In addition to visiting the big cities of Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid, our time in Spain has included more low-key destinations including the island of Mallorca, an organic farm in the La Axarquía region of Andalucía, and the Costa del Sol beaches of Torrox and Nerja.
On Mallorca we stayed in the lovely village of Santa Margalita. Our apartment was located across from the police station, four houses down from the church, and a few short steps to the town plaza. It was a great location from which to take in the sites and sounds of small town Spain including flea and farmer’s markets, pick up soccer games in the plaza, and lively meetings and choir practices in the hall above the police station. When the hustle and bustle of life in Santa Margalita got to be too much, we could always retreat to the back terrace and gaze out onto the Malloracan countryside.
Our next stop was Casa Montes Negros (http://www.casamontesnegros.com/); a working organic farm located in the foothills of the Sierra Tejada mountain range. Our wonderful hosts, Rachael and Ramon, along with their kids Jasmine and Sam, have a lovely home and farm where they grow almonds, figs, olives and pomegranates. Their super sweet dog named Scooby kept us company throughout our stay, often napping in the sun on the terrace outside our rooms. Within a short drive was a beautiful national park where we went for a day hike and only encountered one other group of people (and a fox) the entire time. Even with the harrowing road filled with hairpin turns leading up the farm, it was hard to leave this idyllic location.
Rounding out our non-urban adventure was 10 days along the Costa del Sol. Here we spent a week up in the hills above Torrox, meeting up with Max’s high school friends Liz and Lauren, followed by 3 days in Marbella. Sleeping late, going to a different beach everyday, and floating on the Mediterranean Sea was the extent of our daily agenda. We did manage to motivate and drive to Granada to visit the Alhambra and while it deserves its own blog post, a couple of pictures will have to do.
Our biggest learning from these stops? It is really important to mix it up and get away from the main tourist destinations, especially when traveling in Europe. Until we arrived in Spain we were traveling off-season and in countries that have recently experienced a significant drop in tourism due to international reports of conflict and unrest in the region. When we arrived in Barcelona (our first stop in Europe) it was a bit overwhelming to see so many tourists everywhere. Building in time to explore less frequented areas has given us a window into Spain we could not have experienced by only visiting major cities and tourist destinations.