I arrive at the Vincci Hotel (built on the Preserves of old Arab ruins) which is a short train journey from Malaga airport. The hotel is stunning, light pouring in through glass panels and reflecting off white walls, the décor stylish, minimalistic chic. I am looking for the much anticipated preserved ruins of the old Arab walls. Looking down on the glass panels, the ruins beneath me, I’m in awe of the harmonious blend of the old rustic ruins and the modern chic that surrounds me. The glass panels lead into the bar and I walk over to the reception where I encounter my first proper meeting with Spanish hospitality.
The smiles, happy to help with questions about anything from where to eat, to the first of my Spanish lessons, or correcting of my accent on the few words I started my journey with. With my beginners Spanish lessons in the distant past the only words that came to me were Vale (ok), Si (yes) and Gracias (Thank you). With these words the knowledge that 70% of communication is body language, a smile that comes from deep within and the zest for fun and living your life all go a long way. I drop my luggage (baggage, worries and everything else that I was carrying with me). My holiday has begun!!!
A quick peak at the rooftop ‘terrace bar and pool’, very exquisite. A sneak peak at the lounge bar, rich deep purples and browns and the dimly lit old Arab remains beneath the glass floor give this area a relaxing and quaint ambience. Little did I know that this would later become the last stop for the end of each day, where I would be acquainted with Juan the barman who worked the late shift and this was my last stop for a night cap. He would become my guide to Spanish culture, quirky bars that didn’t quite make it to the tourist map & my Spanish tutor – in return for a few English lessons and some gleeful moments of listening to my bitsy & in severe need of help Spanish.
Just around the corner from the hotel all the evening hustle and bustle has already started. People speaking in foreign languages, not all Spanish, walk past as I take in the atmosphere. The sounds of fading chatter, buskers & street music, a euphoric feeling is fast creeping inside of me. As I walk through the narrow streets making mental notes of the shops I’d like to return to later for lunches, shopping or souvenirs. A profusion of boutiques displaying the must take home flamenco dresses and skirts not to mention the shoes! The winding narrow streets leading to the squares, the night is alive, alfresco seating areas with the never ending bars and restaurants. There is no shortage of eateries, you can find anything from illustrious Bars & Restaurants to Cerveteria’s & Tetaria’s around every street and square.
I was particularly enticed by La Plaza – the atmosphere is buzzing and the waiters are whizzing around at the speed of demand, with no collateral effect to food or service. They maintain their smiles and energy whether it was during the day for a drink, lunch or evening meal, serving an extensive international menu. My personal favourite (a must try!) the extremely delectable mini spinach & feta burger served with a tomato sauce from the tapas menu. You can have this either as an evening meal with a selection of other tapas dishes or as a light lunch with fries.
La Teteria, is a traditional tea shop, nestled in a narrow street with views of the cathedral from the alfresco seating area, decorated in Moorish inspired cushioned seating and patterned tiles. I have never seen a menu so vast dedicated to teas. From regular black, white, green teas to curative teas curing many ailments from antidepressants to aphrodisiacs! My favourite is the Indian tea with cinnamon & cardamoms. The tea is served in traditional Arabian style steel tea pots and served in small glasses. They also serve a selection of Moroccan dishes, if you are adding food to your visit be sure to try the most palatable spinach rolls cooked in a blend of enticing mixed herbs.
Finally head towards the old town for a taste of real Spain, along the beach you will find little Spanish bars on the coast, this is where you will find the locals. Be warned the waiters may speak no English, this is where the 70% body language is in full force! For the first time during my stay it was not I speaking in my bitsy Spanish and the Spanish with their bitsy English, both meeting half way. This was a challenge I was going to dive head first into for the sheer excitement. I order a cheese salad sandwich, taking far too long to ensure it was not a baguette and came with cheese (con queso) and a coke. I enjoy my sandwich with the added pinch of excitement for my small victory, no food-tastrophy! My vegetarian companion was not so careful, ending up with the meatiest baguette on the menu! I have just experienced the real Spain. (Note to self, this will be my regular bar for when I return for my six months in Spain to learn Spanish).
For shopping there is an abundance of little boutiques nestled in the many narrow streets. The squares are lined with endless plaza’s and fashion outlets. A visit to the newly upgraded harbour is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle. For shopping you will find an array of boutiques and a plethora of ice cream parlours. You may find yourself sitting with an ice cream, with your feet dangling off the harbour’s edge. The fish are swimming just below the surface of the deep blue green waters amid the decadent yachts overlooking views of historic monuments in the hills under the clear blue skies.
There are many museums, so much so as for Malaga to be known as the city of museums. Malaga being the birth place of Pablo Picasso, it would be a crime not to indulge in a visit to Museo Picasso Malaga. Warm and inviting with indoor terraces and views of the white stone filled court yard with plants giving it a harmonious ambience. Many famous works of Picasso and the special exhibitions will capture your soul. At the end of your tour you will find a café where you can reflect over a nice drink before moving on to the gift shop full of Picasso books, prints, postcards souvenirs and novelties. I buy a post card with the print of the Picasso fruit bowl for my scrapbook (the painting of which I couldn’t detach myself from during the tour.)
Not to be missed is Malaga castle (Gibralfaro) – if you’re up for a good hike then you’ll have a treat waiting for you! Alternatively you can get there by the tour bus which stops at the gates where a little café awaits you. Take an ice-cream or drink with you while you explore the sandy stone walled castle. A section has been upgraded with benches, paved flooring and lush green trees for shade. Locals and tourists alike sit and unwind lying in the shade with their books or just absorb the sun amidst the ancient walls.
I carry on and explore the castle, through the narrow passages and up the stairs to the view point. Spectacular views in every direction, hills to one side the sea on the other. Look down below the castle and you can see the hustle and bustle of the town left behind, the Bull Ring in clear view and then the moment that really takes your breath away, the clear blue seas with the suns sharp rays reflecting off the waters like sparkling gems. Standing here in the heat of the sun and the clear blue sea views, I find myself thinking the castle gives medieval times (known to me as the dark and gloomy era) a new concept. I try to picture myself as a royal of those times or even a mischievous child of the staff that may have worked here, I snap myself out of this day dream and head reluctantly back to the bus stop.
If you fancy a swim, want to dip your feet in the water, sunbathe or just want to lose yourself in a book, head for the Malagueta beach (10 minutes from the city centre). Here you will find scattered palm trees, beach bars and restaurants. I enjoy a long walk along the sea with my feet in the water, enjoying the feeling of the strong sea coming to receive you in gentle waves.
Packing my bags I reflect, Malaga a place not only for the warm climate, the eateries, the museums and the heritage but the people. It’s the people of Malaga that made my stay so amazing, leaving me with a wanting to return. The people like the little man with white hair, healthy olive skin in his straw hat and a style that rivals that of his Italian counterparts. A character you would read about in a novel, he came to us to offer help in finding a place very poorly noted on the map not only pointing it out on the map or giving us directions but escorting us to the exact place!
The people in the shops and boutiques who enjoyed and helped me in ordering or asking for help in Spanish where it would have been easier for them to communicate with me in English. The husband and wife in the Spanish bar who called me over to try and have a conversation with me in Spanish (I obviously came across as I knew more Spanish than I actually did) They called me back again when the ladies sister arrived, she’d done a lot of travelling and had travelled many parts of the world from the States to India, her English was amazing! She was our translator and it was nice meeting her too. Malaga is a vibrant city where you will experience the real Spain and where I hope to return to learn my Spanish…..
By Eva Verano