Once upon a time, 6 years ago today, we kicked off a one year trip around the world - almost 3 dozen countries, 3 largest waterfalls, 3 hot air balloon excursions, the pyramids, safaris, skiing and scuba diving. When we returned from our year of ‘Not Being Grownups’, it became agonizingly clear that we just couldn’t go back to ‘normal’ and thus our current lifestyle, our ‘New Normal’, was born - housesitting - travelling and gallivanting about the world and early retirement. To others, not a big story (and usually one people don’t want to hear...), but certainly something for us to mull over here in Spain on The 4th of July - Independence Day (albeit for another entire country).
We’ve spent the last month in Spain enjoying our independence every single day (and have taken, so far, 4 tickets in the €90 million Eurojackpot lottery - which would buy a whole new class of independence that’s for sure - just need to win it). We spent the first couple of weeks confirming our old haunts were still there and discovering a couple of new haunts - when one tapas bar’s door closes, another one opens. Our regular 3 course lunch joint (Tres Coronas) - is still the best lunch in town, and a newcomer to the scene down the beach in Los Boliches is an outstanding buffet - which includes drinks... we’re limiting ourselves to once a fortnight there. We’ve been hitting the weekly flea market on Saturdays and the fruit & vege market every Tuesday - absolute heaven as we have worked our way through the tail end of a luscious strawberry season, still a few juicy dark cherries around and we’re now in the middle of fig season - A$3 a kilo (and yes, we buy them by the 2 kilo case) - last time we were in Sydney it was A$3 per fig... and more. So fresh food is amazing in this part of the world. Since we arrived in early June we’ve also noticed that the hordes are early this year. Usually mid July and all of August we’d expect the Costa to be bulging at the seams - this year it was happening in early June and hasn’t eased yet. We can only put it down to all the package holiday types avoiding Tunisia, Egypt and the Red Sea and coming here instead for the perceived safety. Funnily enough, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issues travel safety warnings for most countries and Tunisia’s level is the same as that of Belgium and France. To be honest we find ‘yet’ to be one of the scariest words in the English language - when we were in Rome, we met people who were so proud of the security services and the fact that Italy hadn’t had a terrorist attack (and in our heads, we said ‘yet’). Not even thinking ‘yet’ in Spain... but those hordes are getting bigger.
The first two weeks were of course just the beginning - we were, in a large sense, the advance party getting the house, the restaurants and the outings all sorted out before James’s mum Joan arrived to visit us - all the way from Australia. We met her at the airport on the 19th and hit the ground running - breakfast in town, Tuesday market and a buffet seafood dinner that night at ‘The World’. The following day we went up the hill to the white village / pueblo blanco, Mijas. Wednesday is free flamenco show day in Mijas but before that started we took a horse and carriage ride all around the village - quite a treat as we’d not done it before. We were probably the first carriage off the rank as we made it up there before the tour coaches taking advantage of the free show. We ended up returning to Mijas for an evening walk just a few days later on Saturday 23 June - The Night of San Juan - and the summer solstice / shortest night of the year (pictured). It was great fun introducing Joan to all our haunts - cafes/lunches/roast chicken joint etc, not to mention lots of fabulous long walks along the beach front.
Eventually we exhausted Fungirola’s possibilities and last Friday we jumped on a train for an excursion to Malaga - the local big smoke. We’d visited once before when friends showed us around, but not returned since. We sampled a few delights at Malaga’s gorgeous indoor fresh market then meandered in the general direction of the main shopping street - Calle Larios. En route, we were super lucky and tripped over Cafe Aranda - founded in 1932! We’re fairly sure we were the only tourists there as it seemed very much a haunt for locals or at the least, Spanish tourists. This was the perfect opportunity to introduce Joan to the most Spanish of sweet Spanish breakfasts, churros con chocolate... or ‘fat, cooked in fat, dipped in fat’ pretty much... Diet food, it is not, but when combined with a double strength cafe con leche, the churros certainly put hairs on our chest for our big day out in Malaga.
We are such fans of the local flea market for anything we either want or need, that wandering around ‘new’ shops is quite a novelty for us and the winding back streets of Malaga’s old town kept us amused for a while. The highlight of the morning however was sitting in the shade at the back of Malaga Cathedral and listening to a private opera concert - well, a busker... but an amazingly good baritone! Speaking of busking, we saw tango dancers and an excellent sax player too - much better standard of busking than in Fuengirola. We eventually wended our way back to a restaurant that looked promising and decided on a tapas selection that included a huge range of the usual suspects (cheese, ham, calamari and croquetas) along with some more exotico delights - including salmorejo - a chilled cream of tomato soup garished with jamon and boiled egg. Having tried it out, we’ll definitely order it from a menu in future. At this time of year, every day is a hot day to one degree or another, so by mid afternoon it was definitely time to schlepp back to the train station for the return trip to Fuengirola.
We were in fact returning to Malaga the very next day for a long anticipated outing to Cirque du Soleil’s travelling show ‘Totem’ - under the big top at the Malaga showgrounds. We are both committed fans of Cirque and this was our fourth show (albeit over 20 odd years and in 4 different countries... so we’re not racking them up as much as we’d like). We struck out into the wilderness after jumping off the train at Victoria Kent station. But really, with Google Maps is anywhere truly the wilderness? We were at the fairground within 5 minutes walk and the show was outstanding. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, it outdid itself over and over again. The show even led me to learn a couple of new words... it was ‘un dia muy largo’ - a very long day. We love living in Fuengirola but bus to the train, train to Malaga (in plenty of time of course), walk to the show, see the show, walk to the train, train back, bus up the hill... phew - 7 hour outing for a 2 hour show - probably just felt a bit tiring because of the heat. Still. Wow. It will certainly keep us going for a while in terms of excitement.
The trouble with wonderful visits, exciting outings and all good things is, of course, that they must come to an end. We had a huge day out on Sunday and visited an interesting coffee shop in Los Boliches, frequented our favourite roast chicken shop and eventually made it home - only to head out again in the evening to The World Buffet (and it is really... Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Italian... all the main food groups). It was a grand farewell dinner and too short an evening before we had a few hours sleep and headed to the airport bright(ish) and early on Monday morning. All been a bit quiet on the home front since then. Plans? Take it as it comes. Next exciting instalment? Likely in August - prior to us taking off to parts unknown. Well Gibraltar actually for almost 3 weeks, so not entirely unknown. And that, is all she wrote. (PS Our €90 million jackpot was split between two winners in Germany. Very little justice in the world.)