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When we left Vancouver our plan was to see Italy, and then go to Barcelona to see the Gaudi buildings. After that we had no plans, only the idea that we wanted to go wherever it was warmest in Europe until our return to Vancouver on December 6th.

We guessed we’d get to Barcelona around early to mid November. As it happened we arrived on November 10th and stayed there for five days. We’d researched the climate of many places around the Mediterranean, including Crete, Malaga, the Algarve in southern Portugal, but still nothing really felt right until Liz suggested Nerja, just along the coast a little from Malaga, and then offered us the use of her car to get there. And I would just like to say that travelling in Spain at this time of the year the hotels are ridiculously inexpensive: we stayed in 4 star hotels for only about $70 per night.

I can’t begin to even express how miraculous it all felt, day after day after day. It was an easy three-day drive down there. The first afternoon we stopped in Gandia, with time for a walk on the beach on a beautiful warm sunny day.

View from our hotel room

The next morning we went for another walk along the beach, and then drove to Aguilas. Spanish road signs can be confusing, or apparently contradictory, or just plain non-existent . . . . . what fun. All three days driving had their challenges but we always made it in the end. The second night we stayed here:


And on the third day we arrived in Nerja where we had booked a studio apartment in a hotel right in the centre of town. It became home for almost 2 weeks.


Nerja is an absolute gem of a town. We fell in love with it. We had twelve full days there. It rained on the second and third day we were there. And when I say rained I mean rained! Torrential. We were a little anxious about flooding as our apartment was on the ground floor overlooking the pool. But it didn’t flood, and every other day was clear brilliant sunshine and about 20-22 degrees. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. We couldn’t have imagined a better outcome for our final two and a half weeks in Europe before our return to Barcelona, then Paris, for our flight back to Canada. Two and a half weeks on the Costa del Sol with twelve days of it in Nerja. It was heaven.

The town itself has retained a lot of its original charm with many small streets twisting and winding here and there with no cars allowed. At the same time we found all the facilities you could want, like a supermarket, laundromat, lots of good places to eat, an English language second-hand book store, and miles of beach to roam along. And, of course, endless sunny days.

We had many lazy days, really unwinding from the long weeks of travelling and doing and seeing during the preceding eight weeks. We went for a walk most days, and on some days went for longer walks, first in one direction along the coast, and then the other. We discovered a long dirt road along the coast leading to other coastal communities and local bars and cafes. We soaked up the sun.

Walking south

Walking north

Three times we actually left town. The first time was a short trip inland to the little town of Frigiliano, one of the many Andalucian “white towns” – just to see what was there. Very pretty.


We went to see the Caves of Nerja. Quite spectacular, and a strong, strong, almost overpowering feeling of the thousands of years of human habitation. There are cave paintings in there dating back many thousands of years but you need to go on a specially booked tour to get to see them. Still we were happy with what we could see. One of the chambers in these caves is so big they hold concerts in there during the summer. The acoustics must be fantastic.

Our third day trip was to see the Alhambra, near Grenada. A long day but really worth it. The Alhambra is a huge complex of 13th and 14th century palaces and gardens, the most spectacular and significant being from the days of the Moorish rule of southern Spain. A breathtaking example of Islamic architecture. Beautiful detailed decoration. Arched windows and colonnades. Fountains and mirror lakes and formal gardens. Everywhere beauty. The whole place is just astonishing. In the way of all palaces and palace complexes, the Alhambra is truly magnificent.

A couple of Don’s photos – decorative detail, and colonnades

And in one of the little bars on the dusty coastal road south of Nerja we found the most genuine authentic delicious seafood paella. Definitely one of the best meals of the entire trip. And we got to watch it being made over an open fire by the beach.

We didn’t want to leave Nerja. But the time came for the drive back north to Barcelona for another whirlwind day of sightseeing there, and then on to Paris by train for a quick visit with some long-time family friends, and then the flight back to Vancouver to get ready for the next phase of our big adventure.

Barcelona revisited, Paris, briefly, and Vancouver re-entry in the next post.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.