Costa del Sol: Mijas, Malaga, & Torremolinos Part I

June 20-22, 2011 Costa del Sol Part I

Beach at Torremolinos, Costa del Sol in Andalucia

Beach at Torremolinos, Costa del Sol in Andalucia

After saying our farewells to the lovely La Alhambra in Granada, we began our picturesque tour of La Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun)—famous for its beach resorts and delicious seafood. The plan was that we would stay over at the Melía Costa del Sol resort in Torremolinos for 3 nights (June 20-22, 2011). During these 3 nights, we had a few options: to tour Mijas, a nearby fishing village; and Málaga, or to enjoy the beach at Torremolinos.

Apartments in Torremolinos, Costa del Sol, Andalucia

Apartments in Torremolinos, Costa del Sol, Andalucia

Torremolinos is a resort that was the first touristic site open to visitors. Many Europeans buy villas and apartments as their vacation homes. In the past, this resort was a fishing village. The upper cliff of the city is the newer part of the community, while the lower part is the resort.

Origin of the Name:
“Torre” refers to “towers” or “watchtowers”
“Molinos” refers to “windmills,” which represents the industry

After checking in and refreshing ourselves at the resort, we took a side trip to Mijas in the afternoon. Continue reading

Purullena-Guadix and Granada, Andalucía

Andalucía

The region of Andalucía was invaded by the Moors in 711. The name was derived from the old name, al-Andalus, after a group of Vandals– a barbarian tribe– that conquered the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa. Today, it is a prosperous region known for its unique culture, artisan crafts, and cuisine: gazpacho (cold tomato soup in vinegar), jamones (ham), pescasito frito (fried fish), and sherry.

Purullena-Guadix, Andalucía

Visited on June 19, 2011. Located in the Granada Province of Andalucía.

From the Comunidad Valencia, we embarked on the longest road trip through the region of Andalucía. Our tour stopped briefly at a nearby rest area’s cafeteria for lunch: sandwiches, soups, and drinks. Then, we were taken to the villages of Purullena and Guadix located in the northern Sierra Nevada and known for their artisan crafts (e.g. the blue-white glazed potteries and dishes) and white-washed cave dwellings built into the rocky terrain. Named as the “Barrio Troglodyte” (Troglodyte Neighborhood), cave dwellings have been used since the Moorish days to escape from the intense heat of summer. Like any Spanish home, the dwellings are outfitted with bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces complete with electricity, internet, and television; and lined with marble floors. We were lucky to be invited into one of these homes to take a look around. The ceilings of the home are a little low but the interior is spacious and quite comfortable especially since it was about 38 degrees Celsius when we arrived. According to our guide, these cave dwellings can be rented today as apartments for visitors. After a brief tour of the home, we returned to the bus towards Granada.

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Peñíscola and Valencia

Peñíscola, Valencia

Visited on June 18, 2011. Located in Castellón province in the Comunidad Valencia.

Beach of Peñíscola

Beach of Peñíscola

Attraction Checklist:

  • El Castillo de Papa Luna/Castle of Papa Luna

As a small seaport located on the northern beaches of the Comunidad Valencia in the province of Castellón, Peñíscola may seem as if this place is of little consequence, only a resort town for the locals and tourists. What one may not know is that it was the filming site for the castle scenes in the movie, El Cid (1961). The famous sight is El Castillo de Papa Luna (Castle of Papa Luna) originally built in 1294-1307 by the Templar Knights. When the castle was under the crown in 1420, the Avignon pope, Benedict XIII (“el Papa Luna”), resided there, giving the castle its present name.

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Barcelona, Catalonia

Visited June 16-17, 2011. Barcelona is located in the Catalonia region of Spain.

Plaça d'Espanya, Barcelona

Plaça d'Espanya, Barcelona

Attraction Checklist:

  • Plaça d’Espanya (June 16)
  • El Museo de Picasso/Picasso Museum (June 16)
  • La Rambla (June 16)
  • La Boquería (June 16)
  • La Església Catedral de la Santa Creu/Cathedral of the Holy Cross (June 17)
  • La Sagrada Família (June 17)
  • Park Güell (June 17)
  • Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery (June 17)
  • Montjuïc (June 17)
  • Olympic Port (June 17)

Barcelona’s origins are unclear, but it has enjoyed a rich 2,000 years of history. Under Roman rule, it was known as the city of Barcino, and then it passed into the hands of the Christians, Visigoths, Jewish, Muslims, and Counts of Barcelona. With the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona; and Petronila of Aragon in 1137, Barcelona passed into hands of the Aragón monarchy. It was not until the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 that united both kingdoms and created what would be modern Spain.

Barcelona, located in Catalonia, is renowned for its craftsmanship, creative arts, textiles, and other industries. The Catalan people speak both Catalan and Spanish. During our stay in Barcelona, a major cosmopolitan, we stayed at the Hotel Catalonia in the Plaça d’Espanya—a major plaza that includes the buildings used in world-wide exhibitions and is located nearby the Olympic Park, where the 1992 Olympic Games were hosted. We stayed in the family suite on the top floor of the hotel, which had a panoramic view of the plaza and nearby stadium-turned-shopping mall.

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A Day Trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Lacock, and Bath

Visited on June 28, 2011.

Bath, UK

Bath, UK

On our own accord, we took a single-day tour organized by Premium Tours to see the following sites: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath with a traditional English lunch in Lacock Village. Our guide took us to the sites, briefed us on the history of the place, and gave us suggestions on the points of interests we should not miss. For the rest of the time, we were on our own.

The weather during our visit was quite cloudy, so the pictures were not as nice. We were lucky that there was only a light drizzle at Windsor Castle. Continue reading

Zaragoza, Aragón

Visited June 16, 2011. Zaragoza is located in the Aragón region.

Commercial District, Zaragoza

Commercial District, Zaragoza

Attraction Checklist:

  • La Basílica del Pilar/Santo Templo Metropolítano de la Santa del Pilar
Buildings in Zaragoza

Buildings in Zaragoza

Zaragoza (or Zaratruzca) is located along the River Ebro in the Aragón region of Spain. The nearby region of Rioja is known for its vineyards of national grapes that are used in red wine production. In the past, Zaragoza was the capital of the Aragón kingdom but also loyal to the royal Hapsburg family. However, it fell under French control in 1808. The atrocities of the Napoleonic French army were depicted in the works of Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya: The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. Both of these works depicted innocent people being murdered by soldiers. Continue reading

Pamplona, Navarre

Visited June 15, 2011. Pamplona is located in the Navarre region.

Attraction Checklist:

  • La Plaza del Toros
  • Hotel de Perla

Pamplona (or Iruña) was founded by the Vascons and later established as a Roman settlement by General Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, who gave the city its name, “Pompaelo” or “Pamplona,” in 75 B.C.E. The city became the capital of the Navarre kingdom when Iñigo Arista became king after fighting the Moors and Visigoths in 824. After the last great king, Sancho III, passed away, the Navarre kingdom began to lose its influence and control over its territory. By the 1500s, Navarre became part of the Spanish kingdom. Continue reading

Donostia-San Sebastián and Bilbao, Basque Country

The Basque Country (país vasco) is a region that extends from Bilbao, Spain to Bayonne, France. It is home to the Basque people (about half a million in population), who share the Euskara language, cuisine, and national colors: green, red, and white. We had the opportunity to briefly visit two cities in the Basque Country: Donostia-San Sebastián and Bilbao on June 15, 2011. Continue reading