Málaga to Cádiz; or, Spanish travel for OAPs

After leaving Brian’s place in Pizarra, we spent another weekend in Málaga before meeting up with my parents in their motorhome. We’d enjoyed Málaga on our first trip and decided we fancied some more sightseeing, tapas and churros, and as Brian needed to go to the hardware store in Málaga he kindly gave us a lift. And so we said our sad goodbyes to the lovely dogs and cats and chickens and off we went.

Twiggy, Mickey Finn and a very blurry Rosie
Twiggy, Mickey Finn and a very blurry Rosie

Perhaps it was our familiarity with the city from our previous visit, but actually I enjoyed the place even more the second time. We didn’t need to spend time mapping out the area, and we’d already seen some of the major sights which meant that this time we were able to check out a few other places which could get dropped off a tourist itinerary. On Saturday we headed to the Contemporary Arts Gallery, which was a real gem. Housed in what used to be a large wholesale market building, it’s a vast space which at our time of visiting held an exhibition by Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie. His oil paintings featured famous figures such as Van Gogh, Lenin and Hitler, often with dark or ironic slants to them; one of our favourites, in fact, was a large painting of Van Gogh amongst a field of sunflowers wearing what looked like Adidas jogging bottoms and holding a gun.

Sunflowers painting by Adrian Ghenie
Sunflowers painting by Adrian Ghenie

We went up to La Alcazaba again, but actually went in to look around the fortified palace this time, partly as we had more time and partly as it’s free on Sunday afternoons (awesome, no?). From below it doesn’t look to be an awful lot more than reasonably well-preserved walls, but in fact the inside was gorgeous; full of little connecting waterways, pools and pot plants to provide cool and shade in the hot summer months. We also took a walk along the coast of Málaga, where there were a number of little market stools selling an eclectic assortment of jewellery, cakes and bread. One lady was selling a range of sugary baked goods, so I took this as an opportunity for important Go Go Brownie Mission research and (for the pursuit of knowledge, you see) bought and devoured a chocolate brownie. I would rate this brownie 7.5/10 – dense and tasty but a little more on the spongy/cakey side than the squidgy side. I take this as confirmation that I need to continue my search for the perfect brownie…

La Alcazaba
La Alcazaba

I’d arranged to meet up with my parents on Monday morning, though the rendezvous proved a little trickier than originally thought. A 7-foot motorhome is a rare sight in the city of Málaga, and there is a distinct lack of convenient places for them to drive and park up. My dad suggested a large shopping centre to meet up; surely there would be a good sized carpark there, right? Unfortunately not. The only parking was an underground carpark which could not accommodate any vehicle above 2.2m. Quite unreasonably, I thought, my parents were not willing to shave off a metre from their motorhome, so Phil and I were left wandering around the large adjoining roads in search of other options for half an hour. My suggestion of meeting at a nearby petrol station didn’t work out so well either. There we were amongst a mass of backpacks looking rather stranded and windswept, and thus were extremely pleased when we finally saw my parents’ motorhome approaching. To our dismay, rather than turn into the petrol station, we watched as they turned and disappeared back in the direction of the shopping centre we’d just walked from. Mother Pollard called me at this point and said they’d parked up on a side street, so back we trotted with all our bags and were finally reunited with mis padres!

Being in the motorhome is truly awesome. From so many years of summer holidays spent in the caravan in the south of France I’ve built up an unending love for motorhomes and caravans, and it always feels like home if my parents are there. The only slight malfunction happened on the first afternoon whilst we were sitting down to lunch in the van. Suddenly we heard a loud buzzing sound from the bathroom which caused much panic from my mother; usually beeping and buzzing sounds in the motorhome are its way of telling you that something is malfunctioning and needs attention. Amusingly enough, the issue was not in fact with the van itself but my mum’s electric toothbrush, which for reasons unknown decided to go off by itself sporadically and completely at random over the next few days. (This was slightly less funny in the middle of the night, but what can you do.)

Our first stop was a campsite just outside of Estopona, as this was only an hour or so away from Málaga. The campsite had proudly advertised its proximity to the beach, and indeed a signpost outside pointed us across to the beach, which, it noted, was a mere 350m away. The only problem was the gigantic motorway of heavy traffic that divided the campsite from the beach, so the walk was slightly longer. The beach was nice regardless, and almost entirely deserted as it was a windy and slightly chilly day, but mum and I enjoyed walking along chatting, and dad and Phil enjoyed walking along, picking out pebbles and then launching them into the sea. I don’t quite understand the selection process for that; why are some stones are considered more appropriate to chuck back into an ocean which will soon spit them back out? But I digress.

