tour andalucía: a rush to malaga airport, the mountain village of mijas & arrival in mollina

Saturday, July 6:   After leaving the windmills of Consuegra, I drive south on Spain’s beautiful roads, happy to have them nearly to myself.  I periodically see the huge black bull signs that are spread throughout the country, a constant reminder that I’m in the land of bullfighting.  I cruise over rolling hills and farmland, some dotted with wind farms, some with olive trees.  I see combines harvesting wheat and lots of red earth.  I listen to Spanish radio, with its mix of English and Spanish songs, and its Spanish-speaking DJs, whose speech is a rapid staccato.  Repeatedly, I hear the song “Lemon Tree,” by Fool’s Garden:

I’m driving around in my car
I’m driving too fast
I’m driving too far
I’d like to change my point of view
I feel so lonely
I’m waiting for you
But nothing ever happens and I wonder

I wonder how
I wonder why
Yesterday you told me ’bout the blue blue sky
And all that I can see is just a yellow lemon-tree
I’m turning my head up and down
I’m turning turning turning turning turning around
And all that I can see is just another lemon-tree

I come to a sign welcoming me to Andalucia, and immediately I’m funneled into a tunnel under a mountain.  When I emerge on the other side, the landscape changes.  The median strips are abloom with white and pink oleander. Rolling hills are covered in olive trees, vineyards and sunflowers.  Spanish farmland is beautiful and tidy; farmers have elevated the lay of their land into an art form.   It’s a stunning landscape.

When I get to Malaga, I must get to Malaga airport to meet Barry of Tour Andalucia.   I am surprised to find Malaga such a large city and the airport quite an extensive operation and a bustle of activity.  My Oman phone doesn’t work in Spain, so this morning, I had called Barry from the garage in Toledo, using the garage attendant’s phone, and left him a message that I would try to be there by 2:00, at which time he is meeting the couple from Australia, the only other people on our tour.  I arrive at the airport at about 1:45 and must find the Europcar drop-off; I have to follow signs three levels deep into the huge parking garage.

When I finally park the car, the Europcar attendant checks me in and I see her poking at the windshield.  She only speaks Spanish and doesn’t say anything to me, but when I go to check out and hand over the keys, the woman behind the counter tells me there’s a chip in the windshield that wasn’t there when I took the car in Barcelona.  This makes me very angry because nothing has ever hit the car while I was driving it and I feel they’re trying to rip me off.  I tell them I didn’t do anything to that car!  They tell me they will let me know by text if they will charge me.  Frankly the woman is a total witch!  She’s wasting my time and now it’s about 2:15 and I’m in danger of missing Barry.  I tell her I need to go, but I didn’t do anything to that car, so they better not charge me anything!  I zoom off to find the VIP’s Lounge in the terminal.

When I finally find the VIP’s lounge in the terminal it’s about 2:40, and I see no sign of Barry.  I’m in a panic because I don’t have a phone.  He had told me if I arrived late, he would take the other couple to Mijas, a lovely mountain village overlooking the Mediterranean, and then he’d come back for me.  I look around the VIP’s lounge for someone who might speak English, and I pick at random a Swedish couple; the man does speak some English.  I ask if I can use his phone to make a brief call within Spain, and he kindly lets me use it.  I’m able to catch Barry and the other couple just as they are leaving the parking lot, and he comes back in to fetch me.  Then we finally take off to Mijas.

Mijas is a town on the southern coast of Spain in the province of Malaga in Andalucia.  It is a typical Andalusian white-washed village, sitting on a mountainside about 450 m (1,476 ft) above sea level in the heart of the Costa del Sol.

The economy of Mijas is primarily based on tourism, featuring museums about local history and a plethora of souvenir shops.  The municipality has seven golf courses.  Agricultural products include potatoes, cereals, and avocados (Wikipedia: Mijas).

Mijas
Mijas
flower pots in Mijas
flower pots in Mijas
ceramics for sale
ceramics for sale
colorful shops
colorful shops
corner cafe in Mijas
corner cafe in Mijas
streets of Mijas
streets of Mijas

We sit down at a little cafe where Carole and Barry get some tapas and coffee.  Since I had a ham and cheese baguette along the way, I’m not hungry, so I simply enjoy an ice cold peach tea followed by una cerveza. Barry and Carole have just arrived today from London where they had tickets to a number of matches at Wimbledon.  They tell me all about the traditions that make Wimbledon famous.  Carole is a big tennis fan, and I can see they are still on a high from their time there.

