Destination of the day: Malaga

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Malaga 292
Malaga is the very definition of Ireland’s love affair with Spain. It is the only route that takes holiday makers in such numbers that it requires an Airbus 330s to bring people in summer time.

The problem is that everyone turns right when they arrive, off to the sea resorts, rather than left to the city. They don’t know what they are missing.

Not that it fails to celebrate its coastline. It just does so in a different way. The city has seven beaches in its hinterland, which means you can skip off for a swim from a city centre hotel.

It has also found new ways to celebrate its seafront. Malaga looks cleaner and brighter than ever in the early morning sun and Enrique, my driver, brings me by the new 4km promenade that was opened last autumn.

*     *     *     *     *Malaga Panoramica

Take to the bicycle to see the city. Kay Farrell runs a cycle tour of Malaga, and brings us through the largely pedestrianised streets.

She set us on our way, merrily jingling our bells in a vain effort to get pedestrians to avoid us. The cycle tour runs into some colourful medieval religious procession and a band of balladeros performing at a random streetwalk.

The beautiful sea here around was home to artists, poets, dreamers, philosophers and people who, waking to that sunlight glinting on the water, began to look at the world in a different way. And one artist towers above them all.

The museum of Pablo Picasso opened in 2003 a belated tribute to a famous son who was exiled by the enmities of Spanish civil conflict the middle of the twentieth century.

It has replaced the single-tower cathedral (they really do call it ‘La Manquita’ which translates to ‘little one arm’) as Malaga’s signature attraction.Málaga

The Picasso museum which displays 285 of the artists’ paintings and now gets 600,000 visitors a year

Picasso left Malaga when he was ten (famously describing the scallop-eating neighbourhood in which he spent his childhood as “el barrio del chupa y tira” – the neighbourhood of suck and throw). But his vision of the city lived on in his work.

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Málaga Gibralfaro castle
Mijas is the most famous of the evening trips form Malaga city tourist town, famous for having the only non oval bull ring in Spain and for its wine.

Its donkey taxis line up in the square inviting those who want the cheesy side of Spain. But it is gleaming white, shining clean, as if it has been waiting for the tourism euro to scrub up and put on its Sunday best. The local life continues here as it has since they built their church on top of the mosque site, which was in turn the site of the Roman temple, which was in turn the site of an Iberian one.

A small and unpretentious rock cave commemorated the site of a visitation of the Virgin Mary shortly after the Muslims were expelled. It was soon after that that Queen Isabella the second came to the region she described it as a beautiful sea, Marbella, Although others claim that the name comes from the marble in the white hills, the Sierra Blanca, beautiful sea is the story that we like.

The emirs who ruled over Malaga called it “terrestrial paradise.” After they had failed several times, Christians took the city on Aug. 19, 1487.

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Malaga used to be regarded as some sort of outdated appendage to the Torremolinos province (when the place where tourism was invented got its own provincial status the mothercity was left with just 800 hotel beds).

Now that figure has expanded to 8,000 plus up to 12,000 a day who stream through the cruise ship port. The city has gotten a reputation of its own, a Barcelona of the south, worthy of a winter city break rather than its traditional shopping stroll during q summer on the resorts.

Malaga is full of colour and enthusiasm and it makes you wonder why people go to pricier Barcelona and come here instead.

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