I’d never really considered a trip to the Costa del Sol… I always imagined it to be full of holiday resorts frequented by 1980’s gangsters living it up in Marbella on the Costa del Crime! But after a family holiday was arranged and I started some research into the area, I found it’s full of history and amazing places to visit! My usual planning brain went into overdrive figuring out the logistics for some visits… “if I get up at 6am I can drive there for opening, rush around in an hour, and be back for lunch!”
But on reflection I decided to do things a little differently… while I love my usual exploring and trying to fit in as much as possible in the time I have available, it does mean I usually return from holiday more tired than when I went. And with this trip being a family holiday rather than a lone trip, what better time to kick back and relax for a few days, even if it means I don’t get any good content for a blog…
Calahonda, Cabopino, Mijas
We’re staying just outside Marbella although to be honest I’m a little confused where exactly… I think it’s Calahonda, but it could also be Cabopino, Mijas, or just Marbella itself… the boundaries aren’t very clear and our street seems to be in a blackhole between the Mijas and Marbella welcome signs!
Being a big family holiday to celebrate my parents’ 70th birthdays (I should have said 21st’s shouldn’t I ), we’ve booked a villa so that we can all spend some quality time together. But when we arrive, I wonder if I’ve got lost and accidently entered Love Island, it’s absolutely amazing!!
A few minutes’ walk from the villa is a small square with a couple of bars which soon become our locals… La Placita, a restaurant serving great pizzas (and even better complimentary toffee vodka shots), and Lennon Sport Bar, a bar showing the football and seemingly the local’s hangout too.
Also nearby is the Puerto de Cabopino which has a good selection of restaurants as well. At Portofino Cabopino I get to see my tea alive before he’s cooked… after ordering we go outside to the beach to watch the windsurfers, but the waiter comes running out to show me my lobster before he’s served up with linguine… it doesn’t come fresher than that! And Albert’s Bar & Grill is another great place we try… it doesn’t look much from the outside, but it’s stunning inside and the cocktails and food match the décor! The Albert’s Wild gin cocktail is great, and all of our food is good… mine being the Dubai kebab, although I could have done with an extra skewer…
We don’t have a bad meal the whole week, but undoubtedly the best place we go to is Luna Beach, a beach bar and restaurant a few minutes’ walk from Lennon Sport Bar and the Calahonda square. The seafood is out of this world… cooked on an open fire in an outside beach hut, one night I get Tiger Prawns which are almost the size of the lobster, another night I get Seabass which is filleted at the table to serve us! But it’s not just the seafood that’s good… the Luna style pork tenderloin is absolutely huge and delicious, the steaks are great, and the desserts need to be seen to be believed! We order the brownie and vanilla ice cream, and it comes complete with a Magnum ice cream on top!!! (unfortunately my cheese cake doesn’t, but I get the leftovers of the Magnum anyway ). And just to top off the experience at Luna, the staff are amazing too… super super friendly and welcoming, even when we bump into them later on in Lennon Sport Bar!
You may be wondering if we did anything but eat and drink on holiday, but other than a very cold and windy visit to the beach one day, we spent most of our time in Calahonda chilling at the villa. One day was quite cloudy and rainy though so we did venture out…
Cocodrilos Park Torremolinos
As well as taking advantage of a relaxing holiday rather than my usual break neck sight-seeing trips, another bonus of a family holiday means getting to go to places I wouldn’t normally otherwise go to. While I have no problem sight-seeing or even trying bars and restaurants when on solo trips, I draw the line at going to places more aimed at kids… nobody wants to be that weird guy on his own taking photos!!
So I’m pleased when my nephew says he wants to go to the Crocodile Park in Torremolinos, as so do I! It’s still quite early in the year though (mid-April) so the crocodiles are all still in the greenhouses rather than roaming around outside in the pools, it must still be a bit too cold for them outside (I’m not surprised, I’m wearing jeans and a hoodie!)
It’s a cool place though… there is a full-sized stuffed crocodile in the entrance and gift shop, baby crocs, turtles and tortoises, and other lizards in viewing tanks as you wander around the different huts, and then all of the adult crocodiles are in pools in the greenhouse where there is a talk and demonstration by the keepers. You can even hold a baby crocodile for a photo if that’s something you fancy doing!!
Having come to the outskirts of Malaga for the crocodile park it seems rude not to do a bit of exploring and sight-seeing… so we head into the centre of the city for the afternoon.
I’d made an itinerary just in case this happened so I have a good idea of where I want to go, with the Alcazaba Moorish Palace, Castillo de Gibralfaro castle ruins and the Ataranzanas Central Mercado food market being top of my list.
Unfortunately, we get stuck in the Friday afternoon traffic and lose almost an hour of sight-seeing time! And with my parents not really fancying the walk up to the top of the VERY high hill that the castle stands atop, we make do having a wander up the meandering path through the Parque de Malaga up to the Alcazaba to admire the outside.
Walking up to the palace through the gardens it feels like I’m in Dorne in Game of Thrones… I’m expecting to see Prince Oberyn or Ellaria Strand somewhere! And the palace to really cool to see… an early 11th century palatial fortification built by the Hammudid dynasty.
The views out over Malaga are also amazing… the bull ring sits right in the centre of the city with apartment blocks and office buildings towering over it, and in the distance is the harbour and the sea. After a while admiring the views and the palace, we head back down and get a coffee just in time as the clouds descend and the rain pours down!
Marbella & Puerto Banús
On our last morning we head to Puerto Banús for a look at the glitz and glamour of Marbella. And it’s quite a strange place… we park a few minutes’ walk from the harbour front and the town is really quiet, with not many people around and most of the shops and restaurants closed late on a Saturday morning. But getting to the harbour front, it’s rammed with people, and a huge mix of people at that.
There’s lots of sight-seers like us wandering around admiring the expensive yachts, cars and shops. There are the people who obviously own the expensive yachts, cars and shop in the expensive shops… one guy we see looks like his pocket handkerchief costs more than my house as he climbs out of his gleaming red Ferrari, hair perfectly slicked back, trophy girlfriend on arm. And then there’s the street sellers… selling fake Rolex watches outside the Rolex shop and fake Dior handbags outside the Dior shop! I guess that’s a good sales tactic… jump on the window shoppers wishing for the expensive watches and handbags that they can’t afford, so when they turn around, they can buy the affordable fake versions instead!
We stop for a coffee and it’s a great place to people watch and watch the world go by… other than Monaco, I don’t think I’ve seen such a collection of Bentley’s, Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and other flash cars in such a concentrated space. And it makes me think… I wonder if travel blogging will ever earn me enough to join them!
It’s been a great family break… different from my usual trips of trying to see and do as much as possible, but nice to put my phone down for a while rather than trying to capture every second of the day to include in a blog! And the South Coast of Spain has really captured my attention… I definitely need to come back to explore Malaga properly and complete my itinerary, and with the Alhambra, the Mezquita of Cordoba and the mountaintop city of Ronda all in the area… road trip from Sevilla anyone??