We learned that because of the rough terrain between Granada and the coast, there was no train to Malaga, so we booked tickets on the inter-city bus. We have done a great deal of bus travel in South America and since we were in Western Europe, we didn’t anticipate any problems with bus transportation here. We were in for a mild surprise.
We arrived at the bus station and found it modern and clean. However, when it was time to board the bus, the passengers had to load their own luggage in the luggage compartment and there was a bit of a crush to fit the bags in. We held back because we knew the bus wouldn’t leave until all were aboard but what we didn’t anticipate is that there was little room once it came to put our suitcases in. I made a quick survey of the situation and realized that I would have to reorganize some of the larger suitcases so that there would be more room. I pulled one case out and the man who had put it in, came running back quite angry at me. When I showed him what I was trying to, he calmed down and helped me to put his case flat so that ours could sit on top.
When we climbed aboard the bus, we realized that our seats were at the back of the bus. This was the downside of buying our tickets at the last minute, we were happy that we were able to get on the bus at all, there are only a couple to Malaga per day.
We had three seats, two in the second last row and one at the very back. However, the couple in front of our two seats had titled their seats right back and were already asleep. There was almost no room to squeeze into our seats, what to do?
To make matters even worse, there was no window to the right of our seats because it just happened that the space between two large windows lined up with the edge of our row. I took one look and knew we were in trouble because Anil and I both suffer from claustrophobia. The saving grace was that there was an empty seat in the back row next to the third seat assigned to us. Donna graciously offered to squeeze into the tight row and we took the two seats in the back. Donna sat sideways, with her feet into the aisle, so she wasn’t too cramped and our seats were higher than the others so we had a clear view over everyone’s head and therefore didn’t feel too tightly enclosed.
It was a only an hour and a half to the coast, and the scenery was very pretty though we travelled along a major highway and not through any interesting smaller towns. The weather changed as we came closer to the Mediterranean and as luck would have it, the rain started while we were in a taxi driving to the central part of the city where we wanted to look for a hotel. We had mentioned the name of one to the driver and he seemed quite excited. It turned out that he thought that we would be staying at the same hotel the F. C. Barcelona football club was staying at. The team had just arrived in town for a game against Malaga, and the city was abuzz with sports fever.
We left the taxi right behind the Barcelona team bus and I had time to snap a photo of the fans lined up hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. The rain was quite heavy so we hurried off into a pedestrian walkway to look for the hotel we hoped would have a room for us. Unfortunately, the guidebook recommended hotel was fully booked (because of the big upcoming football match), but they were able to phone another hotel and found a triple room for us. We had managed to stay pretty dry to this point, but we had a few blocks to walk to the other side of the main Malaga boulevard, so we did get more than a little wet along the way.
No major worry though, we were nearing the end of our three weeks with Donna, and except for the morning we left Toledo, we hadn’t seen any bad weather, on the contrary, it had been warm and sunny throughout our visit, with bright blue skies and refreshing breezes. We settled our bags in our lovely room and headed back out into the rain to have lunch. The rain continued quite heavily while we looked for a place to eat, and we were surprised that most of the outdoor cafes remained open, with people inching their tables closer under the dripping umbrellas.
We found a café that had a relatively dry table and sat down to enjoy a great meal of a broad selection of tapas. I snapped a photo of three children forced inside by the rain, amusing themselves by watching the people scurrying around the plaza trying to keep dry. The food was delicious and the beer quenched our thirst. While we dawdled over lunch, the rain lightened up and then stopped altogether.
After lunch we explored the main shopping district around the pedestrian mall and then wandered over to the tourist office so that Donna could check out the brochures and the events calendars. We had come to appreciate Donna’s enthusiasm for gleaning information from the tourist office and even decided that she was now the ‘social convener’ of our threesome. Everyone had an important role. I am the navigator, Donna the events co-coordinator and Anil’s role is chief financial officer.
We had a great system when we travel with other people. It was my brother David’s idea. We have what is called the ‘family purse’. One person is responsible for maintaining its integrity, in this case it’s Anil. We start by putting in a fixed amount per person. Then all expenses are paid out of the family purse. When it is empty, it’s time to ‘feed the purse’. We don’t worry about what people eat or how much they drink, all bills are paid from the purse. It’s great when there are bus tickets to buy, entrance fees to pay or beverages and snacks to purchase. Only one person pulls out any money and the others are free to enjoy the day without worrying about who was the last person to pay for what.
