This is a blog on the second leg of a two week holiday in Spain. The first leg that included Barcelona and Gerona can be reached by clicking the link.
From Barcelona we caught a flight to Malaga.
Up until now Vanessa’s planning was spot on. The very first shadow of a doubt of a sketchy choice in an otherwise perfectly planned itinerary was at Malaga Airport, when our cabby told us that he knew of the location but had never heard of our hotel.
To cut a long story short, our hotel, the Palacio Solecio (above), was wonderful. Situated just inside Malaga Old Town, it exuded an old-world charm that optimally combined luxury with comfort.
Malaga Old Town is a huge area that consisted mainly of pedestrian roads and it required a short walk of around 100metres to get to our hotel (which probably explains our cabby’s confusion). In hindsight, we could not have chosen a better or more convenient location!
Malaga City goes way back to the 6th century and the Old Town represents one of its earliest walled areas.
It was like being caught in a time warp where early architecture and modern buildings peacefully co-exist in a maze of narrow cobble-stoned pathways and fancy plazzas.
A heady fusion of cultures of ancient forts and churches that went hand in hand with modern high-end stores and eateries.
… and slotting perfectly into that incongruous mix is a humongous, eclectic horde of humanity with only two things in common: high levels of adrenaline and an eagerness to spend money!
As I mentioned before, this place is huge and in the 5 days that we were there we still could not figure out our way around and continued to get lost despite the services of Mr. Google!
At the edge of the Old Town are the Alcazaba (image below) and Gibralfaro fortified castles.
These are built on a hill and are well worth visiting. One can buy tickets for both that include a guided audio tour. (The pair of headphones that I had recommended in Barcelona will come in handy here.)
The gates open at 9am and the crowds start streaming in at around 9.30am. If you want the place to yourself for a good half an hour be sure to reach early!
The castle was built in the 14th century. One is transported in time as one walks up the winding and exquisitely cobbled paths. With not another soul in sight, the surreal experience of making our way upwards through the intricately constructed stone walled passages of the Alcazaba more than justified the effort taken to get here early.
The Gibralfaro castle is adjacent to the Alcazaba but one needs to climb down from one to access the other. The climb up to the former is more strenuous, but again, well worth the effort not only for the view but also in calories spent!
The view from the top is nothing short of spectacular!
We were at the midway point of our trip and Spain had ticked off all the right boxes… well… almost all! The one grouse I had was that the Spanish drink predominantly wine or beer and there is a limit to which I can drink either without getting a headache.
It was around this time that we discovered Cava.
Cava is the local sparkling wine and many reviewers have placed it above Proseco as a replacement for an economical Champagne. We quickly settled for either Mimosas (Cava with fresh orange juice) for me and Bellinis (Cava with peach juice) for Vanessa. They are very refreshing especially in the middle of the heat wave that was gripping Spain for the entire duration of our trip. The alcohol content is minimal and we could easily go through a bottle a meal and yet keep our thinking straight. (Relatively speaking of course.)
When combined with a huge selection of mouth watering tapas like the anchovies below it was a grouse that we were more than willing willing to grin and bear with.
From Malaga we took a day trip to Rhonda to experience one of Spain’s much publicised ‘white-walled villages’.
Unlike the earlier excursion from Barcelona to Gerona where we travelled by train, this time we took a bus and got to see the rolling Andalusian hills dotted with wind turbines and large olive plantations.
One of the first places we visited was the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, the bullring at Rhonda. Built in the 18th century, it is one of the oldest bull rings in Spain. (Just in case you are confused, in the image above, the bull is the animal without a hat at the back.)
The city of Rhonda is built at the very edge of high cliffs and one of the recommended sights is the bridge (below) built across a deep gorge that runs between two of the cliffs.
We planned to do lunch at the Tragata, a restaurant that features in the Michelin Guide, and was famed for its ‘baby goat’ preparation.
By the time we got our table it was quite late and were cutting it a bit fine with regard to catching our bus back to Malaga. Determined to have our meal, we opted to risk literally rather than metaphorically missing the bus! Even if it meant having to spend the night in Rhonda.
The baby goat was by far the most delicious lamb dish we had ever tasted and well worth the risk we took in waiting for it. (In our haste the breakdown in synchronisation between demolition and imaging is embarrassingly evident in the image above.) We topped it off with an outstanding creme caramel. And yes, we managed to catch our bus with a few minutes to spare.
Malaga, incidentally, also happens to be the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. The Picassso Museum, conveniently situated within walking distance from our hotel, houses many of his works along with those of several other whose art was inspired by him.
I know this may sound like sacrilege but as I wandered around the exhibits my country bumpkin mind could not visualise anything further than a bunch of plastic surgeries gone south.
Onward to Seville…