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Today is the final day of our holiday, with our plane back to Luton departing from Malaga around 7pm this evening. The other night we had the fun tasks of filling in our passenger locator forms and checking that our lateral flow tests had been successfully despatched. But before the journey home, we just had time for one more adventure We were due to hand in the hire car at Malaga airport at 16.30 this afternoon. The place we were staying in Cordoba was only a couple of hours drive away from Malaga, which meant we had time for a substantial stop-off somewhere on route. After checking out of the apartment some time around 10am this morning, we therefore started driving in the direction of El Torcal de Antequera. El Torcal de Antequera is a natural park, just south of the city of Antequera, and only about a 50-minute drive away from Malaga airport. There's a visitor centre with free car parking, although the carpark wasn't anywhere near as big as I expected and we only just managed to find a space when we arrived some time after 11.30. First impressions were that the landscape here is really impressive. It reminded me a bit of when we had visited Brimham Rocks earlier this year. The rock formations here were much, much bigger than at Brimham Rocks though. After parking the car, we walked towards a signposted viewing area. From here the views were amazing - both of the rocks... ...and of the countryside below us. I'd already decided that this was a great place to visit There are three different walks which you can do in the park. The walks are colour-coded and marked with arrows. We'd decided to do the yellow route, which was described as being 3km and requiring 2 hours. We soon learned that you really need to pay attention to the arrows, as we accidentally went a few steps off track and lost the path! There's huge potential to get lost here because the scenery is so unusual and lots of the rocks look the same. The only way to walk here without following a marked trail is to go on a guided trip. Thankfully after that one incident, we didn't have any more difficulties finding the yellow arrows The scenery we walked through was absolutely stunning. Apparently this is one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe - I can see why! In places the path was quite easy to follow. In other places it was rockier and I was glad that I was flying home in my walking boots (mainly because I couldn't fit them in my suitcase - I'd brought them with me for the Caminito del Rey). Tim didn't have his, but seemed to manage okay in trainers The only problem with the route was that there weren't any indications of how far around you were, so we weren't sure how many kilometres we still had left to walk. I could have kept walking all day through scenery like this, but was conscious of the fact that we had a plane to catch We kept following the yellow markers, and before 2 hours were up we caught sight of the visitor centre where we'd started on the horizon. We enjoyed the final views as we walked towards it. I particularly loved these striped rocks. You could see the different layers in them so clearly! When we got back to the visitor centre we realised it had a restaurant, so we were able to sit outside on a sunny terrace and enjoy a final view of the countryside. We had pudding too, of course Then all that was left to do was to drive the little hire car back towards Malaga It's been an absolutely wonderful holiday and this was a great way to end it
The weather wasn't forecast to be great today, but when we woke up in Malaga this morning it still felt pretty warm. We were checking out of our apartment today and heading off on the next stage of our trip, but before we did so we planned to visit the Cafeteria Esperanto, in the hope that it would be open and we'd be able to get some breakfast. Luckily it was and we were able to able to enjoy coffee and churros while sitting outside - all for the bargain price of €3.50 Once we'd finished breakfast we headed back to the apartment, where we packed up our things and set off in our mint-green hire car towards the small town of Ronda. Ronda is located inland, about 65 miles from Malaga, and from the pictures I'd seen online it looked like a really beautiful place. The first part of our journey was quite speedy, leaving Malaga by what seemed like a motorway, but as we got closer towards Ronda we began travelling on winding roads through the Sierra de las Nieves natural park. The further we travelled the worse the weather became and when we eventually arrived in Ronda around midday it was decidedly damp! We parked the car and began walking towards the centre of town, through some pretty gardens. These led us to a viewpoint from where we got our first glimpse of the town. Ronda is situated at the top of the El Tajo gorge. The gorge actually divides the town in half and is spanned by a couple of bridges, which we were hoping to see later in the day. It looks like quite a precarious location for a town! Even though today was a bit misty, we had some great views of the surrounding countryside. I particularly liked this window in the rock. Walking further towards the town, we came to Ronda's bull ring. Next to here was another viewpoint with a bandstand. From here we could see a bit more of the town It turned out that we weren't far away from the centre now and we soon got our first glimpse of Puente