It’s no mystery that Jeff and I are deeply entangled in a love affair with the sea, and there is no shortage of beautiful, golden sand beaches in Spain. From the crowded urban oases of the Med, to the plunging emerald green peaks in the north, to the secret surf towns and local hidden gems that dot the coast in between, this country offers something for nearly every “sol” searching appetite. So, when the sunny blue skies and surge in temperatures here in landlocked Madrid sparked an appetite for salty sea air, we set our sights on Andalucia’s Costa del Sol. Served with a side of a mini road trip, this long weekend getaway was made to order.
The tiny whitewashed hill town of Frigiliana was our home over the course of a recent long weekend. Our home away from home was nestled in the valley of the sierras, down a kilometer long dirt path framed end to end, corner to corner, peak to peak with avocado trees. Arriving at La Perla, so appropriately named, was a reward we truly felt we had earned after such a journey. Stepping out onto the breakfast terrace, we found ourselves over looking the unmistakable crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea framed by the surrounding peaks and the coastal town of Nerja down below. This, we thought, is what we live for. This is what has been missing. This is life in beautiful Spain.
This trip was less about adventure and more about relaxation. Nerja, where we spent most of our time, was the right blend of charming Spanish village mixed with laid back coastal vibes. The town itself was immaculately clean, something that stands out when you’ve spent some time traveling in Spain. In fact, the building facades were so sparkling white in the sun that forgetting your sunglasses would render you nearly blind, incapable of opening your eyes wide enough to get your bearings. The beaches did not disappoint either. Our favorite, Burriana, was a wide sandy beach with plenty of room to pitch our own private beach spread and featured a long boardwalk lined with restaurants and snack stands. Here, on the shores of the Med, is where we reconnected with our love with summertime in Spain.
Baby Girl Kohlhoff must have sensed our beach bliss, too. The first dip in the cool waters of the Med awakened her senses, and she’s been an active little guppy ever since!
Italy – what’s not to love about this alluring European country? Steeped in culture, history and tradition, this is one place that keeps me coming back for more. Why? There are many reasons, but perhaps the biggest draw is that I can rely on her to charm me, to sweep me off my feet, striken by her crumbling beauty time after time. And let us not forget the food – the glorious, glorious food! Every time I sink my teeth into a crispy cannoli, I have died and gone to heaven. Perfetto! To me, Italy is the epitome of the Europe that once was. Old world opulence, enormous power and wealth, struggle and strife are woven into the fabric of today’s Italy. And, no city serves as a better reminder of a majestic, lavishly wealthy past than Venice.
No, I am not trying to step on Rome’s toes here. The magnitude of the empire’s wealth and power is without question, but the Venetians deserve a spotlight, too. Behind the commercial facade of romantic…and, ahem, outrageously expensive… gondolas and their operatic-singing Gondoliers, you’ll find a city desperately hanging on to the story of its past. Literally. Every building, every bridge, every piazza is marked by the passage of time. Crumbling plaster in a rainbow of jewel tones gives way to lackluster brick and structural wooden beams. Weathered bridges are stained with green moss, and street tiles are loose and cracked. A once white-framed window with its graceful curves is chipped and slightly dull. And, as if the obvious wear and tear wasn’t enough, this manmade canal city made up of several islands is sinking.
Yet, Venice stands proud. Like a peacock flashing his most impressive plumage, Venice is alive with color and splendour. Getting lost in the labyrinth of canals and unmarked streets is a delight. There’s almost no point in taking a map; getting lost is a guarantee. But that’s fine by me because this is one of my favorite places to simply wander. I need time to take in the smallest detail when I’m here – the frosted pink glass in the lanterns of Piazza San Marco, laundry drying on the line in a quiet canal alley, the reflection of water on a bridge as it glistens in the afternoon sun. There are the iconic stars of every guide book, too – the majestic Rialto Bridge, the true grandness of the Grand Canal, and the ornate Venetian masks that are on parade even when it’s not Carnavale season. Venice may be old, withering, and even sinking, but I think this makes its beauty all the more romantic and quintessentially Italian.
The great news is that all of this can be seen in one weekend. Venice is quite a small city. But, I don’t want to rush myself, of course. It’s not the Italian way. So, I find a small cafe to refuel with a caffè machiatto midmorning. Later on, I relax in a traditional osteria enjoying a spritz and quality time with great friends. What might have started as a quick bite to eat turns into hours of wining and dining on simple Italian dishes made from the freshest ingredients. Did I mention how much I love Italian food?