The 1st year of the blog – a virtual chat

January 8, 2024
Last updated: January 29, 2024

Hello dear reader! Now that we have a new year ahead of us and that the blog has turned one year old, I thought we could have a chat about the last year, the Costa del Sol, our experience living here, the blog, the changes, and continuities. I wanted to do it in December, when the blog actually turned 1, but, hey, Christmas!!! I had so much to publish about it that I really didn’t have the time to chat. Now, it’s January, and the Costa del Sol seasonality kinda hit the blog – meaning, there is less going on, so now I can sit and grab a beer. So, grab one too and let’s go!

1st year of the blog
1 Year! Picture from Mummy Cooks (and they have the recipe too!)

Living in the Costa del Sol

That didn’t change. It is still good; we live in the same apartment and continue to be happy about our choice of home and city. Last year we changed the floor of our terrace (which was way more expensive than we expected) and almost installed solar panels, but it turned out that the company we hired (Engel Energy, being promoted by Media Markt) and paid 10% upfront, decided our roof would not be able to support the half a ton of concrete they say was needed to install the panels… we are still fighting to have our money back.

Despite it being the 1st year of the blog, it is our second year living here, so the surprises happen less often. I think that doing a lot of research about the place before moving really paid off – we are well adapted. I was once asked what my biggest cultural shock was when moving to Spain, and it took me long to figure out an answer. Now I think I can: the main one was the fact that the teacher screaming with the kids in class didn’t startle the parents (something I talked about in our experience with schools in Spain); another shock was not cultural, but natural: calima, in March 2022.

Well, there were a few other things, but I wouldn’t call them shocks: I knew about siestas, but I didn’t know how long they were, nor that they were still so present even in the coastal towns (I thought it was more of a small village or inland thing; but no, they are everywhere). I also learned about the queues right when we arrived, and that was also new (but good!). And even though I had read a lot about Ferias, I lacked a clear picture of what or how it was (a party that lasts for a week? What do you mean, they don’t need to sleep?!). These were solved in the first year living in the Costa del Sol.

In the second year, free from the burdens of moving in, I was much more about knowing the cultural side of the area – meaning, going to parties and events promoted by the cities every time I could 🙂 I loved the Romeria de San Juan, despite my low expectations, and have been to many parades ever since – basically, if there is a car with sound on, I’m jumping behind it.

1st year of the blog - Feria de Torremolinos 2023
The parade During the Feria de Torremolinos 2023. Photo by Mama Malaga.

Kiddo’s Spanish

Kiddo’s Spanish skills have improved tremendously this past year. He now has more Spanish speaking friends, which in the beginning was not so much the case. I don’t blame it on xenophobia, it is just that kids his age won’t play with a kid they can’t understand. He, as well, favored the English-speaking ones, by the same logic (and still does). Now he is being invited more often to birthday parties of Spanish kids (1 in the first year; two in the past two months!) – a major improvement – and I hear him playing videogames in Spanish (so adorable)! He also talks to me in Spanish without complaining (much).

He is far from done learning, but I notice his vocabulary improvements, and every now and then I even check a word with him. We have been working on verb conjugation, something that a year ago was more of a vague concept for him. His grades in Spanish, though, are miserable. He does very well in English (obviously) and Science, which is taught in both languages in his school. But Math and Spanish are taught in Spanish only, and he is lagging a bit. I guess it is not easy to be compared to the native speaker kids, but that is his challenge (and mine). By the way, I think my verb conjugation in Spanish has improved too.

Other than the Spanish grades, I’d say Kiddo is well adapted. He had no problem after the move, other than missing his friends from the USA in the beginning. I think the fact that he was so young – 7 years old – when we moved, was a good thing; if he were even younger, it would have been better. I can also see he is taking more responsibilities when it comes to his own learning – he was perhaps a bit accommodated in the USA, where his grades were always high, so he didn’t feel the need to push harder; in Spain, he is aware that his future depends on how hard he pushes now.

He has had Spanish classes in the afternoon in the school, but we call these chocolate classes – because the teacher often gives chocolates – and lately, I don’t think it has been helping much (in the first year I thought better of these afternoon classes). He also has been having a few private lessons online and has been doing ‘lecturas comprensivas’, a collection of practicing books we buy from Amazon. And he does all his work without me having to tell him to do it!

