Category Archives: Spain

Things to do in Spain; attractions in Spain and the best places to visit in Spain.

Why It Pays to Hire a Car When Visiting the Costa del Sol

The heartbeat of European tourism

The charming beauty of Spain is unparalled. There are colourful festivities, spellbinding nightlife, irresistible dishes, and an excellent culture. The beaches span hundreds of kilometers in different directions. Quite a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in Spain. The proximity of the Mediterranean sea gives Spain an enormous advantage as a much sought after holiday destination. Nearly all the beaches are breathtaking and also have impressive resorts attached to them. The attraction of Spain goes well beyond the beaches. The topography encompasses lush meadows unchanged for centuries. The Costa del Sol is a magnificent seaside resort in the south of Spain close to the Mediterranean sea. It is also located along the coastline of stunning Malaga, white-capped mountains, huge wetlands, and outstretched deserts. In rural districts, there are ageless beautiful villages which have remained virtually unchanged for centuries . One may ask why hire a car in  Malaga?  It is usually because the cars can go to nearly all parts of the city right from the airport. You can also book a car ahead of schedule.

Making the most of your holidays

Some of the tips to hire a car in Malaga are:

Do not purchase an unnecessary car insurance. If you want to rent a car, it is realistic to ensure there is adequate insurance coverage. However, there are conditions whereby the same insurance you already use for your car will cover any other vehicle you hire. A number of credit cards offer some kind of temporary liability coverage for cars. If you do not have any of these, then you should go for the car company’s own insurance.

Shop around. Instead of booking the first car, it makes sense to compare different companies. This is best done online. For those going on long distances, confirm which companies can accept a fixed price for unlimited driving period. If you need to rent a particular car for some days, it is more economical and convenient to go for an unlimited mileage package than a cheaper one which charges per hour or in kilometers.

Pre-pay for your gas. Fill up the gas yourself. This is because, the company may charge a hefty fee for a small difference in what you used. So, filling up the gas to the amount it was before use is financially smart.

Extra costs for GPS or car seats. Some airlines allow the use of car seats. This will automatically save you the cost of renting one from a car company. Again, using your smartphone as a GPS eliminates the need to rent one. In cases where this is not possible, print out a map from home or your hotel and use on the journey.

Not inspecting the car properly. After you return a vehicle, the company will, as a rule, assess if everything is in order. If, perhaps, there was a dent or scratch even before you hired it, you might be charged to pay for it because you did not point it out at the beginning. So, do not rush off with an automobile but spend a few minutes to confirm that everything is in order and know exactly what the present condition of the car is.

A Walk Around Benalmadena

When I was in Malaga in April 2017 with our Gary, we decided to take the train down to Benalmadena for a walk along the Prom. The rail track runs around one mile inland from the coast. Not a problem when walking down hill, but I though it might be more of an issue walking back up hill to the station when it was hotter in the afternoon, and after eating lunch.

The Barbie Museum is quite close to Benalmadena Station. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.

We had a wander through Benalmadena Market, where Gary bought a shirt for 8 Euro.

Next, it was stroll through Parque de la Paloma, where the blossom trees were in full bloom.

There were several chickens and cockerels roaming around the park.

There was zebra sculpture on the way down to the pond.

At a roundabout close to the Prom, was a large sculpture.

I liked the octopus mosaic on the Prom.

It was a sunny day, so I was on the lookout for a restaurant to sit in the shade. We were looking for a restaurant offering a Menu del Dia, which offers a three course set menu, often for around 10 Euro. We stopped at La Cabana, the first restaurant that we spotted with a set menu. It was a good choice, as we enjoyed our lunch there.

We decided to head for a walk around Benalmadena Marina before heading back to Malaga.

There’s a Sealife in Benalmadena Marina.

We reckoned that El Pinillo Station was closer, as opposed to walking back to Benalmadena Station. As predicted it was a long hot hike up the hill.

We both enjoyed our walk around Benalmadena.