Nuevo. Construction of this bridge across the gorge started in 1759 and took 34 years to complete. The town's main road now runs across the bridge. We crossed it to see the view in the opposite direction. I would not want to live in a house with a drop like this outside my window!! From a viewing platform on this side of the road we could see Puente Viejo, the old bridge. This one was built in 1616 and today is only accessible for pedestrians. We were hungry by this point so found a small restaurant with a very affordable "menu of the day". For €12.50 each, we had a starter of spaghetti bolognese (which was large enough to be a main meal in its own right!), a main course (Tim had a Spanish stew, I went with chicken schnitzel) and a pudding of chocolate mousse, with a free drink and bread thrown in too. It seemed like very good value After lunch we had another walk around Ronda, crossing over the new bridge again... ...and admiring some of the town's churches. We were trying to find our way down to the old bridge, but the first path we tried was closed off. We eventually found an alternative route, climbing down some of the steep little streets in the old town. It had stopped raining by this point but the rain had made the pavements quite wet and slippery so the walk was a bit of a challenge at times! Eventually we made it down to the old bridge The gorge is narrower here, so it's not as wide as the newer bridge. We had some great views from here back up towards the town and could even see the river Guadalevín down at the bottom of the gorge. We also found a really pretty walkway to take us back up to the main town; a series of steps interspersed with viewing platforms, which was much easier to climb back up than the narrow streets would have been. Apparently the gorge is 120 metres deep here. It was certainly enough to give me vertigo if I looked down at it for too long. I can't imagine what it's like living in these houses! Soon we were back up to the level of the main town. We strolled back to the car the way we had come, enjoying the views back towards Ronda. The weather had cleared up a bit now so we had some clearer views of the surrounding countryside too. It seems like a really pretty part of Spain. I had no idea the countryside around Malaga was so mountainous until I started researching this trip. We are staying in a hotel in a town called El Chorro tonight, which was about an hour's drive away from Ronda. The views continued to be beautiful as we made our way through the mountains. There's a limit to how fast our tiny little car will go uphill, though We made it to El Chorro without any difficulty and checked in to the hotel. The room is a little bit unusual - we've got a nice living area... ...and an equally nice bedroom... ...but the two are linked by this very steep and narrow spiral staircase! Not one to attempt after a couple of glasses of wine, I think We've got some great views of the mountains from our windows though
When we were walking back from the centre of town to our apartment last night, we needed to consult Google Maps a couple of times to find our way. Guess what Tim saw as he zoomed in on the streets in our local area?! Yes, that's right - Calle Esperanto We were tired and more hoping to find a supermarket than an Esperanto monument last night, but when we woke up this morning - refreshed after nearly 12 hours sleep - we knew what our first stop was going to be. Esperanto Street, which was only a short walk away from where we're staying, actually surpassed our expectations, coming complete with a Cafeteria Esperanto! Today's a public holiday in Spain so it was closed, otherwise we would have popped in for a coffee. It was fun to see though, as well as a handful of other Esperanto signs on the street Once we'd finished exploring Calle Esperanto, we set off to find the parts of Malaga we'd actually intended to see There were some beautiful big trees as we walked into the city centre and the sky was a lovely shade of blue for a day when the weather forecast had predicted rain. Before too long we came to the part of town where we'd eaten yesterday evening. This street had some rather impressive decorations. Unfortunately it was a bit too sunny to make for a good photo, though! We caught a glimpse of the tower of Malaga's cathedral around the corner, so walked towards it. We soon found ourselves in Plaza de la Constitución, one of the main squares in Malaga. The cathedral was just around the corner from here. It's so enormous that we didn't manage to fit it all in a photo. Walking further south, we came towards Malaga's main park. There were some really impressive palm trees here and we had a lovely walk in the shade. At times it really felt quite tropical! We were walking towards Malaga's bull ring. We found it, but it turned out to be another one of those things which was so enormous it was difficult to fit it all in one photo. As we turned to walk back towards the town centre, we found ourselves strolling through some more beautiful gardens. There is a surprising amount of greenery and flowers in Malaga considering how relentlessly hot the weather is here. It was pretty cool to walk through the park and see oranges growing on the trees We were walking towards the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress initially built in the early 11th century. The entrance, where we had to queue for tickets, is just next door to Malaga's Roman theatre. I