He loves to go to the playgrounds (even if he sometimes tells me he is outgrowing it, and that playgrounds are for small kids), he still loves burgers (I could take him from the USA, but can’t take the USA from him) and ice creams, which are great ways to bribe him. He likes the trains almost as much as me and even had his own abono recurrente ticket!

The 1st year of the blog

The blog grew a lot during this first year, and I’m quite happy about it. Mama Málaga officially started on December 8th, 2022, when Hubby hit the publish button, because I was too shy to do it myself. I had been writing since June 2022, but because nothing was actually public, it felt super comfortable; that is, until Hubby took the initiative to hit publish, after concluding I would never leave the comfort zone – a bit like those birds who push their kids out of the nest. And so it was live!

A few months later, I was overwhelmed the first time the blog hit 100 viewers in a day – it was with the post about life on the Spanish countryside – and I couldn’t stop thinking about how huge it was that a hundred people around the world had read something I wrote that day. I know it is small compared to so many other blogs, but I firmly believe the only meaningful comparison is to oneself, and that felt like a high achievement. It still amazes me, but the blog grew a lot from there. Currently, a day with a hundred readers is a low day. I am very grateful for the good reception. Thank you!

1st year of the blog - Traffic report
Mama Málaga’s traffic report for December 2023.

I don’t have information about who reads what – be assured, I have no clue – but WordPress and Google plugins do show from where people are reading (meaning, country and city) and how many readers are there per day in total and in each page, which takes us to the next topic – Trains.


The two main posts about trains – Free train travels in the Costa del Sol and Free train tickets in the Costa del Sol – questions and answers – are by far the most read pages of the blog. Together, they account for about 20% of readership. That is surprising, especially because the first of these posts was so unambitious – it was published because I was happy I had figured out how to buy the ticket online. The abono recurrente was about to complete one year old, so I knew I was not telling anything new. I didn’t think it was going to be the hit it immediately became, with 2 thousand readers in the first day!

Turns out a lot of people were not aware of the abono recurrente ticket. The repercussion on the Facebook pages where I shared the post went from people that were thankful for the information to some that claimed it was a scam. There was even one person campaigning for people not to click on the train posts on Facebook because “she will earn every time you click”. Wow, I wonder if that person works for free; I also wish he or she knew how much I was earning. The blog does not make money in any meaningful way. It makes about 10 euros per month, which is less than what I spend on the server that hosts the blog (11 euros per month).

By that time, I started receiving a lot of questions about all things train related, so I did the second post with those questions – the free train tickets in the Costa del Sol – questions and answers, which was also a hit. And then I moved on to make the posts about the train stations in each of the cities – I thought there would be interest to know more about the places that could be reached by train, now that people had a free pass. Well, to my surprise, those were not a hit at all!!!

The ‘Train stations in [city]’ were some of the most interesting posts to make, though. It was hard work too, because I did visit each station and walked around for at least one hour around each (except, maybe, Guadalhorce, that really didn’t have much to see).

I learned a lot about Fuengirola, and fell in love with the city – it has 4 stations, all close to the beach, and all beaches are great; on top of that, it is a mix of big city (in the center) and easy going, relaxed resort all around. What a good balance! And as a bonus, it was there that I saw and learned about the Toro de Osborne, a story explained to me by a fellow train passenger.

1st year of the blog - toro de osborne
El Toro de Osborne. Picture by Mama Malaga.

In Torremolinos, a city I already knew well, I visited all stations to take pictures, and spent more time in those stations I had not been to. It got me daydreaming about Los Álamos; on another note, I realized that La Colina is missing an exit to the north side. Users of the station had to jump through the fence of the station; eventually, part of the guard was broken precisely because there is no way out on that side. How can it be? In Benalmadena, the city were I live, I went to Torremuelle for the first time and now I suspect Batman lives there. Much better than Gotham City, that’s clear.

Then Malaga… Cento-Alameda deserved its own post, but it would be asymmetrical in the blog, so it ended up being part of a humongous post, with about 80 pictures about interesting places near the train stations of Malaga city. Malaga’s stations required many visits, as one hour per station would not do it at all; the airport was visited at least three times, because of the videos showing how to get to the train station from Arrivals and to Departures from the station. I learned a lot, but it was exhausting and a real relief when it was over.

