Tyler and I are extremely fortunate that hoopLA has led us on travels that have allowed us to discover California’s coast from San Diego to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Colorado, but we never went on a full blown vacation together. Then came the ultimate honeymoon, which Tyler planned. After a pretty hectic day, after an even more jam packed wedding weekend, we hopped on a plane departing Boston’s Logan Airport to Malaga Spain.
Once we arrived in Malaga, we found our taxi driver, Stefano, and headed to Marbella. We were fortunate enough to have a free place to stay because my Norwegian cousin, Mona, has a summer flat that was part of a beautiful complex a few steps from the beach. Mona’s best friends also have a flat right across the pool and their son, Chris, and his friend, May, gave us the tour. We hit it off with Chris and May and ended up spending a lot of time with them and we’re even planning our next trip with them!
Marbella, well, east Marbella (where we were) is comprised of restaurants sporadically on the beach with lounge chairs our front that could be rented for about five euros a day. We spent most of our time in front of Miguel y Maria de Sergio‘s which is an adorable Italian restaurant with amazing food, reasonable prices, and staff that made you feel like family. Some days we would spend all day on the beach in front of their restaurant (where you could see Africa across the water), shower, and come back down for dinner that was literally served on the beach with the sand in your toes. The other restaurant we loved was Siroko Beach. It was pricer, but had a beautiful, beachy decor, friendly staff, and the best Iberico ham we had throughout the trip. (Side note: Iberico ham is a Spanish ham that is known for having the same oil that is found in olives. It’s usually served with toasted bread topped with olive oil and tomato).
When we weren’t lying on the beach, we took the bus into the city of Marbella, explored Old Town Marbella, and checked out Puerto Banus (like a Beverly Hills on the water). We also had a Michelin starred dinner at Restaurant El Lago, which was incredible. My favorite, Old Town, was absolutely adorable. With small, cobblestone streets, Old Town is full of tapas, wine, and shops. We went on a Sunday and hopped around to the different restaurants while listening to the evening mass bells ringing. We tried Iberico ham (again) at one restaurant, foie gras at another, lobster ravioli at another, before splitting cheesecake at a bakery for dessert.
To break up our time in Marbella, we took a taxi to Tarifa to catch the hour long ferry to Morocco. Tyler found Tangier Guide – Day Tours and set up a private tour for us to explore Tangier. We met up with our guide, Nabeed, and he gave us a tour of the area including camel rides, exploring the Cave of Hercules, seeing where the Atlantic ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, going to the Kasbah, and chowing down on beef couscous and chicken tagine. While we were there, we were able to shop the market, but many of the stores were closed since it was a holy day for the Muslim religion. Although the market wasn’t bustling, it was beautiful to witness and listen to the call to prayer over the whole city. It was one of my favorite parts of our trip. I would love to go back and stay for a few days.
After Marbella, we took a six hour train ride to Barcelona. The train was comfortable, clean, relaxing, and a great way to travel in Europe. Tyler went above and beyond when it came to the hotel he found in Barcelona. Hotel DO: Plaça Reial is a gorgeous boutique hotel that sits right in the middle of Las Ramblas on Plaça Reial. With 18 luxury rooms, two incredible restaurants, and a decor that included hard wood floors, lush dark leather sofas, mirrored ceilings, and blush colored florals, the hotel was romantic, yet modern. We (The Eshlemans) were welcomed with a bottle of bubbly and a chocolate tart to say congratulations.
While in Barcelona we visited the Boqueria, which is the market full of fresh fish, meat, produce, nuts, chocolate, and stalls to grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine (I went to town at the chocolate stand). We also visited all of Gaudi’s architecture including the cathedral that is being built even though he has since passed. The Park Güell Barcelona was incredible and filled with his organic designs that incorporated ceramics, stained glass, and wrought ironwork. In between seeing the cathedral and the park, we found lunch at a Chill Bar. The little restaurant had food that was fresh, delicious, and a funky, vintage, decor that reminded me of Venice Beach. That night we ate a fifteen course tasting menu (with wine pairing) at two Michelin starred, ABaC. It was a creative meal that took your tastes to a whole new level. Looking back, did we need the larger tasting menu? No, but you only honeymoon once, so we were going to do it right. After feasting on eel, truffles, tuna, and table side ice cream, we rolled on back to the hotel.
The next day we walked all over Barcelona and visited a flea market Tyler found right outside the cathedral. We then went inside the gorgeous cathedral and we made our way through their park to the marina, where we ate paella at Xiringuito Escribà. Full of a pitcher of sangria and a huge pan of seafood paella, we headed back to the hotel, had some wine and relaxed for a little bit. That night, we found our way to Quimet y Quimet, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Spain episode. It was a bar with floor to ceiling bottles of wine and was about the size of our closet in Marina del Rey. This tiny spot also had the best tapas in Spain. The deal is you have to have a counter space or table to order and you have to be quick. We did our research, so we knew to stick to the open faced sandwiches. We had the mussels and caviar, cured beef with sweet tomato, foie gras with volcanic salt, prawns with baked red pepper, and salmon with yoghurt and truffle honey (the best). Down the street we found restaurants that were kind of like “fast food” tapas where each one was only a euro. Still delicious!
The next morning, Hotel DO packed us breakfast and sent us on our way to Munich for Oktoberfest. Overall, I am happy to say I experienced Oktoberfest, although parts of it were like a huge frat party. It was a carnival with games, food (sausage, potatoes, pretzels), and huge beer tents (more like houses). By 3 pm, it gets pretty rowdy, but we ate some hearty meals and drank from steins as big as our heads. By this time of the trip we had taken three planes, three long taxi rides, a six hour train ride and two ferries, so I was pretty beat. We stayed at the hotel bar that night, but we made some fun, new British friends, who we hung out with the following day as well.
Overall, the trip was an experience of a lifetime and I got to spend it with the love of my life. What more could a girl ask for? Within two weeks, we visited Marbella, Morocco, Barcelona, and Munich and really dove into each culture as much as we could. I loved the people, the culture, the food, and the friends we made along way. Part II? Iceland and Norway, we’re coming for you in April!