😫? Escape With Me to Spain: Misadventures in Málaga

You never know when a grief attack will hit.

Yesterday I had a full-blown, out-of-left-field grief attack when listening to a song I always listen to but, for whatever reason, when the song lyrics came to this certain part yesterday…

I completely lost it.

It’s like all the oxygen was sucked out of my body and my face was contorted in a silent scream and my hands flew up and pressed against my face and I was still lacking oxygen so no tears or sound were able to surface and…

it felt absolutely overwhelming and as if a black hole had opened in the ceiling above me and I knew that at any second I could be crushed by the immensity of the sensation…

and then it was over.

I don’t experience too many of those but, when I do, I’m happy they don’t last too long because that would be hard to recover from at, say, the grocery store.

I’m fine. What are you looking at. Go to hell. Happy holidays.

ah, the holidays

Despite there being an assortment of characters to mourn, this particular attack was focused exclusively on my father and his being dead.


Since we humans are not robots which can process trauma and loss in a clean and logical way, we simply have to allow the grieving process to play out.

And each day is better and also the same but some days are worse.

Consequently, we have to find whatever helps us get through and hope that thing is legal.

Personally, I’ve been fond of running away, knowing full well that it all comes with you but it’s nice to give our minds some different scenery to ponder and play with.

And, while I can’t afford to physically run away like many other people in the world right now, feeling crushed and devastated by the global pandemic and its wide-reaching effects,

I can run away in my head.

Therefore, this week’s post is a continuation of the limited series where I remember when my husband and I were able to leave this hellish apartment and see different countries because we lived in Scotland and could take advantage of budget European airlines like Ryan Air.

Which, again, was kind of like extreme traveling.

Specifically, the city we visited for a few days was Málaga, Spain, as that’s where Ryan Air traveled to.

In other words, that was the European city which was the least expensive for us to travel to.

And so off we went to Spain!

We enjoyed that the Spanish town we were visiting had an actual bullfighting ring so it was going to live up to all our American preconceptions.

I didn’t do any language prep before we left because I always think I know more Spanish than I genuinely know so we most often used “lo siento” as a way of responding to most people.

“Lo seinto tanto.”

When traveling, my husband and I don’t want to be tourists even though we are the living, breathing, walking examples of what tourists are,

so we research an area to make sure it’s not like, say, leaving the strip in Las Vegas, or anything like the neighborhood we currently live in in Milwaukee…

and then we wander away from the busy city center to where it’s more quiet and “normal”.

However, this also means that, while on holiday, we usually wander around for about 500 miles and also get really lost.

So we walked our customary 500 miles and got lost in Málaga which is what we do and this meant soon I really had to use the bathroom and found we had managed to wander into a very quiet neighborhood which had no public businesses so when we finally came upon a cafe I practically fell through the door, apologizing and shout-rambling our order:

¡Hola! Lo siento! Dos cafés por favor! Tambien dos aguaaaas aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa dónde está el bañoooooooooo?????????

Though I was giving my order as I physically ran to the bathroom in the back, it’s Spain so there was no rush and consequently, when I reemerged I saw my husband was now seated at an empty table without any coffees and there was also a very excited looking person standing next to him.

And they were both actively watching me walk towards them.

My husband looked neutral but the other looked like he was considering whether or not to hug me.

So I… smiled… verified my exit strategy and… said:¡Hola!

And, as I sat down, I started to again give our order for coffee but the young server stopped me.

In fact, he frowned, waved his hands and said, “No, no, no…”

I stopped talking. And he started speaking in English, saying,

“Where are you from?”

I replied, “The United States…?”

And he looked delighted and said, with a visible look of extreme concentration, “We never get Americans! I am going to practice my English!”

We both nodded and smiled.

He continued: “What would you like to order?”

I frowned slightly.

But I had already ordered.

Apparently, my order had not counted and I needed to cut back on my American attitude of


So I began to again place my order using my poor-yet-earnest Spanish now with a sprinkling of French because social anxiety:

“D’accord… uh, dos…”

The server shook his head.

I tried again.

“Lo siento. Sorry. Two coffees, black, and two waters…?”

He then broadly smiled and happily repeated our order back to us in perfect English.

