Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. Travel is the cure for intolerance. I approach every destination as the beginning of a unique and immersive story to explore and tell, and inspire others to go. Málaga and Nerja, Spain; Gibraltar and Tangier, Morocco were explored in this one week trip to southern Spain.
When I travel and before I start photographing, I like to get an idea of a location’s personality. What is iconic about a city or region? What history occurred that I can tell in a visual story? If I could assign a color to stand for a location, what vibe would symbolize the place? Then I frame my photojournalism within the context of my initial allure to a destination. Throughout this blog, note links to services, tours and restaurants I enjoyed if you’d like further information on them.
Málaga’s color is yellow. While sharing the same coast and similar culture as southern Portugal, to which I gave yellow and blue for sunny cliffs and sapphire ocean, Málaga has a brighter vibe, more urban and very artistic ambience, from the sun-painted churches and homes to the proud graffiti lining streets and alleys. Málaga is the birth place of Pablo Picasso, a fact which inspired my capturing of the city much in the same way it once inspired him — enjoying the free spirit of doves, maintaining architectural and cultural staples of traditional Spain.Málaga Marina as viewed from the hillside fortress of Alcazaba.Picasso has many forms. No barista doesn’t know how to do a good cortado.Alcazaba. This place is an 11th century maze of garden beauty and tactical architecture.The floor fountains at Alcazaba really fascinated us. They came out of steps, followed the floor, went down walls and into other walls we couldn’t continue following. I want one! So excited to watch the bells toll at Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga.Turkish lamps in an ornate corner of Teteria Palacio Nazari cafe. Excellent falafel, just north of the Cathedral.Small Indy moments, this delightfully disorienting plexiglass floor reveals sand covered artifacts as if you’ve just stumbled upon them.These guys love the palm trees! Early June the parrots are all a-chitter overhead. I used to have a Quaker, I love seeing them in their element.Look who we found hanging out by the Cathedral.Casa Natal Picasso – museum of Picasso’s birthplace. This is the home he grew up in. Sunday mass.Sweet Sweeney Todd graffiti. My dove capture, and a realization that it almost perfectly matches Picasso’s Dove of Peace, 1949. View from our apartment. Beaches or mountains? Both? Both. Both is good. The Cereal Boom, excellent views of cereal boxes for cereal box readers over breakfast. Power bowls, breakfast toasts, smoothies and things too sweet for breakfasttime (like smoothie jugs topped with decked out donuts).
Nerja’s color is navy, for its coast town novelty and — what really drew me there — the subterranean cool of its world famous cave. Caves always excite me, and Cueva de Nerja was one of the more impressive ones I’ve ever visited. In its largest room stands the tallest column formation in the world.
My vertically stitched panorama of the 104 foot column barely does it justice. (Imagine looking up 45 degrees to see the top of this photo, and down 90 degrees to see the bottom of it, in reality.) The cavernous awe of these experiences cannot be captured in photos, truly. Three hundred and sixty degrees of marveling above and below, walking down (and up!) all the chilly steps bringing you further under and into the earth, smelling the earthy cave walls overfilled with the detail of dripping formations at every turn… if a photo is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand photos.
City of Nerja from hilltop cave grounds.
At the Strait of Gibraltar a few hours west of Málaga you can take a one hour ferry ride from Puerto de Tarifa across the strait, straight into another continent — Africa! Our guided bus and walking tour of Tangier (Julia Travel) was wonderful and made this whole adventure very easy. While guided tours can be limiting on freedom and time for adventurous people, crossing borders and getting a quick, authentic experience was definitely beneficial with this tour group.
Tangier’s color is multi, for its star-cut architecture, vibrant textiles, colorful cuisine and gem-tone tiling (a style that originated here with the Moors, and traveled to Spain, to Portugal, even to Florida where I call home, cuz it’s just so cool we can’t do without multicolored tiles). Beware that if you self-tour Tangier, you are likely to lose time getting lost in the labyrinthine streets and markets and heckled more by peddlers (selling things more authentic to China than Morocco).
Strait of Gibraltar coastline. Olives! Our tour was immersive as it took us both through the city by bus and through the markets on foot, lunching (included) at what I can say is probably one of Tangier’s more iconic stops for cuisine. Mamounia Palace had such a deliciously colorful, musical atmosphere, I was actually overwhelmed with all the visual and sensory intrigue of this place.
Delicious couscous and actually-in-Morocco authentic Moroccan mint tea. So good. Stepping into this gift shop felt like uncovering a long-undisturbed artifact room, Indy style. Magic carpets for sale.
Gibraltar, United Kingdom
If you said, “Wait, what?” to the UK part, you’ll be as intrigued as I was my entire tour of Gibraltar: the city, the country, the British overseas territory. Gibraltar’s color is blue and red, for its national charm and British pride. What is the Rock of Gibraltar? Is it a rock or a mountain? or a city? It’s such a fascinating state. Gibraltar is a rock and a mountain and a city and its own country. This British colony is part of the European Union, governed by the British, mostly inhabited by Spanish, and speckled with British visitors and residents here and there. Gibraltar has its own soccer team, its own national flag, British phone booths and skinny streetways that feel like London jam-packed into two and a half square miles of limestone rock that is neither Spain nor Africa, both of which can be seen from the Rock in one vista. No pano stitch required. Europe and Africa in one shot, view from atop the Rock. I found Gibraltar to have the most fascinating history of all the places I visited on this adventure. The Rock has a long military history, having been used as a fortress and naval base both during the Napoleonic War and World War I. The giant iron fastenings Napoleon had installed for his forces to slowly trek canons up and down the rock can still be seen along the road to the top. The Rock itself contains over 200 caves, military stores and barracks, and an interior 34 miles of tunneled roads… that’s more miles of roads inside the rock than in its town outside! Now that is a tour for another day. I had great expectations of reaching the top of the Rock, 1,398 feet above the sea, stepping a foot on the highest stone and looking out over Africa. Well this didn’t occur, because the top is not a rock you can pretend to claim. But truth is often stranger than fiction. The cap of The Rock of Gibraltar is actually a CAVE! A spectacular self-tour cave, St. Michael’s Cave is now host to performances and events, with full stadium seating and delicious multicolored lighting effects. It was a wonderful chance to explore a few winding caveways at your own pace (unless you’re on a tour bus, then you gotta jet back to the bus on time, but it saves you having to hike up the Rock). Outside the cave and surrounding the summit of the Rock is home to over 200 Barbary macaques, glorified in Gibraltar’s souvenirs as the “Gibraltar Monkeys”. My husband said this image made him want to see the cave more than seeing the cave made him want to see the cave, ha. I’m a cave nerd, so finding and photographing this cross section of a stalactite was truly the souvenir that made my day. He’s guarding the overlook sign. If you get more time than I did in Gibraltar, take time to ride the cable car, hang around in upper and lower town, see if you can find a tunnel tour, or visit historic places of British influence, including places that hosted the Queen’s visit in 1954, and the courthouse where John and Yoko got married. Have your chocolate cake in a bag and eat it too. Gibraltar is a wonderful and unique place to explore. I must also mention, probably the one and only spot in the world where you have to stop at a red light to wait for airplane traffic, as crossing the border into Gibraltar is controlled by a light trafficking both cars and airplanes (you literally drive over the airport runway to get into town). So crazy!
Morning sight in the countryside of Estepona on the way to Gibraltar.Sierra de Mijas, Spain, upon departure.
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