¡Hola a todos!
As you’ve probably guessed from my little flipagram, we had a really fabulous holiday. We all love that holiday feeling! The sheer excitement of a change of scenery and being able to depend on the weather: blue skies and endless sunshine. It feels good to get away from everything every once in a while. We really needed this break and came home feeling very rested. I brought my MacBook along thinking I’d be blogging away, but turns out I needed a break from the blogosphere too!
Holidays are precious. Many of us only get 2 weeks off in the entire year and spend the time-out lying on a beach, soaking up the sun. I completely understand this – I too enjoy a few beach days, but also love the chance to explore. This summer we flew to Málaga and spent a couple of days resting at Arroyo de la Miel, before hiring a car and road-tripping across Andalucía.
If you are planning a trip to south Spain, our roadtrip may be of interest to you!
ARROYO / BENALMÁDENA
Arroyo is exactly 19 minutes from Málaga airport by train (trains run every 20 minutes directly from the airport). It’s a charming little Spanish town, thankfully not very touristy with any amount of tapas bars. We stayed at Pueblo del Parque, a really well-kept complex with beautiful gardens and swimming pools. We landed on time to enjoy a few days of the San Juan fiestas. It’s a week-long carnival with a massive funfair and street parties and the Spaniards wear traditional dress.
Arroyo is less than 10 minutes walk to the Benalmádena beaches through an enormous park Parque de la Paloma, where you’ll see a man-made oasis with ducks, turtles, rabbits, hens, chicks, parrots and loads of other animals, as well as a cactus garden! The marina is a nice place for a leisurely stroll and Mount Calamorro is well worth a trip by cable car for its spectacular views and birds of prey exhibition. We know this area very well as we travel here regularly; Last time we travelled with a gang of 10 friends, this time it was a family affair. Rent a boat at the marina or take a day trip to the water park at Mijas. Have a good breakfast and bring lunch as it’s very pricey. We were underprepared and so – robbed!
Where to eat:
Between Arroyo de la Miel and Benalmádena there is so much choice for eating out: Spanish, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese – you name it. We love: La Sirena by the seafront for gambas pil pil, but if you’re ordering lobster, be sure to confirm its weight as it’s priced per 100g… we learned the hard way! Imagine you’re most expensive meal and treble it! That left a sour taste. If you’re a fan of teppanyaki (I love the spectacle) then I’d recommend Sakura at the marina for a large group. During the day Palm 5 is a great shout for good food at affordable prices. Brand new wine bar Bacchus’ Terrace is also worth checking out. If you fancy an Indian, Flying India does a great veg biryani and pizza too!
After a few beach days climatization and time spent with family, it was time for our little getaway. Jules and I drove through Fuengirola and our first stop along the coast was Puerto Banús.
I spent a summer here with my friend Brónagh after 1st year in college. 7 of us shared a 2 bed apartment (pure Irish!) in the next village at San Pedro and worked in Puerto Banús. We lasted 3 days working at Red Pepper restaurant before packing it in to spend our nights as PR girls for a bar (so much more fun!) Anyway, that was a great, great time with many a story to tell, but I’ve since lost my love for Puerto Banús. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Sometimes, when you return to a place, it doesn’t live up to your expectations and it disappoints. We stopped for a morning stroll at the marina, had a café con leche for breakfast and didn’t hang around. It’s just not really our scene.
TARIFA / MOROCCO
Next stop was Tarifa. It never disappoints. It’s a place I always love to visit- the prettiest little town in the province of Cádiz (Cádiz itself is another fab coastal town worth checking out!) on the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light). It is the southernmost point of Europe and it faces Morocco. You can grab a ferry from Tarifa to Tangier – it takes less than 2 hours, but I don’t think I’d recommend a day trip. It would be better to spend a few days so you could explore the nicer parts of Morocco like Chefchaouen, Fez and Larache. Tangier wouldn’t be the most beautiful part of North Africa. 10 years ago we did an Erasmus trip to these African cities, but didn’t make it quite as far as Marrakesh. Next time!
On this trip we spent 2 nights in a guesthouse (El Escondite del Viento) in the heart of Tarifa’s old town. 1-2 nights is definitely sufficient if you’re tight for time and just there for a wander. The old town is so so beautiful. It’s really boho and arty and the theme is consistent. It’s not tarnished by utilitarian high-rise buildings, which is often the case in Spain unfortunately. Tarifa is most popular for wind sports, especially kite surfing.
