by Deniece, Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Participant in Spain

“Wanna pack your bag, something small? Take what you need and we disappear.  Without a trace we’ll be gone, gone.  The moon and the stars can follow the car, and then when we get to the ocean, we gonna take a boat to the end of the world.  All the way to the end of the world…You and I, we’re not tied to the ground.  Not falling, but rising, like rolling around. Eyes closed above the rooftops, eyes closed, we’re gonna spin through the stars.  Our arms wide as the sky, we gon’ ride the blue all the way to the end of the world.  To the end of the world…”   -You & Me, Dave Matthews Band

When I graduated from college, I said that I would never again subject myself to a Greyhound bus ride, or a ride on any Greyhound – like bus.  I had just spent 28 hours on a bus from Washington, D.C. to Jacksonville, Florida, round – trip.  It was spring break and a bunch of us community – service minded students decided to join up with HabiJax, that’s Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville, to build a house for a needy family.  So noble, we were.  We could have easily stayed on the bus for just a few more hours and joined the rest of the college “spring breakers” in Daytona or Fort Lauderdale or Miami, and spent our days on the beach and nights at the club.  But, “Nay,” we said, for we answered the call of our fellow citizens, citizens in need, no less.  Well, for my fellow citizens, I drank half a bottle of NyQuil to endure the 14 – hour bus ride down, and took similar action for the trip back, vowing to never, ever, EVER do it again.  Time changes things, though, doesn’t it?

The balmy weather of the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain beckoned.  In fact, it hadn’t stopped beckoning since I left the airport the day I arrived.  I left Chicago wearing a light jacket that proved to be too much in Málaga; the city welcomed me with sunshine, blue skies and a warm sea breeze.  My “handler” and I rode with the windows down as we drove up the coast, turning north toward the mountains and foothills of the Sierra Nevada on our way to Granada.  We zipped by Nerja, Salobreña and Motril, to which I would later return on a weekend getaway.  It’s probably a bit cliché, but all the little seaside towns really do look like scenes from a postcard.  The “pueblos blancos,” white towns, are aptly named; a coastal drive will provide ample opportunity to see these all – white villages.  Every house white with the Spanish style rooftops in burnt orange to offset the brighter color.  It’s a striking view on a clear day when the sunlight bounces off of these structures.  Contrasted with the cobalt blue of the Mediterranean Sea or the lush, green hills as a backdrop, you can take in truly breathtaking vistas.

So, I had no problem hopping a bus for an hour – long ride back to the coast.  It was this trip to Motril that made me appreciate riding the bus.  We made two stops, once each way.  On the way down, we stopped in Vélez de Benaudalla at night; it looked like we were driving into the side of a hill, but then this little town appeared, all dressed up for Christmas.  People were camped out at local bars and cafes, having their cervezas and cigarettes, sometimes tapas.  Kids were hanging out in the local square.  It was just cool to see.  If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get to Motril, I would have hopped off to see what the place had to offer.  Alas! The chiringuitos were calling! That was a late night ride and I’m a little glad I couldn’t see anything because seeing the route during the day made me a little nervous.  The hillsides are dotted with these little villages and the buses stop there, so you’ve got to go up and down hills, making narrow turns on roads where there isn’t much of a shoulder – it’s a straight drop down to…whatever’s down there – and crossing two lane bridges where the “two lane” part is debatable.  Still, we made it.  Bus drivers here are talented and that includes the city bus drivers, too.

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Motril.  Cute downtown area.  Let’s talk about the beach and the chiringuitos.  Beach bars.  Seaside taverns. Oceanfront eateries.  Call them what you like, but make sure “awesome” is in there somewhere.  You simply cannot beat sunshine on a beach where you can get fresh seafood and beer.  Let me repeat: fresh seafood and beer.  You can’t beat that with a hammer! Grilled seafood, fried seafood, fish, calamari, whatever.  Throw in live music and you won’t want to leave.

I had just as good a time in Nerja, even though we didn’t go to any chiringuitos there.  We still had a seaside meal with a great view to boot.  You can walk the narrow, winding streets of Nerja to do some shopping or grab a bite.  That visit was a very relaxing detour on the way to Málaga.  As I am told, it’s a very popular vacation spot for British pensioners; my handler said when we got to town, we decreased the average age of the population by several years.

The bus ride back to Granada seemed to go by rather quickly, even though we stopped in the beautiful town of Lecrín, where the smell of citrus floats in air.  That’s because there are citrus fruit trees throughout the town.  Driving by, you’d see a bunch and think that was it, but they were around every corner it seemed: lemons, oranges, and the like.  It was almost magical and they gave the town an old – world feel.  Sounds corny, doesn’t it? All I know is I can’t walk down the street where I live and pick an orange off the first tree I see.  So, Lecrín is tops in my book and it’s also a town I’d like to visit when I’m not in a hurry to get to any chiringuito.