Malaga [2019]

Last Visted in Oct 2019

Flying over central Spain it was easy to imagine Don Quixote and Sancho riding across the sun baked land below. I wondered what he would have made of these modern ‘giants’ (wind mills) lining the ridge tops. The day started like one of Don Quixote’s adventures - things weren’t what they seemed.

Leaving Dublin

Dublin was the first leg of our 2019 European tour. The rain in Dublin hadn’t let up during our stay. We decided to go to the airport early and wait there for our flight to leave. As we approached the airport the sky cleared.

Dublin Airport
Dublin Airport — the sky is starting to clear

The person at the Aer Lingus check-in was very helpful. She checked our bags and printed our boarding passes. She explained that we needed to get to our gate early as a bus would take us from there to the new terminal where we would board our flight - which is the last good thing I can say about our flight from Dublin to Malaga..

After exploring the airport, we picked up a sandwich for lunch and made our way to our gate. 

We arrived at the gate about an hour and a half early. A display board showed times busses would be loading for each flight - our flight wasn’t on it. No problem, it was still early. We had our lunch and relaxed.

As the time for our flight approached I started to wonder why our flight still wasn’t listed on the display board. There were two people checking tickets before letting people on the waiting busses - I asked them when our bus was due.

It wasn’t - they had printed the wrong gate on our boarding pass. Our flight would be leaving from a gate at the opposite side of the airport. Running from one end to the other of a large busy airport is not any way to start a trip. We arrived at the right gate with minutes to spare.

As we settled into our seats waiting for take-off, the captain came on the speakers. Take-off would be delayed. Four other people, like us, had been sent to the wrong gate and still hadn’t made it to the boarding area. Take-off would be delayed while their was removed luggage from the plane.

Finally On Our Way

It was dark by the time we arrived at Malaga. Customs and luggage pickup went smoothly and we were off to find the train station.

The train station is relatively easy to find. The entrance has a large red sign with the name of the train terminal, “Aeropuerto”, which may be a bit confusing. There were two ticket machines, only one of which would switch to the English instructions. (Again — a 50/50 chance and I picked the wrong one.) After buying our ticket we made our way to the platform level using the elevator just to the right of the stairs.

Quick Tips:
  • The ticket machine doesn't accept credit cards.
  • A one way ticket to Malaga costs 1,80€ (in 2019)

The train makes four stops. We were going to the last stop on the line, Centro Alameda — That is when the ‘fun’ really began.

The Guadalmedina (River of the City) separated Centro Alameda from our hotel. There are two bridges, one on either side of Centro Alameda — you know I am going to pick the wrong one. About halfway to the bridge, I knew we were going the wrong way. Rather than turn back, we went across the bridge, through some alleyways and were soon near our hotel.

The Guadalmedina River is dry much of the year
The Guadalmedina River is dry much of the year

At first, we walked past the hotel, missing the rather unassuming entrance to the hotel. Once inside we found ourselves in a small lobby where we checked in taking the elevator to our room.

The hotel had a good location, near all the tourist areas and public transit. It also had good reviews on TripAdvisor, but our experience was less than stellar.

  • There was no window, only a sky light
  • The air conditioning kept the room so cold they provided a duvet - we needed it. 
  • While a sign said ‘free water’ it only applied to the two small bottles that were on the dresser when we arrived. They charge for the replacements in the mini-fridge.

After a nice meal at Cayetana Restaurante, two blocks away on Casas de Campos, we took a stroll up to where Calle Puerta del Mar turns into a large pedestrian mall —  the old section of the city. The heat and humidity of earlier in the evening had given way to a gentle ocean breeze. Reluctantly we headed back to our room, we were too tired to do any further exploring.

Oct. 5th 2019 — Up early and ready for breakfast.

Morning in Malaga

We didn’t take the breakfast option at our hotel - instead we headed down Calle Trinidad Grund towards Plaza de la Marina. A tourist office is at the end of  Calle Trinidad Grund, I wanted to see when it opened before going for breakfast.  

The Plaza de la Marina runs east-west and was glistening in the early morning sun. Elsewhere, streets and alleyways were in deep shadows with only the tops of the buildings lit by the sun. There were few people on the streets, restaurants were starting to open and, unfortunately, the garbage was still being picked up. 

The old section of Malaga offers a wide variety of foods. Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices, and still just ‘feeling our way’, we stopped at L’Panto for a traditional ‘Tostada con tomate’ (toast with a tomato puree) with, not so traditional, tea. Since it was still early, getting a table wasn’t a problem. The service was good, but the food was at best mediocre.

