I know I already shared this story (my whole life has like 5 stories and I share them repeatedly…maybe that’s why I have no friends but the lonely lonesome highway) but we chose Malaga pretty much the same way you choose a vacation by throwing a dart at a map: We threw a dart at a map… almost. Really, though, when I found $229 roundtrip tickets from San Fran to Reykjavik to London, I booked with 7 days in between flying into London and flying out. I didn’t care where we went, but it was going to be November, which is gloomy in Utah, dreary in Iceland, foreboding in London…you get the point. So I literally searched for warmest places in Europe with flights no more than about 4 hours from London and BOOM…Malaga it was.
Back in the day, we went to Barcelona. I think it was 2013, our second time in Europe, once again in November. And once again we went to Spain to escape the cold. On that trip, we went from Chicago to Dublin, drove around Ireland, then went to Edinburgh, took a tour to Loch Ness and a haunted city tour (which was bloody amazing, you go to the creepy tunnels WAY underneath the city) to Athens Greece (needless to say that ruled) and ended in Barcelona. I am ashamed to say I wasn’t super stoked for Barcelona, but I don’t even remember why. It was amazing. It was phenomenal. It was fantastic. The people were cool, the weather was perfect, the city was zany and fun, and we loved every second. So when I found flights from Stansted to Malaga for under $100 (yes, it was Ryanair but I still maintain they are fine and not terrible) I was stoked and booked and waited to get out of the cold.
I need not recount the traumatic experiences we’ve had at Stansted but we made it through and the flight was about 3 hours, not interesting at all except the weird dude who sat next to Caitlin and didn’t shut up for the duration of the flight. I laughed and laughed from 3 rows back. Landing and getting the car, however, was not as smooth.
THE RENTAL CAR: AVOID AUTOS LIDO MALAGA AT ALL COSTS
I thought I got a sweet deal on our car, and it was listed as “Economy Rent a Car” which I thought was the company. Alas, it was not, and we waited for at least 30 minutes to get their ghetto shuttle at which point the hustle began. I booked this on Priceline, so I thought it’d be more legit, but the second we got to the Autos Lido building it got weird. It was totally abandoned and empty (understandable, since it was pushing 11pm) and the service was sloooooooow, which wasn’t understandable since it was empty and abandoned. But immediately Maria started the hustle. First, it was the fact that we would have to pay €90 for gas. Like, non-negotiable, and now we’re far from the airport and stranded so I don’t know what to say except whatever. Next, she said we had to pay €200 (or more, can’t remember but it was insane) for “roadside assistance.” Keep in mind the Priceline rental said we would owe €66 at pickup, so I was expecting that. Yeah, I know it’s a crazy rate for 5 days or whatever, but I thought Priceline would weed out scams. So anyways, when Maria tells us we owe that I just say no we won’t pay that. So she lowers the price and I keep saying that we were going to pay the 66 and I guess we can do the gas but I’m not paying more. So she gets up and leaves and comes back and then tells us OK, fine, but we have to do a €1,000 deposit for damages. At this point I know the company is sketchy so there’s no WAY I’m giving them a shot at stealing 1k from me, so again I say no and now I’m getting frustrated. She tells us how dangerous it is to go with the lower deposit because we will owe so much more if we get damage, blah blah blah and we are exhausted, hungry, ready to sleep, and not in the mood for this so I tell her, nicely, to get bent and we do the lesser deposit which she hadn’t even mentioned as a possibility. Chase covers us anyways so we’re good. I vow to bring the tank back so empty that the car coasts in on fumes since we had to pay €90 for a tank that probably costs €40…and in 5 days, I do bring the car back INSANELY empty which was nice revenge. We did get a Mini which was nice for gas mileage.
Anyways, and this is good advice for anywhere, CHECK YOUR BLOODY CAR FOR DAMAGE VERY VERY THOROUGHLY! Check for stains and tears inside, dents and scratches outside, just take the extra 10 minutes and do it. By now, I knew they were looking for easy money, so we took ages looking through the car and wouldn’t you know, it was missing a cover on the rear-view mirror and they hadn’t marked it. She said, “Oh, we didn’t know about that, we would have given you a different car if we knew.” Riiiiiiiiight. Glad we caught that. Anyways, whatever, we sped off into the dark Spanish night with a vow to warn the world about Autos Lido. Stay away.
