Travel Journal

A Weekend with Kara

Ten days ago our time in Spain had evolved into a gentle rhythm of walks, siestas, tapas, vino and spanish conversation. Each day seemed the same…yet somehow different. We had one particularly great day taking the bus up the hill to nearby Torrox pueblo, exploring its quaint cobblestone streets, then walking 5km back to the ocean and several kilometers along a fabulous beach promenade. The sun was shining and ice cream never tasted so good! Life was marvellous! But then we added a new drummer to our rhythm of life and the pace picked up! Kara, Len's niece, is studying Tourism Management in Innsbruck, Austria. When she heard of our extended stay in southern Spain, she was so excited to visit us for a weekend escape. Cheap and short flights from anywhere in Europe make going to the beach in Spain an easy jaunt--kind of like a weekend skiing in Whistler!

Len and I took an early bus to Malaga, with the idea of exploring a bit of the town before meeting Kara at the train station in the afternoon. Malaga is definitely an underrated Spanish city. Being a major seaport, its waterfront is characterized by huge cranes and numerous, crowded docks for shipping and passenger boat traffic. At first it appears somewhat rough and gritty, but a short distance away from the port there is a charming and thriving "Old Town" characterized by a maze of narrow pedestrian streets, historic architecture and a huge, impressive cathedral. Towering on a hill above the Old Town is the 10th century Gilbralfaro castle, famous for its 3 month siege by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that forced out the Moors. Just below and once attached to the castle stands the remains of the Alcazaba, a palatial defense characterized by winding narrow paths, stone arches and beautiful gardens. A lot of interesting history lies within Malaga's borders and we had just enough time to get a taste of it before we headed off to meet Kara.

Malaga seaport from Gilbralfar castle
Malaga seaport from Gilbralfar castle

For a few hours we showed Kara a little bit of old and new Spain. We introduced her to the culture of canas y tapas, and explored a bit of history at a Roman archeological site (amphitheatre) recently discovered beneath a major plaza. Then after the hour long bus ride back to Nerja, our evening ended with a fabulous Cuban/Spanish meal where the server sang and danced to Cuban classics as he took orders and cleared tables. We filled the next day back in Nerja with as many highlights of the area as we could: exploring the old streets, swimming in the Mediterranean, visiting to the Nerja Caves, enjoying paella on the beach and more canas y tapas. We think poor Kara was exhausted by the end of the second day and maybe wishing for the more "tranquil" pace of school…

Kara and Len enjoying tapas
Kara and Len enjoying tapas

However, wanting to go further afield ourselves while in Nerja, we rented a car to coincide with Kara's visit. Our "road trip for a day " was a circular route which included the Torcal de Antequerra, Ronda, some white villages and coastal towns. The Torcal is a national park and geographical anomaly. Protruding from gently rolling cultivated hills, the giant mound is covered with large stones that have been"sculpted" by the elements into bizarre shapes. We enjoyed an hour long hike in the alien landscape despite the increasing temperatures. Southern Spain is well-known for its white towns that sit precariously on hill tops and spill downtheir sides, and we wanted to expose Kara to some of the most beautiful. Ronda is perhaps the most well-known. Len and I have fond memories of our time there about 3 years ago. In the heat of the afternoon sun, Kara braved the long walk from the carpark to the gorge, the narrow streets needed to navigate around the bridges and the countless slippery stone steps up and down to viewpoints and (closed) museums.

Our final experience before turning the wheels towards Nerja, was a mountain road (or at times more of a bike path!) that looped above a valley. The road wound its way through several white towns and there were some amazing viewpoints. But the most surprising experience was seeing a whole town painted…blue! We had come across unexpectedly the so-called "Smurf" town (remember them?). This town (aka Juzcar)was used as a site for one of the better known Smurf movies and the people were asked to paint the houses "Smurf" blue. The blue houses brought in so much tourist attention, and consequently tourist dollars, that the town voted to keep the houses blue! There was actually a large Smurf statue beside the road for pictures and many houses had Smurf characters drawn on the sides. It was hard not to keep a straight face as we roamed the town looking for a dinner spot. As we had no luck with a restaurant that was open in "Smurfville" we found a roadside restaurant enroute back to Malaga.

Juzcar or
Juzcar or Smurfville

Then it was off the the big city to find the hostel that Kara had booked. It was a bit tricky to find our way into the center of town, and Len actually drove down a pedestrian street in search of a parking lot. But eventually we found the "Feel" Hostel and safely dropped of Kara to spend the night before she flew out to Austria in the morning. We truly enjoyed having Kara shake up our rather mellow existence in Spain. It was wonderful to get to know her better and we wish her well with her school experience and future endeavors.

On our own again, we have made plans……