Summer In Benalmadena With Andi Eaton
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
Things are moving quite rapidly in my world and my move to Spain is going to be here so soon. I am getting really really excited and making it top priority to do as much research as possible. We will be living in Barcelona for 6 months renting a vacation home but plan on traveling all of Spain which will help us make a more permanent decision of where we want to be and possibly buy a residence. Of course we have to make sure Spain wants us long term and we have all the appropriate paperwork and requirements but we are feeling incredibly confident. A lot of this may just be a step-by-step, day-to-day process. I am so excited to explore. So many of friends tell me that I am going to love Granda. Some say I am just going to adore Madrid and a few have said they can see me in Bilbao. My friend Andi took off from New Orleans last year and spent a whole summer in Benalmadena and that looks quite lovely too. I really look forward to spending some time here. I know it's hot but I will have a whole ocean to keep me cool. With all of this Spain talk, I was super thrilled to interview Andi and get up close and personal with her experience there.
(all photography owned by Andi Eaton)
-Spending a whole summer in Spain working on a book....how can you best describe this amazing experience? Why Benalmadena?
I wanted to go somewhere and write, to create some separation between myself and my home. I made the decision to travel first, the destination wasn't determined until a bit later. Being that far away from my "normal" life meant the usual buzz couldn't distract me. I'd have time to step back and re-prioritize.
Benalmádena Pueblo, on the Costa Del Sol, was chosen simply because there was a home for me there. A dear friend's father had recently passed away - he had a villa in the pueblo that needed tending to - so there it was, and so I went.
-Your first full day there..what did you do? Wear? Explore?
Well, first I had to get there. I arrived at the Malaga airport, about a 25 mile drive away - rented a car, figured out the general traffic laws, and headed toward the traditional Andalusian old town. I wasn't sure of what to expect and spent the first day getting settled into the villa, meeting the 10 or so cats that had made the property their home, and then walked the mile or so into the central village to stock up at the market. I traveled light - with a duffle bag of cut offs and swimsuits and the birkenstocks on my feet so that's what I wore that day and pretty much every day the rest of the summer.
-What is the social setting like? Was it easy to make friends?
I had to get comfortable testing out my Spanish if I was going to make friends; unlike the tourist areas not many people spoke English in the pueblo. I peeked into a hip vinyl bar the first weekend and finally gathering the courage to go in on week 2 when I had a friend visiting. The owner offered, in Spanish, to take us out for wine and tapas the next day. A little later I met the girlfriend of that same gentlemen, and she and I became soul sister friends. We traveled all over the coast together the rest of the summer.
-What was the best thing about living there all summer?
The pace of life. Life follows the light there, and it's light until at least 10 p.m.
I'd wake up early to a mountainside stillness and then end the day swimming in the Mediterranean sea. I'd often hike into the pueblo after sunset for a late dinner. When I had down time from writing I'd travel the southern coast, from Tarifa to Granada to Valencia, farmlands and ancient villages and the most beautiful seaside views.
-The worst thing about living there all summer?
Having to come home?! Really though, I stayed a month longer than I initially planned and only returned because my visa was up.
-One day in Benalmadena..what is not to be missed?
It's small so a day would allow you to see it all. The heart of the village has traditional Architecture - white-washed stone buildings and labyrinth alleys. Visit the Buddhist Enlightenment temple - it's the largest Stupa in the Western world. Meditation is offered every day and is open to Buddhist and non-buddhist alike. Hike down to Benalmadena Costa for a swim and then and dine on fish caught right there by the local fisherman and cooked over an open beachside fire.
-If you could give one piece of advice for those wanting to spend an entire summer abroad, what would it be?
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Learning the ways of the locals takes a little time, however, be open and push yourself to experience the authentic things a place can offer. And, if you're going to be in Spain: shop the markets: the fish, cheese, olives and produce are the freshest and most delicious anywhere, and you can stop along the little bars in the corridors for drinks and tapas while you shop.
-From a budget standpoint..was this challenging? How did you make it all work?
Well, I saved money preparing for the trip, and was fortunate to have a home to stay in. However, if that hadn't been an option I would have sought out an apartment in a local area that could be rented for the short term of my stay.
-The fashion there? Were there any take a way moments for you to be inspired by and incorporate into your own wardrobe?
As a girl that works in fashion I certainly understand getting dressed up, however the Spanish attire for the festivals and celebrations was on a different level. I couldn't help but follow the beautiful women around to get close up views of their custom made garments. Their dresses were made for a singular occasion, and were impeccably crafted by the best couturiers. I was doing some clothing design then and made some skirts inspired by the flora, architecture and flamenco style.
-If you could relive the whole summer there..would there be any changes?
Not a thing.
The Feria de la Virgen De La Cruz....loved your blog post about this. Tell me more.
The Feria de la Virgen de la Cruz, from my perspective, can only be likened to Mardi Gras. Daily parades, all night dancing in the streets, food and cocktails on every corner... a whole community coming together to celebrate.
-One thing you still think about frequently everyday from your time there?
Being in Spain changed my perspective, I found myself staying up late dreaming of all the places I want to know. Like, not just "go" - but really know. Spending 4 months in a place you start to get its intricacies. I think about the figs I'd collect each morning from the tree in the yard, the twinkling lights miles down the coastline, the brightness of the moon at night. Those visions don't leave me.
- Advice to me moving to Spain?? eeeek.
Practice the language! Get off the beaten path. Eat all the food and drink the wine, and I promise you'll do just fine there!
Andi is a travel blogger, living stylishly on the road writing book number 2. The book, a girl's guide to the best road trips across America will feature artists, fashion mavens, and music makers sharing personal stories for every girl with a wanderlust spirit.
Channel your Flamenco style here