I nodded. Head movement seemed safest.

He then left to get our hard-fought-for order and… well, David and I sat back in our chairs and breathed in the warm Spanish air, feeling quite satisfied as we had managed to interact with an authentic local.

It had been extremely awkward but it had been real.

And my Spanish was so shit a local had practically begged me to stop trying to speak it.

In any case, Málaga was a lovely, laid-back little town.

Hell, even its statues were laid-back.

The port city also had genuine orange trees just hanging out. We Northerners had never seen oranges on trees.


Málaga also had the preserved remains of a fortress castle – Castillo Gibralfaro – which was free to climb and explore, and who doesn’t want to explore a castle?

Best of all, there weren’t many other tourists and, by climbing up to ramble around the castle, we earned a wonderful view of the port city.

David really made himself at home in the castle and picked out which room he’d choose if he could live there.

this one

I guess there’s something about being in a castle which brings out the kid/murderer in you.

The castle even had dungeons which looked like they were straight out of Don Quixote.

Of course we visited the dungeons.

In short, the castle was very cool.

But it had also taken a long time to climb up to see it because the official path wound back and forth and it just felt as if there must be a more direct way to get up and down from this fortified castle in modern times.

So we took a shortcut on our way down the castle hill.

If you couldn’t already tell, that wasn’t a smart idea.

We assumed we had managed to find one of those areas you don’t want to accidentally find in a foreign place or even your own city.

I couldn’t help but think we were experiencing some kind of metaphor as now our view of the Mediterranean was obstructed by a chain-link fence.

In any case, we had gone too far to turn around unless we absolutely had to/got murdered

and then it seemed that we may have reached that point.

prepping to be recipient of murder

But eventually we found a more official path to the bottom which even had helpful caution signs.

At the same time, in this photo, it looks a little like David is escaping from prison.

Regardless, we somehow managed to arrive back at the bottom where we had started, despite ourselves.

Speaking of criminals, during our short visit Málaga’s port seemed to be harboring a pirate ship which didn’t at first seem to be a tourist attraction because again there really weren’t many tourists in the city while we visited so the pirate ship just sat there quietly,

and we felt it seemed as if it was actively trying to look incognito.

pirates and their skullduggery

In reality, there is a historically correct replica of a Spanish galleon treasure ship and I’m not sure if what we saw was that ship but… it likely cost money to board so we continued to pretend it was a real pirate ship.

Málaga is also home to a Moorish alcazaba which is another fortified castle of sorts which was built in the early 11th century.

Our imaginations really ran wild in these places, due to simply how old they were and the history of the locations.

And right next to the alcazaba were the remains of a Roman theater which was theoretically built by Caesar Augustus in the first century of recorded human history, Anno Domini.

For seeming like a quiet, humble, laid-back little port city, Málaga sure packed in some hefty reminders of the power players in its history.

We just peeked inside because gross, Ancient Romans, and, well, it was intense. It reminded us of how brief our shared human history really is.

And speaking of the Lord and continuing on the “I can’t believe this is here” tour of Málaga, we came upon its cathedral.

We had to pay to enter.

We never paid to enter anything on our budget holiday weekends.

Not out of principle… we just didn’t have extra money. We spent all our money getting to the location so we had none to splurge once we were there.

But we apparently did have some extra euros and paid to enter the town’s cathedral and I’m so glad we did.

I’m not Catholic but I don’t think one needs to be religious or even spiritual to feel as if they have entered an other-worldly space when walking into this cathedral which was built from what had been a mosque.

Generally, when viewing the extravagance of any religious building I’d usually feel compelled to ponder how many people were murdered to make its glorious materialistic display possible and couldn’t that money have been donated to the homeless and poor but there was something legitimately moving about this particular cathedral.

It was the most impressive and awe-inspiring human-made structure I’ve ever set foot in.

It felt like, if God truly did come down to earth for a weekend, this was where he would stay.

I feel that’s what the cathedral architects were going for when they designed this building.

There were God-sized wardrobes where He could hang the casual dress wear He packed…

And God-sized doors…

It was epic. But the cathedral also had all of these different altars which were actively being used by patrons. There seemed to be an altar for every mood and whatever style of dress one was wearing that day:

The intensity of the space doesn’t translate through photos. For me, despite its outrageously decadent, intimidating and breath-taking features,

it also felt accessible somehow.

