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).
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow, we head to Ronda for the day.