Spain was the first family vacation we’ve taken in years. My parents and I travel a lot, just never together. I met my parents in London and the next morning we flew to Malaga, to make our way to Marbella as a jumping off point for a few days. Jumps included Gibraltar, Ronda and Granada. The rest of the trip, we took a road trip up the east coast stopping in Valencia for a day, then continuing up to Barcelona for a few more.
Ronda is really pretty little mountain town, famous for its bullfighting ring (the oldest in Spain) and because of an event that took place during the Spanish Civil War made famous by Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Ronda is built way up in the mountains and its chalky white homes are atop these incredible rock towers. The city itself is all connected by absurdly high bridges. There are gorgeous verandas around the city with views over the abyss, and courtyards are full of orange trees and scatterings of stray kittens.
In Ronda’s bullfighting museum:
Marbella is also sweet, though we spent most of our time walking along the boardwalk, gaping at a Swedish film set, and slowly drinking in the old city before heading back for our own home cooking. My parents and I do have fairly similar travel styles, but I’ve got to say – this is a point of digression. I understand wanting to save a dime on food, but if I’m all the way over in Spain, give me some tapas.
Granada was the most beautiful city – I felt like I was stepping into my aesthetic heaven. Especially the Alhambra: be still my heart! We’re talking mad amounts of tinypatterns, filigree, stalactites, ornate wooden grates, Moorish stars, lace-cut rock (if that’s a thing), tiled everything. Beautiful. I told my dad I was going to see if I could have my wedding reception there and witnessed real, momentary fright: just playing! There’s no way I could anyway. Some 8,000 fools visit every day. Get out of my dream, you 7,999!
Now inside the Alhambra…
Gibraltar, though, is totally bizarre. It’s this weird little British peninsula with about 30,000 permanent Brits, but Spain is trying to choke them out by introducing all kinds of customs, including (seriously) a runway across the only road to get into Gib’. Charter cities are normally not something I spend very much time thinking about, but they’re an oddly obscure. Also like the Las Vegas of the UK for its quick, cheap elopements.
We took a cable car to the top of the Rock (which is huge if you’re wondering), then later walked down, passing barrels and barrels of monkeys. The monkeys also recognize plastic and brown paper bags, and if they see even a flash of either in your hand, they will come at you (because they know there’s possibly food inside) to take it.
Valencia was a flash in the pan, but the highlight was staying with this nutty art woman in the old part of the city. Such a bright, cluttered apartment, but she pointed us to excellent tapas at night and spread an amazing breakfast in front of us in the morning.
Valencia is Calatrava’s birthplace
Barcelona was also too short this time, though I managed to squeeze in two of the things I have missed doing the other times I’ve been to Barcelona: go inside La Sagrada Familia and visit Parc Güell.
The inside of La Sagrada Familia was cool, though the inside didn’t look as I expected it to. I realized looking at it – as well as Gaudi’s designs – though that I usually think of Architects as the artists behind the engineering implementation, they really are mathematicians.
His schemata for La Sagrada Familia was insanely complex.
The odd little gingerbread homes of Parc Güell
After Spain, my parents came to visit me in Oxford for about 5 days. I had to work some of those, but here’s a highlight or two:
First cream tea…
Mom loving the weird Centaur-woman-thing