If you’ve read and love The Alchemist, you’ll have heard of Tarifa and indeed Levante. Levante (easterly wind) can be really strong (a welcomed escape from the heat), so sunbathing can be an issue if you go to Playa de los Lances – you’ll be sandblasted! For some shelter go to Playa Chica. I always like to spend time here. The beaches are stunning and private, with white sand and clear waters. Am I selling it?
Where to eat:
As it was a short stay, we wanted to make the most of our time with guaranteed great grub. Thanks to TripAdvisor we discovered the best restaurant! We ate at Bar El Francés both nights. It’s a tiny bar inside, but you dine outside. There were queues of people waiting to eat here – always a good sign! The patatas bravas are a must and try their Ribera del Duero. For breakfast eat at Café Azul (open until 3pm) or Café 10. Café Azul has brilliant reviews and the decor is fabulous, but I think Café 10’s breakfast topped it for me! For lunch, we stumbled across Pizzería Ninen, another great spot. For craft beer and Hendrick’s gin drink at Beer Shop Tarifa. For a night cap we went to Casa Juan Luis, which you’d almost miss in the narrow streets – a local’s hang-out.
I travel very light on summer holidays so I didn’t do much shopping at all. That didn’t stop me browsing and discovering new labels. Shops that stood out to me: Maria Malo and Natural World for their ethical and eco-friendly fashion and Butterfly, where I picked up a cute white top.
I hadn’t visited Seville in 10 years until this summer. I spent my Erasmus year here, so it was my Spanish home. Anyone who has studied languages in college and has been fortunate enough to experience Erasmus will understand what a special year it is. You go to university in the country of your choice and all your lectures are through a foreign language! At first it can be a little daunting, but in no time you understand practically everything. I can’t recommend an Erasmus year enough – for language learning, immersion in a new culture, travel opportunities, but also for self-development and overcoming daily challenges.
Approaching Seville, I’ll admit that I choked up a wee bit, very unexpectedly – all the memories of a lifetime ago came flooding back. I was pointing out all the buildings to Julian and sharing some tales. Obviously the city has changed somewhat; They have a tram now for instance. We stayed in Hotel Rey Alfonso X for its central location, next to La Giralda (cathedral), but also because it has a rooftop pool. Although it’s a teeny pool, you really need some way to cool off in Seville as it gets uncomfortably hot in summer! The nearest beach is over an hour away.
The best way to explore the city is by bike. We rented bikes for 3 hours from Rent A Bike Sevilla, travelled around the entire city and along the Guadalquivir (river). We went back to my old apartment at Ciudad de Ronda, explored the university and parks where I used to run, spent time at La Plaza de España (personal favourite), La Alameda de Hércules, Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), the Alcázar and cathedral. There really is so much to see in Seville. It’s a beautiful Spanish city with an evident Moorish influence. Get lost in the callejones (narrow streets).
There are 2 bike lanes on each side of the footpath. It’s really well mapped out and safe and I recommend going early before it gets too hot! We enjoyed this so much that we’ve decided that for future city breaks cycling is the way to go! Go to a flamenco show at Santa Cruz or enjoy it for free on the streets during the day!
Where to eat:
We tried and really enjoyed both Mamá Bistro and L’Oca Giuliva. I’d recommend booking a table in advance as both are very popular. The decor is quality and so is the fusion of food! My favourite spot for a beer is Bodega Santa Cruz. It’s rough and ready, but I love it. Try the local beer Cruzcampo and enjoy some complimentary tapas.
After our 2 nights in Seville, it was back to Arroyo de la Miel for more rest, relaxation and family time. So all in all, it was a fantastic trip. I hope you’ve found this blog helpful for your future travels to Spain. Any questions, drop me a line on Facebook or email: email@example.com
If you have more time, another beautiful Andalusian city worth visiting is Granada. It’s the one which is most reminiscent of Morocco with its Moorish citadel and palace La Alhambra – definitely top of the list of places to visit there and if you’re visiting in winter, take a trip to Sierra Nevada.
Need to brush up on your español?
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Thanks for reading.
FUNNY FACT! Trina (Trinaranjus) is the name of a Spanish drink like Fanta! Trina de naranja (orange), Trina limón (lemon)… that’s how I always explain the pronunciation of my name!