Spain is like a drug. A humid, hilly, seafood-and-cheap-wine-flavoured drug. You come down from it so hard that you loose all rationale, plotting your way back in. I say this after merely spending one week on the Mediterranean Coast, though the obsession started a few months earlier, listening to Megan romanticise about Barcelona upon return from a jewellery buying trip.
It marked the twelfth country I would visit in thirteen months, however, it was only one of three that were not work-related. This was all pleasure. No business. No late nights behind a dim-lit Macbook screen, writing reports or wrestling with colour palettes.
We arrived in Malaga late on a Sunday evening, and the drive from the airport was an adventure in its own right. “Take a right after the San Miguel Brewery”, “Who’s got Euro’s? I see a toll gate ahead”, “What brewery?”, “It should be the first exit after the Mini dealership!”, “Guys, I think the trunk is still open”. Eventually we started the ascent to our villa, located on a hilltop in Estepona, a stone’s throw from the nearest beach.
Estepona matched my expectations so perfectly that it almost felt staged at times.
Dish cloths and underwear hang out to dry on tiny balconies, doors and window frames line up like bright pantone guides, cafes on cobbled streets serve spicy Patatas Bravas to the sounds of steel doors rolling down as store owners close for siesta.
Mornings were pure bliss, waking up to the the sunrise peeking through our balcony door. Stepping outside, we were spoiled to a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea, with the Rock of Gibraltar visible on the horizon in the south.
There was the occasional early morning run, followed by breakfast baps at Sol Bar. The restaurant is managed by a British couple, who I later learned will be closing shop for a few months to road trip through Portugal in a van, in search of perfect waves.
On Thursdays, a stroll through the local market will reward you with organic vegetables, ceramic souvenirs, phony branded t-shirts, and art.
A road trip up north took us through winding passes, quaint hilltop towns, and true Spanish countryside charm. Caffeine-starved, we made a first stop for breakfast in Casares Pueblo. The deeper we moved inland, the more I wanted to punch myself for not brushing up on some basic Spanish before leaving Cape Town. We cruised on through Gaucin, Algatocin, and Benadalid, until we finally saw it: a road sign holding the five letters that would make us fall in love with Spain for good.
An obvious highlight of visiting Ronda is seeing the ancient bridge that connects the two parts of town, also known as the Puente Nuevo. A pathway leads about halfway down, offering epic views of the bridge, surrounding cliffs and architecture.
In the town centre, or Plaza del Socorro, you’ll find a blend of eateries, statues, and symmetrical buildings. A similar charm we found in Estepona, fused with the poster design of a certain Wes Anderson film.
I later read that Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent many summers in Ronda, as part-time residents of the old town quarter called La Ciudad. Both wrote about Ronda‘s beauty and famous bull-fighting traditions. An almost obnoxious and unnecessary piece of information. As if this place had to prove its historic or cultural significance.
The rest of the day was spent sipping cold beer, eating ice cream, and listening to a guy pluck away on a guitar. After manoeuvring our eight-seater van through a parking garage shaped like the maze at Reignac-sur-Indre, we were headed back to the coast.
By late afternoon you have your pick of a variety of beach bars and restaurants along the coast, all serving jugs of sangria and tapas. That’s something I needed to get my head and wallet around; I wanted to eat, cook, and drink everything. Commercial supermarkets are stocked like deli’s, and even our attempt at a €1 bottle of wine turned out half decent. Culinary paradise.
They say the first step of overcoming an addiction is to admit that you have a problem.
To admit that your life had become unmanageable.
I’m absorbed, obsessed, and hooked.