I turned 30 last week. It seems like one of those big milestones in life, one of those really important birthdays that everyone celebrates with real gusto, though I'm not really sure why. I get 18 - legally allowed to do all the fun things, like buy booze and vote, and see smutty films. I sort of understand 21, it's that American ideal of being a proper, proper adult. But 30? 30 feels like one of those ages that at least, as a woman, people put upon you that feeling that you'd better get on with it. But when it comes down to it, 30 is important. 30 is the age I got to where I felt like I could really do what I wanted, without judgement. I can eat coco pops for dinner whenever I damn well like. No I don't want to do that. Whatever.
I had a few days off in between jobs and I wanted to do something with it - it's all too easy to sit at home in your pants watching Narcos and eat pizza - so I decided to go away by myself. I know it doesn't sound like much, but the number of raised eyebrows I got was surprising. "You're so brave!"
"But won't you be lonely?" was a common question, or "can't someone go with you?" Both fair points, but I didn't want to. I'd had a pretty intense period at work on over-lapping projects, so actually the thought of waking up in the morning and just doing whatever I wanted made my mouth water a bit. Being alone doesn't make you lonely.
Casa Aranda is THE PLACE for churros and chocolate while you watch the world go by, and they are delicious; the churros are just the right side of salty, and the chocolate thick and sweet, but I challenge you to go and Do Stuff after a day started like that. I prefer a gentler beginning, like the breakfast at La Recova, a tiny little ceramics shop that doubles as a café. For something ludicrous like 4 Euros you get coffee, bread, tomatoes, a sobresada (spicy, spreadable sausage), and confit chicken spread, as well as honey and banana spreads so you can have mains and pudding. This guide has all the deets.
My parents, bless 'em, did a 6 hour drive round the coast to come have lunch with me (they moved to Spain last year) and we had a seafood extravaganza at Andres Maricuchi, in a lovely traditional seaside town of Pedragelejo. I cycled there and flopped on the dark volcanic sand in the morning, watching the restaurants build barbecues up in raised boats, for their signature sardines-on-a-stick. Grilled squid with potatoes could have done with a little more oil basting and a little less time on the heat, but prawns, liberally sprinkled with rock salt, were easily some of the best I've had. Sweet, sweet seaside. And they peel their tomatoes for their garlic-heavy salad. I don't know why they peel them, but damn it felt luxurious.
Back in Málaga proper, Taberna Uvedoble was one of my favourites. The menu offered tapa portions of everything even if you're sitting at a table outside, so I got to try lots of lovely little bits, like this squid ink fideua, with tiny baby Málaga squid and aioli.
I have a total obsession with Salmorejo - which is a Andalucian gazpacho, made creamier with the addition of bread, and the exclusion of peppers and cucumbers. Every time I visit Spain I buy it in cartons in supermarkets, though they're much fancier with chopped garnishes, here with egg and jamon. Smoked swordfish loin too is rolled in paprika and cayenne, with a loose tomato sauce. Lunch was barely a tenner with a beer.
In the evenings I wandered around the cobbled streets and stopped off in tapas bars for a little beer or wine, sampling a dish here or there. The prawns at Wendy Gamba were the first time I considered maybe having that again, they were so good. I love the Spanish tapas culture, especially since I'm the kind of person that finds it difficult to stay still - the idea that you can just snack around is heaven to me. I also went to Los Gatos, which was fun to sit at the bar and snack on stuffs on bread, especially since they gave me a glass of cava after I paid my bill. I also enjoyed El Refectorum Catedral, which was one of the more upmarket tapas places I found myself in, though their croquetas are greasy and quite frankly, a bit rank.
I LOVED Meson Cortijo de Pepe; mainly because after trying to squeeze into El Tapeo de Cervantes and basically being shooed away (apparently one must book) they were very welcoming, and they served lots of nice little plates of tapas that you could just point at. Also, vegetables! Lovely vegetables. If you find yourself there, get the avocado salad. I particularly enjoyed a totally bonkers Japanese lady who spoke perfect Spanish and sidled up to me. She raised an eyebrow and told me that many single women go to tapas bars to pick up men but she, she assured me, was only interested in the food. I smiled sweetly and told her I was there to pick up men.
Atarazanas Market, open lunchtimes, is a great place to wander around to look at produce and eat some lunch. It also happened to be practically under my apartment. It was here I learnt to be more assertive. Often when I'm on my own I become a bit meek, trying to be as polite as possible, not to get in anyone's way, avoid drawing attention to myself. If you did that here you simply wouldn't get fed. Fuck it. I elbowed my way in, shouted GAMBAS! BOQUERONES! and I was rewarded. It was fine. It was very fresh. The waiter behind the counter was indeed dreamy. But these are plates made for sharing and the amount of variety I crave means a lot of wastage, or over-eating. I went back to Taberna Uvedoble.
I came back to London, refreshed and perky, ready to face 30.