Following our seven week road trip in Morocco, we headed off for the month of July to explore the infamous summer beach scene of Southern Spain with a taste of some city life in Seville. After a bit over 2 weeks traveling around Spain, Barbie and I received some very sad news that my father had passed away. We immediately flew back to the United Sates to be with the family. A very sad time but on the bright side, my dad lived a wonderful 86 years and passed away very peacefully in his sleep. Gary O was a smiling angel and he will be missed dearly.
We cut our summer European journey short to return home. We cancelled the remaining weeks of our travel within Spain to Ronda, Marbella, Nerja and Malaga. We had planned to re-visit the Netherlands after Spain and cancelled our proposed visits to Leiden, Haarlem and Edam. Maybe we can try to visit these places we missed if we return to Europe next summer. So, the game plan following my dad’s death, Barbie and I returned to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to spend a few weeks with my Mom to comfort her and assist in her getting settled into her new life.
Following our ‘Time Well Spent’ with our Mom in Florida, we booked a one way ticket to our favorite rest place to regroup prior to our next leg on our our RTW. We will be spending about three (3) months in Maui in an effort to recharge our batteries. We had been on the road, constantly on the move for the past year visiting French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Netherlands, Morocco and Spain. Long term travel can get tiring and we have learned from our years of travel how important it is to take periodic rest breaks to avoid travel burnout. Over the last four years of our travels, Maui has served us well as our default rest stop. We will be hitting the road again in November and we are narrowing down our choices over the next few months. Any suggestions?
Seville is a very affordable city, with amazing tapas, warm weather, easily walkable, and very beautiful. Seville is the ultimate walking city as the city has turned the historic center into a pedestrian haven. Driving around this zone is severely restricted which makes leisurely walking around a pleasure, especially after downing a bunch of sangria.
I have been told that Seville is one of the most romantic cities. Very similar to Morocco, if you possess zero romantic skills, all you really have to do is show up in Seville with your lady friend and everything will fall into place with little effort expended.
I am not a big architecture guy but the Plaza de Espana is one bad mamma Jamma and a really cool area to check out. Just adjacent to the Plaza de Espana is the peaceful Parque de Maria Luisa. A green jungle oasis in the heart of busy ancient Seville. A great relaxing place to walk and chill within nature.
Tapas Bars (Seville) –
La Brunilda, Arte Y Sabor, Bar Alfalfa, La Bodega de Alfalfa, Dos de Mayo, Mechela Bailen, El Patio San Eloy, La Azotea, La Dalia.
The heat was on during our July visit to Seville. Apparently, all of the heat that rolls in from Africa sits right over the city. We left the heat of Seville after 7 days and headed to the cooler/breezy beaches of the southern Andalusian Coast where tourism is extremely well developed and home of some of the most popular holiday resorts in Spain. What’s cool about this area is all the popular beach towns are located a reasonable drive from each other making beach hopping to the hundreds of beaches real easy.
Following our week in Seville, we headed off in our rental car to check out the the following beach towns along the southern Spain coast. Our routing along the Andalucia Coast was as follows:
Seville – Conil de la Frontera – Estepona (Marbella) – Ronda – Nerja – Malaga
COSTA DE LA LUZ / CADIZ COUNTY –
CONIL DE LA FRONTERA –
Our first beach town stop after Seville, was Conil de la Frontera. Originally a small coastal fishing village but now a very popular tourist town. Conil was a real gem and turned out to be one of my favorite beach towns of all our travels. It ticked all the boxes……Great beach town scene, great restaurants, pedestrian walking streets, excellent stretch of beach, all located in the heart of town. The main beach in town, Playa de Los Batales is quite a scene as all the locals flock here. There are about 10 alternative nearby beaches and coves all having a different vibe to check out.
Beaches West of Conil: Cala de Roche (my fav), Calas de Conil, Cala del Pato, Cala de Aceite, Cala Encendida.
