Easter Break

Eight Americans walk into a pub…

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but reality was much kinder as this was something we personally experienced over Easter Break as we found ourselves NOT alone, rather in the company of the Simmons family.  They live on our block in Portland, OR, USA, and Brian Simmons is helping my exchange partner with the ins and outs of maintaining our home.  They have been very supportive friends, especially over the past 9 months or so.  In fact, they promised they would all visit us at some point, and they made that happen over the break.

In Fuengirola, Spain.

In Fuengirola, Spain.

They first arrived in London, and we met them for a few days in the big city.  Then they all came up to Melton and stayed at a local B&B for a few more nights.  They wanted to see what our country living was all about.  “Wow” came out of their mouths a lot.  One thing they noticed straight away was how cold it was here.  I told them it had been cold since, well, November. I also informed them to pack for three seasons, which they reluctantly did at first but were glad in the end.  Luckily we were all escaping the cold here by heading to Malaga, Espana, for one week.

We all stayed in the town of Benalmadena, about a 20 minute train ride south of Malaga.  Situated on the Mediterranen, we enjoyed some sun, some beach, and some tapas.

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The beach one block from our hotel.

The beach one block from our hotel.

Josh and Zachary with looking forward to another ice cream.

Josh and Zachary with looking forward to another ice cream.

Zoe and Annika and lovely wisteria.

Zoe and Annika and lovely wisteria.

In Spain we found our springtime weather.  Though not as hot as I might have liked it, our temperatures were roughly between 22 and 28, whilst it was near 0 back in the East Midlands.  No complaints.  The pool water was a bit cold, and the Med was cold as well, but so were the beers, so again all was quite good.  It was especially nice to communicate with others who understood what we were saying, and would lend an ear to listen to how we were doing.  Both Brian and his wife Jennifer were good listeners, hearing all our tales (the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly).  Their curiosity was good for us, as it felt good just to laugh and hug and be silly with those who know us best.  Eight Americans tramping around southern Spain together was quite a sight, as we did not see any other Americans around the whole time, which rather surprised us.  You could hear us coming a mile away!

Sunset along the Mediterranean. Majestic.

Sunset along the Mediterranean.
Majestic.

The only way to eat in Spain.  BBQ sea bass and sardines.  Both Rebecca and I were in culinary heaven the whole time.

The only way to eat in Spain. BBQ sea bass and sardines. Both Rebecca and I were in culinary heaven the whole time.

Day Trips:     Malaga

We took a trip to Malaga for the day.  There we visited the 12th century Alcazaba, a Moorish castle.  Much different from the English type, as function, form, AND beauty were all incorporated.  And the weather was awesome.  Seems like our day trips had the best weather, and our beach and poolside days were a tad cooler.  Oh well, made for better photos.  After the Alcazaba we tried to see the Picasso museum, as he was born here, but it was closed on Mondays.  Our guidebook seemed to leave that detail out.

Following are a series of photos from the Alcazaba.  Remember, this is a castle!

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Serenaded by a (not so) lonely guitarist outside a cafe.

Serenaded by a (not so) lonely guitarist outside a cafe.

Orange and lemon trees were abundant, and when we could reach them we indulged.  Hopefully no one minded.

Orange and lemon trees were abundant, and when we could reach them we indulged. Hopefully no one minded.

Day Trips:     Fuengirola

South of Benalmadena is the town of Fuengirola, which has a castle, a beach esplanade, and tonnes of sun.  We walked up and down the esplanade, ate a lunch of which boquerones (fried anchovies) were devoured, and absorbed Mediterranean culture.  Brian and I even smoked a cigarette.  If you did not already know, Europe loves to smoke cigarettes.  Our girls were really disappointed, but they understood that this was not part of our normal routines.

Having a cig.

Having a cig.

Jen having a beer.

Jen having a beer.

Having a blast poking around this old caste.  Much less dramatic that the one in Malaga, but still very interesting, such as this doorway to one of the towers.

Rebecca having a blast poking around this old caste. Much less dramatic that the one in Malaga, but still very interesting, such as this doorway to one of the towers.

Caught a small snake.  All the kids, except Zoe, took a turn holding it.  Brian swore that it was a good luck sign.

Caught a small snake. All the kids, except Zoe, took a turn holding it. Brian swore that it was a good luck sign.

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The cover of me and Brian's next album.

The cover of me and Brian’s next album.

Fateful graffiti?

Fateful graffiti?

Costa Del Sol living up to its name.  Looking north towards Benalmadena.

Costa Del Sol living up to its name. Looking north towards Benalmadena.

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Day Trips:    Morocco

One of the most anticipated journeys was the trip to Morocco.  We booked a tour through our hotel, since getting there and back takes a long time and it was easier to let someone else do the driving and get us to the sights.  We all got on our bus at 6:45am.  There were a total of 20 tourists on board and we were the only Americans.  Some Finnish girls, some Germans, and the rest Spanish.  The bus is a two hour ride south to Tenarife, just south of Gibralter.