A Day Trip to Alora from Malaga

When I visited Malaga for the second time, I decided to take the train to the typical white-washed Andalucian village of Alora, which lies around 40 kms north east of the city of Malaga.

Alora is at the northern end of the line C2 of the Cercanias network, of which line C2 runs from Malaga Centro-Alameda to Fuengirola via Malaga Airport. Trains run in both directions between Malaga and Alaro once an hour.

There didn’t appear to be an option to purchase a return ticket at the ticket machine. It cost 3.6 Euro each way.

The most attractive station on the journey to Alora was Aljaima.

The scenery became prettier as the train headed toward Alora.

There were lots of citrus and olive trees, with mountain scenery in the background.

The train was quiet and very clean.

On arrival in Alora, I decided to take the local bus the village centre, to avoid the 3km uphill walk in the midday heat. The ticket price of 1.55 Euro seemed disproportionately expensive, have paid 3.6 Euro to travel 40 kms on the train. It was unclear where the bus stop back to the station was located. I would’ve been happy to walk downhill but not on the road on which the bus had come, as it was some sharps bends and no pavement.

A few hundred metres uphill from the bus stop was small park with a play area and views over the roof tops.

The Alora maps painted on tiles were attractive and useful.

I walked a bit further uphill and was rewarded with great views.

Unfortunately, there were some pavement renovations on the walk to the main square. You can see the start of the works behind the fountain.

The noise from these works made sitting outdoors unappealing. Plus the tables were all the sun, and I thought that I’d already had more than enough exposure to the sun that day.

I went inside a cafe to have a light lunch and a coffee. I had no luck on the food front. I asked for a Tortilla, but that was only available on Fridays. Then I asked for a Hamburger, that was also unavailable. The only food on offer appeared to be a ham sandwich. I then recalled that I had seen a cafe at Alora station, so I decided to arrive at the station at least 45 minutes before my train was due to eat there.

Google Maps came in very handy as it showed me a faster pedestrian route back down to Alora railway station.

As I headed down hill, I was curious about the building pictured below. Upon returning to our apartment, I discovered that it is the Tomas Garcia Municipal Library.

I had some views of Alora Castle.

The cafe at Alora station was decorated with pretty tiles. I requested a menu. You’d think that was an insult, as I received a very strange look upon this request.

I spotted some prawns in the cold counter, and asked for three. They were served with some salad and a slice of bread.

I enjoyed my day trip from Malaga to Alora. But I was quite tired on arrival back at in Malaga, which made me think that it might have been a good idea to book at taxi in Malaga to return to my hotel.

A Tapa Weekend in Malaga

The city of Malaga has really started to shine in recent years. A few decades ago, almost all tourists would fly into Malaga Airport and whizz along to the famous beach resorts along the coast without thinking one bit about visiting the provincial capital.

But tides are changing, and over the last 20 years, more and more visitors are taking the time to see what Malaga has to offer. And many find themselves pleasantly surprised!

The local tourist board, along with Malaga’s City Council, have gradually realised the potential that this wonderful ancient city has to offer. Millions of euros have been spent on restoring ancient monuments, such as the Roman Theatre and the Alcazaba. And a new classy cruise port welcomes fancy yachts along with some of the largest cruise ships in the world.

The heart of the old town of Malaga has been polished up splendidly and old dilapidated buildings have been restored to former glory. Trendy restaurants and wine bars are scattered throughout, offering delightful local tapas and fresh fish dishes, along with some tasty up and coming wines from local vineyards.

Several interesting museums are scattered throughout the city including the Picasso museum and the Carmen Thyssen museum.

All of this adds up to make Malaga a superb place for a weekend visit where you can be pretty much guaranteed some warmer weather than back home, some great tapa trails and plenty to see, do, eat and drink. There are also some very nice small boutique hotels and hostels right in the middle of it all.

Getting into the city from Malaga Airport is relatively easy. Car rental probably isn’t the best option for a quick city break, as you will have to pay to park your car. A taxi or a pre-bookable private transfer can take you straight to your accommodation and is relatively cheap, especially if your a couple or family. Buses and trains also go directly from the airport.