In Europe, whenever we can, we visit the local food markets. Malaga has a number of food markets but the biggest and most well known, Mercado Atarazanas, was just a few blocks away.

Buying a papaya at Mercado Atarazanas
Buying a papaya at Mercado Atarazanas

Like much of this part of Malaga, the site of the Mercado Atarazanas has a long history. (Atarazana comes from the Arabic word ad-dar as-sina'a) During the rule of Nasrid dynasty, the site was home to a shipyard. Under Christian rule, after the surrender of Muhammad XII, the site has various uses from a hospital to the military barracks. The shipyard was demolished in 1870 to make way for a market place. Only the front gate remains of the original building.

Mercado Atarazanas
Mercado Atarazanas

Inside the market is divided into three sections. Meat and fish have a section as do fruits and vegetables. The third is a a collection of everything from breads and sweets to tapas bars. You can easily spend a few hours exploring all there is to see.

Market Tips:
  • Get there early for the best selection.
  • Don’t touch the fruit — let the owner serve you
  • Bring cash — most places don’t take credit cards

After buying a papaya and taking it back to our room for a mid-morning snack, we started out towards plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square). The plaza has been the centre of life in Malaga since the reconquest, when Malaga went from being Muslim to Catholic. While the plaza was only 0.5km from our hotel, there are a myriad of side streets to explore — taking our time, we took about two hours to get there. 

Plaza de la ConstituciÔn
Morning in Plaza de la Constitución 

Centrally located, the the Plaza de la Constitución is a good reference  point for planning exploration of the historic section of Malaga:

  • At the south corner of the square is Calle Marqués de Larios, or simply Calle Larios, a pedestrian mall, Malaga’s premier shopping mall.
  • To the east are the Roman ruins and the Alcazaba
  • To the west, across the Guadalmedina, is Malaga Plaza and the business center. (Malaga is Spain’s sixth biggest city.)
  • To the north is more of a residential area with a number of smaller stores and plazas. 

The evening is the best time to go for a stroll or “Paseo”. We liked to go down to the harbour, just a few blocks from our hotel. The place was alive with tourists and locals alike. Some of the stores and all of the restaurants were open — it was just a great place to see and be seen.

Taking a "Paseo" around the harbour
Taking a "Paseo" around the harbour

Oct 6th 2019 — The Roman Ruins and the Alcazaba

While the previous day had been spent wandering around, today we have specific things we want to see and do — in the morning it was having breakfast at Casa Aranda. Of all the places open for breakfast, it was the one place I had on my ‘Must Do List’.

Casa Aranda
Casa Aranda
Churros and Hot Chocolate

“Casa Aranda is in a narrow alleyway next to the market and, since 1932, has been the place in town to enjoy chocolate and churros (tubular-shaped doughnuts). The cafe has taken over the whole street, with several outlets overseen by an army of mainly elderly, white-shirted waiters who welcome everyone like an old friend (and most are).” (Lonely Planet)

By the time we got to Casa Aranda, all the tables in the alleyway were full. There were a few more table around the corner — two of which were empty. The service prompt and within a few minutes, we were enjoying our churros which were still warm from cooking. The hot chocolate was so thick we had to finish the last drops with a spoon. Hot chocolate and churros for two for under 8.00€.

It was delicious.

The Roman theatre is at the base of the Alcazaba. There was a long line-up to buy a ticket to get into both areas. However, there was a small sign as we entered the area in front of the Roman theatre from Calle Císter saying ‘Ascensor’ with a small arrow to the right. Walking down Travesia Pintor Nogales and following the wall along Calle Guillén Sotelo to a small door, the entrance to the elevator. Purchasing  our ticket and walking down the tunnel to the elevator, in a few minutes we were at the top of the Alcazaba. 

Quick Tips:
  • Use the elevator (ascensor).
  • Parts of the path are steep and worn smooth from centuries of use. Wear good shoes.
  • I would not recommend walking up or down for people with mobility issues.
  • The view from the top is worth the price of the ticket — even if you take the elevator back down.  
Arches at the Alcazaba

The name, Alcazaba, is from the Arabic word for citadel, it is much more than a fortification. Designed for both beauty and defence, it featured an interior courtyard with gardens and running water in addition to strong defensive measures. “Ferdinand and Isabella captured Málaga from the Moors after the Siege of Málaga (1487), one of the longest sieges in the Reconquista” (Wikipedia)

Situated at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro and adjacent to a Roman Theatre, the building was started in 1057 under the Berber Taifa (king) of Granada, Badis ibn Habus. The fortification consists of an outer and inner citadel. In addition to the arrow slits, crenellated walls and towers, the narrow paths through the gardens are used to slow down potential invaders.

