Archive | October 2011

Costa del Sol: Torremolinos

Fancy having this blog for so long and I’ve never written about the Costa del Sol. Even though I live right here on the Costa del Sol.

I guess it’s like they say, you will practise more tourism away from home than in your own back yard.

The Costa del Sol is veeery large, long and extensive, so I suppose the best way to explore it, is by sections. I guess I will start off this tour today with a visit to Torremolinos.

Mystery Garden Torremolinos

Torremolinos is a large town next to Malaga, here on the south coast of Spain. It’s to the west of Malaga, very easy to reach by car on the freeway, or taking the suburban train from downtown Malaga.

It’s a very popular destination for both tourists and British ex-pats alike. Tourists like it because it has everything you need to relax during your hols: sun, beach, water parks, jazzy hotels, nightlife and lots of entertainment for young and old.

BajondilloToday I’ll just focus on the route that leads from the centre of Torremolinos down to the beach, the Bajada de San Miguel or Cuesta de San Miguel, el Bajondillo. In other words, St. Michael’s Descent or St. Michael’s Slope. (Of course if you are climbing UPWARDS it would obviously no longer be a descent. However no need to ever tire out your legs and your lungs climbing up, there are elevators carved into the mountainside.)

Cuesta de San Miguel

San Miguel is the most important commercial and touristic street in the centre of Torremolinos. It’s filled with shops catering to both locals and tourists. You can buy lots of cheap things here, from bags and clothes to home decoration and souvenirs.

When you reach the end of San Miguel, the slope or descent begins. It’s a long series of winding steps that will eventually lead you to the beach.

Arts and Handicrafts San Miguel

There are lots of artsy and trendy shops on the Bajada de San Miguel.


You can also taste the famous local dish of crispy fried fish in any number of eateries here. You can find pottery and local handicraft.

Pottery and Handicraft San Miguel

If you pay close attention as you tackle the steep slope with its mincing steps, you will notice a series of mysterious gardens.

Mysterious Garden Torremolinos

Who lives behind these lush, luxuriantly green gates? That’s a mystery to me, and why I name them Mystery Gardens.

Mystery Garden Bajada de San Miguel

Perhaps I’ll be in luck, and the owners of these magnificent, barred-off villas will just happen to be reading this post, and invite me in for a drink and a good, rousing chat!

Most Mysterious Garden Cuesta de San Miguel

And at the end of your sinuous adventure, you can be rewarded with fresh breezes from the sea.

Torremolinos Beach

And a cool draught of beer as the night falls. I would recommend San Miguel, Malaga’s very own brand. (You can even visit the plant where San Miguel beers are brewed right here in Malaga, but that is beyond the scope of this post here.)

Bajada de San Miguel Torremolinos

Although this isn’t a part of the Bajondillo neighbourhood, I just couldn’t help snap a photo of it. Must be a new fad. You can sit on these seats and stick your feet into the (supposedly) clean, cool, fresh water and get your skin cleansed by tiny little fishy friends who will eat and munch away all the dirt on your feet and get bloated and happy.

Fish Feet Torremolinos

Your wallet, however, will not feel quite as bloated and happy anymore. But if you can afford it, I’m sure it must be quite the experience, and worth it.

I might add, however, that you can enjoy the same experience for free in the sea at La Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia. The waters there are hotter than the Caribbean!

But that’s a tale for another post.

Pottery Pots Bajondillo Torremolinos

Dancing at Malaga’s Annual Fair (And Roller Coasters Too, Of Course)

 

Malaga Fair Entrance Castle

So now it is true that some time has passed since the event of this post. But, well, it’s always nice to look back and remember: fond memories, exuberant summer nights, amusement rides, ferris wheels and dancing till the next sunrise. We’re talking about: the Malaga Fair.

The Malaga Fair occurs in August. So why am I writing about it now, in October? Well, because I didn’t have time to write about it before (seeing as I was too busy zipping about to places like La Linea de la Concepcion, which you can read about in the following post, or Barcelona).

And also because, as I said at the beginning of this post, a little bit of nostalgia never hurts!

