Editor’s Note: Pam Johnson and her husband Woody are in the midst of a yearlong trip abroad, visiting 12 countries in 12 months. Pam will file monthly stories along the way.
Spain is one of the more familiar countries that we will visit during our year around the world. Most everyone can at least find it on a map. And many of you are familiar with bullfights, flamenco dances, paella, and their delicious olive oils and wines.
As one of the most visited countries in the world, I don’t need to sell you on Spain as a destination, or even the popular cities of Madrid, Barcelona, and Mallorca. But I do want to highlight Rota: a small town on the southwest coast, where we were so blessed to spend the month of November.
We chose Rota for two reasons: One, Woody is retired from the military, and there’s a joint American/Spanish naval base there. We thought at the halfway point of our year abroad, we might need medical care or to stock up on some “American” items. Two, Rota isn’t too far from Tarifa, where there would be a ferry to our December stay in Morocco.
However, you don’t need practical reasons to visit Rota. Just add it to your itinerary. Rota is beautiful: a city dressed in white, sitting on the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. The way the town is situated, the sun rises over the bay and sets over the ocean, so both mornings and evenings are meant for walks along the beaches to catch the magnificent colors in the sky. Rota boasts some of the finest beaches in Europe. They are lined with walkways, palm trees, and outdoor cafés. And though it’s on the Atlantic, there is a definite Mediterranean vibe.
Then there’s the history. Rota is in Andalusia, which covers the southern section of Spain. It was under Moorish rule from the 8th to 15th century. There are still remnants of that culture in the architecture and art. As with so many European cities, Rota has an “old town,” and at its center is both a 13th century castle and a 16th century church. From there, picturesque medieval streets branch off in every direction. We never grew tired of exploring these narrow passageways through town.
If you like tapas and wine, Rota is the place to find them. Well, really, they’re all over Spain, but Andalusia claims to be where they originated. Tapas can be anything from patatas fritas (French fries) to grilled artichokes to octopus legs (which we did not eat). Cafés remain open late into the night, humming with activity as people sit around and eat and drink and visit. The wines from this region are world renowned, and if you drink sherry, its grapes are grown just up the road from Rota, in Jerez de la Frontera.
Rota is also a great homebase for exploring the whole Andalusia region. The historical cities of Granada, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Málaga are within a few hours drive. We made it to Seville and toured its beautiful Catedral de Santa Mariá de la Sede (which I had visited 44 years ago). We also took a trip across the bay from Rota to Cádiz, and the theatre person in me was thrilled to see the ruins of a 1st century BC Roman theater.
In Montenegro, I mentioned all the cats. In Spain (at least in Rota), it’s all the dogs. Not feral dogs, but people walking dogs, or letting them run on the beach. We saw Yorkies and Chihuahuas, huskies and Jack Russell terriers, and everything in between. If you ever want to fit in like a local in Spain, just bring your dog.
One last note: the people all over Spain are especially friendly. They greet you with an “hola” or “buenos días” when you walk down the street or enter a store. At restaurants, they allow you to linger over your meal. And we never felt harassed or ever in any danger. They were patient with my rudimentary Spanish and would gently correct me when I made mistakes. If for no other reason, visit Spain to go and be blessed by these warm-hearted people.
Los Colores de España
Azul for the ocean, sky, and the sea
Amarillo, the sun brightening the day
Rosado and Naranja, at el sol’s rising and set
Blanca is Roja, standing white on the shore
The colors of Spain in my heart evermore
I’d love for you to follow my blog and my Instagram and TikTok, @amimionthemove. If you have any advice, questions or comments, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check back next month to read about our time in Morocco.