This city oozes authenticity. It gets in through your pores and dances a howling flamenco through the senses. It’s the real deal.
I’m here on this weekend break because, as it turns out, the city of Malaga is an unsullied Andalucian city paradise of back street tabernas with delicious hanging hams, as well as ancient religious processions that file past from vast and musty crumbling churches.
The Petit Palace Hotel where I’m staying, spitting distance from the Plaza Constitution, heart of the pedestrian district and a hop from the towering Malaga Cathedral is quaint and historic on the outside, with tiny narrow streets disappearing away off past jumbles of curbside cafés and jostling waiters.
Outside, Malaga isn’t overrun by tourists and tasteless tat. It has a city sensibility but a small-town friendliness too. I’m a big fan of getting lost but if you must orientate yourself, there’s no better way than a tour to hit the hot spots and decide for yourself what to revisit later, so I head along flagstone streets to Malaga Bike Tours (malagabiketours.eu) near the Plaza de la Marina. Not sure of the way, I ask directions of two elderly ladies who sit, legs splayed, chain smoking and arguing so vehemently when I ask that I suspect I’ve caused a fight, then they point in two different directions, each trying to slap the other’s hand out of the way. It’s street theatre of the best kind, charming and authentic as hell.
Incredibly, the bike tour doesn’t suck at all and even stops for a beer along the way. We take in acres of shady, tropical park; the beach, bull ring, Roman theatre, Arabic ruins and childhood stomping grounds of Pablo Picasso. I’ve already decided to return to the latter of these when the tour is held up as a plaintive brass band strikes up, incense fills the air and a religious procession sashays slowly forth. It’s extraordinary. A biblical throne of statues carried by 50 men as locals look on from shuttered windows and cross themselves. Hatefully handsome Hollywood hero Antonio Banderas is from Malaga, I learn, and processions like this were his first taste of theatre. The one from his own church is so big it requires a painfully executed 50-point turn just to get out the door.
I’m buzzed as hell by all this and after beer and Serrano ham off a hanging hook at the tiny Taberna Cantarrana on Calle Sanchez Pastor near my hotel, return to the nearby Pablo Picasso Museum, realizing that I’ve now well and truly lost my bet about Malaga. This city oozes authenticity. It gets in through your pores and dances a howling flamenco through the senses. It’s the real deal.
Later, after acres of rarely seen art by the Spanish modern master behind the inarguably brilliant Guernica, I have just time to meander through the Moorish castle remnants, painfully beautiful Arabic archways that frame aerial vistas of Malaga at every turn.
As dusk descends I head to restaurant El Pimpi, where Hollywood celebs in search of delicious regional seafood and locally-produced wine have signed wooden casks that line whitewash walls, I sit at at a dinner table of delicious Spanish grub, washed down with a Orujo, a demon drink that Malaga’s own Banderas himself might warn you away from.
Viva Malaga! Viva Andalusia! I’ll be back.
David travelled with flexibletrips.ie on a city break to Malaga and stayed at the 4 star Hotel Petit Palace.
Malaga – 6 of the Best:
Wine Museum – museovinomalaga.com The museum offers a journey through the history and culture of the wine of the province of Malaga, famous for its Moscatel sweet dessert wine. Entry includes wine tasting.
Museo Picasso – museopicassomalaga.org Based in the restored Palacio de Buenavista, a National Monument, the collection comprises of 155 works by Pablo Picasso (a native of Malaga), donated by the artist’s daughter in-law and grandson.
Malaga Bike Tours – malagabiketours.eu The Malaga bike tour is the perfect way to explore the winding streets of the historical centre, the promenade and the boulevards of El Parque.
Strachan Restaurant – strachan.es Centrally located, Strachan specializes in Nouvelle Mediterranean cuisine offering a large selection of local dishes from tapas to paella.
Parador de Gibralfaro – parador.es/es/parador-de-malaga-gibralfaro Situated on Mount Gibralfaro overlooking the Bay and city of Malaga, the restaurant offers a magnificent variety of Andalusian cuisine such as the fried ‘‘pescaítos a la malagueña’ (small fried fish) a delicacy of the region.
Bodego El Pimpi – bodegabarelpimpi.com This famous meeting place allows visitors to sample local wines and delicious tapas, the décor consists of Malaga’s féria, bullfighting and wine barrels signed by Paloma Picasso, Antonio Banderas and many other Spanish artists.