Malaga Fair Lights

Now that everyone is all settled down in their workplaces or school desks, it’s a good moment to linger over those simmering days and balmy nights when you were free. No schedules to run after. No traffic jams. Just good fun all night long.

At the Malaga Fair.

Malaga Fair by Night

In Malaga the annual fair, which as I mentioned before happens in August, takes place in 2 locations. On the one hand, you can boil and broil a bit at the Day Fair which is located in downtown Malaga. This year we didn’t go, because unlike the majority of people I work during the summer. Hence no daytime photos.

Malaga Fair Cute Cottage

This is one of those weird set-ups that they like to put out on the streets. It’s a fake cottage designed to imitate the old country-style farmhouses with traditional Andalusian décor that used to dot all the mountainsides. You’re supposed to pose inside this cottage with your typical flamenco costumes and get your photo taken – for a price, of course.

At the Day Fair, people put out bars and stands on all the streets in the centre of the city. You can enjoy typical southern fare like crispy fried fish, chorizo and other sweetmeats on rustic brown bread. You can have a treat of paella, or indulge in some sumptuous seafood delicacies.

Flamenco and Gypsy

 

And of course you can listen to flamenco and dance (although the muggy weather lends itself quite a bit more to siesta-ing than dancing).

Everyone dresses up in traditional Gypsy costumes to go the fair. Women wear long dresses with lots of ruffles and gentlemen (and little boys) get all got up in vests and wide-winged black hats.

 

Although I was unable to take a picture of people sumptuously attired at the Day Fair, I did manage to capture a glimpse of what some of these Gypsy costumes are like during the night.

Malaga Fair Kiddy Ride

And at night is when all the fun begins!

Malaga Fair LightsPeople come to life at night. Not surprising, because the daytime temperatures (at well over 105 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 40º Celsius for people sitting around here in Spain) on a typical summer’s day, as you can also discover here in this hot post) cause everyone to wilt and faint.

The night-time fair is set up on the extensive fairgrounds at the edge of the city. You can walk there, like I do, because the night absolutely URGES you on a stroll to take the cool breeze! But if walking isn’t your style, or you live on the other side of town (or outside town), there are frequent buses the whole night long from every neighbourhood and neighbouring town.

Malaga Fair Castle Entrance

There are lots of things to do at the night-time fair. The kids and I are wild about the rides, and that is the only thing WE do there!

Malaga Fair Ride

There are at least 4 or 5 different roller coaster rides. My oldest and I love roller coasters, so you can find us on top of every one of them at some point.

You also have water rides, spinning rides, bouncing rides. And kiddy rides. For my little kid. Roller coasters and bouncy things just aren’t up his alley, but kiddy rides? He’d get onto 50 if he could!

Malaga Fair Kiddy Ride

If velocity and thrills just aren’t your piece of pie, you can still enjoy the ferris wheel. It’s very tall, and the views from the top are utterly breath-taking. Malaga at night, with its dazzling neon, spread out all underneath you at a bird’s eye’s point of view.

Walking Around Malaga Fair

A lot of people, however, aren’t into any sorts of rides. They are into food and drink. Concerts and dances. And they certainly receive their fill in the hundreds of little tents (casetas) where typical fare is served, beer is guzzled, wine is tasted and lively music sparks up the atmosphere the whole night long.

Malaga Fair Castle Tower

 

La Línea de la Concepción

Well the time has come for a new travel post! This time we’ll visit a little corner where tourists never go.

Yes I know I said that about Barcelona, and then ended up still putting up photos of touristy places anyways. Well what can I do? Pretty much ALL Barcelona is quite touristy and there is something worth seeing in just about every corner of that enchanting city.

However this time round we WILL indeed go someplace a little off the beaten track. So I thought we’d go to La Línea de la Concepción.

The Rock of Gibraltar

So, where in the world is that, you might be saying. So yes, that is how far off the beaten track it is.

No tourists, no tourist attractions. Just a tiny, humble little fishing village. Well a fishing village with a MAJOR petroleum refinery, perhaps.

Even so, you may have passed through La Linea at some point in your life. If you’ve ever been to Gibraltar, then unless you arrived winging over by plane from the UK, you’ve been to La Linea.

