meeting marianne: east of málaga to la axarquía

Friday, July 12:  After my tour, I’ve been invited to spend two nights with Marianne, and her husband Michael, of East of Málaga …. and more!.  They live in the countryside (el campo), in a beautiful area east of Málaga, known as La Axarquía.   This will be the first time I’ve met her, even though I’ve been reading her blog for some time.  Since she’s lived in Spain for about 8 years, her blog has great information about the area as well as beautiful photos.   She is so generous to offer me her hospitality for a couple of nights while I’m here in Spain.  I’m very excited to meet her because she obviously loves the country and the culture, and I’ve become quite fond of it myself.  Who is better than a local to give you the true feel for a place?

I get my first glimpse of Marianne standing outside the door of Hotel Lario in Málaga.  Wearing a gauzy coral top that’s very becoming on her, she’s looking in all directions for my arrival, as Barry has told her we’ll arrive at 1:00 and we’re a bit late.

We hug each other hello, and at the same time, I introduce her to Barry and Barry and Carole.  I give hugs all around to my traveling companions and tell the two Barrys and Carole that I’ll miss them, it was great to meet them, and parting will be such sweet sorrow. 😦

As all this is happening in front of the hotel where parking is prohibited, it’s all a blur.  Before I know it, Scottish Barry has driven off, Barry and Carole have disappeared into their hotel, and Marianne and I are hauling my suitcase and carry-on to a busy main street in Málaga.  Marianne texts Michael and in short order he drives up, we quickly throw my suitcases in the trunk, Marianne takes over the driving, and we head down the highway East of Málaga, following the title of Marianne’s blog, to their beautiful home perched on the side of a mountain between Torrox and Competa.

The house is perfectly situated for a stunning view; Marianne and Michael tell me if it weren’t so cloudy this afternoon, we could see Málaga and the sea.  They are baffled by the clouds as apparently they are a rare thing in the south of Spain.  For some reason the clouds, along with a cool breeze, have come to hang out today, but it’s fine by me as I haven’t seen many clouds in the two years I’ve lived in Oman.  Neither have I had any cloudy days since I arrived in Spain.  I’m not bothered by them at all and actually find them a welcome relief from the heat I’ve experienced during our tour of Andalucia.

the view from Marianne and Michael's house between Torrox and Competa in Spain
the view from Marianne and Michael’s house between Torrox and Competa in Spain

The whitewashed house is decorated beautifully but simply.  A patio with a swimming pool beckons;  Marianne says she often takes a dip right before bedtime; it helps her to cool down and she enjoys floating on her back and looking at the bright pinpoints of stars in the black sky.   Flowers and gardens are all abloom around the house and on the hillside.

Marianne and Michael have been happily married a long time.  It’s lovely to see how smitten Michael is with Marianne.  He brings her a flower every day and he’s always complimenting her on how she looks, how well she cooks, on everything.  I love how they keep their romance alive.  They make me feel hopeful.

Marianne and Michael beside their pool
Marianne and Michael beside their pool

Marianne is warm and easy-going and makes me feel comfortable right away.  She invites me to settle into the guest room while she prepares a lunch of melon and prosciutto.  It’s the perfect lunch, light and cool and refreshing, a lovely counterpoint to all the large meals I’ve been eating lately.  Perfect.

melon and prosciutto
melon and prosciutto

We eat our lunch on the patio with the mountains unfolding before us and make a toast to our meeting with tinto de verano, a mixture of red wine and gaseosa (or Fanta) or lemonade.  We all have a great conversation about our love of travel.

Marianne and Michael have been spending about 4 months out of the year in Australia during the winter months and have come to love it.  One of the things that took them there was their love of motorsport.  They’re self-proclaimed “petrol-heads” and have been able to watch Formula 1 Grand Prix racing in Albert Park, Melbourne on a couple of occasions.  They have developed a great love for Australia and New Zealand and tell me I should really try to travel there.