To tempt you and get those juices going, here is a quick look at what could be considered the top 3 tapa bars in town, although there are so many places, old and new, offering tasty local tapas that will make you want to eat your way through the town!

El PimpiCalle Granada, 62

El Pimpi is by far the best-known gastro bar in Malaga. It opened its doors in 1971 and has since become an institution. The interior is a network of characterful rooms and hallways with great wood barrels signed by some of the famous visitors including the Picasso Family,

Carmen Thyssen, La Repompa, The Duchess of Alba and Antonio Banderas, who incidentally owns a penthouse around the corner from here.

A massive variety of tapas are available all day on the pleasant patios outside and the rooftop terrace is a spectacular place to enjoy on a warm summer evening. But be warned, it does get very busy in the evenings so if you like a more peaceful setting, late afternoon is probably best.

El Tapeo de CervantesCalle Carcer, 8

El Tapeo de Cervantes, in contrast to El Pimpi, is a more cosy and intimate seeing, with beautiful decor. The tapas are made with local market produce and guarantee a delightful gastronomic experience. It’s a family run business and you immediately get that friendly feel from the staff. They have an extensive menu of great tapas but as a house speciality try the tasty red peppers stuffed with cod in a tomato based sauce which can be sampled as a tapa or main meal. Or you might try the delicious pork cheeks with white beans.

La Luz de CandelaCalle dos Aceras, 18-20

Charles and Matthew work up a treat of tapas at the Luz de Candela. The relaxed atmosphere and excellent tapas are backed up with some of the best service and a real passion for the high-quality ingredients used in their dishes. You’ll find a great range of daily specials, and the best of local and national produce including an excellent Jamón Iberico (Local Iberian Cured Ham). A superb range of wines including up and coming trendy wines from the Ronda area can be ordered by the glass along with your tapa.

Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga Spain

In the Spanish city of Malaga, most museums are free to enter on Sunday in the late afternoon/evening. I was torn between the Picasso Museum and the Carmen Thyssen. Both museums were free from 5pm, the Picasso closed at 7pm and the Carmen Thyssen at 8pm. I’d been warned that I might have to queue for more than 30 minutes to get into either museum. As I didn’t want to stand in queues for more than one hour, I decided to stick to one, the Carmen Thyssen, in order to see the work of a variety of Spanish artists.

I had to queue for 40 minutes to get into the Carmen Thyssen. It appeared that the staff were only permitting a few visitors to enter every few minutes.

Below are some of my favourites pieces from the permanent collection at the Carmen Thyssen.

Carmen en Malaga by Mercedes Lasarte

Landscape at Hernrn by Dario do Regoyos

Avila by Aureliano de Beruete y Moret

Seascape: View of the Bay of Palma de Mallorca by Antonio Munoz Degrain

Rocks at Javea and the White Boat by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

Flamenco Dance by Ricard Canals i Llambi

Valencians by Julia Vila y Prades

Cattle Fair at Salamanca by Franscisco Iturrino

Composition Nude by Celso Lagar

The Baths at Seville by Francesco Iturrino

I could see similarities between some of the pieces at the Carmen Thyssen and paintings by the Scottish Colourist John Fergusson, one of which you can see below.

At My Studio Window at the Fergusson Gallery in Perth, Scotland

Landscape at Dusk with Denatzaris by Valentin de Zubiaurre

I had read that the Carment Thyssen had a roof terrace, so went out there to have a seat and a break.

Even if you are not into art, it’s worth visiting the Carmen Thyssen on a Sunday evening to sit on the terrace, between the flowers and under the huge bell tower.

The Port of Malaga by Manuel Barron y Carillo

Atrium of St Paula Convent by Manyuel Garcia Rodriguez

The Cordoba Fair by Julio Romero de Torres

Courting Spanish Style by Jose Garcia Ramos

Dance for the Priest by Juan Garcia Ramos

I happily spent two hours at the Carmen Thyssen and left feeling vindicated in the choice to focus on one free museum.