Consequently, the emotion I felt surprised me.

It was almost as if I had experienced a small taste of how it would feel to be in the presence of God.

Dangerous territory to confuse God with extravagant displays of wealth and power as we all know from watching Indiana Jones…

and yet… I was very glad to pay to enter that cathedral.

I can only imagine what it costs to maintain a place like that.

Back out in reality, the Mediterranean was was free but it was not warm.

And yet Málaga was probably my favorite budget holiday destination because it was so laid-back, quiet and picturesque.

A very lovely memory to walk through this cold, bleak, quarantined Wisconsin day, years and years later.

Thanks for joining me on my mental escape.

Hope you’re staying safe and warm, wherever you are. And if you happen to be that sweet barista we encountered years ago in a cafe in the area of town tourists didn’t usually frequent…

lo siento, mi amigo.

To close, here is the song that crushed me yesterday which today has no effect on me:

And to continue with the laid-back Spanish theme 🌹:

Music is medicine. ⚡️🖤

12 thoughts on “😫? Escape With Me to Spain: Misadventures in Málaga

  1. Hubby was stationed in Spain in the 80’s – he lived outside Madrid and has SO many stories of the cool places he went and the things he saw. We have a vast list of places we’d like to visit when/if anybody can travel again and we can sell enough of our things to finance a trip, but if he doesn’t get back to Spain soon, his soul will never rest. The universe has been warned.

    Thanks for sharing these travelogues with us! It makes the gray, rainy Seattle weather just a little brighter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Emma! Wow! I bet he has some stories… Spain is so packed with history and culture it’s almost overwhelming! And indeed… oh the the lack of money now… and the ongoing public health crisis… woosh. But it’s so great to make that list and vow that you’re going to get to all the places you wrote down.

      Spain being at the top of that list! 🙂 I was dying to just transport myself back there… hopefully someday!

      And I’m so glad it helped bring a little sunshine — if only virtual — to you! Stay safe and keep warm (and dry)! 💙


  2. What a lovely travelogue you present!! I agree that music is a memory trigger. Probably why I love the oldies stations on my radio, they can bring me back to my childhood, teenage years both pleasant! Then on to the 90’s to a very dark time where every song made me cry. Songs are not just entertainment, they are memory triggers!😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure dear Peggy! Music is medicine… it brings us back to moments and helps us through them. And there is a song/artist/album for every temporary need we may have. The most useful and necessary form of creativity in my view. Hugs to you! 🖤🎶


  3. Thank you for this Hillarie. Malaga is one of my favourite cities and I agree with everything you say. We did a three week tour of southern Spain last year, starting off in Malaga and the going by bus and train to Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba and then Madrid. It was epic! When this is done and you get back to Europe I’m coming to meet you. ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I felt like I was in the trip with you. I love the vividness that you created while retelling the story. I hope you will be able to travel very soon again!

    Music always triggers the soul. Since my father had a stroke, certain songs that i used to love I simply can’t listen to without breaking down.

    Thanks for sharing and I always enjoy your posts😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww thank you dear! So glad you felt the escape!

      And I’m so sorry about your dad’s health situation… my heart goes out to you. Music really does cut to the heart of where we’re at at any given moment in our life.

      Hugs and love to you. And what a great post about mental health + thoughtful holiday gifts! As always, a joy and comfort to read. 🥰


  5. This post was so good there were times I actually laughed out loud! The trying to order in Spanish part was hilarious. I love when people like to go off the beaten path to experience a genuine connection with a local. That’s amazing. Touristy areas are fun cause that’s what they’re popular for but it’s not everything & it can be difficult to have an authentic experience. Truly enjoyed this post & it’s realness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Love your travel blog! And I’m really happy that I’m your kind of traveler. Yes indeed… I want to get as far away from the tourists as possible while unable to shed my own identity as TOURIST. However, if I can’t speak Spanish well enough and I’m in Spain, I’m going to SUFFER THE AUTHENTIC CONSEQUENCES. 😀


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