I found Hotel Betania on hotels.com and it had decent reviews, plus that pool looked sweet. Plus, we never travel to stay in the room much, just to sleep and ditch our bags. And honestly, it wasn’t terrible but wasn’t awesome either. The pool reminded me of the “before” in this SNL sketch. Needless to say the pool was not only empty but looked like it needed some TLC like 15 years ago. Whatever, it was an OK place to stay, although having to take an elevator up to floor 2, then walk through the creepy closed bar, then take a different elevator up 2 more floors was weird but not a biggie.
Parking there is pretty hit or miss though. The first night, we weren’t sure if we could find parking on the skinny hill/street in front of the hotel, so we parked at the bottom and lugged our stuff up. Stupidly, as it turned out, since there was heaps of parking. Other days and nights there wasn’t anything, so we had to park a bit farther away. When it says free parking, though, just know it means street parking, nothing private.
DAY 1: ROCKING THE ALCAZABA
I know it’s hard to believe, but we didn’t really have plans for Spain…as usual. I knew it was warm and I knew I enjoyed Spain and that’s really all I needed. As usual, our plans were just to have a couple ideas of what to do and then wing it from there, talk to locals, plan as we go, etc. The first thing we saw online that looked cool was the Alcazaba, which is this cool massive fortress up above Malaga. I needed no convincing…if it’s old and historic I’m in, so we pulled up a map and off we went. The first issue we ran into though is I didn’t have any Euros and we tried to park right next to the Alcazaba…bad idea. It looked clear to park, then out of nowhere, some old dude started demanding cash and I have no idea if he was legit, though he did have an official-looking vest on. We hadn’t exchanged money yet (and really didn’t plan on doing so), so he told us in Spanglish that there was an ATM up inside the fortress. Caitlin ran up there since I was driving and didn’t want to lose our spot and alas, no, there was no ATM. Whatever, we ended up driving down this hill and finding a place where a million cars looked to have created their own parking lot. Was it legal? No idea. But my thought is if the cops were going to ticket all the cars, it would be heaps of work and if it happened, whatever. So we parked and trudged up the hill to Alcazaba and in the end, no ticket and we didn’t have to pay. Win win win win win win.
Basically, Alcazaba is cool. We didn’t pay to go inside, but you can walk all around it and there’s a super dope view of the city from the top. All along the trails are cool weird hippie type people and we had so much fun just walking aimlessly. One of my absolute favorite parts of the trip was on the trail, right as it starts to descend into the city, there’s a nice viewpoint where everyone sits and lounges and takes photos. This viewpoint also has heaps of people busking, and there was an acoustic guitar and flute duo who absolutely tore it up. It was like listening to Jethro Tull or something, and listening as we looked over the city was pretty sweet. I only had American dollars but I gave them a couple, hopefully they didn’t get killed on the exchange.
WANDERING THE CITY PART ONE
After Alcazaba, it would have made lots of sense to just walk down the hill all the way into the city. We got pretty close, but then decided it would be dumb because at some point we’d have to go get the car, so we went all the way back up the hill (not fun) and grabbed the car with absolutely no plans at all…just the way I like it.
Parking in Malaga sucks, as per usual for pretty much everywhere cool in the world. You either try your luck and hope to get a spot along the main street where you pay a parking meter (we didn’t get one despite driving down the main street like 2,000 times) or park in an expensive underground lot. Luckily, the underground lots are guarded and take credit cards, so whatever, we paid the expensive fee and went out to see this great city.
Now, as usual, we didn’t do anything extreme. If you’re looking for something CRAZY to happen, you’re in the wrong blog. Shoutout to my buddy Hess but we ain’t looking to kill things (side note: I asked these high school kids where in the world they’d like to travel. One kid said, to my delight, New Zealand. Then, to my horror when I asked why, he said he wanted to shoot a red stag. That’s it.) We didn’t skydive or dirtbike or really do anything wild, but you probably know that by now from reading my scintillating and interesting blog posts, right? (Hi mom). But wandering foreign cities is one of my deep passions, even if nothing happens. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the nothingness that is everything, ya know? No? Well whatever. I like just being out and about and feeling the vibes of foreign cities.
And Malaga is a great city to wander. The weather was absolutely perfect, very Mediterranean feeling. Lots of the houses look and feel that way also, and down by the harbor, there’s some little beaches and a whole bunch of shops and a Ferris wheel and it just feels like a vacation town in a good way.