Review of Kaleido Restaurant Malaga

When I was in the Spanish city of Malaga, I decided to treat myself to lunch at the Kaleido Restaurant, which is situated on the prom at the port.

I’m usually on the lookout for a menu of the day for around 10 Euro. At Kaleido, the lunch set menu was more expensive at 17 Euro. But I reckoned that I was paying for the location. Plus, Kaleido did look a bit more upmarket.

I sat at an outside table.

I started with the Russian Salad, which topped with some large prawns, Bologna (a cold meat, which I think was made of pork and some type of fish roe), served with bread. The ensemble was tasty and very filling.

My main course consisted of perfectly cooked courgettes and slices of grilled pork. The accompanying sauce was delicious.

Normally on set menus, the dessert is not great, but at Kaleido it was a very chocolatey cheesecake.

The 17 Euro price for the set lunch at Kaleido included a drink. As I’m a teetoller, I had water, but you could have wine or beer.

I really enjoyed my lunch at the Kaleido restaurant at Malaga Port. The food was really good quality and the location attractive.

 

Move Over Rio – The Barcelona Carnival is Where You Want to Be!

Barcelona is a fantastic destination for a weekend break or a longer holiday. With the blend of  culture, coast and countryside the cosmopolitan Catalan city is vibrant, colourful, exciting and diverse. Barcelona is a destination suitable for all the family. This diversity and cacophony of sound and colour is a reason why this is such a fantastic party city.

The people of Barcelona love to celebrate their culture. There are a variety of festivals, carnivals and fairs. There are around thirteen major festivals and carnivals in Barcelona throughout the year as well as smaller neighbourhood parties. There is no better time than fiesta time, to really embrace and gain an understanding of the lifestyle in Barcelona.

Barcelona Carnival

Originally banned by Franco until the year 1980, this carnival is the last chance to let your hair down before Lent, taking place during February and March. The La Gran Rua de Carneval is where the carnival comes together and a sea and spectacle of floats, fireworks and fancy dress are in abundance.

Sant Joan

Some of these festivals are around religious holidays, the biggest beingSant Joan. This celebration is marked with thousands of fireworks, pyrotechnics, all washed down with sangria.  The eve of Sant Joan is the biggest party night of Barcelona’s calendar. The day that follows is a public holiday and therefore this is a fantastic chance  for the people of Barcelona to really let their hair down. If you are still celebrating at sunrise then head to the beach to watch the sun come up.

Festa de la Merce

In autumn, in the 24th September, this festival is celebrated by one of the biggest street parties in Europe. This festival sees the re-enactment of many Catalan traditions. There is a programme of concerts across thecity and these events take place either side of the 24th. There is also free entry to museums on the day.

Festa Major de Sants

One of the lesser known celebrations during the last two weeks of August, during the week and weekends, the residents of Sants host a street party for one another. As you wander through the highly decorated streets, you can marvel at the efforts made by Sants residents. Take the chance to sample some  ‘botifarra’ sausage or ‘fideuà’ noodle-based dish, or any of the delicious offerings.

Dancing and drinking a large parts of this festival, particularly the spicy rum ‘cremat’ which is set alight, with music filing the streets of this corner of Barcelona you can enjoy classical music as well as a variety of other live music shows.

Montjuic de Nit

Barcelona is home to city, coast, mountains and beach, it really can offer a fantastic all round experience. During July, there is a free festival on the Montjuic mountain, with its’ idyllic views across Barcelona. During the evening there is a melee of film festivals, one minute film festivals, open air concerts in the Grecian amphitheaters. This is one of the most infrequent festivals, but it really is worth keeping a watch for details of when and if this festival is on.

Sala Montjuic

In warm summer nights, the residents of Barcelona still get to enjoy the views over the city and are invited to picnic on the mountain and listen jazz concerts and enjoy a night of openair cinema. This takes placethroughout the evenings of July and August. There are refreshments
available but packing a picnic yourself can be a wondrous treat.

