“Why don’t you just look at the screen on the dash to find your way?!” she asked impatiently.
“Because I’m trying to not crash the car in these crazy roundabouts and I have no idea where I’m going!” I answered very bluntly.
Our first initiation to Marbella was quite bizarre indeed.
It was just after 1:30 in the afternoon and we made it through Malaga, the biggest city in the southeastern part of Andalucía. Finally, as we drove along the highway, we started seeing what we came here for. Palm trees, white buildings with red roofs and the big open Mediterranean Sea in the distance. We finally made it to La Costa del Sol!
It was beautiful to look at and the weather was perfect. Even my hard-to-impress teenage daughter let out a few oohs and ahs, as she looked up at all the beautiful homes perched on hillsides.. It was a pleasure to zoom along the smooth as glass toll highway and take in all the beautiful scenery of southern Spain, but we were both starting to get very hungry.
There it was, high up on the horizon, a beacon of hope for the weary and hungry: golden arches atop two very tall polls. By then we weren’t too picky so off we headed to find the McDonald’s attached to that sign. Easier said than done. My daughter looked it up on her iPhone and plugged in the directions. I had to get off one exit, go through a roundabout, then another roundabout, back on the highway in the opposite direction, get off at the next exit and, ARGH!!! The craziest double roundabout I had ever encountered.
I was Mr. Bean and Clark Griswold at the same time, totally unsure of where I was going, trying to navigate some of the craziest traffic I had ever seen – Spaniards drive fast and very aggressively. I lived in both Montreal and Toronto for many years. I have driven through New York City, Washington DC, and even negotiated heavy Philadelphia traffic while pulling a 25-foot travel trailer, with my entire family in my pickup truck. And I thought I knew traffic and how to deal with it, but nothing prepared me for the insanity of Marbella just off highway AP7!
After my first failed attempt at getting to the advertised McDonald’s, we ended up in the parking lot of the local fire and ambulance brigade, with obvious signs that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I got out of there in hurry, and that’s when we came up with our impromptu arrangement of Emily being my turn-by-turn GPS guide and I just navigate the roundabouts. But first, I had to get back on the highway, get off the highway, turn around again and get back close to the McDonald’s, through the same series of roundabouts.
It turned out the McDonald’s was in a shopping center and we ended up eating at Burger King instead. Just horrible but at least it was sustenance and a bit of refreshment. Of course, she loved her first ever European shopping center experience. To me, it just looked like the same tacky, cheesy deal as back in North America. Even a good number of the stores and restaurants were American. I just waited outside in the shade, while Emily finished her first European shopping experience.
It was actually kind of fun to stand there and watch all the beautiful people of Marbella – a very tony and snooty town – come and go. It was quite entertaining. Lots of really nice German cars passing by to look at too. We returned later that week for some shopping and a chance to take in the beauty of Marbella.
By 3:30, we were back on the road toward our condo that I rented through Airbnb, in the little hamlet of La Duquesa, a district of Manilva, just past Estepona.
“Does every city and town in Spain end in A?” I asked myself by then. Except for Madrid and Cardiz, I think every single town or city name in Spain I’ve seen, ends in A. Weird, but I still love this country.
We got to La Duquesa, after crossing about 15 roundabouts through Estepona. Odd little place I thought at first; but homey. It is a well-kept enclave, obviously geared to retirees and families.
Wow! What a view and what a nice apartment. I love when things work out that well. Our apartment on the sixth floor had an amazing view of the marina and the sea. I was immediately in love with that balcony, where I would end up eating my breakfast every morning for the next 5 mornings, as well as taking sunrise pictures almost every day.
La Duquesa is pretty cool, hosting about 12 different bars and restaurants, in a little section of pedestrian streets that ring the marina. What struck me the most about the people there was how many Brits we came across. I think every other person we came across had an English accent. It was a mostly quiet and very safe place to be, right near the beach.
While out for dinner on Tuesday night, we met a nice English family. The parents were in their sixties, out to dinner with their twenty-nine-year-old son. What drew my daughter to them was their huge Burmese Mountain dog, Benson. A nice boy but massive – must’ve been at least 120 lbs. I thought it was nice that the restaurant allowed them to dine with their dog. The server even brought him a bowl of water. When the seating area is a semi-covered patio, more or less open to the outside, I suppose dogs aren’t such a bother to dine with. It was my daughter’s outgoing nature and her love of dogs that got us talking. It was the second day in a row that we were asked by an Englishman, “What part of the States are you from?”
I guess to English ears, we sound American.
Tuesday was a relaxing day, where I spent most of my time overcoming jetlag that had finally kicked in after two adrenaline filled days. The next day’s adventure was a real treat.
To read the previous installment in this series, please click below.
The link to the first two articles in this series on our adventures in Spain is below.