Here at home, we even invented a new meaning for the verb ‘to train’. Hubby would meet me around and say, “Oh, you are home? I thought you were training!” meaning, he thought I was out going by train somewhere. Or I would call Kiddo and say, “I’m going training in Plaza Mayor, do you want to come?” He always wants to go to Plaza Mayor, because he knows he can have burgers, ice creams and go to playgrounds. Easy training company. Hubby, on the other hand, is always working and prefers to stay home over almost anything; (to put this in perspective: Hubby wanted to celebrate the end of the Covid lockdown by ordering food to eat at home!)

The Christmas lights in Malaga

Have you seen how the trains are packed? Ouch, here we go again. But briefly: the trains were really crowded last December, and I think both the free tickets and the Christmas lights in Malaga had something to do with it. They attracted so many people! Also, December is a kind of second high season for the Costa del Sol; not so much because of foreigner visitors, but the Spaniards that are from Malaga but live elsewhere in Spain come home to spend the Holiday season with their families.

In Spain, there are school holidays between Christmas and Epiphany, so families can easily travel these two weeks. And if they are in the Costa del Sol, of course they’ll visit the Christmas lights in Malaga!

1st year of the blog - malaga christmas lights
Malaga’s Christmas lights. Photo by Mama Málaga.

I went there ‘training’ with Kiddo. We both thought it was beautiful, but maybe not worth the effort. Kiddo and I went to Malaga by train like sardines in a can; it was cold outside, at night, so we were wearing winter clothes, but in the packed train it was hard to move, let alone take the coats out. I was also scared of losing sight of Kiddo, and he scared of losing sight of me. So it was a stressful event for both of us. Next year, it is car or no lights; but I know it is hard to park in Malaga too, so I guess it is no lights.

Which brings me to my main conclusion about Christmas in the Costa del Sol: the best Christmas is the one close to you. The one you can visit with your family without fear or stress, and from where you can come back home easily too. Here in the Costa, the cities had lots of events, lights, markets, parades, music shows, nativity scenes, video mappings and more; there were events close to everyone.

I guess the best events where those that required less effort and could be enjoyed, rather than becoming a source of worry (except for the market in Fuengirola; that one was really cool, even if not close to my home. Still, I went there training on my own, without Kiddo, for fear of repeating the sardines situation).

The future of the blog

Last year I started to make translations of programs of big events coming up in the cities in the Costa del Sol to post on the blog. I believe it is being well received; often times people that live here don’t speak Spanish, or don’t speak enough to read the full program of an event – which, in terms of Spain, usually is a large group of events that last for a week, minimum.

I intend to continue to do that for this year – events such as the ferias, Halloween, and the enormous Christmas events have had their translations done and published. Among these, Christmas was the hardest one by far. While the others last for a week or two, Christmas lasts for a month and a half; and while Ferias come one at a time, on Christmas the Costa del Sol cities published their programs about the same time!

I also plan to do a series of month-by-month activities, events, holidays and useful information this year. January‘s post is already out; February is being prepared, but I’m waiting for the Town Halls to publish something about their plans for Carnival, which is going to be from February 8 to 14 this year, so the post can be more complete. 😉
Edit: February‘s post is ready!

In the part about living in the Costa del Sol, I hope to add more about the topics that affect the residents, such as mosquitoes (well, this one affects everybody) or the water / drought piece recently posted. I think living here longer is bringing me more understanding of what is happening around – it’s quite interesting to me that in a way, I start to feel like a local.

I’m pretty sure I will need to reorganize the layout at some point, as I have done a few times already during this first year, because there are already more than a hundred posts in the blog and many more cooking. I’d like all the posts to be visible and accessible through the main three tabs – moving, living, and traveling – but I don’t know if that structure will be able to hold many more posts and still be intelligible, as the ads keep popping anywhere. I wish I could specify where the ads enter, but that much is, so far, out of my control – either there is no way to do it with this template or I just could not figure it out yet. So, there is a lot to do this year.


Shall we go? Oh, but it is so early! You are welcome to stay longer and hang around. I’ll go now, but I’ll be back pretty soon with more about the Costa del Sol. But I’ve spoken too much; now it’s your turn – how are you doing? What would you like to know more about the Costa del Sol? I’m looking forward to hearing from you. See you around!

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