The past few days were spent celebrating Mark’s birthday by enjoying sun, sand, and getting a tan in Spain. Mark was in Valencia for work earlier in the week, so we met at the Malaga airport on Wednesday to kick off the big 3-0. With countless places to visit at our fingertips, it is hard to decide where to go! Sometimes it seems like the best methodology is to simply close your eyes and pick a spot on the map, but a friend recommended this little slice of heaven to maximize our sun exposure during these dreary months. Watching the breathtaking 6:30pm sunset, rather than experiencing sudden darkness at 4:30pm like here in London, was the perfect way to start a relaxing few days.
No less spectacular than oohing and aahing over the flaming sky from our room’s balcony was getting into swim suits the next day and hanging out on the practically vacant beach. November is off season, however our quickly developed tan lines suggested otherwise.As if having the beach to ourselves wasn’t enough, I found a restaurant called Bistro Paloma for dinner that evening, where we happened to have a table outside and the whole cobblestone street to ourselves.
I surprised Mark with a private wine tour in Andalucia planned for Friday as his gift, and the experience turned out to be one of the most memorable that we’ve had. We visited three wineries; the first was a one man operation called García Hidalgo, where the wine maker gave us a tour and prepared a seemingly endless array of tapas. The Spanish people are so hospitable- our tour guide even brought homemade dulce de membrillo for the winemaker, which they shared with us to taste. This typical Spanish dessert is eaten with mild cheese and made from the fruit of a quince tree, which produces this cross between a lemon and a pear.
At our next bodega (Spanish for “winery”), we toured the grounds of Joaquín Fernández and had a tasting along with lunch prepared by the winemaker. My favorite part about the bodegas was that they leave the bottles on the table and just expect that you pour yourself more of what you like, unlike Napa where Mark would secretly pour in a few swigs when the tasting guards weren’t watching!
A quick stop in Ronda, one of Spain’s oldest town’s established in the 9th century BC, offered this spectacular view of what long ago, inspired Ernest Hemingway.
Our third and final stop was simply remarkable, Descalzos Viejo. Once a monestary, the winemaker (architect by trade), salvaged the three standing walls and created the most unique winemaking and tasting facility that I’ve ever seen. While walking around the grounds, we sampled straight from the trees pomegranate, avocado and tempranillio, the most delicious fruit that is only grown in Spain. Needless to say, our wine tour guide saved the very best for last. Mark even made a new friend!Another spectacular sunset entertained us on the hour and a half drive down the mountains back to our hotel.
We woke up Saturday ready to explore the romantic streets of Marbella. After shopping and latte drinking in the Plaza De Los Naranjos (Orange Square), we offhandedly found the most delicious lunch spot, Tapas Sidrería Paca.
We had one last incredibly delicious dinner at Hacienda Patagonica, another whimsical decision that turned out to be the local hotspot about 20 minutes after we arrived. The marinated peppers and aubergine were indescribably decadent, and the skirt steak was flavored and grilled to perfection.
Costa del Sol translates to mean “Coast of the Sun.” A very enjoyable part of the area indeed is the sun and its beautiful disappearance over the sea, but the genuinely kind people, unique cuisine and tranquilizing atmosphere all make more of a paraíso, or paradise as we might say.