The arched, Persian style, windows at the top capture the breezes cooling the interior while giving spectacular views of the town, the port and the gardens. There are also a number of rooms with artifact from the Muslim era.

Parts of the citadel wall are open to the public. Some of the walkways are very narrow with little between you and the ground. Certainly, not a place with anyone with vertigo.

Plaza de toros de La Malagueta
Plaza de toros de La Malagueta

The Roman Theatre at the foot of Mount Gibralfaro was started in the 1st century BC. It was still undergoing reconstruction while we were there. Parts from the original theatre were used in the construction of the Alcazaba.

El Pimpi  — Playing the ‘OLD GUY’ Card

Located, between the Roman theatre and the Picasso Museum, El Pimpi is one of the most popular restaurants in Malaga. We looked inside and it look like it would be a while before we could get a table. As we went back outside, a party was just leaving. We stood beside the table until the waiter cleared it and sat down. It was only then that I saw the queue waiting for a table. The meal was amazing — even more enjoyable since we didn’t have to wait for a table.

Oct 7th — The Last Day in Malaga

After our morning ritual of breakfast at Casa Amanda and a visit to the Mercado Atarazanas to buy some fruit to finish our breakfast, we had to decide what to do for our final day.

There were two choices, catch the bus to the Castillo de Gibralfaro at the top of Mount Gibralfaro or walk down to the beach. While the #35 bus to Castillo de Gibralfaro runs parallel to the beach in places, connecting from the bus stops to the beach looked like a bit of a challenge, particularly if we got off at the wrong stop. (Which I have been known to do.) While we didn’t want to sun bath or go swimming, we decided, after coming all that way, we should at least dip our toes in the Mediterreanean.

It is just over a kilometer from our hotel on Calle Cordoba to the beach. Most of the walk is through the Parque de Malaga an urban park that runs parallel to the harbour.

Parque de Malaga
Parque de Malaga

 

While the park was cool, the temperature on the street was over 30C. Leaving the park we tried to keep in the shade as we walked the last few blocks to the beach.

It was much cooler by the shore, the beach was packed with sunbathers while others rented chairs that came with umbrellas and a small table. Feeling a little out of place in our street clothes and with the beach too hot for us to enjoy, we started back towards our hotel. 

Rented Cabanas
Rent a Beach Chair with and Umbrella

Walking back along Paseo Marítimo Cdad. de Melilla, which parallels the beach, proved to be too hot. Instead we took some side streets and alleyways, taking advantage of the shade, coming out between the cruise port and the marina. The walkway along the marina is partially covered with canvas making the walk a LOT more pleasant. It is also lined with shops and restaurant — tourist traps, but then we were tourists.

Sail Shaped Canvas covered the Marina walkway
Sail shaped canvas’ covered the Marina walkway

While walking back to our hotel, we passed three different tour boats offering sunset cruises. 

Faced with the choice of a fancy dinner or a sunset cruise, we chose the later. Going out for tapas early in the evening, we headed back to the marina.

The three cruises had distinctly different ‘vibes’. The first was an extension of the ‘Hop-On-Off’ bus tours, you can by the cruise ticket separately, but we passed. The second was a large boat with a large enclosed viewing area and individual seating, we passed on that one to. 

The third boat was a catamaran, two rows of bench seats ran the length of the outside hull, at the front, a large canvas was strung between the two hulls. We were early enough to get one of the bench seat facing the sea. (People on the outside seats had to turn around to get a view.) We were by far the eldest couple on the cruise — the whole atmosphere was more of a party than sightseeing tour. Of course, it did help that the first glass of cava was free.

Younger People Sat out on the Canvas
Younger People Sat out on the Canvas

The cruise went east along the coast as far as Playas del Palo, then heading back towards the harbour. Anchoring just outside the harbour, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the sun setting over Malaga.

Sunset over Malaga
Sunset over Malaga

Epilogue

I didn’t know anything about Malaga when I was planning this trip. I chose Malaga because was a direct flight from Dublin and has a high speed rail connection to Barcelona.

With 20/20 hindsight, I should have booked a week. We only explored the area within walking distance of our hotel. As Spain’s sixth biggest city, there is much more to see and do.