This post is super late, but the memories I have from Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar are clear as day, as if they happened yesterday. In mid-December, I traveled abroad with the boo-ski and his mom. His family spent Christmas there, but I flew back to the States in time to spend the holiday with my family and friends. Long story short, my European vacation was ridiculously fun. Here are some of the highlights of my weeklong stay abroad.
After enduring what felt like THE longest layover known to mankind in Amsterdam, I arrived in Málaga, Spain, on Monday night. It’s located near the south of the country, near the Mediterranean Sea.
We stayed at the lovely Marriott Playa Andaluza. Unfortunately, due to jet lag (we should have opened the curtains to let the sunlight in), Ms. C and I slept in till just about 3 p.m. local time.
Feeling quite disheveled, we managed to sneak into the Spanish class that the resort was offering in the lobby, which was adorned with beautiful Christmas decorations, like the Nativity scene pictured above.
We then set out on a journey by car to the nearby Super Sol grocery store, and safely arrived after a couple missed exits and tricky roundabouts.
I was struck by the copious amounts of pork on hand, ranging from large ham legs with hoofs still intact, to the long strings of salami and mounds of bacon. We could only find two varieties of sliced turkey, and the whole chicken behind the butcher counter didn’t look quite right.
Also, at the resort’s convenience store, we found some quirky delicacies, including a jar of frankfurters and a cookie brand, Filipinos — not to be confused with the nationality. No idea what that’s about.
On the way out from the grocery store, it was sprinkling and I saw a turtle meandering about the parking lot. I regret not stopping to document it. I hope the little fella made it across the road alive.
I made sure to set my alarm for a decent hour and cooked us some omelettes, my breakfast specialty. Dash and I took a quick jaunt around the hotel and had fun with the life-sized chess board.
The sun was shining after the previous days of gloom. I became enamored with the glimpses of hillsides seen from the property.
But as nightfall approached, the clouds began to roll in. The sunset, however, was beautiful — far more picturesque than these images captured on my iPhone.
We packed up and headed to Portugal by late afternoon, setting off on a four-hour car ride. The sun was bright and the air was crisp.
Unfortunately, the sunshine quickly faded away and more rain swept through. The saving grace was that we could see the Mediterranean Sea peeking out every now and then. There was also tons of graffiti along the highway, which was a treat for my weary eyes.
The rustic-looking homes and buildings scattered upon the hillsides were indicators that I was far, very far, from home.
And there were plenty of tolls along the way.
My boo looking too cool for school in his shades.
The Rock of Gibraltar made an appearance off in the distance.
And what seemed to be a castle of some sort. The car was moving faster than I could capture these amazing images, so I decided it was best that I just sit back and drink in the scenery after a while.
After surviving a run-in with torrential rain (there seriously was a flash flood in the middle of the highway), we were rewarded with a rainbow for our trouble.
The sun was setting as we crossed over into Portugal.
It was dark by the time we made it to our home for the next two days — the Four Seasons Fairways in Almancil, Portugal. The middle sections of the roundabouts were decorated nicely with Christmas displays and lights. It was beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas.
We saw how gorgeous the resort was in the daylight and got an early start.
Not before stopping by the restaurant for a morning beverage.
We took a short but scenic drive to the bustling town of Loulé to do some shopping. It was like a postcard, just like I imagined. I fell in love with the cobblestone streets and quaint little shops.
I was delighted to find a thrift shop, where I purchased an ultra long and cozy, grey knitted scarf (seen in my “Knitted Christmas” Outfit of the Day).
The old-world architecture and statues captured my attention.
As did the street art and graffiti. I wish I knew the story behind these handprints.
Random tags on the city’s ancient-looking buildings made for excellent, interesting eye candy.
There was an indoor meat market of sorts with fresh ham, chicken, beef and whatnot, as well as fresh fish, crab, squid, shrimp and eel, among other sea creatures. The fishermen were in their boots, as if they had been out to sea that morning (or so they smelled like it).
All the walking worked up our appetites, so we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall family restaurant called Restaurante Retiro Dos Arco. It was the best meal of the trip hands down. Dash and I ordered the beefsteak and Ms. C got the salmon, which she said was the best she’d ever had.
At several points we saw stray dogs wandering the streets, which was peculiar. Each seemed to be unfazed by traffic and went unnoticed by the townspeople.
That night we rested and played card games.
It was another early morning, as we packed our bags and checked out of the villa. On the way back to Espanha (as they call it in Portugal), we made a stop through Seville, hoping to see a landmark park called Parque de Maria Luisa.
I was in awe at the diversity of the buildings, which came in a wide array of styles.
There was street art and graffiti, and lots of it.
Unfortunately, our view of this vibrant city was sullied when we were accosted by a man demanding we pay him for a free public parking spot. We had passed two such men moments earlier. Dash had read on TripAdvisor that these shady individuals, called “gorrillas,” are notorious for trying to rip people off. Thankfully, an off-duty policewoman saw what was going on and tried to get him to stop harassing us. But after he threatened to slash our tires and called my bf the “n” word, it was time to get the heck out of that city.
On the way back to Málaga, we made a stop by the Rock of Gibraltar for some photo opps. We were too late to actually see the sights so we retreated back to the Marriott resort, our comfy home away from home.
We were on a mission to see The Rock and its infamous monkeys, so we gave Gibraltar another go.
It was a pleasant surprise seeing this Detroit bar and restaurant abroad, being that we’re all from the D.
A British territory, Gibraltar had the iconic, red telephone booths. I couldn’t resist this staged photo opp!
Here we are waiting for the bus to take us to the tram to get to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Lots of old buildings.
And random statues and cannons.
The views from the top are phenomenal. Thankfully, the skies were clear so we could see everything it had to offer.
Looking over the edge was a big step for me, as I’m afraid of heights. Deep breaths.
Having way too much fun atop the rock, throwing up “The Roc.” Tee hee!
Note the subtle hint of fear in my eyes.
The Barbary macaques of Gibraltar were a riot. Though I was a little on edge, scared that a rogue monkey would get handsy. They’re known to pick pockets. This was proven by the group of macaques seen on the roof of a car parked in the Nature Reserve, hemming up a man who was trying to get inside his vehicle and drive off. It was a hilarious sight, and I was glad I wasn’t him.
We raced against the clock to Málaga, where I had hoped to see the Museo Picasso. The city is where famed artist Pablo Picasso was born.
This is me bummed out that after all that trouble (circling the neighborhood trying to find it, struggling to park), the museum wouldn’t let us in because it was too close to closing time. Shame!
At least there were some wonderful visuals to make up for it, and there was a parade of sorts through the shopping center with people playing instruments and singing.
This reminded me of home and was a bittersweet reminder that my time in Spain was quickly dwindling.
I was up early to catch my flight back to Los Angeles. From Málaga, I flew to Paris, France, and I literally was there for all of an hour. I’m determined to go back there though.
This was the trip of a lifetime for me. Being abroad for a week genuinely felt like a vacation. I liked the luxury of sleeping in and choosing what I wanted to do, without having a packed itinerary. I brushed up on my español, bonded with Ms. C and spent some unforgettable, precious moments with the love of my life. I truly cherished every minute of it.
P.S. Special thanks to Dash for letting me use some of his pics, and to Ms. C for inviting me to join in on the fun!