I wonder how they are able to travel for 4 months out of a year, as I know travel can be expensive, but they manage it quite frugally by doing house-sitting.  Marianne tells me of a website,, where they are able to arrange some great house-sitting opportunities.  Sometimes they have to take care of pets, pools or gardens, but it enables them to travel for long periods of time.  I like the idea a lot and determine I must look into it myself.

me making a toast with Marianne
me making a toast with Marianne

Michael has brought Marianne some hibiscus today.  Two blossoms brighten up the table.

colorful hibiscus
colorful hibiscus

After lunch, we take a stroll around the garden, which grows abundantly and wildly on the hillside.  I fall in love with a delicate passion-flower.  The “Passion” in the name refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology.  In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Christ and especially his crucifixion.

passion flower
passion flower

There are fruit trees, cacti and aloe vera in abundance, among other things.

in Marianne's garden
in Marianne’s garden
cacti in the garden
cacti in the garden
Marianne's garden
Marianne’s garden
in Marianne's garden
in Marianne’s garden
view again
view again

Some Spaniards own a house down the road from Marianne’s, but they only come to the house periodically to work on their gardens and relax.  They leave their dog at the house, and he has taken to showing up at Marianne’s door.  Since she feeds him, he has become her loyal companion.  He’s not even her dog, but try telling him that.   He wouldn’t believe it for an instant.  He follows her faithfully everywhere and comes to greet her whenever she goes away and returns.  She calls him Spud, even though that’s not his real name.  Marianne’s a lucky lady, having a husband who obviously adores her, and someone else’s dog who loves her too. 🙂

Spud the dog
Spud the dog

After we take a walk around the garden, we walk to a neighbor’s house to meet them since we have plans to go out for dinner with them tomorrow night.  Ross and Daniella are Brits, as are Marianne and Michael; they offer us a glass of wine when we stop by.

Since I haven’t planned the next step of my trip to Tavira in Portugal’s Algarve, I don’t have a clue yet how I will get there.  I am thinking of taking the lazy man’s route and renting a car, but this will be very expensive.  I spent $446 just to rent a car for three days from Barcelona to Toledo to Malaga; I don’t want to spend a fortune on another rental car, although I love the freedom a car offers.  Luckily Marianne knows the ins and outs of the bus system and helps me to book bus tickets online.  Together, we book a 7:20 a.m. ALSA bus from Torrox (e) to Sevilla (Plaza de Armas).  I can’t book this leg of the trip online as the ALSA website won’t take my American credit card.  Luckily Marianne is able to put it on her charge card and I pay her 25 euros for it.  The second leg of the trip has to be booked through the EVA Transportes website. The EVA bus goes from Seville all through the Algarve.  I am able to book that ticket online with my credit card for another $25.  I’m so thankful that Marianne helps me book these tickets and figure this out, because it gives me a lot of confidence with the bus systems and saves me a lot of money.  I end up taking buses and trains for most of the rest of my trip through Portugal.

After booking my bus tickets, I lie down and take a nap for a bit.  When I wake up, Marianne is preparing a dinner of Moroccan chicken with dates and rice.  I wish now I had written the recipe, as now I’ve forgotten all the ingredients.  I hope she posts the recipe on her blog (soon!) because it is a most delightful meal.

looking out over the pool
looking out over the pool
view at dusk
view at dusk
Marianne's house and pool
Marianne’s house and pool
the patio
the patio
Marianne's special chicken and rice recipe: delicious!
Marianne’s special chicken and rice recipe: delicious!

