Estepona, Cadiz, ( Europe’s oldest city), Ronda, and Tarifa – all are a must!
Costa del sol — Coast of the sun! This charming seaside town is an hour’s drive south of Malaga airport by car — much longer by bus. The first time I came here I had to take two buses and it was not easy; jet-lagged, and waiting for my guide, (who was four hours late) had wiped me out. I started to fall asleep on the bench outside — waiting. On my second visit, my guide picked us up at the airport, still late, but the car was quick and easy. I found sweet Andalusian charm with exceptional character of an old fishing village, all here with generous hospitality in a laid back, tranquil town.
The promenade along the sea is lined with palm trees with some scattered beach bars called Chiringuito’s. These beach bars are not just for drinks. They serve fresh seafood, tapas, and barbecued sardines on the spit. Watch your gut on the fried food! We sampled refreshing Albariño white wine, that easily washed down our calamari. Works-of-art sand castles were enjoyable on our evening strolls along the boardwalk.
At the end of the port you can see some huts which on closer inspection, look like storage lockers. The fishing boats return with their catch and hang them on a drying racks.
A balcony is a must here if you decide to rent for any length of time. From our 5th floor, sea view apartment, we saw fantastic sunrises and sunsets. To the south, there was a surreal view of Gibraltar almost touching north Africa. See opening photo. Morning coffee was in this British restaurant, Cafe de la Mar, for breakfast and internet.
Across the street was the beach, and the superbly designed boardwalk — jammed nightly, full of summer vacationers. It was impressing to learn that the beaches have been awarded a blue flag status for their cleanliness. Everyone on the beach had a bright colored umbrella to shade themselves from the scorching sun, which only added to the festive appearance of a coastal town.
The Old town is newly renovated and lovely; white washed homes that displayed colorful flowers, either at the door, or on the balcony…Taberna Miguel on Calle Caridad, a pedestrian street, satisfied my craving for healthy food; a giant salad and seafood. So good, we dined here twice!
A rental car is recommended and the city is easy to navigate. It never took us more than five minutes to find a parking space. There are several cities close by for day trips.
Food is a primary concern when visiting another country. Most of us are not in our usual habitat, and for me, especially without my standard pantry items, meals can be difficult… I usually like the routine of one meal out, and one meal in. The Carrefour shopping center is an easy ride from anywhere in Estepona; for wine, meats, cheeses and local specialties. It’s the store that fills up half of my suitcase – like Lupini beans! We found a wonderful Spanish wine, Emilio Moro 2012 and bought several bottles and stashed them in our checked luggage.
Lighthouses represent historical navigation monuments, just look for the edge of the land where it meets the sea in any port. I am fascinated by them, not just for their architectural features but what they represent. Guiding light I suppose. Estepona, has a very unusual hexagon style. One day I will find one to rent.
Cadiz — is regarded as Europe’s oldest city, having being founded by the Phoenicians. Today, most of the area is from the 18th century during their golden age. The memories I took home were few, but note-worthy — a stunning sight of a multimillion dollar bridge (Puente de la Pepa) still in construction, even with parts missing, your imagination had to fill in the missing pieces with the technique being used.
Our guide, parked the car closer inside the old town, it felt good to get out of the car and stretch after driving for two hours. We walked around the old town of Cadiz and our first area was the Plaza de la Catedral, caught in a procession, and any chance of lunch was halted. As the crowd thinned out we found our way to a street with several restaurants. Shopping and eating were abundant on pedestrian streets. Arriving at lunch time makes it difficult to pick out a restaurant, and the first one we see usually wins out most times — Tapas at Nino’s. Croquettes and calamari. Disconcerting was a waiter who pointed out two lads standing around the corner, almost out of sight. They had laptops in hand and were attempting to steal info from the free WiFi users. This was a new experience for us, as well as several seated nearby.
Ronda — Not just wild, mountainous beauty along the desolate road to Ronda, but you might see a darling crossing of goats as we did — with milk-bellies full, swaggering, as they made their way across the road, heading down hill.
Rhonda sits between two national parks and is approximately 2,500ft above sea level. The road we took was spectacular, and a challenge, despite the sign that had mal, we ignored it. It was a simple three lettered word that meant bad and is a prefix for a dozen words in most Latin languages. Plagued with motion sickness since childhood, I sat in the front seat, while my husband was in the back seat quietly getting ill.
We never saw the pueblos blancos, but we did see the glorious, 18th century, phenomenal El Tajo gorge that joins old and new Ronda. Most of us at the top were fixated on watching rescue efforts of someone who was hiking below who had slipped or had fallen on a hiking path. Now, I don’t mean he fell all the way from the top, but it was horrendous to see all the action. Sorry no photos due to people congestion! We made a stop for tapas and my husband paid the price of the “mal route” and needed to rush out of the restaurant into a nearby alley. That ended our trip and the road home was diverted to a bueno road for our return.
Tarifa — where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, and extends to Portugal. What a surprise to fine leftover hippies from the 60’s, as their garb gave them away. Tarifa is a hotspot for windsurfing, kitesurfing and whale watching. A renowned place to watch migrating birds in particular, the storks, which cross the Straits of Gibraltar in spring and fall. Laid back with mild weather in early May. The winds were gusty; no windsurfers in site, just a deserted beach, and us. Be sure to put your hair in a ponytail or wear a tight hat — I hear the wind is constant. The fried food in old town was delicious, but I think we overdid it. It was some of the best I have ever had, close to being light as tempura.
Since this was a scouting trip, we breezed in for a quick look at the port where the ferries leave for Tangiers. Morocco is eight miles away by ferry. Lovely whitewashed alleyways, in old town to get lost in, and it was easy to navigate to Tarifa’s landmark — the Moorish Castle of Guzman, which is walkable to the beach. The old Fort with thick walls and ramparts as you would expect.
It was nearing sunset and we ran over to catch a glimpse of the sun setting. This was a unique opportunity for me to be here right at sunset – with the sun sinking into the ocean.