Summer of LOVE
WHAT MAKES a HOLIDAY MEMORABLE? Here, ELLE’S EXECUTIVE EDITOR NATASHA BIRD and her HUSBAND LUKE REFLECT ON one of THEIR ADVENTURES: a ROAD TRIP THROUGH EUROPE
I married a biker. Not a man with a motorbike; a biker. Which means that the open road, a deep wanderlust and a certain misanthropy are in his blood. He’s spent most of his adult life slipping away from the grind for long weekends across the Channel: an excursion to Bruges; racing around the hairpin bends at the top of the Pyrenees.
Adventures by motorbike are a firm fixture in our lives. Luke’s dad moved to Estepona in Spain last year, presenting us with the perfect opportunity for a road trip. We decided to take a long bike ride south through Europe before borrowing Luke’s dad’s Mazda MX-5 for leisurely roaming around the Costa del Sol.
The roads south of London are harsh for bikers. It’s all motorways, flyovers and so much wind rushing through your helmet that you can’t hear yourself think. Nobody falls in love on the M2, let’s put it that way. But my passion for the expedition (and the husband who suggested it) picked up again somewhere outside of Reims, in northeast France, and by the time we crossed the border into Spain had converted to real joy.
South of Madrid, the scenery feels like welcoming arms – and it’s even better viewed by road. The sunflower fields were the most glorious surprise. Andalucía is full of them. Road-tripping together under clear blue skies, surrounded by gently rolling hills and fields of yellow flowers, without another soul for miles around, was the perfect way to feed both his desire for isolation and our need for closeness as a couple.
Marriage can be tough, but dismounting a motorbike after a long ride is tougher. The first excruciating steps – bow-legged, numb-thighed – almost warrant a David Attenborough commentary. Upon reaching Spain, my wife resembled a baby giraffe that hadn’t yet learned to walk. I found it both funny and endearing.
Coccyx pain subsides quickly when you’re faced with somewhere as beautiful as Ronda, though. When you hear ‘Málaga’, you may think of overcrowded beaches and stereotypical ‘Brits abroad’. But Ronda is nothing like the towns in Málaga’s south.
The sight of the Puente Nuevo over the Guadalevín River is just breathtaking, its spindly legs stretching deep into the ravine. We held hands and strolled slowly across it, braving vertigo for the views. Eventually, meandering through the narrow streets of the old town and past the historic bullring, we reached El Morabito on the Plaza de María Auxiliadora, a restaurant that had been recommended by a friend – and for good reason. Offering tapas with a Moroccan twist, a great wine selection and unbeatable vistas, it was lovely enough to make her forgive me for the relentless journey by bike.
Later, we picked up my dad’s car and made our way through Andalucía’s other villages in style, swapping helmets for sun hats. She pulled on a linen dress and, with it, a much happier mood. We stopped at a turquoise reservoir in Zahara de la Sierra and stood alone, but together in nature, wishing we didn’t have to go back home to London. Spain, you were good to us.
“As we CROSSED the border into SPAIN, I felt REAL JOY”