Here’s part 2 of our trip to Spain during Christmas vacation – you can read part 1 here!
Our afternoon flight from Billund to Málaga was around 3 hours, and it was a balmy 62 degrees when we stepped out of the airport. Everyone else was bundled up in winter coats and scarves, but to us, it felt like a typical summer day back in San Francisco. Meanwhile, it was gray and gloomy back in Billund, so we already knew that a week on the Mediterranean – even a cool, off-season week – was a smart pick.
After getting some Euros and finding the right airport bus, we rode the 15 minutes to the Alsa bus depot, close to the city’s main train station and our AirBnB rental. Unfortunately, we took a bit of a scenic route, as I assumed that we could use a pedestrian overpass above the train tracks as a shortcut to the apartment. Turned out to be twice as long (and passed through a dumpy looking part of town), but the boys enjoyed the clackety-clack of their suitcase wheels along the sidewalk, and we also happened upon some bright green native parrots nesting in an abandoned warehouse.
Our apartment for the night was on the 13th floor! I guess triskaidekaphobia isn’t a problem in Spain (well, not quite – nothing bad will happen to you on Friday the 13th, but apparently a Tuesday the 13th is muy malo). Our host was about our age, and although some of the AirBnB reviews had said he spoke little English, we communicated just fine. B and I both took Spanish in high school, though we’ve had little occasion to use it (even after living in the Southwest and California for the last 14 years). In any case, his English was better than our Spanish!
The apartment was big and roomy, with a room for each of the boys and one for us, a kitchen with a washing machine (clothes get hung out the window on a line – a dizzying experience for B when she washed a few items), a bright orange-red bathroom (with a bidet! the boys were confused), a nice TV, and most importantly, a good wifi connection! Our host showed us around the place, pointed out the pedestrian and dining area of town on Google Maps, and then left us to settle in.
It was only a 15 minute walk to the downtown area, and although our apartment was located in an average, not-terribly-pretty part of town (typical when you’re close to the major transit hubs, I guess), the city center was much nicer. Palm tree lined streets, sunset on the horizon, a big park running down the main boulevard, and throngs of people all heading towards Calle Marino Lario, which runs north into the pedestrian and shopping district.
We’d arrived in town during siesta time – and yes, stores do close in the middle of the day – but by now, people were starting to come out again for the evening, and with these downtown shopping districts, it’s not hard to see why. Aarhus, in Denmark, has a similar area, and I wonder why there aren’t more in American cities. Once you get into the shopping district, there are no cars – just endless promenades and streets and plazas where you can find cafes and tapas bars and restaurants, tons of shopping – and tons of people. Very easy to explore – or get lost, if you don’t mind that. (And with Google Maps in our pockets, not really hard to do that anymore).
We stopped at a few restaurants where I could ask, in my limited Spanish, if their kitchens were open – they all said no. What I didn’t understand is that this just meant that they weren’t preparing meals at the moment (not until around 8pm), but you could still get some tapas from the bar.
The boys were getting hangry by this point, so we just picked a place called Tapa’s Bar (lame pun or unnecessary apostrophe?) in a nice wide plaza dotted with orange trees. They seemed to be really understaffed though – the two waitresses were surly and unhelpful, and many of the items on the menu were sold out. After a long wait to place our order, we finally got some bread and cured ham, a dish of olives, a Spanish tortilla (a delicious cake/omelette made with eggs and potatoes) and beer and wine for B and me. It was just enough to whet our appetites, but we didn’t want to stick around. The boys had fun climbing a nearby orange tree though, and we also chatted with a little Spanish boy at the next table, who was eager to show off his tiny toy gun collection (stored in a belt pouch that read USA, of course).
We got a nice surprise when we left the plaza – beautiful, ornate light displays all the way down the promenade, and leading out towards an even bigger main plaza. I guess we arrived in Málaga on the right evening, because there was a big party kicking off, with a band, singers, and parades of musicians tromping and tooting through the narrow lanes and cobblestone alleyways for the next hour. Great people watching too – the Spanish have style, even when they’re bundled up against the cold. Lots of belted waistcoats and jackets and scarves. The women all had their makeup and hair done (tasteful, not too much), and I noticed a lot of young men with brightly colored sneakers and piled-up pompadour hair. Also, not a single logo or branded clothing item in sight. Quite different than what you’d typically see at a mall in the US.
After wandering around through the streets and shops for awhile, we found a tiny tapas place in a narrow alley and grabbed a table. Within minutes, another marching band paraded past, as if to say “Welcome to Spain! Now have some more tapas!” So we did. E must have worked up an appetite too, because not only was he hungrier than usual, he also wanted to try the most unusual items on the menu. Seriously, this is the kid that won’t even eat some of the basic meals we’ve been making in Denmark, and here he’s asking for fried octopus, and snails, and small red snappers with the heads still on. We got almost all of it – plus some neon-yellow, saffron-rich paella – and had a merry seafood feast.
After dinner, we walked off our meal and got the boys some little explosive snappers so that they could join in the merrymaking. Then there was only one thing left to do before we turned in for the night. Yes, more food! Chocolate and churros, to be exact. B and I had had this when we were in Cartagena (Spain, not Colombia), and we knew the boys would love it. The churros are not the kind we are used to from ballparks and zoos (or Costco) – they’re not sugared, and barely even sweet. Which is fine, since the hot chocolate is plenty sweet enough. I’d hardly even call it hot chocolate – hot pudding is more like it. Needless to say, the boys devoured theirs.
We trooped back to the apartment, happy to have found some pleasant surprises during just a few short hours in town. Here is E, crashed out on the couch – the boys were so zonked from their big night out that they slept through the night without a peep. Come to think of it, we were out hard too, thanks to what was possibly the most comfortable bed in all of Spain.
Tomorrow: adios to Málaga, and a trip to Granada!
And oh yeah, one more important thing to point out: Taco Bell in Spain sells beer?!