Malaga: Don’t Just Pass Through

Malaga beach and town

Malaga beach and town

Being a holiday snob, I like countries that have a totally different culture, require at least a five-hour flight and a couple of inoculations. And as I have an aversion to talking to people when I’m away, I don’t want to encounter fellow Brits. So when I won easyJet flights to Malaga I wasn’t exactly excited.

How long should we go for? A friend referred to Malaga as ‘a bit of a dump’ suggesting it should only be regarded as a gateway to more interesting places like Nerja or Ronda. Would a long weekend be too long?

I asked the Saturday Telegraph for advice. Their response: stay in Malaga but explore the surrounding mountains, coast and historic towns like Granada and Antequera by bus and train.

However, having bought the Rough Guide to Andalucia, we decided there might be more to Malaga, so as our flights were free, we splashed out on an eight-night trip at the five-star Vincci Seleccion Posada del Patio. It was centrally located with a roof top pool for cooling off at the end of the day. In its LeDiner restaurant, dishes were paired with a specific Moët & Chandon champagne. Did you know the best fizz to accompany a hamburguesita is Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002 Blanc? Our basket of breads (ciabatta, cebolla, tomate and olive) was accompanied by small plastic ‘drippers’ of olive oil and three flavoured salts: chocolate, not as bad as it sounds, herb and pimento. To follow, we went for something a bit more ‘grown up’ than burger and fizz.

Our favourite outdoor bar, d’gustar, in the shaded Plaza de las Flores was near our hotel. It was ideal for an aperitif (two glasses of cava for under 8 Euro and complementary tapas) on the way out or night cap on the return. With a number of other bars in the Plaza, it was also great for people watching.

Paseo del Parque

We found so many things to do. On our way to La Farola lighthouse, we walked through the lush gardens in Paseo del Parque. At the redeveloped marina with its boutique shops and restaurants, we boarded the Vision Submarina for an hour’s tour of the marina and surrounding area.

Malaga Marina

We visited Alcazaba fortress, now a museum, and the linked Castillo Gibralfaro reached by a very steep incline of steps and mainly shiny paved walkways. A small kiosk at the top provided reviving cool sodas whilst smugly watching people alighting from taxis and buses to avoid the climb. After the small museum of soldiers’ clothing, weapons and dummies dressed in period items, we entered the ruined castle with fabulous views across the port and city.

The view from Castillo Gibralfaro

The view from Castillo Gibralfaro

After checking out the 130 paintings in the Museo Picasso I discovered I wasn’t a fan and at his birthplace, the Casa Natal Picasso, the audio guide narrative didn’t match what we saw.

The bullring, ‘Plaza de Torros la Malagueta’, was almost empty. I’m not sure I could sit through the gore of a bull fight, but I could imagine it being a spectacular sight. After climbing to the top of the stadium, we made our way to the museum and its 3 rooms full of posters, bejeweled outfits and capes: pink not red and yellow on the other side. The matadors were obviously stars and very small.

Worthy of Strictly Come Dancing!

I particularly enjoyed Museo Carmen Thyssen, a relatively new and modern art gallery where I easily spent a solitary couple of hours with only the guards for company. Here the audio guide was brilliant with lots of information about the most important works of art.

A more quirky location was the English Cemetery with its fascinating history of how non-Catholics, suffered the indignity of a burial upright in the sand until their necks were below the tide line. When the bodies started to surface in the water, the British Consult William Mark, persuaded the authorities to bury the bodies in what became known as the English Cemetery.

We could not leave Spain without a visit to a flamenco show, Kelipé, held in a very small, dark room in the bowels of a shopping centre. Our seats, on the front row and virtually on the dance floor, were fortunately near the door as it was extremely hot. The guitarist and male and female dancers were excellent and there was lots of clapping, stamping of feet, wailing (singing) and sweat pouring down their faces.

Getting into the grove!

Museo Vidrio y Crystal de Malaga, the Museum of glass and crystal, was an unexpected delight. Arriving early the pleasant man who sold us our tickets turned out to be the owner and our guide of his magnificent house. The rooms contained glassware, stained glass windows, paintings furniture and all manner of objects. Many were from Britain and Ireland and the first items we saw were a pair of stained glass windows by William Morris who was born in our home town of Walthamstow. As the windows were mounted at body height we were able to get up close and see the detail and repairs. The display was extensive and the final highlight was a huge gallery of coloured glassware covering one wall.

A stunning display of glass

A stunning display of glass

At the Museo del Vino we had a self guided leisurely tour reading about the grapes, soil types, different wines across the Province of Malaga and the wine making process. Our tour ended with sampling a red and a yellowy white which were not really to our taste, but as the glasses were generously filled, our 10 Euro was well spent.

As the weather was so good, we walked the twenty minutes to the beach, hired a couple of sun beds and spent the day topping up our tan. We didn’t have to walk far along the 9.5km promenade before hitting a plethora of restaurants and bars for lunch.

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About Helen Jackson

Helen Jackson works for HMRC and moved from her native Yorkshire to London 24 years ago. She lives in Walthamstow with her partner and is passionate about using local shops and services in an attempt to protect its multi-cultural flavour. Travelling is her passion. Helen recently spent 6 months in South and Central America. She has also travelled extensively around the world visiting the Far East, Middle East, Africa, India and Europe. Helen’s love of food combines well with travelling and after taking a course in food writing at Leith’s, she is writing a Central American cookery book. Helen writes a weekly online food column for the West Essex and East London Guardian series of newspapers. Helen is a keen cook and a mystery diner. She also enjoys genealogy, entering food and travel related competitions and is learning to play the piano.
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