into the gate to get out of the parking garage. What kind of sense does that make? We walked along the boardwalk at Marbella Beach, and were amazed that it was paved with hand laid tile. The beach is like sandy dirt, dark, lots of rocks, and small waves.
Went to Old Town Marbella, which had many shops and restaurants. It was very charming and European, and we followed that up with Baskin Robins ice cream, for a perfect afternoon.
There’s a very nice city park across from Old Town Plaza, with huge palm trees and two fountains. Then we had a beer at a nice Irish Pub right off the beach.
The roads here are very good, but the turns are strange. You can almost never make a left turn. You have to use a circle or stage for a left turn by pulling to a special lane off to the right. Still haven’t figured out the highway system, and we had to use a toll road to get back to the hotel.
Dinner at Felipe’s, two guzpachos (very good), and I had a great lobster soup. We also tried some fino (sherry), and I liked it. We met Allen, a nice guy from Manchester, and he invited us to join him Tuesday at the Karaoke Bar.
We got up around 9, and tried to eat at a McDonald’s, but at 10:05, they showed no sign of opening, so we drove to Estapona and ate at a very nice place called Cafeteria DD, and had a full breakfast for about $4.00 US. Coffee here is gross, and we decided to stick to tea from now on. We were surprised to met Felipe in the street while walking around. Shopping and restaurants parallel the main drag along the seashore by one block, Casa Real. Parking is very tight.
Drove to Gibralter. Parking is on the street, just this side of the border. You can take a cable to the top, but you still have to do a lot of walking, so we took a tour by minivan, 3,000 pst each, but well worth the money. There is a colony of monkeys at the top. One grabbed girl’s apple and wrapped both arms and legs around the girl’s arm until he got her apple. One also jumped on KK’s back when she wasn’t looking–that was quite a treat, though it almost gave her a heart attack. We viewed the siege tunnels. It’s an easy drove from our hotel.
That evening, we drove back into Marbella and Orange Tree Plaza. We ate at an Italian restaurant. Melva got lasagna, KK got a salad, and I got pizza (so so). We found a Flamenco place (Anna Mariah’s), but it was closed Sunday and Monday. Went to the market for supplies. KK seems to like apricot brandy quite well.
Day 5-Zahara, gorgeous city on a hill
We fixed breakfast in the room and headed for Ronda. It was a beautiful drive, with excellent roads, but very curvy, and we could only average about 50 mph. It took about an hour to get there. Parking is very difficult–it’s better to park at the bottom and walk up. The bridge across a gorge is awesome, and we ate at a restaurant just off the bridge, looking down into the grotto. Melva had spaghetti KK had stuffed red peppers, and I had some very good salmon.
In town, we saw the bull ring and a bull fighter’s museum. I bought a poster of a bull fight, and we walked through a park next door with a wonderful view over a cliff at the back. I also bought a beautiful art calendar of Spanish artist for Linda (my sister). We exchanged money at the hotel, which was a big mistake, at $1.45, since we got $1.52 at the airport.
We continued down the highway to Zahara, a fantastic city built on the side of a hill, with a Moorish castle on top. It was a breathtaking view coming in. And it was a thrilling, winding ride up the main street, to the lookout on top. We had an incredible view up top of the surrounding mountains. We walked down to a local bar with a view from the top of the city.
We found a hotel at the top for $50 US a day, which we decided would be an excellent place to stage for a trip to Juarez and Seville. Coming back, we passed restaurant El Coto just outside San Pedro that looked like it had a great view.
After showering and hitting the pool, we drove to Marbella, but Anna Maria’s was still closed. We ate at a restaurant (started with Puerto) next to La Pasquerr. kWe had Prime Rib for three, already cut up into pieces. It was very tough, but had a wonderful flavor. We also had an excellent bottle of Tierra Blanco, Andalujcia white, made in Cadiz, 12,000 pst.
We got back tot he condo around 12:30 am, and decided to goof off tomorrow. We discovered the best way to get into Old Town Marbella is to stay on the highway by always taking the fork closest to the ocean, in order to stay off the toll road.
