third time is a charm

After discovering that I am of Iberian descent, among other things, my passion for España seemed to make even more sense to me.  The people, the culture, the food, the language – I love all of it, it is my favorite part of the world.  And, to have an excuse to return with my friend Amanda made it even more fabulous.  This is my third trip to Spain. The first was to partake in a traveling political course about the Basque conflict my sophomore year, winter term, at Centre College. The second time was to join my friend Kelly in exploring Barcelona. And finally, this trip with Amanda was to soak up the sunny Costa del Sol, Màlaga in particular.

img_6769-1When we arrived in Spain, I was determined to use my now-rusty Spanish to communicate as often as possible.  This started with the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel.  Our driver, Raul, was so easy to speak with and helped me with forgotten Spanish words along the way.  We got some great dining suggestions from him and learned a bit about his past – he lived in Scotland for quite some time before moving back to Màlaga with a broken heart after his wife left him post ten years of marriage…yikes. He also showed us where Antonio Banderas’ mother still lives, just a couple of streets from where we got dropped off at our hotel, Lodging Màlaga. After some rusty Spanish was again used by me, we were greeted with a lovely room accompanied by an insanely beautiful view of Plaza de la Constitucíon. We couldn’t believe this was our view for the entirety of our trip!
After we unpacked, we were determined to see as much of the city as possible.  This began with touring the Catedral de Màlaga.  When I use the word “stunning” to describe the cathedral, I am not exaggerating. It was built between 1528 and 1782; while original plans had allowed for two towers, lack of funding resulted in the completion of only one, giving rise to the name, “La Manquita”, for the cathedral – loosely translated as “the one-armed woman”.  Being inside such a massive structure could inspire awe in all of us. The ancient artifacts and artwork contained within are quite impressive. The collection includes “The Beheading of Saint Paul”, painted by Enrique Simonet in 1887 and 40 intricately carved wooden statues of the saints behind the choir stalls completed by Pedro de Mena, one of Spain’s most celebrated wood-carvers.Post our awe-inspired time at the cathedral, we decided lunch was a good idea. What happened next will go down as one of my most favorite dining experiences of all time: El Pimpi. The ambiance of this place is incredible. The tapas and wine were fabulous (ordered all in Spanish from a Spanish-only menu) and the setting was so superbly Spanish, you couldn’t have dreamed it up any better.  I still get butterflies when I think of El Pimpi and any amount of pictures one could have taken simply couldn’t do it justice – you just have to experience it to understand.  Enamorada.

Post our “El Pimpi Experience”, we were headed to La Alcabaza. But, we had to stop off in Merced Square (Plaza de Merced) to admire the lovely blooming trees and see where Picasso was born. What a lovely place in the late springtime!

Admiring the Teatro Romano in front of the Alcabaza was a must-do as well.  The theatre was constructed in 1AD under Emperor Augustus, and is the oldest monument in Málaga.  It was used until the third century AD, then left for ruin and used again from 756-780AD as a rock quarry to build the Alcabaza which now sits behind it. Over time it became buried under dirt and rubble, and remained hidden there until it was rediscovered in 1951. In 2011, it was reopened to the public and held the first public performance since the third century.

Now, the Alcabaza. Wow. It is the best-preserved Moorish fortress palace in Spain and is still undergoing restorations that started in 1933. It out dates all of the other famous fortresses in the country by three centuries.  To be in something that old and attempt to soak up all of the detail in one day – nonetheless a few hours – is quite a feat. I could have spent a couple of days here. If I lived in Màlaga, this would be the place I would go to read, write, and just be generally inspired.  From the gardens, to the pools, to the architecture – the place was heavenly.  Hopefully the pictures give you a good taste of it.

Exploring had our appetites worked up, so we decided to have an early dinner and some lovely Andalucian white wine in the Plaza de la Constitucíon. Local fish is always a good idea when in a seaside town. Post-dinner we called it a night (with a bottle of red wine in tow) as we needed to get some “beauty sleep” for our beach day on the Costa del Sol 😉

Day two in España was a day of total relaxation. We walked to the beach via the Paseo del Parque – a stunning park walkway that runs alongside the city streets.  We spent the day in seaside loungers on Playa de Malagueta soaking up the sun and watching the locals.  We went for a couple dips in the Mediterranean Sea as well, but, it was quite chilly. And, apparently it doesn’t warm up that much throughout the summer.  This is good information to have when planning European beach vacations ;).

img_6904On the walk back to town we spotted City Hall – a beautiful, bright building – and stopped in Plaza de la Aduana for some tapas to hold us over until dinner.  The menu was in Spanish, I ordered in Spanish, and I loved every minute of it.  The plaza is situated adjacent to the Alcabaza so we enjoyed some traditional tapas and Spanish wine with a view!

I will say, we enjoyed eating a lot of really good food and drinking a lot of really good wine on this trip, and dinner was no exception. We headed to Plaza del Obispo, situated across from la Catedral de Malaga and treated ourselves to some fresh, local fish. I got to enjoy fried pink fish – a specialty in Màlaga.  And yes, the skin of the fish is really pink. We ordered a few equivalents of a Spanish cocktail – tinto de verano – as well. Those went down really easy. We ended the night eating some ice cream at the fountain in Plaza de Constitucíon and headed to bed.  We had an early wake up call for our day tour to Gibraltar.

Day three consisted of a day-long tour to Gibraltar. I’ll post about this separately as it was such a unique day in the United Kingdom.

The morning of our final day in Màlaga, I headed to the Museo Picasso Màlaga. On the way, I passed some street artwork by Doger – really cool looking stuff pictured below. One thing my time in Malaga reinforced is that I am truly enthralled by Picasso’s work.  I didn’t realize my tendency towards his art until I saw prints of all of his most-famous works for sale in a store in Màlaga and realized that I had owned copies of most of them at some point in my life.  So, here’s the final declaration: I love Picasso.

The museum was filled with works from all phases of his career, I still wish I could have taken some home ;). All of the 285 works housed in the museum were donated by his family which I think is pretty great.  The museum is in what was once an old palace in Malaga, which makes for a unique setup as well.  Totally worth the visit.

Our final experience in Màlaga before we flew back to Dublin was a tapas and wine tour.  We stopped in three restaurants and tasted some of the most traditional tapas in the Andalucian region. Fried anchovies (espetos) and Iberian ham are a big deal here, as well as olives, and anything potato-based and tomato-based. Side note: When a menu says “ensalada rusa”, it’s not what American’s think. It’s really a version of a chilled potato salad usually eaten with piquetas – friggin’ tasty.  I just love Spanish tapas and really enjoyed our time on this tour. Our sassy guide, Pilar, gave us a great taste of the city!

To finish up our day, we headed back to Plaza del Obispo and had a couple of jars of sangria as we soaked up the views of the Màlaga Cathedral  in front of us.  The trip was short, sweet, and filled with good times – lots of memories to be cherished 🙂  Can’t wait until the next trip to España!  Until then, les deseo lo mejor.




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