EL CORTE INGLES… IS A MALL
We wandered the beachfront area until it got dark and since we’d parked by this massive building that said El Corte Ingles in like 30 feet letters, we figured we might as well check it out since we were there. It was a mall. Just a mall. But there were toilets for free, which is always a rarity in Europe, so that was nice. And we ended up getting some decent Pad Thai at Chen Market inside the mall. It actually had some good looking expensive-ish food at the food court, but it was insanely crowded and the Chen Market was a short line. Plus, the food was decently priced and pretty good, and the women there told me how they spoke Thai, Vietnamese, English, and Spanish just so they could survive and live in Spain. Nuts I tells ya. Anyways, malls aren’t super exciting so we ducked out and headed to the casa for the night.
DAY 2: ALHAMBRA
One does not simply go to Andalusia and not visit Alhambra…like, it’s not something you do. The problem is that, as always, we kinda winged (wung?) the whole trip and booked fairly late, so by the time we even considered Malaga, Alhambra tickets were sold out for months. No, seriously. I checked every day for like 3 weeks after booking the flights and we decided we’d just go up there and see what happened. Spoiler: We didn’t get into the castle but we did get into the grounds and it was dope.
THE DRIVE FROM MALAGA TO ALHAMBRA
…is pretty sweet. I have this love/hate thing with road trips. I love seeing cool stuff like in Iceland and having no plans between A and B and hoping something cool happens. I love jamming to Brand New and Damien Rice and the Get Up Kids and the Streets and Kanye in the car at abnormally loud and damaging volumes. I love having the windows down and smelling the ocean and having Jordanian soldiers follow us gesturing odd things for 15 minutes. OK maybe not that last part, but I do love road trips…until I don’t. There comes a point, which point is completely arbitrary and changes by the hour, at which I’m just done driving. Unfortunately, my dear sweet beautiful bride doesn’t drive a manual transmission so often times I’m behind the wheel. Anyways, the drive from Malaga to Alhambra is only about 2 hours and although it wasn’t crazy scenic or nothin, it was cool and enjoyable and the drivers were much better than Utah drivers which was nice.
GET ALHAMBRA TICKETS IN ADVANCE OR DON’T GET IN
We’d read online (again, searching like 5,000 different blogs and reading 5,000 different things, which is why I have Jetset Wanderlife, so you can get THE REAL STORY and not have to search 5,000 like I did.) that you might be able to get into Alhambra once you get there if you get really lucky and if Mercury is in retrograde. I also read you have to go super early and…nah. We’re on vacation, we only get up early for flights, and only then if we have to. So we showed up at 11am or something and there were several chaotic-looking lines for who knows what. So we finally just pushed through everyone up to the window that we assumed was ticketing and they told us no chance. We went to a bunch of different kiosks and were told the same thing electronically. But honestly, we were kind of expecting that, so we weren’t super upset. I mean, not to brag (humblebrag coming, sorry) but we’ve been inside all kinds of fortresses and castles and bastilles and whatever, and sometimes the phrase “seen one, seen ‘em all” is true, so I wasn’t gutted to be kept out.
ALHAMBRA GARDENS ARE WORTH DOING
Maybe it’s sour grapes (shoutout to Aesop’s Fables, and while we’re on the subject, Aesop Rock) but I looked at some photos and stuff and I don’t feel like we missed too much going inside Alhambra. Prove me wrong children, prove me wrong. Since we were already there, we figured we’d do the gardens since they were only €7 each, and I’m glad we did. For one, it’s kinda the only way we saw to get to see the actual Alhambra fortress, but it’s also really beautiful and cool.
The Moorish architecture is sweet and there’s absolutely perfect views of the city from the gardens. It was a beautiful day and was super relaxing to just meander around and chill and see the gardens. Do it, even if you can’t get into Alhambra itself.
MY OBSESSION: DON’T JUDGE ME
I’ve covered this and I won’t apologize. It may be my greatest shame…or my greatest achievement. I will no longer stand idly by and hide my light under a bushel. So I’m going to say it (again)…I FREAKING LOVE FOREIGN GROCERY STORES! I don’t know why I do but I refuse to apologize. I love seeing all the weird (to me) foods and buying drinks, especially in languages I don’t understand. I love trying to communicate with cashiers and feeling like somewhat of an outcast. I loved the old guy in Croatia getting super frustrated with me in line at the store because I didn’t speak Croatian. I love it all. So for me, Spain was heaven. I could pick out certain words on labels and stuff, and they have big and small groceries and markets pretty much everywhere, so on our drive from Alhambra back to Malaga, I probably stopped like 5 times. Absolutely no regrets. Seeing the giant pig legs (and sending a photo to my sister, whose son said it scared him) was rad, and since Caitlin’s dad spent 2 years in Spain, he told us some good stuff to eat. It rules and I will never stop loving foreign groceries. (Also, I talked to a guy the other day who, totally unprovoked, mentioned how he loves this too…which made me feel better about myself).