Day 6-Phenomenal Flamenco
Visited Barratt property next door to see what the WIVC timeshare looks like. It is better than the rental we had. It has a TV private garden, coffee maker, radio, pull down sleeper for two, and a modern kitchen with microwave. They’re putting in air conditioning next year.
We hung out at the beach, observing the topless extravaganza.
We ate in Marbella at the Dalli Pasta Factory, and it was excellent. I had fettuccine alfredo with prawns. That night, we went to a fabulous flamenco show at Torrequebrado Casino, between Marbella and Torremelinos, just off the highway. It was 4,500 pst, including one drink. There was an international show at 10:30, and flamenco opera at 11:300. The music was absolutely awesome, but I could not find any info on the track or get a video. It was group flamenco, with only one solo, but it was awesome.
Drove to Malaga and saw “One Armed Lady” Cathedral, Alcazaba Fort, birthplace of Picasso (closed) and almost a flamenco show, but they don’t start up untial October. The only other place we found that offered flamenco started at 11:30, which was too late for us. Big disappointment. We got back very late, had wine on the north side.
I researched a drive to the airpot. It takes exactly one hour from the condo via toll road. There seems to be 1-2 exits for each large town, but finding a route to the toll road from town was an art I never mastered.
Day 8-Morocco and Tangier
Went to Tangier via Algeciras, arriving at the ferry around 11:30 AM. We had to wait an hour, then the ride took 1.5 hours. We thought we’d bought hydrofoil tickers for $64 US, but were badly mistaken.
We then took a tour with Achmed for 2,000 pst, who spoke very good English. He took us to a restaurant overlooking a plaza, then to an Anglican church that was done in Arab style, including Arabian style arches and with Koran writing on the walls, and then to a casbah. We met a nice couple from the UK, Luke and his wife.
After the long ferry ride back, we missed the flamenco show near the condo and crashed.
Day 9-Flea Market of course, because we’re Americans
We drove to a flea market outside the Pt. Banus bull ring, but it started raining soon after and we left. Went to downtown Marbella for some shopping then back to the condo to veg out and rest. We had lunch in a cafe next to the city park. I had calamari, which wasn’t very good. Melva had meso salad (good), and KK had swordfish, which was too thin and as a result, overcooked.
We had lunch and did some shopping in Marbella. There are a lot of shops and restaurants around the plaza.We relaxed back at the condo, hit the Jacuzzi, and cat napped. Diner was at the Robin Inn, just down the highway east. It’s an English pub, which is sometimes hard to remember, since we had a Spanish waiter. Melva and KK had fish and chips (passable) and I had fried prawns (horrible).
We found a flamenco show at Bona Dea, just this side of the casino at the Hotel Andalusia. It was 3,500 pst, and not nearly as good as at the Torraquabrada, but it was more intimate, with acoustic guitar accompaniment, and a live singer. The show was mainly performed by a group of four women dancers.
Got up at 5:30, and the trip to Malaga went fine, after a little blip finding the road to the ramp. The plane out of Madrid was 1.5 hours late, so we didn’t get into DC until 3:40, instead of 2:20. We got “selected” for a random bag search, and KK got busted for an apple.
On the way back, we saw two wrecks on 95, one we saw just after a guy passed us at a high rate of speed and tried to weave through a heavy grouping of cars. He must have clipped another car because all of a sudden, he was at a 90 degree angle to the passing traffic, which then caused another car to spin several times. No injuries, though. Lucky.
Summary of trip
- The flight is a major pain, 8 hours on a plane gets old real quick.
- The change in time really tires you out on both travel days.
- You need to allow two extra days for just travelling.
- The scenery was phenomenal–the mountains, foliage, old buildings, white towns, and gorges.
- The food is so-so.
- The prices are great. The condo was $750 for 8 days (2 beds, 2 baths).
- The flamenco dancing is unmatched.
- Airline price was moderate ($530).
- The people are friendly, but not as much as in Mexico.
- The beaches are not as good, nor the water as blue as Mexico.