The only other site we got to around Estopona was a nearby Aldi as we needed to do some grocery shopping; the first day or so was mostly for catching up with my parents, drinking a bit of wine and playing a lot of cards. (Actually, that routine continued throughout the week we spent with them, because Mother and Father Pollard, wine and playing cards are three wonderful wonderful things.) Our next stop was to a campsite close to a small town called Alcalá de Los Gazules.  My parents had been there the previous year and were keen to go back as it’s a great place for bird-watching and is a hotspot for eagles. (I’m no bird expert, but – in case you’re interested – research tells me that booted and short-toed eagles are particularly common in the area.) We only stayed one night, which allowed us one afternoon to go for a walk into the adjacent natural park where we saw a lot of cows and even more eagles. Some of the eagles soared close to us as they flitted between two large hills, and we were able to use my dad’s binoculars for an even better view. The way they seem to soar so effortlessly, simply riding the thermals, is really incredible to watch. They only seemed to use their enormous wings on the odd occasion.

Solo eagle
Solo eagle
Eagle group
Eagle group

After that we made our way up to Puerto de Santa María, just across from the historic city of Cádiz. Puerto de Santa María is lovely in its own right; although I don’t like bullfighting, the bullring in the town is quite an impressive sight, and there are plenty of little churches dotted around the town, as well as a small castle – the Castillo de San Marcos, built by King Alfonso X – so there’s enough to keep you entertained for an afternoon. The campsite was in a great location, just on the outskirts of town across from the sea and close to the catamaran which takes you over to Cádiz. We went into Cádiz a couple of days in a row, and it fulfilled my (high!) expectations. I still haven’t grown bored of the quaint little streets lined with colourful balconies, and each street in Cádiz seemed to outshine the one before.

There is a fantastic watchtower, the Torre Tavira, which boasts an impressive Camera Obscura; for a modest entrance fee you can climb to the top and enjoy the views out across all of the rooftop terraces, churches and across to the sea, and you also get a demonstration and explanation of the camera obscura itself complete with close-up views of the entire city and the inhabitants wandering around the streets. The Cathedral is another must-see, with two different styles – baroque and neoclassical – due to it being built over a period of 116 years (1722 – 1836). Its height means you can see it from most points in the city, though the plaza in which it is located is itself a very nice place to dwell, and the number of surrounding cafés and restaurants make that a convenient place to rest during a day of sightseeing.

View of Cádiz cathedral from Torre Tavira
View of Cádiz cathedral from Torre Tavira

We also went to the Oratorio de la Santa Cueva which Phil had wanted to see as it houses a couple of paintings by Goya. The oratory consists of a lower chapel which was minimal, with bare white walls and plain wooden pews to accentuate the power of the sculpture of Jesus’s crucifixion against the centre wall. The chapel upstairs is much grander, and as well as three paintings by Goya, it also has works by other artists including Zacarías González Velázquez. I couldn’t quite shake off the feeling of severe ‘heebie-jeebies’ from the whole place. It might have something to do with its origins as the place of worship built for a Christian group called the ‘Spiritual Withdrawal Congregation’ in the 1700s… I could imagine it as a dark and intimidating place for people to come and chant or perhaps chastise themselves for perceived sins… But to avoid going any further into some sort of religious rant, I will move on to detail another sight in Cádiz which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Museo de Cádiz is home to a large selection of Phoenician and Roman artefacts from the local area, and it maps out the development of Cádiz as an important port and merchant hub. The other half of the museum is devoted to fine arts, again, much of which has come from local artists. The top floor had the contemporary work, which I would say far outshone some of the (if I may say), rather typical religious paintings and portraits dating from around the 16th century, while the ground floor was exhibiting a large number of paintings by Mexican artist Alfredo Arreguín. Colourful and almost mosaic-like, there were some truly wonderful pieces which mum and I enjoyed dwelling over for a long time, whilst dad wandered about looking bored and unimpressed. But at least he doesn’t complain, which is more than can be said about me after I’d waited for the others to hurry up and leave that creepy old oratory…

One of the paintings from the excellent artist at Museo de Cádiz whose name I cannot remember!
One of the paintings by Alfredo Arreguín on display at Cádiz Museum

Being the awesome human beings that they are, my parents gave Phil and I a lift to Vejer de la Frontera, which is the closest town to our next Workaway hosts, Chris and Jo. Chris met us in Vejer, so we sadly parted from my parents and moved on to our next stage in the adventure!

Thanks for reading – check in again soon!

Laura P x

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