In the Winds of Change We Always Find Our Direction
Our Spanish Steps to Our New Home
The moment our plane touched down and my feet made contact with the ground, I knew something was different. It wasn’t the temperature that was 20 Celsius warmer than Budapest, or the language that rang loud and clear through the arrivals hall as we made our way to the luggage carousel to collect our suitcases. No, it was the very energy around me, that vibrant and enthusiastic power that began to course through my blood and make the butterflies in my stomach thrash around forcefully. It was as if a huge wall had been demolished and my creativity was let loose.
My fingers itched for the keyboard while glorious words whizzed through my mind at alarming rates as we hauled our luggage through the terminal. We arrived at the neon-lit green car rental and picked up our vehicle. Then with Dad’s foot pressed hard on the accelerator, we drove out into the Spanish night. We had arrived in the city of Malaga, located in the south of Spain. It was approximately 9:00pm and we were back in the country that had birthed my book: Dawn Of The Guardian. I felt such a connection to this place when we had visited one year ago and even now I could feel my emotions tugging at me with extreme joy.
As we drove, I rolled down the car window; it was a beautifully calm and refreshing evening, and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt! The freezing winter of Hungary was now nothing but a distant memory. We had booked a hotel room for one night here in Malaga, for I’m sure Dad would not have wanted to drive the 350 kilometres in the middle of the night necessary to get to our destination. Plus, we still had a few detours and Spanish Steps we wanted to take before getting straight to Aguilas, the seaside town we would soon call home – at least for a little while…
Our first night in Spain included meeting some new friends by the light of a car’s headlamps, side stepping over cockroaches to get to our dinner and our very first encounter of letting our tongues speak the Spanish language once again. We were a bit rusty from our South American days, but it was a joy in itself just to hear the familiar rolling of the R’s!
The next morning we trooped downstairs to the hotel breakfast where I smelled the delicious scent of a fresh empanada from a mile away. The last I had eaten an empanada was in Chile when we were stranded for a couple of days in Valparaiso. We had lived off empanadas then, and as I bit into the warm pastry and delicious spinach oozed out, it was like being reunited with an old friend.
We checked out of our hotel straight afterwards and were on the road well before midday. It was a beautiful Sunday morning with the sun shining out so brightly that it felt like 30 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit). Oh wait, It was!
With my Dad, at our Malaga Accommodation “Hotel Zen”
A view heading towards The Sierra Nevada & Granada
We simply had to expend some of that pent-up energy that had been conserved from the cold days of Hungary and as we drove up to the beautiful gorges of The Sierra Nevada under a clear blue sky, we knew that we had found just the place. We discovered what was to the locals a great family attraction: a short eight kilometre (5 Mile) hike through the lush gorges and rolling hills of the NW Sierra Nevadas, accessed from the town of Monachil.Despite its popularity, I don’t think I saw one foreign tourist for the whole duration of the walk and that counts us out, for we are shortly going to become locals too!
We began the hike up a rocky mountain road that quickly changed into a short gravel strip, lined with the most inviting fruit-ladened persimmon trees. My parents couldn’t believe their eyes as persimmons are one of their most coveted fruits. Often selling at exorbitant prices in Budapest, here they were hanging free for the picking. In fact, they were falling off overripe with nobody bothering to eat the fruit. It was too much for my parents to bear… they instantly picked two of the most beautiful specimens and feasted on them as the sweet scented juices trickled down their hands.
We pushed on and came to mountains covered with greenery, trees and all sorts of shrubs. We crossed over wooden and wobbly bridges that took us over small streams feeding the Rio Monachil and frighteningly jagged ravines that held a death penalty if you fell.
We then came to such a rocky granite gorge that we had to manoeuvre ourselves over and under. Huge rocks and boulders were our obstacles and using iron grips and ropes to make our way across, we swung through like chimpanzees racing for a banana. It was like rock-climbing, only without the safety gear, but it was certainly fun, and it got my blood pumping full rush.
The scenery once again changed as we made our way out of the dark gorge and into the dazzling sunlight. We came to a beautiful picnic area that was surrounded by light bark trees that were home to pink flower buds that had slowly begun to close for the day. Here all the Spanish children romped around, entertaining themselves while the adults dozed in the shade after a delicious picnic. We enjoyed our lunch up on a higher ridge looking down upon a small crystal clear creek filled with tadpoles and fish.
At around two o’clock we picked ourselves up and headed on, coming to a winding road leading up the final colossal mountain we had to climb. We were surrounded by alluring autumn trees that had already changed their colours to bewitching reds and golds so that they looked vibrant and eye-catching against the pale pink canyon hues and greenery. Despite feeling like it was summer, we were already in mid-autumn and the trees were reminding us just how remarkable it was to be still in Europe but have a warm November. We hadn’t had one of those since leaving Australia!
The hike slowly wound up, and we found ourselves back at the car in no time. Dad and Mum had been telling us all day that to save money we would sleep in the car tonight and Lalika and I were actually excited about the idea. Even though the car had been packed up to the brim, it still had a certain cozy element to it. However, an hour’s drive later and after much avoiding of certain questions, we found ourselves in the city of Granada and a “Surprise! We’re actually staying in an apartment!” waiting for us.
