It’s official – the grey sky, Mum’s cooking and the fact that I’m wearing more than 2 layers of clothing proves it – I’m back in England!
Naturally, I’ve found myself reflecting on my time abroad and thinking about all of the things I enjoyed and have begun to start missing. So here are a few of my favourite things about Estepona and Andalucia, Spain.
As British as it may sound, the weather is something I will miss greatly. Living on the southern coast of Spain was a treat of hot weather, light breezes and pleasant nights. I’m sure that the more I reminisce, the more I’ll forget about the crazy weekend down pours and even the random day of hailstones (‘granizo’) in April!
But it’s true what they say – a sunny day can improve your mood, even if I did constantly complain about the tan lines!
I saw some wonderful things during my 9 months in Spain and I was lucky enough to experience many of them daily.
Estepona is a beautiful coastal town, and every morning I would begin my day walking along the promenade (‘el paseo maritimo’) in awe of the clarity and the majesty of the Gibraltar rock and Atlas Mountains. In my office, located in the port of Estepona, we overlooked the marina and the luxury ships. Lunch time meant wandering down to a relatively quiet area of La Rada beach, sitting on the rocks looking out to sea and with views of the great mountain in Marbella, named ‘La Concha’ – the shell. And in the evening, I could return to my flat, open up my window and look out into the bustling old town and the Sierra Bermeja Mountain that dominates the landscape behind Estepona. Something I became quite fond of seeing every morning.
What I’d recommend to anyone travelling around Andalucia would be the drive to Ronda. It is the most breathtaking journey where driving along the mountain you see thousands of trees lining the rocky area, and you go higher and higher until you feel like you’re on top of the world! It may sound like I’m on the verge of saying it changed my life… it didn’t, but it was AMAZING. A definite must-see.
When I first reached Estepona, I shamefully admit that my knowledge of Spanish regions was somewhat lacking. I arrived to learn that Andalucia was a more traditional area of Spain, rich in culture and proudly speaking the Andalucian dialect of Spanish –‘andaluz’ – the second most spoken dialect in Spain, but with a reputation of being notoriously difficult to understand!
But after only 9 months in the Andalucian region, I feel a great love for the area for many reasons. There are so many great cities and monuments in the region with the rich culture of Malaga, the vibrancy of Seville and the Sierra Nevada in Granada. Generally, the people are friendly – occasionally over-friendly, but the people are lovely and help you along with your Spanish. But most of all, Andalucia –and Spain- have an amazing way of life. At nights and weekends, the streets, cafes and restaurants would fill up with friends and families of different generations, simply enjoying life. In addition to the processions and festivals, it seemed like every day was a celebration in Spain – and it’s an uplifting feeling to see such enjoyment of life.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the food in my final blog. As a great appreciator of food, it’s no surprise that Spanish food became one of my favourite things too.
Some Spanish delicacies that I tried and came to order again and again include:
- Puntillitas – fried baby shrimp. Before reaching Spain, I swore I hated shrimp but I was proven wrong by these tasty little shrimp in batter, with a generous squirt of lemon juice
- Almejas y Mejilliones – staying with seafood, an important food group in Spain, I also tried clams and mussels for the first time. The mussels are usually served in a tomato sauce, and are quite tasty, but my favourite are the clams cooked in white wine with a squirt of lemon. They taste great, but are dangerously small that you can keep eating and eating until the whole ‘ración’ is gone!
- Solomillo al whisky – the Sevillan delicacy that I tried during my time in the wonderful city. There are no words to describe the mouth watering taste of the fillets cooked in whisky!
- Patatas bravas – what I consider to be the Spanish version of chips, these small chunks of fried potato with chilli and garlic sauce and the perfect accompaniment to any tapa.
- Tomates aliñados – the beauty of this dish is in its sheer simplicity. Slices of tasty Spanish tomato in olive oil, parsley and garlic – both refreshing and delicious
- And speaking of olive oil, I can’t forget about the typical Andaluz breakfast of cafe con leche and toast (tostadas) with olive oil and salt. A very satisfying breakfast!
Believe me when I say that the list goes on – and trust me, I could continue to talk about the amazing food that I tasted in Spain from ‘gambas pil-pil’ to ‘albondigas’, but I need to draw the line somewhere!
I haven’t even gone on to mention the excellent restaurants in Estepona, including:
- La Pampa – a cosy restaurant with DELICIOUS food, all cooked to an excellent high-standard and somewhere I’d recommend without a doubt
- La Taberna – excellent tapas in the port, a place with a great atmosphere
- La Escollera – lots and lots of fish!
- Sur – for a good grill, the Moroccan provides excellent dishes
- Gelateria del Centro – best ice cream place!
- Wang – good Chinese takeaway
- La Taberna de Lucia – a chain of 4 restaurants in Estepona with great tapas dishes
And if you like to cook, the selection of fresh vegetables in the supermarket is fantastic with vegetables twice the size of those in England, extensive fish counters and an aisle solely dedicated to olives.
My year abroad has ended – but I’ll never forget it. And now I’ve had my taste of Andalucia, I will be back, for sure.
Thank you for reading my blog.
I wanted to end with a song – and it took me a while to choose. From Danza Kudoro (the song that every Spanish ERASMUS student now knows, I’m sure), the annoying catchy Ai se eu tu pego to the Juan Magan hit – Bailonda por ahi or one of Shakira’s many – Rabiosa. In the end, I decided to go with the song that was Number 1 in the Spanish charts when I left Spain on 13th May 2012.
¡Hasta luego! 🙂