I mentioned that David was the person who introduced us to this great idea. However, when we travelled with him for six weeks in China, every now and then he would add extra money to the purse. When we called him on this, he insisted that it wasn’t fair because we didn’t even come close to keeping up with him on the beer consumption. He’s a Lalonde, what more can I say?
We were very pleased to learn that the tourist office was providing iPod nanos with audio guides for walking tours around the city. This is not something we had seen before, and couldn’t believe that they were free of charge. We had to provide passport information for one of us, along with a credit card imprint, and then each of us was given a nano and a set of new headphones. We were only staying one more day, but we could have kept them longer, if our visit to Malaga stretched over a few days.
It had been a busy day and the weather was still a little damp, so we had an early dinner and headed back to the hotel for an early night. I was able to spend some time on the computer uploading photos from the previous places we had visited, but I didn’t have any time to get to the written stories about our adventures. That would have to wait until after Donna left us and we were on our own for a few days. I didn’t feel it was fair to withdraw for hours to write about our travels together.
The next morning, the streets were dry but it was still a little overcast. We decided to make use of the audio guides but unfortunately, found them a little hard to use. There were several different routes to walk depending on whether you were interested in the architecture, statues, culture, gardens or history of the city. The routes crisscrossed back and forth over each other and the pamphlets we had to accompany the nanos needed to be opened and refolded over and over again. It all became more complicated that it was worth. In the end, we just put them away and followed the maps without really listening to the audio commentary. Too bad, it was a great idea.
When we had seen enough of the historic center, we headed over to the BEACH! We didn’t hold out too much hope for an awesome experience because of the time of year and the weather, but Donna can now say she had dipped more than her big toe into the Sea. She had mentioned packing her bathing suit in her bag that morning and I thought “Yeah, right!”, but didn’t say anything. The look on her face when she felt how cold the water was says it all. When she came out she said to me, “And I thought it would be warm enough to swim in?”
We posed for some photos on a permanent ‘sand’ sculpture with the name of the city district on it and then decided to head back to town as there wasn’t anything inviting about the beach. We were almost the only people there that afternoon. As we walked inland, I spied a long series of steps reaching up to the fortress that overlooks the port and suggested we climb up for a good view. Anil and Donna didn’t hesitate for a minute. What troopers! They are always up for long walks and even longer climbs.
Part way up the hillside, we came upon a tiny little ‘hole in the hill’ café that had a sign indicating that customers could sample an array of sherries for about a dollar each. I needed to use the toilet (so did the others it turned out) and I also thought a small glass of sherry would perk me up and give me the energy to climb the rest of the hill. It was a cool, overcast day after all, what harm would a sherry do?
The café was the sweetest little place, with a small courtyard in the back and a trickling fountain. The fountain wasn’t the greatest thing to listen too while we took our turns using the ‘loo’. At last, we were ready to sample the fruits of the cask. We each selected a different sherry and ended up tasting each other’s choice. They were all delicious. Donna didn’t like the one that was the driest, but I like sherries of all kinds. The waiter presented us with a small dish of olives to eat as a tapas. What’s not to love about Andalusia?
Revived and refreshed, we continued up the hill. We were warmed by the sherry and wouldn’t you know it, the sun decided to finally break through the clouds and heat us up even further. Suddenly, we were taking off our sweaters and jackets and wiping our brows. The view just kept getting better and better. Initially we could just see the port of Malaga, but as we got higher, we began to see down the coast as well.
The sherry just seemed to wet our appetites, and the climbing did too, so we stopped for a great lunch at a restaurant at the top, in the fortress. The sun was warm, the sky was now blue and there was even a light breeze stirring the trees around us. Heaven. When you’re in heaven, and in Spain, there must be sangria. There was!
We made it an early night. It was time to pack our suitcases and think about heading back to Madrid in order for Donna to do a little shopping for gifts for her family and make her flight back to Canada. When we arrived at the station, we were pleased to see a high-tech, high-speed train waiting to take us back to Madrid in just a matter of two and a half hours. It’s hard to believe, it’s 550 km from the coast to Madrid in the centre of Spain.