Gibraltar The Rock

La Linea earned this name by being the borderline: the border between Spain and Gibraltar.

For a long time ancestral rivalries between Spain and England kept this borderline closed. You couldn’t enter Gibraltar by land. The Spanish government re-opened its access to this rock in 1985 as part of its measures for gaining entry into the European Union.

Gibraltar CannonGibraltar Coat of Arms

 

 

 

 

 

Gibraltar is a fully sovereign, self-governing British overseas territory, which means that its citizens, in addition to being Gibraltarian, of course, are also British nationals. All of its internal affairs are locally governed, but the British government oversees everything and the Queen of England is its head of state.

Gibraltar Garden

However, this is not a post about Gibraltar, which, being strong, famous and a popular tourist destination, can pretty much hold its own in the world.

Today it was my intention to speak, rather, about La Linea.

A good percentage of the population of La Linea depends on Gibraltar to bring bread into the household. This is the case of my friend in La Linea too, who works cleaning homes and yachts on the rock.

Nonetheless you will still see a good many fishermen casting out their lines on the beaches, especially at dusk, or taking out to the seas in their little boats.

La Linea and Africa
You can see how close Africa is in this photo. That long strip of mountainous land across the way there is Africa. Looks like you could just swim right out there, right?

Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of aspiring African immigrants, it isn’t that easy. There are very treacherous undercurrents in that little strait!

Unlike Malaga, La Linea is small and quiet. Most of Malaga is filled with tall buildings. Most of the homes in La Linea, by contrast, are small one- or two-storey houses built the traditional way, square-shaped and without a sloping roof, with an interior patio.

This makes it a very hot place in the summer, because there is no shade!

There isn’t that much to do in La Linea, I found. Unlike Malaga, it isn’t bustling with a lot of exciting places to visit.

La Linea Beach

There are a few parks. One of the really nice ones is the one inside the City Hall grounds. It’s enormous, with different sections including, of course, a large playground for kids. Which is pretty much the only thing you will notice if you travel with kids.

This time we didn’t enter Gibraltar, although we visited it few years ago. So if you are on the look-out for these 2 little mites that you can see in these photos, running around somewhere on the streets in your visit to Malaga, rest assured that they are hardly little mites anymore!

They still play in playgrounds though, and very happy to do so I can assure you!

In the summer it is almost impossible to do anything during the day in La Linea. Except move around on the beach.

At night is when most of the action takes place.

La Linea Nightlife

I personally would not like to live in La Linea. The people aren’t particularly friendly. I took my friend’s gigantic dog for a walk – to give you an idea of just how gigantic it is, when it stands on two paws, which it does quite frequently (it probably thinks it’s a baby) it’s as tall as I am – and as I approached a little shop for a bottle of water the owner exclaimed irascibly: “That thing isn’t entering my shop!”

So it was my son who entered the shop for water instead. (Yes, he’s hardly a little mite anymore. Even sports a moustache now!)

There are many thieves in La Linea. And a lot of drugs too. So not a good place to raise kids, especially teenaged ones. Even my friend has sent her teenaged children to Marbella to receive an education, so that they can move around in peace and avoid the harassment of La Linea bullies and drug traffickers right at the doors of their high schools.

Well I suppose I should like to end on a more positive note about this little town.

La Linea Ornate Door by Night

You can observe a feeble attempt at nocturnal photography here. I don’t really have the equipment for that, though. Here this was an attempt to portray one of those typical, stately, larger colonial-style homes that grace many parts of town. However at night without proper lighting I’m afraid its majesty is all lost in the shadows.

In spite of some local tiff-taff because of the drug dealing, for the most part it is a nice, humble, peaceful place to live, where the residents mind their own business and don’t get into a lot of hot water (except on the beach, of course, with its balmy waves). You won’t see lots of protest marches on its streets the way you would in larger metropoles.

There are also no major gangs wreaking havoc. Not a lot of street violence. You can walk around town at any hour of the day or night and expect to be left in peace.

Gibraltar Sitting on the Cannon