Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bike ride along the Costa del Sol: Malaga - Part 2

We had perfect weather on our last day in Malaga- Sunny, clear skies and 80 degrees. Malaga has a beachfront path that is around 12 miles, so Brett and I rented bikes and spent the day trolling up the beach, stopping every so often to refresh with a cold beer and a few tapas.
 We stopped to relax on a secluded beach towards the end of the path, and sat underneath a palm tree to get out of the sun for a bit. My Irish skin does not lend nicely to direct sun for prolonged periods of time.
For lunch, we stopped at this great spot just towards the end of the path, El Tintero. This restaurant is in many tourist books, but there are still a lot of locals here, as it is a bit of a hike from the Malaga port where all the tourists stay. We ate everything from grilled octopus, to paella, fried fish of some type. The restaurant is kind of like Chinese dim sum, in that waiters circle the restaurant carrying various dishes, and you get can choose from anything they are coming around with.  Unfortunately no pictures of this place, but I thought I would mention it anyway.  
Then on the way back down the coast, we stopped to eat some of the traditional grilled sardines.
Sorry for the awkwardness of this picture, we had quite a few people staring at us, trying to eat these guys.
And since this is my last post on Malaga, here are some of my favourite pictures we took while in Malaga:
And no trip to Spain would be complete without churros...
xoxo- Mary

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rainy day activities: Malaga, Spain

After spending three days in Seville, we took a short train ride to Malaga, which is on the Southern tip of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Although Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world, (evidence dating back to the eighth century BC) it only recently has become tourist destination. The implementation of the high speed train connecting Madrid to Malaga in the 1960's put Malaga and the rest of the Costa del Sol on the map.

Being that we were on the "Coast of the Sun", Brett and I were expecting to soak up the rays and enjoy the rare opportunity to do nothing!

But ironically enough, it was rainy and cold the first two days we were on the "Coast of the Sun". And it wasn't just sprinkling. We get that type of rain every day in London. It was pouring! Which made it difficult to just toughen it out.

So what did we do when it rained on vacation?

Wine Tour
I honestly can't think of a better way to spend a rainy day on vacation, than drinking and eating Spanish tapas all day on beautiful vineyards! 

We hired a semi private tour guide/ car hire to drive us the 60 minutes from Malaga up the winding mountain to the Rhonda region. Only one other couple joined us on our tour, so the tour was still very intimate.
We went to three vineyards:

Bodegas Garcia Hidalgo:

Our favourite of the three vineyards, this winery is 100% owned and operated by as a family business. We were greeted for a private tour by the owner and winemaker himself (apologies, but I forget his name). The winery produces a very small amount of wine each year, and it is evident as all of their barrels and current stock fit in a storage room no bigger than a household basement. The owner does everything from trim the vines, to making the wine, bottling and labelling. The only time of year he requires assistance is during harvest.

While the four of us and the owner split three bottles of different varieties, the owner's wife, Isabel, continuously brought out homemade tapas: Iberico Chorizo and Manchego, tortilla (potato omelette), Mini Chorizo sliders (probably called something more romantic in Spanish). Guys, this was the best food I have even eaten in my life! Well that might be a stretch, but the atmosphere, the people and the wine all made the food taste even better.

We bought three bottles of wine to take with us back to London- all under 10 euro, which is remarkably cheap if you compare that to a bottle from a vineyard in Napa.

We bought two bottles of the Zabel, a full bodied red wine similar to that of a Zinfandel or a Cabernet. In his broken English he explain that he named the bottle after his wife, Isabel (pictured above), as a romantic gesture for his love for her (queue the awes and tears). Break my heart!

Here are the other two vineyards that we went to that we also very nice, small and quaint. However on a 10 hour boozing wine tour, the last vineyard is never going to be your favourite. By the last vineyard I was probably 2 bottles in for the day, so my memory isn't very good and the wine was going down like water.

Arab Bath House/ Massage 
On the second day it rained in Malaga, we tried to toughen it out and make it around the touristy spots, however, our 3 euro ponchos, mixed with torrential downpour and cold weather made the efforts not worth it.

So we cut our losses and decided to spend the day "at the spa", which we quickly learned was not like any spa we had been to in the States.

A Bath House, whether it be Roman, Arab ect., is similar to a sauna or steam room at the gym, where the room or rooms are super humid, and you just bake for an hour at a time. Contrary to what I thought... there is no pool or Jacuzzi, to which I was severely let down to find out.

So we signed up for an hour in the bath house and then an hour couples massage. What was quite different than our spa experiences in the States was that, although there are plenty of signs that tell you to keep your towel on, this practice is not always applied. Considering that the baths were coed, Brett and I got quite the "show", as we were the only ones who kept their towels on.  There are a few images I will never be able to erase from my brain (shivers). 

But overall it was a really fun way to spend a rainy day in Malaga, and I am glad we have that experience to add to our European travels list. 


Although we would have preferred an all sunny time in Malaga, our rainy day activities actually were some of my favorite/ most interesting parts of our vakay.

Also the world cup starts today, and England is super pumped about it. And Wimbledon is coming up as well! Exciting stuff on the horizons for London Summer!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Semana Santa- Seville, Spain

Semana Santa is the religious celebration leading up to Easter. The celebrations are carried out over the month leading up to Easter and they occur all throughout Spain. Holy week in Seville, however, is the largest, most well know of the celebrations.

(Tip- watch the processions from the Dona Maria Hotel rooftop bar. Access to the bar is free, and it apparently wasn't very well know, as we got a seat right up against the edge.)

The core events are the processions of the brotherhoods, through the streets of Seville, from their home church or chapel to the Cathedral and back.

A procession can be made up from a few hundred to near 3,000 Nazarenos and last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours, depending how far the home church is from the Cathedral. The largest processions can take over an hour and a half to cross one particular spot.

Each procession includes two ornate floats which are the main attractions. The first one being of Jesus in a scene from the Passion, and the second float is typically of Mary. Each float can weight over a metric ton, and are physically carried by 12-15 strong men. This is why the processions take so long, because even if their church is only ¼ mile from the cathedral, the men have to take frequent breaks due to the weight of each float.

Why don’t they just put the floats on wheels?I asked the same question! Carrying the float symbolises the pain and suffering Jesus incurred while carrying his cross. Carrying the float is considered a small sacrifice to what Jesus endured.

Strictly speaking this is a religious festival, but for most of the week it is a major party- however not a party like freshman year of college, more like a family reunion. Entire families of Sevillanos, including grandparents and small children, will hang out at the bars all day long and into the early mornings, 3:00 or 4:00am. Brett and I were walking back to our hotel one night at 12:30 and walked by many older women 80+ years still hanging out at the bars.

What is with their crazy outfits?!

As most of my followers are American, I am sure that these pictures are quite shocking to see, as it reminds us of a very negative part of our history. Seeing a white hood and a white cloak spawns similar feelings as the swastika.

However this tradition of the hood and cloak has existed in Spain for hundreds of years. So we know that it carries a completely different meaning in Spain than it does in America.

The cone shaped hood is supposed to symbolise a rising toward the heavens and therefore bring their presence closer to the heavens. Additionally, their covered faces symbolise a united mankind.

Seville was amazing and I highly recommend going during Semana Santa as you really got to see Spanish culture at its finest. For the most part, the spectators were all Spanish, which proves that this is a very proud festival for Spaniards.

Have you ever visited Seville? What was your favorite part?
Thanks for reading guys! 
Cheers- Mary