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Travel

Travel

Info: Copenhagen tourism: www.visitcopenhagen.com. Also www.visitdenmark.co.uk Copenhagen Style Guide by Anna Peuckert and Søren Jepsen. Books on hygge include The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well; The book of Hygge: The Danish art of living well; and Hygge: the Danish Art of Happiness. For new Nordic cuisine: Geranium, Kadeau, Manfreds, Restaurant AOC, Bror, Relae. Noma, voted ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ four times, closes shortly but is expected to reopen elsewhere in the city in 2017.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga

How many thousands of people pass through Malaga Airport every year and never, ever give the city a second glance as they head towards Torremolinos and Fuengirola and then further west to Marbella and Estepona?

Yet the siren call of Picasso’s birthplace has been getting louder and louder over the last few years as Spain’s sixth largest city adds a wealth of cultural attractions and a vibrant foodie scene to its multi-layered history and sun-drenched location.

Founded by the Phoenicians in about 800BC, Malaga - for a start - is home to more than 20 museums and galleries, including the Picasso, Carmen Thyssen, Automobile, Russian Art, Contemporary Art, Flamenco Art, Glass and Crystal, and Wine museums.

It has a branch of the Pompidou Centre, Paris, a cathedral (built between 1528-1783 and noted for its two organs and missing tower) a Roman amphitheatre, two Moorish fortresses (the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfar), a wonderful food market called Atarazanas, several beaches and a busy working port.

It was near the port in an area called Soho where we based ourselves, heading out each morning past the street art - for which Soho is well known - to explore the city. Much of its historic centre is pedestrianised and many streets, by the looks of things, are washed down every morning, despite the arid looking landscape to the north.

Malaga’s grandest thoroughfare is the few hundred metres of the marble-paved Calle Marqués de Larios, protected from the sun by huge shades when we were there in early September. The street runs south/north and at its northern end meets the Plaza de la Constitución.

Head in any direction from here, though the streets and small squares, and you’ll delight in the experience. There are a huge number of small, independent shops, cafés, bars and restaurants which makes a refreshing change from the uniform, chain-stored high streets of many places in the UK.

Look out for the ironwork balconies on buildings, the attractive street lanterns, the almond sellers, the fountains and the odd sculpture, and just listen to the noise of people ceaselessly chattering, amplified on weekend evenings when so many families are out walking the streets.

For many visitors the most visible evidence of change in Malaga is probably down at the port where the Palmeral de las Sorpresas is now the most beautiful of promenades. On one side is the sea, on the other are palm trees, gardens, water features and children’s play areas and above is an elegant, elongated canopy/pergola, offering shelter from the sun. You could stroll along here every day of your life and never tire of it.

At the eastern end of this promenade is the large, multi-coloured cube of the Pompidou Centre and then stretching south from that is the wide Muelle Uno - Quay One - where a grimy old harbour area is now home to a range of bars, shops and restaurants. Across the way were moored a few smallish yachts and a couple of considerably bigger fish as well. The fortress of Gibralfar sits on the hill directly to the north.

From Muelle Uno you can cut through to the Malaga beaches, nothing to go wild about but still enjoyed by thousands. Take a stroll (going east) on the path which follows the beaches and the road, past the impressive Gran Hotel Miramar (opening late 2016), and watch the parakeets fly in and out of the trees. Even at eight or nine on a summer’s evening, the water can be warm enough for a quick swim.

More to follow on the Picasso Museum, the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfar, the Atarazanas Market, where to stay and where to eat and drink.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga: Picasso Museum

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 (his birthplace now a museum, www.fundacionpicasso.malaga.eu) but moved to La Coruña, in northern Spain 10 years later. He last visited the city at the age of 19 but thanks to his daughter-in-law and grandson, Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, visitors can see well over 200 of his works here. The two donated the core of the collection.

The museum is housed in the restored 16th century Palacio de Buenavista where excavations unearthed remains from Phoenician and Roman times. It’s a joy to walk through the dozen galleries and marvel at the massive talent, the invention, the changes in style and terrific energy of one man. This over eight decades and encompassing sketches, paintings, sculptures and ceramics.

You won’t find many well known paintings that you might see in Barcelona or Paris but in a way that’s what makes the collection interesting. In one room a short film shows Picasso conjuring up images on glass with a few confident strokes. He makes it look so easy, almost as easy as having coffee in the quiet garden.

Even a thousand years after it was built - and with all its visitors - you still sense the peace and beauty of the Moorish palace/fortress called Alcazaba, not so well known as Granada’s Alhambra but certainly worth a visit. Located just to the east of the old city, it sits on a hill below another Moorish fortress, Castillo de Gibralfaro.

If you need a reminder of Malaga’s rich history it’s right beside the entrance to Alcazaba. There in 1951 the remains of a Roman amphitheatre were discovered, the theatre used for 300 years but then buried under dirt and rubble for almost 500.

Through the entrance to Alcazaba, we made our way up into the palace and its gardens. Hopefully the notes I made can convey some of my impressions of the place. ‘Different levels, a mix of areas, gardens, shady courtyards, hedges, beautiful tiles, pebble mosaics, patterned stonework, small pools and fountains, little channels of water, ancient pottery on display, scent of jasmine, bougainvillea, good views of the city and port’.

Views are even better from the 14th century Castillo de Gibralfaro. There is a bus to the top but we took the hotter and harder option: a 30 minute walk in 30 degrees of heat on a well laid out path. Gibralfaro has more of a fortress feel about it but there’s not quite so much to see as its neighbour...apart, that is, from a small museum with arms, uniforms and other military objects and those wonderful views to the city and beyond.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga: Atarazanas Market

We could hear the sounds of the market well before we saw the building: the ordering, shouting, the conversation and laughter. In other words, the sound of a real food culture at work, all under one roof on a site that was once a shipyard. The only remaining part of the original building is a 14th century, horseshoe archway, the rest is 19th century and the huge stained glass window, with its scenes of Malaga, came later again.

I’m more street market than supermarket so coming to a place like this is sheer, unadulterated pleasure. It’s not just the sounds and the frenetic atmosphere, but the vibrant colours, the huge variety, the smells and the gleaming freshness of it all. Not surprising, given Malaga’s climate and maritime location.

You can buy fish and shellfish, fruit and vegetables, meat, ham (jamon), chorizo, cheese, bread, nuts, herbs, dried fruits, spices, olives, olive oil and more, all located within three naves. I took a few photographs, with one stallholder even slicing a melon to add colour to my picture. We later bought some coconut milk from him to drink.

Which reminds me. If you want something to eat, you won’t get it much fresher than here. Head for the busy and local tapas bars of El Yerno or Mercado Atarazanas. We went for the latter and took our pick from prawns, anchovies, whitebait, squid, octopus and much seafood else. Some grilled, some deep-fried. A team of five worked at full throttle in the small space behind the counter. It’s mainly standing room for customers inside but there are seats outside in the sun.

Smaller in scale is Mercado Merced, a mix of producer stalls and bars/restaurants. Pop in if you’re visiting Picasso’s birthplace in Plaza de la Merced because it’s only a few steps away.

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