Oh Malaga, like most great loves we never saw you coming.
We didn’t really even want to visit you – you were only supposed to be a 2-day stop to break up the long journey from Morocco to Valencia, and we honestly both expected to be unimpressed by your British holiday beach town reputation …
We. Were. Wrong.
Visiting Malaga, after the chaos and confusion of Tangier, felt like going home. We had never been there before and like I said, we both thought it would be a stop on the way to the more glamorous, bigger cities in Spain, but Malaga (to us) was like the Hawaii of Spain. It’s warm and sunny (with no humidity – praise the hair gods!), the bus system is easier to navigate than any other city we’ve stopped in, it’s filled with small parrots (we’re still confused about this), it also has a long stretch of tropical gardens that run parallel to the ocean and if you’re lucky, you may accidentally find a gourmet vegan baked potato stand within said gardens. #Paradise.
We only had 36 hours here, and we made the most of it. Taking the bus to a “secret, locals-only” beach that our AirBnB hosts let us in on, hiking along a Jeti to find sea-urchin filled tide pools, eating our first gelato of the trip, hitting up the Picasso Museum (his house is also there, but we didn’t have time to see it 😢) and finally having our first GREAT tapas at Uvedoble Taberna.
We did not want to leave – we both strongly considered ditching Valencia and hanging out in Malaga for a bit longer to soak up it’s relaxing vibes, but we also knew we’d regret it if we skipped out on one of our stops completely. So we (very) reluctantly said goodbye to this little beach paradise and grabbed the 9 AM train headed to Valencia…
(Photos from Malaga)
Valencia was like Malaga’s slightly older and more sophisticated sister (nothing like my older sister 😉 ) – it too is on the beach, and while it contains the traditional Gothic-style churches / structures Spain is known for, it also feels very modern. For instance, on our 2nd day there we walked the entire path of what used to be a river now turned 9 KM park to the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias – a very alien-esque looking cluster of buildings where we watched as children were put into giant clear orbs and pushed out into the water surrounding the building (we were too confused by what was happening to remember to snap a photo).
Not only was Valencia a more modern than the other cities we’ve visited, it also seemed more lively. We were there during a few festivals / events and we accidentally happened upon all of them in one day; first there was a huge cyclist race and at the finish line you could find organic and local food vendors, then while walking to the beach there was a swing dance / food truck event, and finally after dinner we wandered into a music festival where all the streets were blocked off to cars so people could wander about freely through the main square.
I’m not going to say we 100% were in love with Valencia – especially on the heels of Malaga. But we did have a great time there – it’s super walkable and pretty, and the beach is maybe the biggest we’ve ever seen. Plus Valencia is the true birthplace of paella, and if you want the good stuff you do what we did and walk 1000 miles to the beach and then get rejected from the best rated Paella restaurant (because you didn’t have a reservation)…but then luckily you find another restaurant that reluctantly squeezes you in even though you’re in your garbage backpacking clothes.
(Hint: make a reservation to eat Paella on the beach in Valencia – and maybe bring some nice clothes. Another hint: do NOT under any circumstances drink a bottle of wine and then accept another diner’s bottle of wine when they insist they are finished and give it to you…you’re welcome.)
Hasta Luego, Valencia!
(P.S. – If you ever visit Valencia and are using shared AirBnBs – stay with Luisa, George and their cat, Pilu!! They’re some of the nicest hosts we’ve had and not only is the apartment located extremely close to the downtown area of Valencia, they also made us flan and Luisa even gave us a home-knit hippo to take on our journey!)