Day 20 – Marbella, Fuengirola, and Malaga (Costa Del Sol)

Another archaeology day today, without the beaches. Nothing of note besides an enormously stressful mishap. Remember how yesterday I was so concerned about the size of the car and getting around tiny European streets? Well, after we visited some vats in Marbella, we tried to go to a bonsai museum that they have there. Mostly we thought it would be a funny local curiosity that we should check out, like going to see the world’s largest ball of string on a cross-country road trip. So, we drove to the museum and tried to find parking. No street parking, but apparently there was a parking lot, so we headed for it. As we turned into what appeared to be a parking lot, we realized that it was packed with cars, as were all the streets around it. Cars everywhere. Cars on the curb, cars sticking out into the street, cars blocking other cars in the lot… As soon as we turned in, we knew it was a mistake, that there wouldn’t be any space, so we tried to back out, but a lady had turned in behind me, blocking the exit. She honked, we gestured angrily, and she backed out enough for us to back out and then start down a tiny side street.

Turns out, this tiny side street was a dead end. With no room to turn around at the end. With cars parked all along one side and a building wall on the other. So the only option was the back out. It was awful. Chris directed me as I slowly, painstakingly backed the car out, a millimeter at a time. Finally, we were back on the main street and on our way out of Marbella – no way were we staying after that!

After Marbella, we drove to two sites on either side of Fuengirola, which had a lovely beach as well. Finished with archaeology for the day, we drove to Malaga, a lovely little town. We only had this afternoon, but we made the most of it, in my opinion. We went to the cathedral, which is absolutely gorgeous. It was never finished because the money ran out, and the construction for what was completed took 200 years. The interior was multiple domes with huge columns and side chapels full of beautiful religious art. Once inside, all the stress from the earlier driving snafu melted away. I’m not religious at all, but something about being in these beautiful churches is so calming, and I love thinking about the men (and women, maybe?) who worked so hard to build such amazing, beautiful spaces. That work ethic, that determination, is what truly inspires me, not the divinity to whom the space is dedicated.

Anyway, after the cathedral, we walked over to the Picasso Museum, because apparently Picasso was born in Malaga! He left when he was 19 and never came back, but still, pretty cool. The museum was small but very nice – well organized with a free audio guide. There were also some archaeological remains preserved in the basement with – you guessed it! – fish salting vats! A total surprise; Chris had to take a few illegal photos. It seems that no matter what we do, we can’t escape garum.

After the museum, we strolled around a square facing a Roman theater where there was also some sort of local political rally going on. We stopped at a bar on the square for some win (the local sweet wine, muscatel, is delicious!) and observed the cheering and flag waving from afar.
Wine finished, we headed to dinner, a place recommended in our guidebook, Mesón de Cervantes. It was fabulous. A cozy, intimate space (read also: very small), with waiters bustling back and forth, the food is simply incredible. We had four tapas: Iberian jamón with grilled artichokes and asparagus, cured manchego cheese, wild boar stew, and a mushroom-leek-goat cheese quiche. Everything was absolutely delicious, including the fig flan we had for dessert. Don’t be intimidated by the small space and assured waiters! If you are in Malaga, go to this restaurant!

So, after a lovely afternoon and evening, we headed back to our Spartan little hotel for a good night’s sleep!