Carmona, Spain: The end

From Nerja we drove to Carmona.

Carmona

Carmona

Carmona

Carmona

Carmona

Carmona

We stayed in a castle for 2 nights and it was remote and stormy, a little pretentious for us, but it was relaxing. The castle was on top of a hill and the town (the roads to this town were ridiculous) and there wasn’t much else. My favorite dinner outside of Madrid was in Carmona – one of the last nights, we walked down to the town during the “Passeo” (when neighbors walk around and drink and talk before dinner at like 10pm) and sat in a busy little bar/restaurant with the bustle of kids and families and neighbors and other travelers. We didn’t understand much but we tried the lemon beer and fish and it was perfect.

Our very last night in Spain was spent back in Madrid close to the airport. On our trip back up to Madrid we stopped at the Windmills and walked around and felt on top of the world for just a moment longer.

Windmills! Spain

Windmills! Spain

Windmills! Spain

Windmills! Spain

Untitled

Then we came home.

Spain was an event, one I’ll never forget. The smells, the apartments and sights, when I close my eyes I can still see the dirty roads that look like glass. I can hear the Plaza Mayo street performers with their bells and clicks and the artists peddling their work. The misters in the hot sun and the smell of fish, like an armpit. But with a fragrance I can’t replicate here – something of a welcome, of a “stay”.

It was musty and magical and full of history and things I’ve never seen before, stories I’ll never tell and the place where I found adventure. Spain was simple: it was a dream come true.

Nerja, Spain

We left Salobrena after our sightseeing lunch and headed to Nerja. A small coast town that actually has very little history – it was destroyed by a natural disaster and it was a sleepy little fish town until something put it on the map. I’m going off my memory of the things we read about it then … but it was so refreshing because every where prior to Nerja was FULL of history and castles and churches and monuments and we started to feel like we didn’t know how to take any more in. Not because it wasn’t fun, it was just so much. All over, all the time. I didn’t know how I was going to remember another mural on a ceiling, how I could hold that in my memory against the previous four I’d seen and stood in awe of.

Driving in Spain is an adventure all it’s own, I highly recommend you try it. Teeny tiny roads and little directional advantage. We ended up driving our car down a pedestrian street (to be fair, google maps said it was ok) but there we were in the middle of a shopping center while vacationers sipped their beer and ate their calamari – and we waved at them from inside our car. As if we were dining next to them.

Once we found a hotel and parked, we exhaled.

resort in Nerja

resort in Nerja

Nerja coast

This was my favorite part of the trip. I don’t think I can call it a vacation if I don’t see some water. We went straight to the sea.

The Mediterranean

The Mediterranean

Nerja!

Then I stopped taking photos.

I KNOW.

Nothing felt like work in Nerja. We had a leisurely dinner and after the previous nights in a cave, we slept wonderfully. A slow, beautiful breakfast with all the coffee we wanted and fresh fruit juice. Birds joined us at our table to eat the crumbs from the croissants.

We spent the day on the beach, rented those little huts and had bar service from the restaurant. Aaron went cliff jumping, we both swam and collected shells and looked up and down and all around. We read books, drank deliciously strong drinks and laid in the sun.

Our feet were caked with finely ground rocks that served the purpose of a sandy beach. I wish I would have taken photos of the things we saw. They were grilling whole fish on an open fire in pyramids with lemon juice. It smelled dirty and earthy and delicious. There was skin every where, and every kind of body shape you could ever imagine. Children were naked, running around and flying kites. Throwing tantrums. Ordering milk shakes. People were walking the beach selling bracelets and ice cream cones, giving massages or pedaling the fun you could have. Kayaks and wind surfing, jet skis, tube rides from the shore to the water.

We had the most restful 24 hours in Nerja. If I could do it over again, I’d cancel the next two nights stay in Carmona and hole up in Paradore on the shore in Nerja. Waking up to the smell of salt and the rushing water of the tide: the bright green grasses and twisted resort trees. I could have stayed there all week.

The Mediterranean

on the road again: Salobreña, Spain

After we decided to leave Monachil early we packed up, let our host know, and headed out. We wanted to see the water up close and personal. Aaron had always wanted to swim in the Mediterranean.

We had our eyes on the small town Nerja and headed that way but before we got there we decided to stop in Salobreña – another Peublo town – and grab lunch.

This would end up being one of my favorite memories.

Textures of SpainSpainTextures of SpainlunchDSC_3430WalkingFirst look at the watergorgeousAarontextures of Spainbroken housebroken houseWalking a pueblo town

We saw the town from the highway and pulled over, parked at the base of the town and ended up literally hiking upwards to what looked like a deck. I ordered prawns and red wine, Aaron ordered clams and a wine as well. It was hot but we were shaded and we could see for miles. We had spent meals talking about the kids and what they would or wouldn’t like about Spain, if we thought they would be old enough for a vacation like this. But this was where we started making home videos of the trip for the kids. The road trip, in general, but specifically this town. We started documenting things for them that I’m so glad we did, because now we have it to remember.

