The original intent was to drive -- mostly because we are cheap -- but a lack of a valid licence on my part and a "absolutely no desire" on Gaynor's meant we ended up finding some last minute flights for slightly less than an exorbitant amount. Money aside (well money gone anyway) we decided to thoroughly enjoy our winter break and, though the initial circumstances were a struggle, Spain lived up to its end of the bargain in providing perfect weather and hospitality.
We couldn't get flights to Malaga together and so we flew me with the boys and Gaynor with the girls. Gaynor and the girls passed through Madrid while the men took the Barcelona route. The arrival times were all supposed to be close but with various delays it ended up a real mess. In particular, locating my brother Donovan who was flying in from the US turned out to be one long wait-fest. It wasn't that he wasn't in the airport, it was that we had arranged to meet at the car rental location and unbeknowst to either of us we were waiting at one each with no knowledge that the other location was there. Just as Gaynor and I were about to make a multi-run transit to the resort I eventually figured out the presence of the other car rental location (inside the 'secure area' of the airport), muscled my way back in (some guards are real softies when a grown man is crying) and retrieved said errant, unwitting brother.
We managed to rent the cars without an international incident and set off -- finally and gratefully -- the the resort, about half an hour away. Unfortunately, the signage and directions were a bit vague at best and since it was now dark, locating the resort took an extra half hour as we alternating overshot and bumbled about. We still managed to squeeze in some dinner before collapsing and calling it a day.
For the rest of the week -- apart from the glorious weather -- we enjoyed late morning starts, late evening talks, jacuzzi sitting (interspersed with cold-pool dipping), walks along the beach, a walk through downtown Marbella, Sunday church in English and a fabulous dinner at a restaurant right on the beach. At the restaurant, Gaynor and Donovan went on an all-out splurge for a lobster paella which Gaynor describes as 'delicious!'. We (well Donovan really) were feeling so flushed we even ordered dessert!
We also took a trip to Ronda -- dramatic, historic and Moorish, according to Gaynor. Her highlight was the museum in the Mondragon's Palace -- an old Moorish palace. The photo of Ariana and the orange tree was taken in the grounds of this this museum/palace. One of the highlights for the children was the visit to, and climbing over, the old city walls. They reminded Joshua of "Lord of the Rings", which, quite frankly, isn't that hard to do at the moment.
We also toured some archeological ruins around Marbella. These included the remains of a 3rd century Roman villa and baths. The baths were at a different location to the villa and had a great view of the ocean. In fact, beside the baths was an old Moorish military look-out tower. We also visited the ruins of a 6th century Paleo-christian church excavated in the 1960s. The baptismal font, in particular, was very interesting. See our photo page (follow "Selected Images" link top-left of this page) for a picture. Donovan has also posted some pictures from the trip on his own blog.
On New Years Eve, after Bryna had retired for the evening, we brought out some cheese, crackers and some fancy grape juice and had a session of "Three Questions". This is where everyone, after day-long consideration, brings their written answers to the questions:
- What was the highlight of the past year?
- What was the lowlight of the past year? and,
- What do you want to accomplish in the coming year?
The written answers are passed to the next person who reads out the relevant answer as each question is discussed around the group. An encouraging way to bring in the New Year.
So overall the trip was wonderfully relaxing. As usual, we had a great time together and add yet another recommended destination to our list.