Roman Malanke

Savoring the Best of Andalusia

This has been a great vacation! Certainly the best one so far by the overall value for the money spent. Thanks to clever early planning and smart decisions on the ground, our group of four had eleven days of complete freedom and fun in the Spanish land for the total budget of about €970 per person. By total, I really mean total, including everything from visa and insurance cost to Lufthansa airplane tickets, to hotels, to car rentals, to food and wine. With this, we didn’t deny ourselves in anything, and besides just relaxing on the beach and eating, we spent a night in a real XVII century castle, drove a brand new Mercedes by the coastal paradise views, saw Africa from under Gibraltar rock, visited a place from where Columbus sailed to discover America, and had many more unforgettable impressions. Pictures speak better than words, so I captured some of the highlights in this photo album. Do take a look before reading any further.

When the idea for this trip came about in discussions with my wife and another couple of friends, I quickly realized that despite the fact that everyone had their own vision of the ideal vacation, it would all fuse together perfectly in southern Spain. This land not only offers sun and beaches for “getting away from it all”, but also has some of the Europe’s most ancient cities and monuments to enjoy. And, of course, it’s a perfect place for a Spanish language maniac like me to immerse into.

After the wonderful time in the north of Spain last year, I wanted a similar experience in terms of variety and dynamics, but make it a true southern-style, with more relaxation and less hurry. Instead of a permanent road trip we decided to have a “base camp” close to a nice beach and do all excursions from there. Thanks to valuable advices by my local friends we made a perfect choice by selecting Nerja as our main location. This cozy little town ideally combined quietness of a seaside fisherman village with the vivid ambience and wide restaurant selection of a great tourist place.

Our first and longest excursion was a 3-day circle road trip by Costa del Sol and Costa de la Luz. Starting from Nerja we passed Torremolinos, Marbella, La Línea de la Concepción, Tarifa, El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, Sevilla, and finally returned back to Nerja. There were tons of great impressions on this tour, so I’ll boil them down to the top three. Third place goes to the areas around Gibraltar, particularly to a town called Tarifa, a nice mix of European and Arabic culture where we saw African shores from the edge of Europe and the ferries that can take one from Spain to Morocco in 30 min for €30.

Second place takes the town called El Puerto de Santa María. The funny thing is that we visited it almost accidentally, just because the apart-hotel with the best quality/price ratio around Cádiz area happened to be there. Upon arrival we found out that we were staying not simply in apart-hotel but in one of the most authentic building of the whole region, which was built 400 years ago. Later we learned that it was from this town’s port where Columbus departed to America in XV century. In the morning we realized that our balcony faced a lively market street were local people sold and bought heaps of edible snails among other interesting local items.

The first place goes to the charming Seville, and particularly to our tapas and flamenco night out. A great hotel receptionist guy seeing “hunters for value” in us did not try to sell us the expensive “flamenco dinner” tickets as he was supposed to, but instead recommended a great moderately-priced tapas place and a free flamenco concert nearby. We never regretted that we took his advice. A place called Vinería San Telmo delivered the promised gastronomic pleasure with its excellent tapas and wine and the free flamenco concert was very authentic and touching.

Our next sally was to Granada and particularly to its majestic Alhambra. This ancient Arabic fortified town really impressed us with its splendid architecture and beautiful gardens. Driving to it and back through the beautiful views of snow-covered Sierra Nevada peaks was another great element of this excursion.

The last two tours were to Málaga: one during the day for sightseeing and shopping and the other one to dine and experience the nightlife. Even though we didn’t make it to a discotheque after all, we were quite impressed by people drinking (or as they say “tomando copas”) well past midnight in a giant pre-party in the middle of crowded squares and streets like in an enormous bar under a clear night sky.

The remaining six days when we spent relaxing at the sandy beaches of “our own” Nerja, compensating for incredible amounts of consumed calories with refreshing morning jogs by the seashore every other morning.

After such a mix of wonderful experiences I am now excited to be back home and I look forward to going back to work and diving into a normal non-vacation life, “suffering” from my favorite benign post-vacation syndrome, which this time brings more energy and creativity than ever.