Category: Travel-tastic

Malaga – way more than just an airport

My travel retrospective yesterday got me thinking about past travels and city breaks.

I love getting away for a weekend. Short breaks concentrate your efforts in terms of seeing everything and doing stuff. Whilst not the most relaxing of times, I always feel fulfilled and satisfied by just how much I’ve managed to do. No time for having a lie in or an afternoon nap. It’s all about cramming it all in.

Quite often a city break for us can stem from seeing a cheap flight and investigating whether the destination is worth visiting. Which is how we ended up in Malaga 5 years ago.

For most Malaga is a gateway to the Costas. Brits who have holiday homes in Spain flock to the airport, or through the airport, from the beginning of the sunny season through til the end. Families on their two week escape looking for sea, sun and sand will land at the airport and be whisked away by tour operator coaches to their coastal destination of choice. But there is so much more to Malaga.

I don’t recall what made me look into it as a destination in itself, but I was so glad I did. Husband wasn’t convinced but I implored him to trust me. In mid April, flying out on a Thursday, flights were still reasonable and we got a basic but modern, adequate and well situated IBIS hotel at a steal. The actual trip cost us around £100 each for two nights.

First things first…Malaga is very Spanish. Which seems a case of stating the bleeding obvious, but it’s true. Because it’s not a tourist destination there is no “need” for everyone to speak English. As a result (and refreshingly so) Spanish is the first language. There is a need to communicate via pigeon English and pointing at menus when ordering food. Shops don’t have English signs. There’s a real feel of being in Spain, despite the influx of Brits through the vicinity on a daily basis.

Malaga, for me, has it all. The climate (it was 25 degrees in the day and around 15 degrees at night, and that was end of April), the food (bars and cafes serving authentic tapas, and tiny backstreet alley restaurants delivering the best paella ever for about 10 euros), the architecture (white washed buildings, cathedrals and a castle in the hills) and the sea (it’s on the coast. Who knew?!)

Oh, and when we arrived, they’d had a film festival in the city, so there was a red carpet running through the pedestrian area. And not to welcome us, as I thought might be the case.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking,

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Malaga is all about timing. Due to it’s popularity for reaching coastal destinations flights can actually be prohibitively expensive in summer. But time it right early or late in the season, with a mid week flight, and it’s well worth a visit.

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The French Coast – a look back and a peek forward

2 weeks today I’ll be on a plane to France, hurrah! Invariably it will be wet and dull in the UK, in true bank holiday style, so I’m making the most of it by jetting off for 3 days in Nice, on the French Riviera.

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Living in land locked Birmingham, it’s always good to get to the coast, especially when it’s as stunning as this. The Cote d’Azur has a micro climate and 200-250 days of sunshine each year, so I’m hopeful that early May will be warm and pleasant, and I might even get to dip my toes in that stunning blue sea.

As well as a stunning coastline, Nice has beautiful architecture, lots of greenery and a colourful Old Town that I’m looking forward to wandering around.

Nice port

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Nice cathedral

Nice old town

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It’s 5 and a half years since I was last on the French Coast. We went to Marseille for a our first wedding anniversary, and totally fell in love with it. Just 6 hours door to door, from home via Birmingham airport, it’s a gem of a place and we immediately declared it our weekend bolthole when we fancied getting away. Unfortunately Ryanair had other ideas and cancelled the route soon afterwards so we haven’t been back since, but I would definitely return.

Here are some snaps.

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Persistent petals and seeing the sea

A couple of weeks ago I bought some pre-potted bulbs. I never think to plant bulbs; partly as I only have balcony pots to put them in but mainly because I always forget until it’s too late. With the job of potting some up already done by the shop, along with the fact they were starting to sprout, I invested in some red tulips, hoping for a sunny day to get them outside.

I carefully transferred them home in a carrier bag…and promptly forgot about them.

So, now that I have remembered them, they’re ready to be thrown away, right? No water or sunlight for more than 2 weeks, stifled in a plastic bag in a corner. They’re bound to have withered and given up.

Wrong! Look at my beautiful tulips!

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Not only have they miraculously continued to grow, but they have done so in the most peculiar way; obviously growing towards the air and trickle of light that was available. Searching out the life force to not only survive, but flourish. That’s pretty bloomin’ special.

Curved tulips

I’ve now popped them on my kitchen window sill, flooded them with water, and hopefully they’ll straighten out and grow upwards towards the sunlight; after which I’ll transfer them to my balcony.