Once there we took a ferry across to Morocco.  The weather was clear, but the sea was really choppy.  My kids did not fare so well, and Zachary got sick on the back deck.  He was not alone, as other tourists were seasick too.  After about an hour at sea we safely docked in Morocco, and were led onto a different tour bus led by a Moroccan gentleman who spoke mostly in English for the duration of our day.  Apparently the ferry was late, so our whole day seemed a little rushed as we had a lot to see in little time and had to make the ferry back to Spain.  We walked through parks, across aisles in markets, and through the alleys of the Medina (old part of the city).

The Moroccans we met all spoke multiple languages really well and were very friendly.  I never felt threatened for my safety at any time, though the trinket sellers began to feel like a swarm of mosquitoes after a while.  We ate in a restaurant, having couscous, soup, and mint tea.  We looked at Moroccan rugs (but did not purchase), went into a spice shop, visited a couple different small business to buy souvenirs, and ended at the Hotel Continental.  Weather was quite warm, and our guide wanted us to see how green the country was due to the extreme amount of rain they have received in the past couple months.  They welcome the rains, but struggle with the flooding.  Spain was having the same problems.

Tarife harbour.

Tarife harbour.

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It was a surreal scene with the kids on a camel ride.  Cost us only 2 euros and was totally worth it just for their expressions.

It was a surreal scene with the kids on a camel ride. Cost us only 2 euros and was totally worth it just for their expressions.

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Pottery for sale.

Pottery for sale.

Plants for sale.

Plants for sale.

The minaret atop one of the many mosques we saw.

The minaret atop one of the many mosques we saw.
Olives! I love Moroccan olives.

Olives! I love Moroccan olives.

Veg!

Veg!

Meat!

Meat!

You are probably wondering if it was OK to take photos.  Well, I asked our guide Marcel if there were any “rules” surrounding photo taking.  He said to try and not get any women facing you, as they might complain.  If you wanted a photo of a stranger, you need to ask and will probably need to pay them.  Otherwise, snap away.  I put the iPad away for photo taking so Rebecca and Zachary took turns snapping away with our digital camera.  We figured that if a child had the camera people might be less suspect.  Annika took plenty with her own camera as well.  Rebecca took this next photo…

I am in the background past the motorcyclist.  Apparently he got off his bike and shouted at Rebecca for disrespecting him and his people, or something like that, since she did not have permission to take photos. Our group was hustled past him.  I missed the whole thing.

I am in the background past the motorcyclist. Apparently he got off his bike and shouted at Rebecca for disrespecting him and his people, or something like that, since she did not have permission to take his photo. Our group was hustled past him. I missed the whole thing. Still a good picture, don’t you think?  I hope he is not reading my blog.

Musicians playing at our meal.  Zachary just stepped up and took the photo.  He has not a worry in him that they might have wanted some money for this shot.  We tipped them upon our departure.

Musicians playing at our meal. Zachary just stepped up and took the photo. He has not a worry in him that they might have wanted some money for this shot. We tipped them upon our departure. 

Note to Doug Levin: I got you a fez just like the ones they are wearing!

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Handmade rugs.  She obliged for the photo op.  We did not purchase, though I was tempted.  Rebecca says I am always tempted by something.

Handmade rugs. She obliged for the photo op. We did not purchase, though I was tempted. Rebecca says I am always tempted by something.

Another Mosque.  The colours in this city were vibrant and friendly everywhere we looked.

Another Mosque. The colours in this city were vibrant and friendly everywhere we looked.

This place was a hotbed for expat activity in the 1940s-1960s.  Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and other counter-culture folks would stay here for cheap and probably break a lot of morals.

This place was a hotbed for expat activity in the 1940s-1960s. Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and other counter-culture folks would stay here for cheap, and probably break a lot of morals along the way.  The hotel itself is absolutely beautiful inside, with intricate tilework everywhere.  I would love to stay in this place if I could.

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Alas, we had to leave.  The ferry was super-smooth sailing coming back as we slid into Benalmadena, back to the beachfront for more tapas, some wine, and some great stories to share.

Embarking the terminal.

Embarking the terminal.

Goodbye for now, Morocco.

Goodbye for now, Morocco.

Hello sardines!

Hello sardines!

5 thoughts on “Easter Break

  1. A wonderful report!! The photos are great! Thank you for doing such a great job of keeping us up to date on your experiences. What a trip abroad you all are sharing!!

  2. I love Spain, great pix! I’ve been to different areas of Spain, now I want to go to these places, and maybe Morocco too. I can’t believe you got Doug a fez, he owes you!

  3. Jane and I stayed in Tarife about 15 years ago. While walking on the beach (might have been in Frontiera or another town), I encountered a soldier on duty. I asked him what the land across the Mediterranean was. He replied, “Afrique.” Your pics and story are great!

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