I was extremely thrilled by the fact that the following day we would go see and explore Alhambra Palace! I love every bit of historical royalty, and one of my favourite royals had grown up in this very palace, after this area of Spain had been partly restored to Catholicism. It was ultra exciting, for in the-rush-to-get-ready-to-go-live-in-Spain, I had almost forgotten what a rich history of royalty this country has! Spain is still one of the countries that has retained its monarchy and it would be the first time I would live in a country that has royalty under the same stars.
At 6 am we all woke and got ready to leave. Alhambra is a huge tourist attraction and the lines that form can be hours long, so it was extremely important that we would get there early. After bundling up in jackets, we set off to take the more scenic route of walking to the Palace. It was only a few kilometres to the entrance. We climbed higher and higher out of the city via the uneven slate steps. The closer we got to Alhambra the more it looked like an enchanted Fairy Kingdom. The ascending pathway was lit up by light posts reminiscent of the intricately styled gas lamps of the late 1800s, which still shone their soft light in the early morning.
When we got to the entrance of the palace, Mum’s quick dash to buy our tickets at the vending machines located past the Entrance, in the Pavilion, was the reason we were one of the few people who made it in through the 8:30am gate opening. If you cannot get tickets online, which always need to be bought a few days in advance, the way you can avoid the lines and the queues is to use these automated ticket vending machines around to the right-hand side of the regular ticket box. Once through, I immediately found myself in one of my exotic dreams. Striking summer gardens filled with unfamiliar tropical flowers stretched as far as the eye could see. Alhambra was a city within a city. It was so vast and as we walked past enormous decorated buildings and bathhouses, painted in a Moorish pale pink, I knew that this was definitely a palace where sultans and kings would have lived in ultimate luxury. I now understand how Catherine of Aragon, the Princess I had read so much about, would have felt when she had to leave this place to go across the seas to cold England and Wales.
Our first stop was The King Charles V. Palace; the main residence was the most opulent. The earthen tiles and roofs, reflection pools, topiary gardens, stone fountains, animal statues, flower relief geometric carvings and palace rooms were of the highest extravagance and as the golden sun came up on Granada, it gave Alhambra an other-worldly glow.
Our day flew past, but I remember everything and I have it stored away for a rainy day when I want to escape into history. We explored every army fort, lavish chateau and pleasure garden that Alhambra had to offer and by the end of the day I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who relished the beauty that the Royals had lived in. But it was also the same story, like in The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The Royals got first pick of everything, leaving the “common people” to starve in the city below them.
After a home-made sushi lunch that we ate in a herb garden overlooking Granada, our time in Alhambra was drawing to a close. The phone timer playing the strumming of a harp went off, and we knew that our 5-hour time limit was fulfilled. Now it was finally time to get in the car and drive to our new home.
We turned down the freeway and drove. Past miles and miles of olive groves and tomato plantations we went, and with every inch we covered, our anticipation grew. We drove over the sandy desert hills, past the glittering ocean where the sun winked off its surface and under neon orange lit tunnels. At the top of a steep and rocky hill that our car had chugged up, we finally saw our new hometown: Aguilas.
The small whitewashed city stood nestled into the valley below with its very own coastline. It had a cultural mix from the elegant European styles to the warm Moorish architecture, and it simply glowed in the sunlight. As we drove through town to get to the Real Estate Agent’s office, we pointed out our new surroundings from Rufo’s Pizza to the city square called Plaza de España. It certainly felt like a Homecoming, and I knew that we would create some amazing things here.
When we got to The Real Estate Agent’s office, we were greeted by Elena, a kind woman who was originally from Russia but had married a Spaniard. Her little daughter weaved in and out of our legs playing with “Papel Hygienico”. If you don’t know what that is, it’s “Dunny” Paper as we call it in Australia, and if you don’t know what that is, I urge you to look it up. Elena got in her car and escorted us a little way’s out of the city to our new apartment home, located in the resort style suburb of Los Collados. In the summer, this place is frequented by tourists, but now the tourist season being over, it was a welcomingly quiet difference from the hustle and bustle of Budapest. Yet this place was still filled with exuberant life and energy. We introduced ourselves to our new neighbours; we met Flora and her husband Manolo, who it just so happens, lived nine years in Adelaide, Australia. What are the chances? They both spoke English and had an aura of kindness and love around them.
Our apartment being located on the first level, we took the Spanish Steps up and unlocked the door. As we stepped into the sunny living room painted a light sea-blue, I instantly felt at home. Lalika’s eyes danced when from our balcony he saw the lagoon style pool below us, and Dad, seeing the kitchen and living area, did his familiar bongo playing on his thighs, a sure sign that he was happy and excited. We gathered all our luggage from the car and brought all our possessions upstairs. I set down my bag and settled onto the couch before my family pulled me into a group hug. We smiled and laughed and knew that this place was just perfect. As Mum wiped a joyful tear from her eyes, Dad smiled and said two words that made my heart sing: “Welcome Home.”
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