I still have some snapdragons from a couple of years ago that refuse to throw in the towel; I thought I’d cleared them all out at the end of the summer but they sprouted back up in November and came into bloom.

Here’s a couple of pictures from the North Welsh coast from my weekend trip.

 

It all looks rather gloomy, but I quite like the power of a wild and windy seaside in cloudy weather. Not as much as I like a clear blue sky and white sandy beach, but the chances of that in Wales in March are slim to none.

And how quaint is this cottage?

Hafan y Mor chalet

Its one of the holiday park rentals; looks like something from a fairytale.

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Travelling light? Not if I can help it!

I like stuff. And I like choice. I also like to be happy with my appearance, because not being happy with the way I look can affect my enjoyment of an experience. Sad but true.

So, when I go anywhere, I take as much stuff with me as is feasibly possible. So that I have choice when I get there. None of this capsule wardrobe/one colour palette/3 outfits for 3 days nonsense.

Luggage

Case in point was this weekend. Travel Thursday / travel back Sunday. Leaving only 2 full days to dress for, and 3 nights out. Here’s a summary of what I took:

  • 2 vest tops for layering
  • 4 jumpers
  • A hoodie
  • 2 70s style blouses (hate that word, but not sure how else to descibe them?!)
  • A t-shirt
  • 2 pairs of leather look leggings
  • 1 pair of standard leggings
  • 2 pairs of skinny jeans
  • 1 pair of coated skinnies
  • Pair of white skinnies (in March? What was I thinking????!!!!)
  • High waisted black denim shorts (to wear with tights, I’m not completely barking)
  • Leather look sleeveless top
  • Sleeveless oversized band tee
  • Sleeveless chiffon top
  • A dress
  • Long sleeve chiffon shirt
  • 70s style fluffy knit waistcoat
  • Pair of tartan trousers
  • 4 pairs of boots (1 for daytime/3 for evening)
  • 4 coats (leopard fur/leather bomber/heavy jersey military/lightweight leather biker)

Plus the t-shirt/boyfriend jeans/hi-tops I travelled up in on Thursday.

Ridiculous, no? That’s the trouble/bonus of travelling by car – no weight or space restrictions, so you can cram EVERYTHING in!

Overpack

A good point I think?

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Old England and an orange face!

Today I had a meeting in Stratford upon Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare; steeped in culture and history. Half way there, I noticed that my face was an unfortunate shade of orange! I had used new bronzing pearls this morning and evidently they were too effective. Rather than a warm glow I had a look of an oompah loompah (with a pale neck); not ideal job candidate material. Cue frantically rubbing my face with a tissue while navigating country roads.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for a wander round Stratford. I did, however, make an unexpected stop in Wootton Wawen.

My only prior knowledge of this place was going through it on a train, and laughing because I thought the pronunciation sounded a bit Jonathan Woss-esque (I’ve since found out it’s pronounced Warn, which isn’t nearly as much fun). But today I drove through, and was thrilled by it’s prettiness, even on a grey day.

The Bulls Head pub was built in the 17th century – those are original beams and real thatched roofs.

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St Peter’s church is one of the oldest structures in England’s Midlands. Its tower dates back to the 900s, if not earlier.

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The building in the distance is Wootton Hall, and the grounds are home to a residential caravan site, aimed at “mature residents”. I couldn’t see any of the homes from the road, but what a picturesque place to live.

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There’s also this weir waterfall, I think it’s connected to the lakes in Wootton Hall. I do love the sound of coarsing water; so powerful and nature-ish.

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 Oh,and I saw my first crocus of the year! And this sweet sign outside the village shop.

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Wootton Wawen is probably only about 30 minutes drive from home, but couldn’t be more different. I’m going to head back in summer when the trees are in bloom, and maybe have a cheeky vino and some lunch in that wonderful pub.

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Reviewing my reviews!

I’m a big fan of TripAdvisor. I always check it when booking hotels – it has a big impact on my travel plans. Of course some reviews are just ridiculous (marking a Spanish hotel down because they don’t serve chips, for example), but it’s usually a good indication of whether a place is going to meet your travel needs. Sometimes you want luxury, sometimes just a place to sleep. Things like location are usually key points I pick up on from reviews, plus breakfast quality of course!

I also love the feedback you get from TripAdvisor on your own reviews! Almost 30,000 readers. Wow!Tripadvisor

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