Finally, my anxiety about getting here is fading and I can relax.  I have six nights with Tour Andalucia, and I will love every minute of having someone else take care of logistics. 🙂

Carol & Barry
Carole & Barry
cafe in Mijas
cafe in Mijas
colorful ceramics
colorful ceramics
Gecko wall art
Gecko wall art
flower wall art
flower wall art
inviting balcony
inviting balcony
View over Mijas
View over Mijas
cafe in Mijas
cafe in Mijas
view from Mijas to the Mediterranean
view from Mijas to the Mediterranean
Mijas, Andalucia, Spain
Mijas, Andalucia, Spain
Mijas
Mijas
me at Mijas
me at Mijas
Virgin Mary grotto at Mijas
Virgin Mary grotto at Mijas

We leave Mijas and head to the town where we’ll be staying in a villa, Puesta de Sol, during the whole tour.  It’s a small town called Mollina and there isn’t much to it except its location, which is central to all the classic Andalucían sites.  When we first enter the nondescript town, Barry drives us around to show us the lay of the land.  He points down an industrial-looking road and says, “That’s where the villa is.”  My heart drops at my first glimpse down that road lined with warehouses.  Later when I mention my disappointment to Carole and Barry, they say they felt the same thing.  It turns out that the villa is fine after all, isolated by a wall and distanced from the warehouses a bit, but that first view of the neighborhood where we”re staying for an entire week was truly a letdown.

Mollina is a town and municipality approximately 16 kilometers from Antequera and 60 km from the provincial capital of Malaga. The natives are Mollinatos. It has approximately 4,000 residents. There is a large British population in Mollina. There are three mobile home sites, the largest being Saydo where every Wednesday there is an “English” market. Mollina is a wine growing area and produces wines and sherries. (Wikipedia: Mollina)

The owners of the villa are a British couple from Liverpool, Verna and Alan.  They are the most laid-back and hospitable couple you can imagine.  My room is on the second floor of the villa and has a balcony.  When we arrive the room is quite hot because the afternoon sun bears down on it, and there is no air-conditioning except for a fee.  I open up all the windows and turn on the fans and when the sun sinks lower in the sky, it becomes quite pleasant.

my room at the villa in Mollina
my room at the villa in Mollina
My room in Mollina
My room in Mollina

Though Barry is our guide for this tour, the owner of Tour Andalucía is Gary; he invites us to join him at his favorite restaurant, Chavo, for dinner.  He brings along his cousin Paul and his close friend Mark, who are visiting from England.  We sit outside at a table on the street.  Barry and Carol sit on the sidewalk and we sit at street level.  When cars come, they drive quite close to those of us sitting on the street, because the road is narrow.  Mark has a good sense of British humor and the group is quite convivial.

Dinner at Chavo in Mollina
Dinner at Chavo in Mollina
Gary, Paul, Barry, Carol and Mark
Gary, Paul, Barry, Carole and Mark
me and Gary
me, Gary & Paul

I order King Prawns, and this is what I get.  It’s a huge portion, as is everyone’s meal.  You can tell the British influence in this town by the full dinner options on the menu.  I’d rather find a restaurant that caters to Spanish locals and serves tapas, but I don’t think we’re likely to find such in this town populated with so many Brits.

King Prawns for me!
King Prawns for me!

Tomorrow, we head to Ronda for the day.

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my itinerary for spain: here’s what i’ve got so far…

Tuesday, June 11:  I’ve planned my time in Spain, but, so far, I haven’t even begun to think of Portugal.  I know I better start thinking about it soon because I have to fly out of Lisbon on July 25.

Here’s my itinerary so far.

June 28-July 3: Barcelona, Spain, including Montserrat.  I’m staying at BCN Fashion House: (bcn fashion house)

I decided to skip Madrid altogether.

July 3-6:  Toledo, Spain.  I’ll be staying at La Posada de Manolo. Last summer when I was traveling in Greece, I met an inspiring South African lady, Marie-Claire.  She had come to Greece after traveling all over Europe, but especially in Spain and Portugal.  She highly recommended I stay more than one day in Toledo.  Since I have a small group tour lined up in Andalucia from July 6-12, I booked 3 days/4 nights in Toledo.

