Spain: Málaga

I know what you’re thinking: “Why doesn’t she just stay home and relax?” Sorry, that’s not how we roll.

Yen’s aunt had a bonus week on her timeshare that she wasn’t going to use, so he and his sister decided to take advantage of it. They kindly invited me along.

I’d been to Barcelona before (2003, I think?) and didn’t love it, so I wasn’t terribly excited about the trip. I knew Yen would make it fun, and that was my reason for going. It turns out that the Costa del Sol is completely different from Barcelona, and I just loved it. What you’re about to see is Day One of eight days. Yen bought a new camera right before the trip, so there are a lot of photos. Posting the whole week is going to take a while.

We began in Málaga. This is the city you fly into when you come to the south of Spain. It’s a terrific airport – very modern and open. I loved seeing the scrubby mountains outside my window as the plane landed (from Rome – no, we didn’t have time to sneak into the city). We were all pretty jet-lagged, but Málaga was just meant to be a day-long stop before we moved over to our real home the next day. It’s a nice little city – the sixth largest in Spain.

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You’re going to notice a lot of evidence of lingering Christmas (like these poinsettias) in these photos. You’ll understand why in a moment.

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The other thing you’re about to see a lot of is orange trees. They are everywhere. So tempting and beautiful, hanging en masse from trees right at head level. But beware! These are Seville oranges, not the kind you find in grocery stores. One afternoon on a jaunt, Yen’s sister picked one and stuffed it into her purse. That night she dropped it into the fruit bowl on the dining room table (yes, our hotel had a dining room table…), and the next morning as we ate breakfast, I turned to see Yen making an absolutely hilarious face. When I asked him what was wrong, he sputtered, “This is the most sour orange I’ve ever tasted.” I laughed and told him it was one of the street oranges and he didn’t need to finish it. “No,” said he said bravely, “it’s wrong to throw away fruit.” Suit yourself!

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We had a very light agenda for the day: find some lunch, wander, head up to the local alcazaba, and get to bed early. We accomplished the first task easily, and Yen ordered his first pil pil. He ended up ordering it once a day almost every day we were there. Wandering was certainly easy – the whole town seemed to be out and about (it was Saturday, after all). What we weren’t expecting was a parade, but suddenly we stumbled across preparations for one.

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Curious, we joined a crowd lining a red carpet and waited to see what was happening. Children were dressed up in their best, and local media were interviewing a few of them. I asked one man next to me what was happening, and he smiled and said in the little English he had, “I don’t understand question.” So we waited, getting excited along with everyone else, until suddenly the doors opened and a parade began.

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Later someone explained to us that this was the festival of the Magi King (pictured below), which of course is for Epiphany. It’s easy to forget sometimes when you’re in a Catholic country that everyone is taking these holidays seriously together. “It’s the most magical day for the children,” he told us. “Tonight the Magi King will bring them presents.” Ah, ok. So now we understood why it still seemed to be Christmas in January. The king threw chocolate gold coins, and all his courtiers through other candies. Then he made his stately way down the red carpet to his waiting float-throne.

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And yes… These guys are in blackface.

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The parade moved on and so did we – up the hill to the alcazaba. Yen did a very careful job of planning our itinerary to make sure we gradually built up to the most incredible architecture. This modest little palace was our introduction to the Moorish architecture that we would see so much of during the week.

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Look at the sky behind me! We would have that sky the entire week, with the exception of our final day. The day we left, rain rolled in. But while we were there, it was as if perfect weather had been arranged for us.

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That little sign marring the wall is explaining that the water isn’t potable. Later in the week we saw someone filling a bottle from a fountain with the same sign. I guess if there’s danger, it’s not too great. Probably lead in the pipes or something.

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I hope you like the shot below, because you’re going to see a lot of architectural details over the next few posts. I’m simply besotted with Moorish architecture.

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This was the ceiling of a very dim room. The attention to detail in these spaces is incredible, even where the artistry wouldn’t have been on display.

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And here’s more sky for you. It was in the low 60s. Not really beach weather. But we’re not really beach people, and it was still a big improvement over the low 30s we left behind in Boston.

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We stayed at the alcazaba for quite a long time – almost until sunset. We didn’t have anything better to do, and we had the place completely to ourselves because the rest of the town was at the festival down below. From where we sat perched high on the hill, we could see the parade still winding through town, and huge crowds lined up waiting for it.

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Finally we left and decided to walk up the rest of the hill to get a good view of sunset. The path was very steep, but we kept going.

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This is a view looking down to the bull fighting ring. Each of the cities has one – you’ll see.

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Now you can see the sunset we were waiting for. The big building below is the cathedral you saw in the very first shot of this post.

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At last we climbed back down and decided we were ready to be back at the hotel and asleep. The problem is every single person in the town had gathered in the city center, and we had to push and swim upstream to get anywhere. When we finally found our way, we discovered that the parade route ran right along the street we needed to cross to make it back to the hotel. In the end, we decided to just wait the parade out – there was no other way across. Exhausted, we fell right asleep and rested up to fetch the rental car and move on down the coast to where we would spend the rest of the week.

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