Formula One Spanish Grand Prix

This race fills the race calendar in May and has been regarded as a festival for its popularity and draw to the region.  The race comes into town and is a hive of activity, a draw of celebrity and a melody of engine noise,happy crowds and celebration.

The Circuit de Catalunya is based twenty kilometers outside Barcelona inMontmelo.It is a popular event and can be one of the more affordable raceson the racing calendar.The three day event, entices  crowds to buy into the story of the season, supporting the teams colours their favourite driver. You don’t necessarily need to know a lot about F1 to enjoy the spectacle of pit crew, paddock, fast cars. There is a natural competition and part atmosphere surrounding these events and therefore this race weekend is a wonderful excuse in itself, or a way to start a week or end a week in Barcelona.

So next time you are taking a trip, consider booking it around the festivals, perfect for a group trip. Festivals can attract more people to a destination and therefore accommodation can book up quickly.  Think about booking early but if there is a large group or you are looking for some alternative accommodation consider booking an apartment, splitting the costs and there can scope for more of you to stay, make more of a holiday and take a look at beach apartments in Barcelona.

La Cabana Restaurant in Benalmadena

La Cabana restaurant is situated on the Prom in Benalmadena. After walking down from Benalmadema railway station through the market and Parque de la Paloma, we were ready for sit down and eat.

We were attracted by the 10 Euro three course set menu at La Cabana, The price also included bread and a drink.

My Scampi starter was beautifully presented.

Our son Gary had the Tuna and Tomato Salad as a starter.

My Pork Chop main course was tasty.

Gary thought that his Calamari was good, but the batter was a bit too thick.

For dessert, I had Ice Cream and Gary had Chocolate Brownie.

I thought that at 10 Euro for a three course set menu including a drink, that La Cabana offered good value for money, in a pleasant location. Our waitress was lovely, very friendly with a constant smile.

Centre Pompildou Malaga Spain

As I ascended towards Gibralfaro Castle in Malaga, I was curious about the coloured glass cube that I could see near the port. The following day, I decided to investigate. It turned out that it was an installation at the Centre Pompidou Malaga.

I found seat in the shade to do some research on the Centre Pompidou Malaga. It opened in 2015 and is the only branch of the Pompldou outside France. I reckoned that it was worth paying the 7 Euro entry fee to see the permanent exhibition, housed in the basement, which focuses on art from 1905 to the present day.

Below is a selection of my favourite pieces.

Stavinsky by Erro (an Icelander based in Paris)

Dora Maar by Antonia Saura

Chapeau a fluers by Pablo Picasso (born in Malaga)

Architecture and Morality by Glenn Brown

I Saw a Woman Crying by Rineke Dijkstra (video of Liverpudlian school kids giving possible reasons for the tears)

The Frame by Frida Kahlo

Self Portrait by Francis Bacon (he looks miserable)

Dimanche by Marc Chagall

El Caballero Espanol by Eduardo Arroyo

Le Mannequin by Alain Sechas

Incubated by Daniel Burden (looking up a the cube from the basement)

Barbed Hula by Sigalit Landau (suffering for art?)

The Girls of My Life by Zush

Femme objet by Peter Klasen

Souvenir de Voyage by Rene Magritte

Formatrice by Victor Brauner

Ghost by Kader Attia (131 foil figures)

Couple by Pablo Picasso

The Irish Jig by Jean Dubuffet

I really enjoyed my visit to the Centre Pompidou Malaga. If you’re into modern art, I recommend that you visit.

Caminos de Exilio Outdoor Photo Exhibition in Malaga, Spain

The Caminos del Exilio (Paths of Exile) outdoor photography exhibition is located in muelleuno shopping centre, close to Centre Pompidou Malaga.

The exhibition was organised by the French Institute of Spain.

The photo above, depicting migrants wrapped in foil, was hauntingly similar to the Ghosts installation by Kader Attica (photo below) on display at the Centre Pompidou Malaga. which I had visited the previous day.

I found the Caminos de Exilio photography exhibition in Malaga very moving. It made me appreciate my comfortable, settled life in the UK all the more.