had initially been a bit disappointed because the Roman theatre isn't open on Mondays, but it seems like it probably wouldn't have been the most impressive Roman remains we've ever seen. Although there was quite a long queue for tickets, it moved quickly. Once we got to the front we were able to purchase them from a machine; €5.50 each for a combined ticket that would give us entry both to the Alcazaba and another castle which we planned to visit later in the day. As we began walking around the Alcazaba, we had some great views back towards Malaga cathedral. We could also see down towards the park with the palm trees where we'd been walking, with the bull ring in the distance too. It was fun walking around the ramparts, but unbelievably hot. I'd been expecting temperatures in the early twenties, but we saw a thermometer saying 27 degrees today The view that surprised me most was the view out to sea. I knew that Malaga had a port, but I hadn't expected there to be a huge cruise ship in it. I guess cruising is back! The other thing which will probably stand out from the photos is how built up Malaga is. It's really quite a large city, with a population of around 578,000. There were some pretty gardens within the Alcazaba. We could also see up towards Gibralfaro castle, which we planned to visit later in the day. Once we'd finished admiring the views we had a drink to cool off and then walked back down towards the city. There was actually a better view of the walls of the Alcazaba (and of the Roman theatre) once we were outside it. It was midday by this point and we were absolutely starving, so we sat down at a restaurant in a nearby square to get lunch. It seems like our bodies haven't yet adapted to Spanish time, because when we sat down the waitress asked whether we wanted breakfast She gave us a menu for lunch, but it was closer to half 12 before we were able to order it. Once we'd finished eating it was time to explore castle Gibralfaro, which is another Moorish fortification on a hill above Malaga. The climb uphill towards it was a bit steep, but there were some more impressive views back down towards the town. After 20 minutes or so of climbing, we knew we were nearly there when we caught sight of a large Spanish flag. Once we made it to the top we were able to stroll around the castle ramparts. The region around Malaga is really quite mountainous and we're looking forward to exploring more inland from tomorrow For today though we were pretty tired after climbing uphill in the heat, so we decided to head back to the apartment for a siesta before going out for another stroll later in the evening
It's a long time since I've been on a plane. 666 days since I flew back to Gatwick from Narvik in the north of Norway, to be exact! Since then I've had a lot of trips to Scotland and even more trips to my new favourite county of Northumberland. But after Tim's successful trip to Poland last month and with Covid restrictions gradually decreasing, it became increasingly tempting to book a holiday abroad. I knew that I could have time off work in early November, and while that wouldn't normally be my preferred time of year to go away, it was at least helpful in allowing us to narrow down a shortlist of places which were permitting entry to British tourists and wouldn't be cold and rainy in November. After a lot of deliberation I ended up booking return flights to Malaga; not a place that has ever been on my bucket list, but after the best part of two years spent in the UK, the thought of going anywhere was incredibly exciting. Of course, a combination of Brexit and Covid means that travel has become a bit more complicated since last time I flew. In preparation for going to Malaga I stocked up on different types of face masks and spent a considerable amount of time reading up on the latest Spanish restrictions. Spain is currently permitting entry to vaccinated travellers from the UK without the need to take a Covid test, so long as you can prove your vaccination status and fill in a piece of paperwork called the "Spain Travel Health" form in advance. The form, which has to be filled out 48 hours before you arrive in Spain, is in principle quite straightforward, but the website isn't going to win any prizes for being user-friendly. It took me a while to get through mine yesterday, but once I did I was emailed a QR code which I just needed to print and bring with me to show on arrival. I got a really good deal on the flights out, paying £22 each for a ticket from Luton to Malaga. The only catches were that it cost an extra £25 to bring a suitcase and the flight itself was at 07.00. With airport parking booked for 04.30, this translated to an alarm set for 02.30 in the morning. An additional frisson of excitement was introduced into the proceedings by the fact that the clocks were switching from daylight savings time back to GMT at 02.00 this morning. I set my alarm for what I thought was going to be the right time and hoped for the best. The good news is that the clocks did change when I expected, my phone automatically updated itself and we got up at the correct time The journey to Luton was easy, with very little other traffic on the roads, and the airport parking experience was fairly straightforward too. The airport itself didn't seem overly busy. We only queued for around 10 minutes at the EasyJet baggage drop to deposit our bags and significantly less than that at security, where