Anyways, Alhambra was pretty much our day, and we ended the night roaming the harbor area, walking along the sand, doing all that romantic rubbish and loving every second of it.
DAY 3: MUSEUMS GALORE
Dude, Picasso was born in Malaga. Dude. Dude! You can’t go to Malaga without visiting the Picasso Museum, or the Museo Picasso Malaga, as the Spaniards call it. You just can’t. So that was our plan, and it was totally worth it. I think it was something like €12 each to go to the museum and a collection or two, and we loved it. Now, as far as Picasso, I’ve had this debate with myself many times. Is Picasso good (to me) as an artist or have I just been told he’s good and the fact that he’s famous makes me think he’s good? I have no idea. In my mind, famous usually means good, and I don’t think I can change that at this point, so I figured I’d go and appreciate Picasso in all his weirdness. And appreciate him I did.
MITCH THE (NON) ART CRITIC’S TAKE ON PICASSO
As usual, I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the museum since Google and Wikipedia are things now. Suffice it to say it’s cool to see a bunch of a famous artist’s work in his hometown. Back in the day I thought I might one day be celebrated for something, but it turns out Alpine Utah doesn’t build museums for onesie salesman. Maybe one day.
I enjoyed learning a bit about ol’ Pablo but what I really enjoyed was seeing his different phases. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this on here (probably) but I’m obsessed with music. It’s just my thing. And as much as it sometimes shocks to see a band completely change their style (think Radiohead going from OK Computer to Kid A), even if I don’t love the change, I appreciate the effort. Like, were The Strokes supposed to make Is This It 12 more times? They haven’t changed a ton but they’ve evolved, and I like that, doing something new and dangerous and risky even if it doesn’t always land. So seeing Picasso’s blue period, cubism, weird period (which was pretty much all of it to me) was rad and I just felt like you could see his evolvement as an artist (and probably as a person too). I like the fact that people are changing and that was my favorite part of the museum. They didn’t allow photography but whatever, look it up…or just go.
CENTRE POMPIDOU MALAGA: FREE ON SUNDAY
One thing you notice quickly in Malaga’s downtown area is the cool glass cube building. I had no idea what it was when I saw it but assumed it was something artsy and indeed it was! To be totally honest, this was my least favorite of the 3 museums we visited in Malaga. It had a few cool pieces here and there, but a lot of it was meh. Again, this is subjective, you might absolutely love it. There was a whole bunch of display sheep in the basement which reminded me of New Zealand. I don’t know why they were there but whatever, it’s art…right? (I already debated myself regarding what is considered art when I looked at a urinal at the Tate Modern for 20 minutes…I can’t rehash it again. But yeah, this museum was cool enough but I’m glad we got in for free.
CONTEMPORARY ART CENTRE OF MALAGA
This was not only my favorite Malaga museum, it was one of my favorite museums I’ve been to. First off, the building is in kind of a cool place, near a river/canal/whatever it is, some cool statues outside, a public square with kids skateboarding, little kids climbing on stuff, people chilling and talking, some cool high-rise buildings nearby with cool paintings on them, shops and apartments across the street…just cool. Oh, and it’s free which is always cool.
For one, I loved the layout inside. It’s just bright and white and open, which is pretty much my dream house except my dream house has windows overlooking the ocean. On a totally unrelated note does anyone want to give me like $10 million? Anyways, the CAC (as the locals call it, or as Google calls it at least) is just cool. It’s got lots of big mural-style paintings along the walls, and for me, most of the artists were unknown. As in, not Picasso or Monet or one of the 3 other artists I’ve ever heard of. And I guess that settles my art debate in a way…I loved a bunch of stuff in this museum of my own volition. I had never heard of these artists and nobody told me whether the art was “good” or not (except the fact it’s in a museum, which I guess is implicitly saying it’s good) and I loved it. I’m colorblind, but some of the colors were dope and I loved the abstract stuff. So there, I don’t need an art history degree anymore because I just figured everything out here.
The only thing I didn’t like is the museum is quite small. It’s one of the only places (maybe the only) where I had hoped there was more to see because I was enjoying it so much. Even places like the Louvre, as much as I love them, can be exhausting and overwhelming, and the CAC was on the other end of the spectrum where it seemed a bit too small. But maybe that’s why I loved it, it’s like George Costanza leaving the room after a good line…it just makes you appreciate it and want it a bit more.
DAY 4: DRIVING TO MOROCCO BABY!
