After a month of living here, Lucas became our guide of Malaga. The 600K people city, about hour north of Gibraltar is apparently a big magnet for tourists and students – and a birthplace of Picasso. We got an AirBnB on the beach and were ready to explore. I planned nothing but beach, food and just hanging out – except one experience – my favorite hammam. I was curious what will the others think.

The Andalusian hammam was much fancier than the Moroccan one, needed a reservation that I secured 2 months ago. We got into bathing suits, got a towel and were guided to a rounded room where we were assigned a masseuse. We got on the marble tables (already slippery) and the soaping and scrubbing started, followed by a 45 mins massage for the adults and 15 for the kids. The 30 mins difference was not the best idea as my mind went from “where the hell are the kids and let’s hope they don’t yell and drown each other” to “well, this is relaxing and I am sure they figured it out”. Truth was that they didn’t burn down the place and I was quickly informed that “chicas estan abajo en la piscina caliente”. Walking around in a steamy rooms, on tiles, barefoot, without my glasses or fogged up glasses looking for the kids is a fun hide and seek I wouldn’t recommend. But the place was quiet, peaceful and I was later informed by the family that this was their favorite Spanish experience. So – score 1 for mom.

Food is really what we love in Spain (or any country) – after paellas, wine, lots of seafood, iberian ham and tapas, and a lots of beach time (European towel-to-towel packed which reminded me of our old Bulgaria and Eastern Germany sea vacations). What did throw me off a little was the restaurant schedule – should have known – dinners at 1030 and restaurants are packed! Everywhere else, they basically close at 1030 but here – hoolala, everyone is out, small, big, young, old.

Next, we were heading to Ronda – a small town about hour north with the Puente Nuevo. The kids were quick to point out that this is the Puss in Boots bridge which made me feel very old – what movie is this? Did I miss a Disney 101 and will all the TV watching actually pay off in some sort of geography knowledge? The bridge is truly amazing piece of architecture and I was a little queasy crossing it and very dizzy looking down – hey, a new symptom post surgery that I never had before – serious vertigo. I looked down and literally turned completely drunk from balance and head spinning perspective. The Spanish know how to make this feel local too – various Bizet’s Carmen like street performances, orchestras in gorgeous old squares – I mean – thumbs up to the city of Ronda for sticking with the old Spain is the tourist Spain – and not making it super tacky.

The “white villages” or pueblos blancos were something I always wanted to see. These small preserved old Maori towns are like something out of a history books, truly. I kept thinking of my favorite movie ever “Gladiator” and the scene where Russell Crowe (Maximus Decimus Meridius – ha, who is a total buff on her favorite movie) comes back from Germania to his home Spain and literally walks through this landscape to his farm. Olive and almond trees everywhere, very dry heat – and bunch of a little culture-overexposed teenagers saying “how many of these villages do we still have to see” – shoot me. Or even better – please leave me behind here for like 6 months?

Safe to say – Spain remains one of my top targets for retirement. Fabulous food, safe, great climate, I speak the language (did I mention the accolades I got on it from locals – I was so proud of all my work and ability to fully communicate – to the total amazement of my children who realized that #Duolingo pays off and studying language in classroom with their attitudes is a total waste of time), awesome people, sea and close to Prague. I think you get the idea. Digital nomads anyone?

Not a huge roadtrip – still a lot to explore

OK – vamonos a la Francia!