October 20, 2017 – October 28, 2017
Our second week in Spain had been earmarked from the beginning for the perfect week to have Lauren’s best friend Jacci come to visit us. Their friend Amanda had enough saved up to join too so we decided to surprise Jacci at the airport. We – and by “we” I mean Lauren – fashioned Jacci a huge pink sign and we came up with a plan to have Amanda come out of the shadows to surprise her. Thanks to some luck and a little bit of truth bending by Lauren, our plan was successful and Jacci had no clue.
That night being a weekend, we celebrated us all being together with a night on the town which included an amazing dinner followed by some dancing at a local club. I had never heard of one before but got a recommendation for a nice Argentinian steakhouse in town that was as delicious as we had been told. Our waiter was also kind enough to direct us to the best places to grab a couple drinks down the street.
The first place he recommended is called Sweet. Here we got a wake-up call on when people go out at night. We are used to going out somewhere between 10 and 12 and coming back shortly after the bars close at 2:30am. In Spain, however the clubs do not even get to maximum capacity until just before 2 and stay open until as late as 6 or 7 in the morning. There was practically nobody there since we were early so we decided to go to another place our server recommended to us called Sala Rose. It ended up being much more full there and we had a great time dancing along Spanish pop music.
Later in the week we took a miniature day trip to Malaga since Lauren had to work in the afternoon. What we lacked in time, we more then made up for in fun. None of us had ever ridden one, but we booked an electric bike tour around the city. An electric bike is very similar to a regular bike where you still have to peddle, but each peddle has a little more oomph than on a regular bike. This extra power allows you to go up hills without exerting much more effort then you would just using a regular bike on even ground. They were extremely helpful to have as we cruised the streets of Malaga, every few minutes getting a rundown of the area by our amazing tour guide, Luis. This way we were able to see all the major sights in the city and to fully enjoy the beautiful weather. It was definitely my favorite tour of any of the cities we have visited thus far.
There are many incredible sights throughout the city of Malaga. From the starting point in our tour we saw the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and an ancient Roman amphitheater built in the 1st century AD that was uncovered in 1951. From there we made our way up Mount Gibralfaro to see the castle on top of the hill. At our highest point on the mountain we had magnificent panoramic views of the skyline and the beach. Directly below us was the bull-fighting ring of Malaga which we got to look inside of several minutes later. First, however, we got to coast our electric bikes down the hill, flying through the winding roads down to the bottom, the entire city laid out before us.
After peeking inside the bull-fighting ring, we enjoyed a lovely ride along the coast where we were able to enjoy the warm breeze coming in off the water and the bright blue cloudless sky. It was truly a spectacular experience.
The next day we went the opposite direction down the coast to Granada. The ride there was an amazing and scenic mountain route with cliffs along both sides. We were able to watch the sunrise over the mountains as we drove. It was spectacular.
Our day in Granada did not start off great, however, as we had trouble finding parking and were subsequently late for the free walking tour we had planned on joining. However, we were able to find a different tour which allowed us to see the entire city and hop on and off whenever we liked. We took the tour around the entire city, making sure to stop at the 16th century cathedral and the Alhambra.
The Alhambra is rightly described as “part fortress, part palace, part garden, and part government city.” For many, the city of Granada is visited expressly to see this complex. It was the last stronghold for Muslim inhabitants of the Iberian peninsula – the Moors – back in the 15th century, The complex is full of amazing Moorish architecture, lush gardens and splendid views of the city. The Alhambra is rightfully one of the most visited attractions in all of Spain and should not be missed if traveling the region in any capacity. With its snow-capped mountain backdrop, it is beautiful from both up close and from afar and well worth the money to see inside.
To polish off our busy week with our friends we decided to do something more relaxing and took a little coastal boat tour on a luxury catamaran called the Optimist of London II which was captained by an English expat named Mike. The day started off chilly, but after a few drinks and breakfast handmade by the first mate, Dan, things started to warm up and we were able to let loose a little more.
The first part of the 3-hour tour was spent at a relaxing pace, sailing along the coast while sipping mimosas and chatting as the sun made its ways over the Spanish hills. We stopped near the beautiful natural beach at La Cantarrijan to anchor and enjoy the aforementioned breakfast prepared by Dan. Afterward, we all hopped on a tiny little raft and took a short journey around a corner to an old smugglers cave set into the cliffs. When we got back to the catamaran we braved the unbelievably clear (and icy cold) water and took a swim off the side of the boat where we snorkeled and gazed at the interested fish that swam below us. Jacci also had an encounter with a tiny jellyfish that luckily did not hurt her too bad.
Here our allotted 3 hours was starting to run out, but we decided since this was likely our only chance to ever experience a trip like this we pitched in and bought another hour on the boat. Our captain used this hour to let us soak up some sun on the front of the boat, chatting, drinking, and having a generally great time. We chased a fishing boat to try to catch a glimpse of some dolphins but we were ultimately unsuccessful.
Despite that failure, we ultimately had an amazing time on (and off!) the boat. The southern coast of Spain is beyond beautiful and it was an incredible experience being wined and dined by Mike and Dan. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Our final day with Jacci and Amanda was spent in Torre del Mar. We took a trip back to El Horno, a local restaurant which had turned into our favorite. Throughout the day we shared several rounds of drinks and spent the hours enjoying the beautiful weather and each other’s company. Later, we capped off their visit with a meal at a fancy restaurant in town.
Having Jacci and Amanda visit us was such a memorable and fun experience and we are glad to have been able to spend the week with them. I hope they both enjoyed their first Europe trip as much as we enjoyed hanging out with them. Throughout the entire trip we were constantly smiling, laughing, and having an amazing time together. It is very sad to see them go, not only because we will miss them, but also because the next 2 months we will likely not be seeing any of our friends or family (including during Thanksgiving). Still, I cannot wait to see what other crazy experiences are in store for us in Europe!
Thank you for reading!
- Avoid taking a car into Granada! It’s a nightmare and parking is few and far between.
- Choose your tours wisely. Hop-on, Hop-off tours are convenient in bigger cities but are more impersonal than tours where you have someone speaking directly to you and able to answer questions. Walking tours may require a lot of sweat and exercise if the weather is not right. Guided bike tours like the ones in Malaga may be your best bet. Think outside the box.
- If visiting Granada, book Alhambra tours in advance. There is a strict limited on visitors per day and online tickets the day of are more expensive.