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Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga: Picasso Museum

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 (his birthplace now a museum, 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.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga: where to stay

It was at one of three Room Mate Hotels in Malaga that we stayed. Located in a quiet street in an area between the Almeda Principal (a wide street) and the port area, Room Mate Lola has 50 bedrooms, including three suites on each of its four floors.

The comfortable and friendly hotel serves breakfast on the ground floor and there are also a number of cafés nearby. One called Santa Canela in Calle Tomás Heredia looked inviting. This part of Malaga is known as Soho. Check out some of its street art on

A few minutes away is recently opened Room Mate Valeria whose rooftop bar and terrace overlooks the sea (and the big wheel). Room Mate Larios, furnished in Art Deco style, also has a rooftop bar. It’s located on the main pedestrian street, Calle Marqués de Larios.

Other hotels to consider include: Molina Lario, NH Malaga, AC Hotel Malaga Palacio, Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro, Dulces Dreams, Alcazabar Premium Hotel, Patio 19 Hostel and Gran Hotel Miramar (opening at the end of 2016).

The main tourist office is Malaga Tourism:

Monday, 26 September 2016

Malaga: where to eat and drink

A great choice of independent cafés, bars and restaurants, talented chefs, a sunny climate, great produce and a maritime location have all helped to give Malaga its well deserved reputation for food and drink. Here are a few places we visited (and some we didn’t), starting with one which was less than two minutes walk from the hotel.

El Rincón del Cervecero is one of the big names of the craft beer movement in Malaga, the genial owners offering 257 different beers, eight of them on tap. There was always plenty of people sitting outside in the evenings, savouring the beers and the limited menu (sheep’s cheese, and cured meats from Leon included).

At Cafeteria Framil we had the churros, dipped in hot chocolate and at Taberna Uvedoble loved the new take on tapas (thinly sliced swordfish in pork fat; homemade Iberian ham and cheese croquettes for instance), served by the smiley waiters. We felt equally welcome at nearby Café Berlin (pic) where, for breakfast, we sampled the toasted muffin, olive oil and chopped tomatoes. Simple but very tasty. Not forgetting lunch at Bar Mercado Atarazanas in the food market (see above).

A very generous portion of wine and a beer at Taberna Cofrade Las Merchanas in Calle Mosquera was altogether a different experience in that the bar is decorated with religious pictures and memorabilia, linked to Malaga’s Easter Holy Week or Semana Santa. There’s a restaurant here too.

We tried to get a table at Mesón Ibérico, near our hotel, one evening but it was far too busy. Mamuchis is even closer to the hotel.

Other places on our list for next time include El Refectorium Catedral, Gorki (various places), Cortijo de Pepe, Lepanto Café, Oleo, Bodega Bar El Pimpi, Los Patios de Beatas, KGB, El Mesón de Cervantes, Casa Aranda, Antigua Casa de Guardia and Jose Carlos Garcia.

Grilled sardines, anchovies, the olive oils, the almonds and sweet wines are all things that Malaga and its area are known for. Sardines are often grilled on sticks over a fire on the beach. And, of course, there’s a big range of tapas bars.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Dymond Guide summer sale

Here’s something to brighten up your visit to the Lake District and Cumbria.

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