Málaga, Andalusia’s Tropical Rhythm

Málaga is the second largest city in Andalusia next to its regional capital, Sevilla. It has always been a  thriving port since its foundation by the Phoenicians as it was originally called “Malaca”. Trade has been a part of this harbor town even in the Roman era and it gained more importance during the Arab rule from the 10th century onwards. However, after the fall of the Islamic dominance in Andalusia and the expulsion of the Moors from the region, Málaga had lost its importance in trade and had suffered from its consequences during the 16th und 17th centuries. It made an economic comeback in the 19th-century when the city started to produce the famous sweet wine until the vineyards were plagued by pests in 1876. The city’s history is a recurring trend of failures and successes. After being tucked away from the rest of the civilization, Málaga made another comeback in 2003, projecting a new image that opened itself to the world. This once obstructed city has reinvented itself as the City of Museums. In spite of not showcasing a grand history like those of Granada, Sevilla and Córdoba, having been reborn recently, Málaga offers a dynamic atmosphere of a young and vibrant city with its colorful sights and tropical feel.

Fever in Málaga

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morning breakfast fresh from the market: slices of jamón ibérico, white bread and pineapple juice.

Since María lived about 30 km. away from downtown Málaga, I had to hitch a ride with her in the morning to Torremolinos, from which I would take the train to the center. The beginning of the day wasn’t so promising as we made our way to her workplace. Dark clouds covered the skies, threatening a heavy downpour over the city. And It finally did rain so hard I got stuck in her clinic. Reaching Málaga, the whole of the city center appeared to be dead on an early Saturday morning. So, I made my first stop in the market to get my little breakfast. While filling my stomach with grease, the center was beginning to wake up, as shops began to open one by one along the busy shopping street, Marqués de Larios , as well as the surrounding areas of Plaza de la Constitución.

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an empty shopping street along Marqués de Larios on a Saturday morning

I wasn’t sure if I only had lack of sleep the previous night or I was really going to get ill that day. I went on with my stroll until I got confronted by scattered groups of German tourists all around town. They must’ve probably debarked a cruise ship that arrived in Málaga that morning. Still, with or without Germans, the city was suddenly jam-packed with people in no time. The crowd was beginning to feel suffocating and the heat of the sun even made it worse. I walked down the street and across the promenade, hoping that the sea breeze would make me feel better. Apparently, my desperate effort was to no avail. Even as my head grew heavier, I still managed to make my way to visit the cathedral.

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As in every church in Andalusia, the cathedral stands on the site where an old mosque used to exist. Designed by the same architect that built the Granada cathedral, its construction began in 1528 mixing styles of Gothic, Renaissance and finally Baroque. The second tower (on the right side, not completely included on the photo) was half finished in 1765 and left abandoned, thus gaining its nickname, “the one-armed one”

the other façade of the cathedral

the other façade of the cathedral

Amid the cooler temperature inside the church, I suddenly found myself dozing off on one of its banks. Embarassing as it may have been, but my visual sense began to fail me as my eyes dragged me to sleep. It was that time I felt my body temperature had started to rise but all I could do was to make the most out of my stay in the center, knowing that María’s house was not really within a walking distance.

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I shouldn’t be sleeping inside this beautiful church

I didn't fail to appreciate the church vaulted ceilings despite my illness.

I didn’t fail to appreciate the vaulted ceilings amidst my annoying fever

… Somehow, I even managed to watch street performers like these guys below playing some bagpipe music.málaga-821
… visited the Alcazaba and the Roman amphitheater

málaga-63…and after all, I could still do my task of jotting down notes and taking photos in spite of my condition.:-) I was pretty sure that my fever was brought about by my bad sleeping habits while I was in Granada.

part of the building where Picasso was born

part of the building where Picasso was born. Even though he hardly had anything to do with his hometown when he was exiled during Franco’s regime, Málaga had never disowned him as his own son and the government turned his birthhouse into a museum, the Museo Casa Natal at No. 13 Plaza de la Merced.

The old district of Málaga has a rich collection of museums and churches though I couldn’t manage to visit them one by one. Much as I wanted to see an ongoing exhibit by Julio Romero de Torres (a painter from Córdoba who depicted the aesthetics of Andalusian women), my body was already pleading to get some rest. After stuffing myself with aspirin the entire afternoon, I didn’t tell María a word that I was feeling under the weather. So, she took me on another road trip to Marbella and Puerto Banús, an astonishing example of luxury and vanity.

puerto banusSurrounded by high-end boutiques, posh restaurants, a parade of yachts of all sizes, signs in foreign languages (Russian, English, Swedish…) this port gives an impression as if one had already left the premises of Spain. Its promenade turns into a catwalk of luxury cars, where automobiles pull over and “pose” for the sea of cameras and a bunch of curious tourists left in awe.

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I don’t look so sick, do I?

Marbella was our next stop, a milder version of Puerto Banús. Chilling out by the beach with her friends, I was literally chilling as my fever had become really unstoppable. I promised María to cook dinner that evening but as soon as I got in the car on the way home, I finally told her that I had a temperature.

literally ‘chilling’ by the beach

IMG_1801María’s caring nature made me recover over night. I felt better the following morning, though my head still felt a bit heavy. Before my departure to Ronda later that afternoon, she prepared gambas al pilpil while I cooked a Filipino dish. Afterwards, we made our last stop in Fuengirola where my bus would leave for my next destination. Just like the rest of Costa del Sol, Fuengirola is another summer destination with beaches and of course, the sun. We simply had our breakfast downtown and I could at last have a taste of the rumored churros con chocolate.

gambasA weekend in Málaga and Costa del Sol allowed me to see beyond what’s written in guidebooks. With my friend, she let me discover more interesting places apart from the provincial capital. Having done this trip the “hardcore” way, my fever did not hinder me from exploring what Málaga had to offer and I somehow didn’t fail to do it. Beach, sun and sights, these three combinations make the region Andalusia’s tropical rhythm.

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