*This is my first entry in a series of posts on my recent trip to Spain and Morocco. Over the next several weeks, I will be highlighting the different cities I visited along with travel tips. I’m excited to share it all with you!*
You always remember your first love. I believe in the same way, you will always remember your first European city.
Malaga will always be that special place for me.
I had just arrived into Rota the night before. Waking up that first morning in Spain still felt surreal. I was so freaking excited to get my first taste of European culture! At the last minute we decided on a day trip to Malaga. (You’ll soon see how this is a trend over the next several posts.)
In terms of Spanish geography, Rota is a small town on the southwestern coast of Spain. Malaga is about a 2.5-3 hour drive east. One beach city to another. This is my kind of life.
The drive was beautiful. Most of it was just on a winding 2 lane road. Just us and the Spanish countryside. Picture valleys that go on forever. Mountain views. Lots of turbines with wind energy being generated. I was surprised by how few of cars we saw on the way.
What was interesting was how among all the hills and fields, you could spot a town from miles away. Just a cluster of buildings together surrounded by nothing else but open land. Very different from the typical urban sprawl you see here in the US. Most of the time if you see a building it’s not by itself, but part of a city. This condensed way of living makes everything very community oriented and walk-able.
Once we got into Malaga, it was much different from the easy country roads. Traffic was noticeably heavier. Parking took us about an hour to find. Once we ditched the rental car life got much easier. I’ve always heard about how having a car in a European city can be a hassle. Now I definitely know why.
We had a taxi drop us off on the outskirts of the city where the beach is. It was so dreamy. Reminded me somewhat of Southern California. But not as showy and with minimal plastic surgery.
Here was their version of Muscle Beach. And yes, we all did play on the workout equipment.
We ate lunch on the beach terrace at El Cachalote. Nate’s co-worker, Dave, had heard that Malaga was known for their grilled sardines, and so we ordered a plate for the table. Woof. That sounds about as appealing as eating Spam straight from the container. But when in Spain, you gotta experience the culture. So I tried them. I must say, they were actually really good. For my meal, I ordered the fried Red Snapper and it was the best I’ve ever had.
On our trek from the beach back into the city, we visited the Gibralfaro Castle. Another interesting tidbit about Spain I observed: Each city, large or small, has its own iconic Cathedral and a Castle. The larger cities almost always have a bullring in addition.
Since castle was used for protection of the adjacent palace, it was at the highest elevation of the city. Homegirl practically hiked a mountain to get up there, but it was so worth it. The best views of the city were waiting for us.
The castle was built-in the 14th century, which is mind-boggling to me. It’s hard to imagine how something this massive was constructed without modern machinery!
After that we went into the downtown area. I was just blown away by all the architecture. The amount of attention paid to even the tiniest of details was just incredible. Each alleyway had a different marble, stone, or paver. Pretty much every surface was marble or natural stone. I have never seen anything like it.
One of my favorite things about Malaga was the different patterns of marble in the alleyways downtown. Yes, that is all marble!! It’s absolutely insane. The city had such an interesting mix of old architecture but also at the same time had a newer, more cosmopolitan feel.
Here’s the Cathedral, in typical massive fashion.
We walked around the city until about 9-9:30pm and then decided we should call it a day. These day trips always leave you grateful you got to see so much in such a short period of time, but also yearning for more and wishing you could stay longer.
I later found out that Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga. AND there’s a museum with tons of his work. I MEAN, NO BIG DEAL. I about kicked myself for not doing any research beforehand because I would have loved to go. I don’t get FOMO very often, but when it’s Picasso, it’s a different story.
But as my first European love, I’m sure I’ll return to Malaga again someday.
My next travel post will be on Sevilla. Such a charming Spanish gem of a city.
Where was your first city you visited in Europe or abroad? Was your mind blown?
Ghent, followed by Bruge ~ and yes, mind blowing.