Now my friends, you must be patient, because Morocco is a separate post which you will have to click elsewhere for. The drive from Malaga to the port was a couple hours, and it is absolutely fascinating how the landscape (city wise) changes as you get to the southern tip of Spain. It’s like a totally different place, much more stuff written in Arabic and it goes from rural countryside to crowded city. Very cool stuff. Now read my Morocco post, and eventually come back here for the conclusion of our time in Spain, which ruled.
DAY 6: GIBRALTAR…OH GIBRALTAR…YOU RULE…AND THE REST OF SPAIN
Once again, you will have to click elsewhere to read my Gibraltar post. But suffice it to say it was my favorite part of the whole trip and I’m soooooooo glad we spontaneously did it. But here I’m picking up after Gibraltar.
This might be hard to believe, but I forgot to book a hotel for this one particular night. Caitlin had me plan most of this trip, and honestly, I killed it for the most part…save this small detail. So we’re leaving Morocco heading back to Tarifa and Caitlin asks where we’re staying to which I reply…uh…let me check…hmmm…weird…this is…uh-oh…shoot…dang. We are staying nowhere. Because we have nowhere to stay. Which actually turned out to our advantage, because we ended up randomly deciding to do Gibraltar and then use Hotel Tonight (use code mmallory6 for $25 off first booking of $135+) to get a sweet room for cheap right outside Gibraltar. So whatever. But on with the show.
We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Campo De Gibraltar Barrios and it was perfect. The room was surprisingly nice and after an exhausting day of walking all over Gibraltar, it felt amazing to just chill. As an added perk, there’s a grocery store literally like 1 minute away, so we were eating like queens…and kings…and the free breakfast was amazingly good, one of the best we’ve had. The staff was great, the parking was free, and life was good…until we realized we’d left our camera and didn’t have time to turn around since we were flying out of Malaga. Whatever, we paid like €60 and got it back later. Live and learn.
The drive back to Malaga was pretty and nice, but I had that familiar dread feeling knowing we were flying out that night. I mean, I was stoked to see London again (it sucked, we walked to the hotel and left the next morning) and very stoked for Iceland (it ruled, but the delay sucked), but I knew the trip was mostly over except for the miserable flying and training and car-ing and bus-ing stuff. So that sucked, but we ended it with a nice beach afternoon and it was rad.
MALAGUETA BEACH SIGN AND MONK PARAKEETS
We had a few hours to kill before taking the car back and heading to the airport, so we did what anyone dreading a return to the Utah winter would do: Headed back to the beach. We hit Malagueta beach as we’d heard it was nice and cool, and it was. It was windy and gloomy, so not ideal beach weather, but still better than what we were heading back to. We climbed all over the Malaga sign at Malagueta and saw a ton of super cool birds that we thought were some kind of parrot. They seemed smart (who knows how I decided that) and reminded me of the Kia bird of New Zealand and were super pretty and exotic, even to a colorblind person like me. They came in flocks and seemed super friendly and we were taking a bunch of photos, probably to the chagrin of the locals since it seems like they are kind of annoying. Still, I was stoked because it seemed like something we would only see in a zoo back home.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: TAPAS AND WINDOW SHOPPING
Surprisingly, we hadn’t had any tapas since being in Spain, and we weren’t about to leave without trying a whole bunch. Caitlin’s dad gave us some tips and we went to the public square to an outdoor café. By this point, it was a beautiful but slightly overcast day, and it was fun to hangout outside and hear the buskers and musicians and even the one random guy singing really poor acapella. All good my man, all good.
We got a bunch of small tapas to try and some were better than others (naturally), I really loved the spicy potatoes with cheese sauce (yeah they reminded me of Taco Bell, is that a problem?) and Caitlin really loved everything. We walked around the city center, checked out the cool Roman Theater (we didn’t pay to go in, just walked by and talked about how crazy the Romans were), got gelato, bought souvenirs, and just lived the life. We were bummed to be leaving, but it had been such a great trip we couldn’t be too upset. Just like that, it was time to go return the car (in the words of Brand New, “the low fuel light’s been on for days, it doesn’t mean anything). Since we had paid €90 for a full tank and they said to bring it back empty, man, we brought it back empty! I think I told Caitlin at least 12 times on the drive that we were going to stall and run out of gas and get stuck and miss our flight but alas, we made it, and stuck it to the crooked Autos Lido in the process, double win! And that was it. Spain ruled. The weather, the people, everything is perfect and I want to retire there starting now. Start clicking all my links so I can afford it!