The way to eat a prawn and what the cobble streets sounded like when your shoes slapped them with each and every step, over and over and over again. We have footage of the streets and the homes that a still-photo can only give one perspective on.

On our way down from lunch we tried to take as many turns as possible to see as much of the town as we could. We found an abandoned home with the door propped open and so many cats running in and out. I opened the door and walked in. Standing in such filth that looked so beautiful to me with a broken window that overlooked this town on the coast was the image I wanted to take away from Spain. In all of the brokenness there was still so much beauty. It took my breath away.

broken house

Being in Spain was as overwhelming as the moment I found out we were going. I didn’t write as much as I thought I would, I had a hard time keeping focused on what we were doing – like I was standing wide-eyed watching it happen instead of engaging in making it happen.

It was good, but a little confusing. I wanted to be fully engaged and at this point in the trip, I was a little tired. I started waiting for it to end.

Then we arrived in Nerja …

Monachil and Granada, Spain

After Madrid we rented a car and headed south. Toledo was a possible stop but only an hour away and after getting the car set and on the road, we didn’t feel like stopping. We drove through millions of acres of mountain top olive orchards. Every surface was covered, it was magnificent. So was the water, the canyons, the tunnels and the sheer adventure.

We rented a car in a foreign country with no GPS. Living on the wild side.rental carArrival in Monachil, SpainArrival in Monachil, SpainCave house in Monachil, SpainCave house in Monachil, SpainDinner out in Monachil, SpainDinner out in Monachil, SpainMonachil, Spaincats everywhereGranadaGranadaGranadaGranadaGranadaGrafiti

We decided to stop in Monachil which was a pueblo town (white village in the foot of the mountains, basically) and it was amazing. The most picturesque views were in Monachil. We rented a cave house via airbnb.com while we were driving.

This is where I’d say we made our first mistake of the trip. We had our first 4 nights planned before we left the states and the last 3. That left 3 nights in the middle of our trip for us to travel and land where we wanted. That was amazing, that I would do all over again. But I wouldn’t choose to spend all of those nights in a cave in Monachil. I wouldn’t go back for one.

Now, the town and it’s people are great, our host was gracious and spoke English, gave us recommendations. It was charming and now we can say we’ve slept in a cave. But we didn’t sleep well and the cave is very much a cave. We left after 2 nights and headed to the coast.

I would absolutely visit Monachil again, as a day trip. They have gorgeous hikes in the surrounding mountains and Granada was a complete win. We loved Granada.

Field Notes:

# Loved spending extended time in Madrid, from there I’d find a “home base” for a few nights on the coast and day trip to towns like Granada, Monachil, Seville, Carmona …
# Next time plan ahead and see the Alhambra.
# Flamenco dancing was fun, I’d see that again if we were traveling with people who had never seen it before.
# Walking the streets with a guidebook was fascinating. Be touristy. Just do it.
# Do an Olive Orchard/Olive Oil tasting tour. We actually had this all but paid and the last confirmation email I needed to send back was almost sent when Aaron finally spoke up and said he didn’t want to do it. I would do it anyway next time, I was so fascinated by the industry and the orchards. Aaron would love to visit a Turkish Bath house next time. I would to, sounds relaxing. But we missed out on both.
# Research a little bit but leave room for surprise and adventure. Be flexible with your plans.
# Fellow travelers from London and thereabouts – find them. They’re the best.

In every town we stopped we’d read ahead for a “lay of the land” in our guidebook. To learn some history, really decide what it was we wanted to see (if anything) and how to navigate the streets. There were warnings in every chapter about safety. We definitely took all precautions but felt nothing but welcomed and relaxed about our traveling around Spain. And for as much time as we spent over there we really didn’t experience very much – there’s just so much to see and do and tour and taste and … we could go back every year we decided.

Madrid, Spain

It all runs together like a dream for me.

First morning in Madrid, for real.Plaza MayoMercadosuper old olive tree in the middle of the cityStreets of MadridStreets of MadridStreet art in MadridStreet art in MadridPrado MuseumEl Escorial and the Valley of the FallenEl Escorial and the Valley of the FallenEl Escorial and the Valley of the FallenStreet artistsSunset in MadridPalace in Madrid at sunsetoutdoor MadridClosed on MondaysResaraunt w free wifi, we perched here for a morningOne of the entrances to Plaza MayoMercado de San MiguelIn the marketMy first macaroons!this guyMisters for outdoor seating

Field Notes:

# 3 nights in Madrid was perfect.
# Free hours at the Prado, good idea.
# Walking the winding streets and eating: main event.
# Drink the espresso! Try the octopus. Always drink Sangria.
# A day trip excursion, recommended. Next I’d do Segovia.
# Next time: Must see bull fight.
# Pay to get in the churches and castles – choose a location and do them (but maybe don’t do them all, in every location.) The audio tours (in english) are generally your best bet at touring monuments.
# Relax, you have nothing else to do 🙂
# TripAdvisor is very helpful.
# Come back, there’s more to see.