Beaches East of Conil: Playa El Palmar, Los Canos de Meca. A bit further east, Zahara de los Atunes and the very popular Playa Bolonia.
Tapas Bars (Conil de La Frontera) –
La Ola, Bar Ligera, Mama, Tomate Algo, El Portillo, Bar Juan Maria, Le Mejorana, La Tasca de Juan, La Fontanilla, Los Hermanos (buzzing local joint for cheap eats)
COSTA DEL SOL –
ESTEPONA / MARBELLA –
Estepona is a real cool town and a stay in the Old Town is a ‘must’ for at least a few days. Not many other locations on Costa del Sol have managed to retain so much of its original character and charm, despite the onslaught of tourism.
Walking around the colorful flowered alleyways of the Old Town in Estepona reminded me so much of our time spent in the Old Town of Hoi An, Vietnam. A few years ago, the Estepona town council stopped parking in the Old Town streets, made many streets pedestrian only and restricted traffic elsewhere to only residents. This more relaxed vibe was the reason we chose to base in the Old Town of Estepona instead of staying in the busier Marbella which is right next door. Marbella is the most upscale resort area in Spain, so if we wanted our fix of glamour and a faster pace, we could easily head there for the day to hang with the rich and famous.
In Estepona, we opted to stay directly in the quaint Old Town which is the absolute best area to base in my opinion because it has so much character. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment perfectly located among the whitewashed apartments lining the streets of the Old Town. We lived right alongside locals and would never had this opportunity to experience this unique local style of living if not for Airbnb. By staying in the heart of the action, we could easily stroll out each evening to the busy tapas bars which line the really cool cobblestone streets. Some of the most traditional Andalusian cuisine at very affordable prices is available at every corner of the narrow streets of Estepona.
We stayed for a full week which allowed us to effectively explore many of the beaches in the surrounding area. We spent our days hanging out on the long stretch of beach in Estepona. The town also had a real nice promenade along the ocean to walk, bike or jog. Some of the nearby beaches within a 20 minute drive include: Playa Cala Sardina (good beachside restaurant here called Chiringuito ll Sono) and nearby Calita Playa. We also spent the day visiting the nearby chic resort town of Marbella.
Southern Spain / Andalusia Coast Observations –
The locals have crafted a pretty decent quality of life for themselves. It appeared to me they had a good grasp on the proper balance of eating, work, snacking, resting (via mid day siestas naps), eating some more, and socializing/partying. Time means nothing in Spain. It seemed like locals work whenever they feel like it. We learned quickly that Spain is on its own time delay. Everything in Spain seemingly happens roughly 3 hours later than back home. Breakfast is at 11AM, Lunch at 3PM, Dinner at 10 PM and Nightlife partying beginning at 1 AM. Between the hours of 2-5 PM is ‘Siesta’ time which means, close up shop, drop whatever you are doing and go take a nap. I am all in favor of this mid day nap concept but as a visitor you never really could get a handle on when the restaurants and shops will be open. You look out your balcony window at 10 pm at night and it looks like it’s 2pm because it’s still daylight outside. You take a stroll at 11 pm and locals are beginning their dinners feasting and drinking at the many Tapas bars lining the cobblestone streets and alleyways. There are hundreds of tapas bars in every major town and this lively tapas scene makes dining out a treat in the Andalusian capital.
Our abbreviated time in Spain flew by. The only negative aspect of our travels is picking up and leaving each destination. As soon as we would get comfortable with our new lifestyle in each city, beach town or country we always had to leave. This may sound strange considering we have absolutely no time constraints. However, we have come to realize that no matter how much time we have, we always have to leave. And, this the nature of continuous RTW travel when trying to see as many beautiful places in the world. However, we do have the option to settle down longer term into places that we really enjoy. Going forward, that is the plan and we probably will do so once our gut tells us to. Until that time arises, we will remain ‘on the move’ because that’s just the way us Flashpackers roll.