Remember that time I went to Spain? Remember that time I wrote a post about how I went to Spain, almost 8 months later? Well here we are 10 months later and I decided to write another post! Each weekend, I went on a small trip to other towns besides Granada. I got to see a lot of southern Spain, from small beach towns to the huge and tourist-friendly Sevilla.
One thing about traveling alone, as I mentioned last time, is that people just really want to talk to you because you look lonely. Sometimes I really wanted people to talk to, and I learned a lot about people in Spain from the conversations we had. Other times, however, I really just wanted people to leave me alone. Like the time I decided to take a day trip to Salobreña. Even though it was the beginning of October, in Southern Spain that’s definitely still beach weather. The closest beach (and only a 5 euro bus ride away!) was Salobreña, so my house mom packed me a lunch and I set off. When I got to the bus station, the first bus out was sold out, so I had to wait an hour for the next one. Now, I was armed with sudoku and patience, so I wasn’t too worried. Until this gentlemanly old man sat down next to me.
First of all, we couldn’t understand each other. Southern Spain, especially among the older generation, has a pretty difficult-to-understand accent. I didn’t have too much trouble during my trip, but this man’s accent was very thick. The conversation took a turn for the weird when the man asked me why I was traveling alone.
As before, I explained to him what I was doing and where I was going (unfortunately). Then he offered to accompany me to Salobreña, because, you know, I am too female to travel alone. Okay, seriously, this man didn’t walk, he shuffled. If anyone was going to do the protecting in these mysterious when-traveling-alone-goes-wrong scenarios that these men imagine, it was me. So I politely declined. Then he offered to wait for me at the train station so he could walk me home. (WTF?) Once again I politely declined and then promptly changed seats.
Then the bus got there and, thank god, he was not waiting for me when I returned from Salobreña. Salobreña was a quaint little town, but the only thing there was the beach and some fancy houses on a hill. That was fine with me, so I stayed the afternoon and caught the bus home. It was a pretty relaxed Saturday, even with the harassment.
The next weekend, I decided to go to Málaga. Oh, Málaga, such fond memories I have of you. I really wish I had gotten to spend more time in this beautiful town, but I only had a few hours because I had to catch my bus back the same day. After getting off the bus, instead of figuring out the complicated transit system, I just walked everywhere. It was a lot of walking, but so worth it. Málaga has some incredible gardens and their city is, in my opinion, a lot better kept and cleaner than Granada. This has a lot to do with the fact that it is smaller and more of a resort town than Granada, but I still wish I had more time to explore.
I spent most of my afternoon in Málaga climbing this thing. Another thing about traveling alone, without much of a guidebook, is the complete lack of information I have about the places I took pictures of. When I show pictures to people and they ask me to tell them what things are, I usually have no idea. But here, just for you, I am going to Wikipedia this. Oh! Did you know that Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world? Also interesting, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas were born in Málaga. As far as I can tell, this is either Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress, or Gibralfaro Castle. They are on the same hill, and I know I eventually saw both of them, but I’m not positive which one is in the picture.
Anyway, I decided to take the scenic route. By “decided,” I mean I couldn’t find the faster, more direct route. Which was fine, but it was a work out. It’s a very steep incline that winds up the mountain, going back and forth and back and forth until you finally reach the top. At the top, there are the two fortresses. Though the old buildings were beautiful, and it meant a lot to me to be able to stand on something so very old, what I appreciated more were the stunning views of Málaga from the highest point in the city.
I never did get to go to a bull fight, and I’m not entirely sure I would like to, other than the witnessing the cultural aspect of it. But I did get this nice shot of the bull ring and the beautiful Mediterranean in the background.
After my climb up the mountain, I was exhausted and, of course, starving, so I decided to splurge a little on a meal for myself. I was on a very tight budget in Spain. Fortunately, my program included 3 meals a day, so I didn’t have to worry about food. But I still wanted to experience one or two meals outside of my house mom’s cooking. She was a great cook, but not perfect, and I just wanted to experience eating out at a restaurant. Now, don’t worry, we got our tapas on most Thursdays and Fridays, but that only put me back 5 euros or so a night. So while in Málaga, and starving, I stopped in this seafood restaurant that looked amazing. Here’s the thing about speaking a second language. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, there’s always some gaping hole in your knowledge. Mine: the names of different sea creatures. So I walk in, sit down, grab a menu and look it over. I didn’t know what a single thing was on the menu. Not a single thing.
Fortunately, there was a friendly older couple sitting next to me at the bar and they helped me out. Sort of. Imagine someone who speaks a foreign language asks you to explain what sea bass is or mackerel or tilapia or any nondescript fish. I asked the man what merluza is. He held up his hands about a foot apart and said, “It’s a fish, this big, and it’s silver.” I don’t know too much about fish, but I’m pretty sure he just described half the ocean.
Anyway, it didn’t matter because it turns out the fish is something called hake, which I had never heard of anyway. But it was pretty delicious. It was described and being in a “salsa verde,” which was kind of exciting, because one of the things I missed most about the States was Mexican food. I thought, for sure, salsa verde was of the Mexican variety. This was not true, at all. It was a green caper sauce, which was good, but not what I imagined. So I started talking to this couple about my travels and studies and life, when this other older man, who I had not noticed, turns to me and says in the worst accent I have ever heard, “Americano?”
I responded in English, “Yes” and he struck up a conversation with me that turned very weird, very fast. He told me all about his travels and I asked him if he’d ever been to the United States. “Oh, no,” he replied, “I hate America.”
Look, I get it, you don’t have to like the country I am from, but would this be acceptable for anyone from the US to say? If it were reversed and I had said to him, a British man, “Oh, no, I’ve never been to England. I hate Great Britain,” what would he have said? It was totally out of line and bizarre. But it gets weirder.
So he goes on to tell me all the things he doesn’t like about the US, even though he’s never been there and only seen it on TV, and all the things he hates about USians and, finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore I said, “You know, I think if you really gave it a shot and visited, you’d be very surprised. Not everyone in the US is a loud asshole.” His response: “Well, if more Americans were like you, maybe I would like it. Also, if you showed me around, I bet I would really enjoy it.”
Let me explain, again, this man was at least 70. At least. He could have been my grandfather. It was beyond infuriating to me that I couldn’t have a sensible, mature conversation with anyone of the opposite sex while I was traveling alone without being hit on by people who could have raised my parents. It was a wildly inappropriate thing to say and I just got up and left, having already paid for my food. I walked to the beach to take one more picture:
After taking this picture, I turned around to see the man from the restaurant. He had followed me to the beach. It was then that I decided to head back to the bus station, all the way on the other side of the city, immediately. I got there about an hour early, cutting my trip to Málaga short, but it was okay. Think that ending was a bit anticlimactic? Don’t worry, this guy showed up again, but I’ll save that story for the next post.