Costa del Sol – 3 days in Spain

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol lazily stretches out along the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Not really committing to the industrious ambitions of Barcelona or Madrid, the coast is a land of perpetual siesta, where work orders are responded to with a simple “manana,” and beaches gradually disappear into salty azure waters. It is the kind of place that convertibles were invented for.

To tackle it in 3 days would be a shame, but better than having not visited at all. To really cover the ground necessary along the Costa del Sol, an automobile is necessary. Luckily, car rentals in Spain are very affordable, as cheap as 15 Euros per day. Inexpensive flights also abound from all over Europe on Easyjet and Ryanair. It is possible to fly to Malaga for under 20 U.S. dollars from Barcelona round-trip. Once you have arrived along this golden coast of white villages and luxurious beaches, there is much to do and see. Read on…

Day 1 – Check out Malaga

If you are arriving by plane or train, then your adventure will likely begin in Malaga – birthplace of Picasso and one of the oldest cities in Europe. Start with a climb up to the Moorish castle of Castillo de Gibralfaro for a history lesson and a stunning view out across Malaga and the Mediterranean. It is tough to miss the attraction as it looms high over the city. If it is bullfighting season (Spring-Autumn, with August being the busiest month in Malaga), then check out a fight at the nearby Plaza La Malagueta after your climb.

Dropping by Picasso’s childhood home in the Plaza de la Merced is another top attraction and rewards the visitor with childhood paintings by the master himself. A day in Malaga is not complete without feasting upon a table of tapas. The undisputed top spot for tapas in Malaga is Tapeo de Cervantes. Be sure to get there early, and follow it with a Flamenco show if you have the energy at Kelipe Centro de Arte Flamenco. They have shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm, but be sure to reserve in advance by email. If on a serious budget, then check out Melting Pot Hostel for a room. For a proper hotel, I prefer the modern, bright, and charming Petit Palace Plaza, which is also quite a bargain.

Day 2 – The Alhambra and Nerja

For the best Islamic architecture in the world, it is not necessary to travel to the middle east or northern Africa. The Alhambra is an ideal and is located in Granada, Spain. Wake up early and head east from Malaga on Spain’s excellent highway system. The Alhambra rests in the hills overlooking old Granada, and is the type of scene that reminds you why you travel. Take your time with the Alhambra. It is a spellbinding palace awash in the stories of Moorish times. When you are done wandering its storied halls, head down to Nerja, known as the balcony of Europe. Take in the beach, check out the lazy white washed town, or even explore the nearby cave system. Spain is filled with little towns that are extremely difficult to leave. Nerja is such a place. Stay the night at the Puerta del Mar, and feast on fresh seafood at Calabaza.

Day 3 – Gibraltar

It is a long drive to Gibraltar, but if you have the energy, and are not hypnotized into lounging around Nerja for the remainder of your days, then start heading west Costa del Sol towards The Rock. Gibraltar has a strange and colorful history as the northern pillar of Hercules. Once thought to be the marker for the end of the western world, it has been a battleground, a British enclave, and even the last refuge for the Neanderthals. To reach Gibraltar, you must drive to La Linea de la Concepcion, park, and walk across the Gibraltar Airport runway. This is an interesting passage as any, especially if you must contend with a commercial plane descending on the narrow strip of cement. The island has a decidedly British feel, and is filled with pubs and schoolchildren in British academy uniforms. While Spain has repeatedly requested the return of Gibraltar from the United Kingdom, the Brits do not intend to part with the territory. It has become a small tropical Britain at the southern tip of Spain.

The real attraction is the Rock of Gibraltar, which has repeatedly served as a natural fortress throughout history. Its storied past of battles is written with holes for cannons and caves that served as barracks. Everyone from the Phoenicians to the Moors to the Brits have used this rock as a strategic stronghold at the end of the world. The Rock is also home to the only wild monkeys in continental Europe – Barnaby Macaques. They occupy the upper rock, and have separated into many rival gangs that compete for resources. They are cheeky creatures, and are well known for snatching ice cream cones from unsuspecting rubes for an easy snack. One can either climb the rock on foot or take a van up to the top. Finish the day with dinner at one of Gibraltar’s excellent restaurants, and stay the night in the ape infested Rock Hotel Gibraltar.

Extra – Tarifa or Morocco
If you find yourself with some extra time, then check out Tarifa, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. With golden beaches and a fast ferry to Morocco, Tarifa is both a lazy place to lounge and a gateway to Africa. Tarifa is one of Europe’s, and the world’s, top beaches.

Costa del Sol

Drunk mailman threatens mayhem, grounded for half decade

Why is it always the postmen?

Robert Russell had added “former” to his “mail carrier” title after being laid off by Royal Mail. So, he took a trip to Malaga, Spain. This isn’t unusual; plenty of people do something nice for themselves after losing their jobs. It’s great for morale.

It didn’t work.

Russell got wasted on lager and vodka in the Gatwick departure lounge. By the time he was literally flying high, he threatened to kill his fellow passengers and at one point tried to get off the plane early … via an emergency exit at 30,000 feet. The closest thing to a caring moment was when this unruly passenger yelled at a flight attendant, “Oi, blondie. Come and sit here so I can stroke you.”

Touching.

At one point, he said he would take down the entire plane … an awfully ambitious claim for a guy who couldn’t get the emergency door open. Eventually, crew and passengers were able to subdue the former postal employee, following his physical display of stereotype. .

All this happened on October 15, 2008. The Brighton Crown Court has finally ruled. Russell is banned from every airport in the United Kingdom for five years and will have to pay a fine of £4,643. A 12-month prison sentence was suspended for two years. And, in case there’s hope for the passenger’s humanity, he’s been ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

As crazy as this incident sounds, in-flight disruptions are more common in Gatwick than you may realize. Sussex Police had to address 58 incidents on planes last year … an increase of almost 20 percent from the 50 in 2007.

Don’t. Look. Down. Spain’s El Caminito del Rey

Afraid of heights? Don’t watch this video, shot along El Caminito del Rey, a mountain walkway near Malaga, Spain. This narrow, gut-wrenching path is only 3 feet wide, pinned along the side of a gorge, nearly 700 feet above the river below.

Originally built in 1901 to allow local workers to cross between two nearby waterfalls, El Caminito has recently fallen into a sad state of disrepair. Many parts of the walkway have completely collapsed, leaving nothing but a metal beam and a wire between you and 700 feet of nothing. Not surprisingly, there have been a number of deaths along the trail, and the local government has tried to seal it off.

But for some adrenaline junkies, a warning sign, tall fences and the prospect of a fatal slip-up is nothing but a challenge. Check out this video and watch one man laugh in the face of death.

What is it about Spain that inspires thrill-seekers to the utmost feats of poor judgment?