We have more lively and interesting conversation about travel and cultures over dinner and wine. This is my first afternoon with this lovely couple and I go to sleep wondering what surprises tomorrow will bring. 🙂

21 thoughts on “meeting marianne: east of málaga to la axarquía

    1. It was really fabulous to meet Marianne and spend a couple of nights there. She’s an amazing hostess and made me feel right at home. I loved that passion flower too; the first day Michael brought Marianne the hibiscus and the next day, he gave her the passion flower. 🙂

  1. Fantastic to know there are such nice people out there! I love how they are so devoted to each other! So touching! Wish I had been that lucky! Do they have children? I would love a link to her blog! So beautiful, their home and the simplicity with which they live. House-sitting is PERFECT for you, as long as it is not a cat you have to look after. I would love to do that, and then just work online. Will check out the website! This must be kind of wonderful for you, writing about Spain and Portugal from the comfort of your own kitchen table in Beautiful Virginia! Fingers crossed all is going well for you! Cannot wait for the next installment!

    1. Yes, it was really great to meet such wonderful people who have created this perfect life for themselves. I’m so envious! They are really devoted and they do have children; their son was coming to visit on the following Wednesday for 2 weeks.

      The link to Marianne’s blog is in the post itself. Just click on the title in the first paragraph and the link will take you there. Yes, I couldn’t look after cats, unless I went armed with antihistamines. Wouldn’t that be a great life, to work online and housesit around the world?

      It’s great to be writing from home, but I don’t write at my kitchen table; I write on my apple green couch in my living room! Or at my desk overlooking my narrow back yard. It is lovely to be home, but this house is a disaster and needs a lot of reorganization! I’m already busy on it. Only about 3 weeks until I start work.

      I’ll do a post on returning home soon. 🙂

    When I looked up the housecarers link you sent, I found their facebook page, and this other house-sitting site popped up! If I did not have so many cats I would totally have done this kind of thing, especially as there are some lovely long-term opportunities in France – that is no pets though, and that one made me think of you! In Provence, yet, on the housecarers link.

  3. Hi Cathy

    How wonderful it was to finally meet you after reading your Oman blog for so long. We had such fun didn’t we?

    Rest assured, I KNOW how lucky I am 🙂

    I promise I will post my Moroccan chicken recipe on my blog very soon. I know how much you enjoyed it!

    Your photos look great, Cathy – can’t wait to see what happened next 😉


    1. We really did have fun, Marianne. The time I spent with you will be a dear memory to me always; especially now that I’ve blogged about it. 🙂 I hope I didn’t get any information wrong. My memory is so bad that if I don’t write things immediately, they just dissipate into the stratosphere!

      You really are lucky in so many ways, Marianne. I’m really happy for you and the life you’ve created for yourself. If I finally ever settle on what my dream life would be, I think it would be something similar to yours. 🙂

      I am waiting for thet Moroccan chicken recipe! I know Mike and my boys would love it!

      Stay tuned for the further installments on the days we spent together. I’m sure you’ll love my pictures of Frigiliana; I think it’s hard to take bad pictures there! Hugs to you! xxx

  4. What fun to meet up with a fellow blogger! Marianne’s house looks gorgeous, as does her garden. Another lovely post Cathy 🙂

  5. So jealous of that pool! 🙂
    Of course, I could always just go out in the rain to get wet. (yes, it is- but it’s night time so doesn’t matter)
    What a lovely account you’ve written of your time with Marianne. I’ve jotted down the house sitting site details, though I doubt I’ll ever get to use it. Someone in Oz called Pommepal uses it too, I think. Bye for now. 🙂

  6. yay!! I too have been reading Marianne’s blog for a while and I’m so jealous you’ve met her 😉 Ha ha. I will get my chance in a few years. what a lovely post with lovely photos and I love that passion flower! wow!

    1. Yes, Toby, it was so wonderful to meet Marianne. I loved our visit and was so lucky that she invited me, despite me being a perfect stranger (other than blogging). I hope you will get to meet her someday! 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on Our Travels Around The Globe and commented:
    Over the past few days we’ve had Cathy staying with us. I met Cathy online through blogging and was delighted when she accepted my invitation to stay, so I could show her some of the lovely towns and villages, east of Malaga.

    This post is re-blogged from Cathy’s own blog, in which she describes our precious time together.

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