Back in February, my birthday came and went (yes this blog of mine is that far behind). After a hectic week of celebrations in London, combined with farewells for my friend Alex, who had embarked on a 6 month sabbatical to travel the world, I was honestly quite beat by the time the weekend came round. Yet while I expected that a birthday trip to Southern Spain would be fairly full on, there’s definitely something about the Spanish way of life that rejuvenates even the most party-worn of people.
Malaga isn’t as well mentioned when people discuss travels to Southern Spain, compared to Granada and Seville. Admittedly, I only picked it for the promise of good non-British-winter weather and because flights were cheap. Yet, this city ended up being a really pleasant surprise, and the weekend wound up being my favourite experience in Spain to date.
That said, the flight there was a nightmare – at least for Dave And I, who were stuck in the back of the plane amongst 10 members of the rowdiest, drunken family to have ever flown. Their babies were drinking coke out of their milk bottles, the kids were running up and down the aisles, the young adults (who were also the parents) were shouting to each other across 5 rows and progressively getting more obnoxiously drunk, and the parents/grandparents were just amused by it all – meanwhile, everyone else was stuck to grit their teeth and will for the flight to be over ASAP. As we landed, they managed to earn a total berating from the flight attendant for standing up and walking around as the flight was literally landing down onto the tarmac.
Apart from the anarchic flight, the experience of Malaga took things to a new level of chill and relaxation that even Barcelona and Madrid couldn’t compete with.
During the weekend, we were treated to a Sunday of amazing weather, where we were able to walk around the town, enjoy lots of tapas and sangria, explore the Castillo Gibralfaro and Alcazaba and wander the La Malagueta beach.
We were also fortunate enough to stumble upon an open art gallery space near the harbour, where a band had set up an outdoor performance playing some fantastic motown and classic tunes. It was here where we whittled away the afternoon in the sun, taking in the ambiance with some nice cold beers while people drank, sang and danced around us. Very relaxing, and very chill.
Obviously, preceding all of this was Saturday night … and naturally, it would be highly disrespectful to the Spanish culture not to go out for an amazing dinner followed by some partying into the early hours of Sunday morning. So that is exactly what we did.
In particular, the dinner we had on Saturday night was fantastic, thanks to Gabriel and his team at Taberna Cervantes. Prior to the trip, I had made enquiries with their sister restaurant, El Tapeo de Cervantes, who couldn’t fit our group of 11 and suggested we dine at their new restaurant Taberna Cervantes. I went with their suggestion and booked it in, but was really apprehensive given that it must’ve been so new that it virtually couldn’t be found on the internet.
But everything paid off and Gabriel took such great care of us, even curating our group’s menu so that we’d be able to experience the best and most unique Andalusian dishes they had to offer. 11 delicious courses later, we were stuffed and undeniably drunk. Somewhere along, there was also a cake brought out, and as I sit in Sydney reminiscing of the whole Spanish restaurant singing happy birthday, I can’t help but feel really lucky to have had the experience of turning 27 in such a wonderful way. After dinner, and not without birthday shots with Mr Gabriel, we set off bar crawling.
We had kicked off our Saturday morning quite early and hired cars to visit the city of Cordoba, which was 2 hours away and whose town centre is UNESCO heritage listed. Famed for the Mezquita (the great mosque-cathedral), the town has old areas reminiscent of the Jewish, Moorish and Roman settlements who were once there.
The Mesquita itself was quite a wonder. It was once split between Christian and Muslim halves, and across history, it has moved between wholly being Christian/Muslim – this unique history is highly evident in the fact that the architecture and interior is nothing like the neoclassical and gothic style cathedrals one would typically see around.
We also visited Ronda, the awe-inspiring town perched over a gorge. It was raining and unexpectedly chilly as we arrived, so we didn’t do much exploring apart from taking a slippery stroll down into the valley. That said, the architectural grandeur of the towering gorge is an unforgettable sight and something that should definitely not be missed if you’re ever in Southern Spain.
In hindsight, the suggestion to hire cars was well worth it, as the drive around the Andalusian countryside is extremely scenic. Plus the fact that Cordoba, Ronda and Malaga are all 3-5 hours apart by car means that if you plan carefully, a lot of ground can be covered in the space of 2 days. Though it sounds like a fair amount of distance to travel, these are incredible historical places I’d highly recommend seeing and exploring.
So yea, I’ll admit that I wasn’t initially thrilled to be turning a year older. However, if this birthday trip has taught me anything, it’s potentially the most valuable lesson ever – that the secret to feeling young is not the $350 eye wrinkle cream someone tried to sell to me today. Just keep exploring, learn continuously, see new things and most of all, hold on to that spirit of adventure!
On that particular note, some real time news – I will soon be uprooting once again and moving interstate from Sydney, NSW down south to Melbourne, Victoria! And so, a new adventure begins 🙂