July 6-12:  I will head straight from Toledo to Malaga Airport, where I will meet Tour Andalucia: Tour Andalucia: Villa Tour

The small group tour includes the following:

  1. Meet at Malaga Airport and subject to arrival time, spend a few hours in Mijas, a lovely mountain village overlooking the Mediterranean, then travel and check in to the Villa.
  2. Breakfast and travel to Seville. Visit the Santa Maria Park to see the amazing Plaza Espana, the site of the American Exhibition of 1929. Walk from the park past some of Seville’s most historic buildings to the Barrio Santa Cruz. Wander through the narrow lanes of the Barrio and take a delicious tapas lunch ‘Seville style’ in one of the lovely small Plazas. In the afternoon visit the largest Cathedral in the world followed by the fabulous Alcazar, one of the oldest Royal Palaces in Europe. An elegant City, Seville was once one of the wealthiest in Europe.
  3. Breakfast and travel to Ronda. One the way, we stop at the historic site of Teba Castle, scene of a famous battle with the Moors. In Ronda we walk you into the town and leave you by the magnificent bridge over the gorge to explore and sightsee on your own. Maybe take a ride around the old town in horse-drawn carriages and wonder at the sheer magnificence of the town perched along the cliff top of the Tajo gorge. Wander through the elegant narrow streets of the old town and visit some of the magnificent houses and the museum of Ronda. Visit the famous Ronda bullring home of the Matador and the oldest in Spain, now a museum.
  4. Breakfast and travel to Malaga. On the way we visit the spectacular El Torcal National Park. Set high in the mountains there is a 45 minute walk through the amazing limestone formations. Arriving in Malaga at lunch hour we go to one of the great value seafood Chiringuitos by the sea. Sample fantastic sardines barbequed on an olive wood fire next to the Mediterranean. We take you into the centre of Malaga near the Cathedral and leave you to explore the town, maybe visiting the magnificent Cathedral, the large Moorish Alcazaba and Roman Theatre. And don’t forget the Picasso Museum since Picasso was born locally and his parents’ house is now the Picasso Foundation and open for visits.
  5. Breakfast and travel to Cordoba. We walk through the old City Walls and into the pretty Barrio San Basilio and see one of the typical patios that Cordoba is famous for. The Royal Stables shows us some of the famous Andalucian horses in a lovely set of buildings. Onto the Christian Alcazar, nowhere near as grand as Seville, but designed in the Mudajar style, a fusion of Moorish and Christian Gothic and the scene of famous historic events including the planning of the voyage of Columbus. The 1,000 year old Arab baths built for the Caliphs remind us of a society long gone and we wander through the Juderia visiting the old Jewish Market & the Synagogue. A great tapas lunch in the Bodega Mesquita followed by the highlight of the day, the spectacular Mesquita, the greatest Mosque in the Western World and the only one with a Cathedral right in the centre of it. The famous Puente Romano bridge awaits demonstrating why Cordoba was the capital of the Roman empire in the Iberian Peninsula.
  6. Breakfast and travel to Granada. Normally the highlight of our tour, we walk into the Bib Rambla, part of the old Silk Market and now the Flower Market of Granada. Here we suggest you sample some of the best Chocolate and Churros in Andalucia. Walking through the square we pass the Bishops Palace and walk into the Alcaiceria, the well-preserved old silk market. The Royal Chapel, commissioned as the burial site for the famous ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Ferdinand and Isabella, is now a museum and worth a visit. The beautiful Cathedral is one of the lightest inside that you will see. Have a light lunch and then we drive up to the Alhambra to spend a few hours wandering the gardens and buildings before entering the amazing Nasrid Palaces. After the visit we drive around the City and up to the top of the atmospheric Albaycin where we have dinner at Jardines de Zoraya who host an excellent Flamenco performance with local talented young musicians and dancers. A five-minute ‘after dinner’ walk takes us to the viewing point at San Nichols where we see the beauty of the Alhambra lit up at night set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
  7. Breakfast and, subject to departure flight times, we visit the historic City of Antequera, home of the impressive 5,000 year old Dolmens and the first Alcazaba to fall in the reconquest of the kingdom of Granada. Return to Malaga Airport.

July 12-14: After my tour, I’ve been invited to spend two nights with Marianne, and her husband, of  East of Málaga …. and more!.  She lives in the countryside (el campo), in a beautiful area east of Málaga, known as La Axarquía.  I’m really excited to meet a fellow blogger who now makes her home in the south of Spain.

July 14-25:  Heading to Portugal.  I think I will try to rent a car in Malaga and just take off toward Portugal, ending up my last four nights around Lisbon.  While in Lisbon, I want to go to Obidos and Sintra, both highly recommended by my friend and fellow traveler, Marie-Claire.  I also want to explore the Alfama in Lisbon.  No specific plans for Portugal yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something before I leave Oman. 🙂