we almost walked straight through. No one in Luton was interested in seeing our vaccination status etc; it was just the usual showing of boarding passes and passports. We boarded the flight ahead of schedule and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't completely full. The seat next to us was empty, as was the entire row in front, so it didn't feel particularly crowded. That was good, because we ended up sitting on the plane for around half an hour before we were ultimately able to take off; the pilot said something about air traffic control restrictions over France. It was very cloudy in the UK and it seemed pretty cloudy over Europe too, so there wasn't much of a view for the majority of the flight. It was only when we started to descend towards Malaga that we got our first glimpse of Spain. We landed in Malaga around 40 minutes behind schedule and then spent another 30 minutes or so sitting in the plane on an obscure part of the runway, waiting for another plane to vacate our parking spot. Never mind, we weren't going to be able to check into our accommodation until 3pm, so it didn't really matter Eventually we were able to disembark the plane and progress through the various checks at the airport. First of all we had the passport check, where I got my first post-Brexit passport stamp, and then we had the health check. It was all over in a flash; the staff scanned our QR codes from the Spain Travel Health forms, vaguely glanced at our vaccination certificates and that was it; we were officially in Spain We collected our luggage and exited the airport, trying to find a shuttle bus which would take us to the place we'd hired a car from. Tim tracked down the shuttle and soon we were at the hire place, waiting in turn to get our car. First impressions of Spain were that it was seriously hot - way hotter than I had expected it to be in November. We were both wearing jumpers and trousers which hadn't felt particularly warm when we'd left Nuneaton at 3am this morning, but which now felt absolutely sweltering. The pilot had said temperatures would get up to 26 degrees celsius today and it definitely felt like it. Wearing a face mask made it feel even hotter. I hadn't found it to bad on the plane and had quite happily managed to fall asleep wearing it, but keeping it on in the heat was more of a struggle. We were hiring a car from a company called Malaga Car, which wasn't the cheapest car hire company I found online but which for around EUR 400 was prepared to hire us a car without holding a massive excess on our credit cards. There were other companies hiring cars for closer to EUR 200 but with excesses up to EUR 1200, which made me rather nervous! I had deliberately hired the smallest car possible, thinking that would be easiest for parking and navigating on small Spanish streets, but even I was slightly surprised by the tiny mint-green Fiat 500 which we were eventually presented with We just about managed to squeeze ourselves and our luggage into it and then we were off! It was only a drive of around 15 minutes or so into the centre of Malaga and we managed it without too many difficulties. Despite all the delays, it still wasn't quite 2pm and so we were a bit early for checking into the apartment. We got temporarily excited when we got a Whatsapp message from the owner asking for confirmation of the time we were arriving, thinking perhaps we might be able to check in a bit earlier, but it turned out that he couldn't accommodate us until 3. We drove around in circles for a while before finding somewhere where we could park the car for a bit and go and get a drink. The parking situation in Malaga seems really difficult so I was glad that I'd booked an apartment with parking. And I was even more glad, when we eventually got there at 3, that I'd hired the smallest possible car. It turned out that to access the parking space we had to drive our car in a special car lift and travel down several floors underneath the apartment building It would definitely have been a struggle with a larger car! Once the parking was sorted, checking into the apartment was easy. I'd realised after booking this one that the small print stated a cash deposit of EUR 150 was required on arrival, but we didn't get asked for that in the end which was a bonus The apartment itself is nice and comfy with a living and dining area... ... and small kitchen downstairs... ...then a separate bedroom and bathroom upstairs. The bed looked very tempting given our extreme lack of sleep, but we hadn't eaten anything since a couple of shortbread biscuits on the plane so after a brief bit of unpacking we decided to walk towards central Malaga and try to find a restaurant. The outskirts of Malaga are not particularly scenic, with lots of tall apartment blocks. Once we got closer to the centre it became more attractive and we got a glimpse of the edge of the old town. In what might be a true stereotype of Brits arriving in Malaga, we eventually ended up eating chicken tikka masala In our defence, it was around 4pm by this stage so we had missed Spanish lunchtime and were still hours away from anything like a respectable Spanish dinner time, so we were just glad to find anywhere still serving food. And it was actually really nice It felt so unusual to be somewhere warm enough to sit outside and eat dinner! Tonight is definitely going to be an early night, but we're looking forward to exploring more of Malaga tomorrow