Christmas, palmtrees and Star Wars
It’s easy to understand why so many Nordic people choose to spend the winter on the Spanish South Coast, rather than the cold North. We also had no regrets when we opted out of the Danish snow, freezing temperatures, stress, and Christmas shopping.
Christmas in Spain isn’t as hyped as in Denmark. In fact, the stores don’t begin their Christmas season before mid-November, which is almost 2 months later than in Denmark. Sure the Spanish Christmas lasts until January because they celebrate the Holy Trinity (on the 50th day after Easter), but you get the point right?
To be honest, it was a bit difficult to get into the Christmas spirit while we were surrounded by sun and palm trees, but we tried our best. Actually, we didn’t really miss all the ornaments and so that much. We made a South Coast us-version of a snowy village instead, as you can see in the video. With lots of lights and the Millenium Falcon.
A perfect winter
In fact, we really enjoyed being able to walk around in shorts throughout the month of December. Those of you who have paid attention will know that we hate snow and layered clothes, so a sunny winter is just perfect for us.
Something old and something new
We had chosen to stay at Camping Fuengirola (which is now unfortunately permanently closed) because we knew the campsite from earlier and because it would give us ample opportunity to spend some time with our newly found friends who lived nearby in Mijas. In addition to that, we expected guests from Denmark a few times during the winter and Malaga Airport was only about half an hour drive away. Last but not least Fuengirola and the surrounding South Coast area has a lot to offer. Also out of season.
We could see Castillo Sohail from the campsite and even though it’s closed most of the time offseason it’s still worth a visit. It’s a beautiful castle from the 10th century and in the summer a lot of concerts are held on the lawns below the castle. Everything from The Beach Boys and Chicago to more local artists. We can imagine it must be great sitting in the green grass with a bottle of wine, listening to music, and enjoying the view of the ocean.
Because a lot of Danes live in the area, Danish artists such as Rasmus Seebach also performs by Castillo Sohail actually.
The white city
Mijas is a neighboring town that has gradually merged with Fuengirola. The city is incredibly beautiful and is also called The White City On The Mountain. Since our new friends live in Mijas, it was only natural that they acted as our tour guides.
The Virgen de la Peña Cave is an incredibly beautiful monastery in Mijas, and it belongs to the protector of Mijas; Virgin Peña. It was excavated in the rock around 1548 and it’s said that in 1586 two boys saw a white dove above the monastery and saw it transform into Virgin Mary. So actually the monastery was Virgin Mary’s hiding place and she, therefore, became the protector of Mijas also called Virgen Peña (Virgin of the cave).
Among other things in the chapel, there are some fantastic cloaks, which are used during the Easter processions through the city. And of course also a picture of the smiling Pope Francis.
What’s a Stupa?
Benalmadena Stupa is Europe’s tallest Buddhist temple. It was inaugurated in 2003 and is a large, beautiful, white monument with a gold dome. It’s said that if you follow the path with the signs clockwise around the temple, you’ll have a wish granted. That, of course, was done by us too.
Inside the Stupa is a meditation room that’s more than 100 square meters big. The paintings on the walls of the meditation room represent the life story of the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni.
You can actually see the Stupa with this live webcam
Christmas with loved ones
But we also had to celebrate Christmas and we did that with our daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Mikkel who had arrived on the South Coast. In Spain, it’s normal to eat at home with the family on Christmas Eve and go to a restaurant on Christmas Day. We followed that tradition and enjoyed a delicious roast beef for dinner.
Susan and Mikkel were staying at Los Amigos Beach Club, so it was possible for us to cook ourselves in a real kitchen. When it comes to gifts, Christmas Eve is not that big in Spain. Their “actual Christmas Eve” is on Holy Trinity in January. However, we had a few individual gifts to unpack and in addition, we played games to win extra gifts. And of course, we saw the Disney Christmas show. Otherwise, it’s not really Christmas. Maybe that’s just a Danish tradition?
Finding the Christmas spirit
Christmas decorations in Fuengirola were also some of the things we enjoyed looking at during the Christmas days. Even a relatively small town like Fuengirola has a lavish amount of lights and in the middle of the town, they also have a fantastic Christmas scenario.
El Chorro Lake
We visited El Chorro Lake for the 3rd time. This time with Susan and Mikkel. But it’s hard to get tired of this beautiful lake and the amazing dam. This time we were even guided by a hungry, homeless dog. El Chorro is so calm, that it’s one of the few places in Europe where our phones have stopped working. I can’t describe the lake better than this:
“The lakes, oftentimes called the “Malaga Lake District” are 3 beautiful turquoise-colored lakes bordered by pine & oak forests. It offers a peaceful retreat where you can swim, picnic, fish, or kayak to your heart’s desire. The lakes are artificially created by a dam built across the dramatic 200m high Guadalhorce river gorge known as the Garganta del Chorro.” (From Castillo de Monda website)
Next guest please
The same plane that we put Susan and Mikkel on after Christmas also brought us the next guest. Malthe’s friend Lars. He came to celebrate New Year with us and enjoy the sun on the Spanish South Coast. Now we know that after celebrating New Year in Spain once, we’d very much like to do it again. The atmosphere is great and there’s partying in the streets. Fireworks are banned, so confetti is what’s used instead.
The Spanish tradition around midnight is that on each of the 12 clock strokes one must eat a grape, to have happiness in the new year. In addition, you have to stand on the left leg and jump into the new year on the right, to land on the right foot. Unfortunately, we’d already had so much champagne that we didn’t quite remember it all. However, Malthe fed me the 12 grapes, so my happiness was cared for. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to eat 12 grapes in about 12 seconds. Feel free to try it at home.
Hungover on a plane
After a very “wet” and festive night, I had to get on a plane home to Denmark. Our youngest daughter was having a major back operation the next day, so I had the pleasure of feeling the winter bite in my cheeks after all. A few days after I returned back to Spain again, Malthe also chose to travel to DK to visit our friends and family.
At the time of writing this, there are 3 days until he returns and then we’ll move on. Although the South Coast is fantastic when it comes to the weather, the hospitality, and the sights, there’re many adventures ahead waiting for us. The plan is to visit Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands in the spring so we can experience the Dutch tulip fields. Then we’ll continue towards Italy and Greece.
But for now, that’s all folks…
– Text, photos and photo editing: Eva // Photos : Malthe
(This post was originally posted in Danish on January 30th 2019)