Christmas in Spain – Málaga

The next day was forecasted to be the hottest of our vacation, so we determined to spend it at the beach. However, I couldn’t resist also planning in some sightseeing. We decided to drive down the coast to Málaga, one of Andalucía’s major cities, and a well-known beach resort. When I read that the Alcazaba (Moorish fort) there was the only parallel to the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, I knew we had to visit it.

Entering the Alcazaba

We parked in an underground parking lot near the Alcazaba and managed to walk all the way round it and up and down several staircases before finally finding the entrance, which rises just behind a tumbledown Roman theatre. In fact, the builders of the Alcazaba (or perhaps subsequent restorers) were not especially particular about coherence of style, and happily incorporated a random Roman pillar here and there in the Alcazaba. Before we entered the Alcazaba, Axa and Tony did a deeply moving tragic sketch in front of the theatre.

Roman Theatre

The place did indeed remind me of the Krak, with its paved avenues that somehow managed to be both grand and labyrinthine all at once. Like everywhere in Andalucía, though, the Alcazaba of Málaga is full of gardens that rather soften the fortress effect.

Gardens

My last visit to Spain had been in June, so I was afraid the gardens wouldn’t be much to see in winter. Happily, I was wrong. They were full of oranges, jasmine, poinsettias, and other flowers, and just as lush and green as during the summer.

Gardens 2

In fact, winter is a delightful time to visit Andalucía, because the weather is nice, but not too hot for a day spent walking around sightseeing.

Gardens 2The views of the Cathedral and the rest of the city were lovely, although the view of the sea must have been absolutely spectacular before all the high-rise hotels were built between the Alcazaba and the beach. I must say that even though the Alcazaba of Málaga isn’t considered one of the main attractions in southern Spain, it was one of my favourites.

Alcazaba

There was another castle higher up on the hill, but we opted for prudence and didn’t make that particular hike, since we still wanted to visit the Picasso museum before heading to the beach.

Málaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. Guernica and many of his other paintings are in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, which we didn’t manage to see this visit. But the museum dedicated to his art in his birthplace is housed in a lovely 16th century villa in Málaga, and provided a perfect way to introduce the kids to his work. The museum has paintings and sculptures from various periods of his long career as an artist; in fact, Axa’s favourite piece was a vivid painting of a Spanish musketeer, that he did in his nineties. Paintings from his youth show the absolute perfection of his mastery of the human form, and especially faces. There were some paintings I recognized, but many were new to me, and it was also fun to see some of his lesser-known sculptures.

It’s true that the paintings I absolutely adore tend to be 17th or 18th century portrayals of classical mythology. But I definitely gained an expanded appreciation for Picasso, and his brilliant surety of perspective and form. The unerring balance of his most abstract works draws the eye deeper and deeper into the contained world of the painting. In any case, after an hour or so it was time for lunch, and thus time to leave Picasso behind. We grabbed some shoarma and then headed for the beach.

Originally we had intended to spend the afternoon on the Malagueta, but it looked a bit crowded for December, and parking was impossible. So we pressed on and found a delightful little beach just out of town, with just a couple of people on it (and most of them fully clothed). As well as sand, the beach had a fun little rocky part where the children spent a couple of hours happily clambering around while Tony and I came to the realization that we had made the rookie mistake of forgetting a corkscrew.

beach

I consulted Google for help, but most of the bottle opening tricks I found involved shoes or walls or both, and we were in flip flops at the beach. Finally we just used a key to push the cork all the way in, where it floated happily.

After an entire afternoon in the sun on the beach, I was ready for bed at 20:00. But Tony drove over to the next town to find a bar with wifi. Since it was Friday night, the bar was also hosting a concert by a local band, so he enjoyed tapas, beer and live music while wrestling with the slow internet. In fact, while originally we had romanticized the idea of not having internet in our vacation rental, when it came right down to it, we use the internet too much in our daily lives for it to really be feasible to give it up for any significant length of time. Between working remotely, keeping in touch with friends and family, trip planning, blogging, managing photo libraries, google maps, and looking up random stuff in Wikipedia, we use the internet way too much to be without it. Fortunately, we both have (slow) data on our smartphones for all of Europe. But this is the last time we’ll probably get a vacation rental without wifi. Live and learn!