Malaga: Picasso and Palaces

We were back in Spain today, visiting the beautiful seaside city of Malaga, which is situated on the famous Costa del Sol.  The beaches along this area are considered some of the best in Europe, but we chose to do a little sightseeing instead (had we realized how close a beach was to our ship, we likely would have put our suits on under our clothes to make a quick stop on the way back from town).

Malaga is famous for a few things…but most notably, as the home of a couple of fortress palaces built under Muslim rule in the 11th century and as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.  There are a few other things to see, but given our limited time in port, these are the areas we chose to explore.  The city itself is absolutely beautiful.  Even the streets are made of some sort of stone (marble?  travertine?), and the buildings look like something out of a movie set.  We quickly found the cathedral, which is a nice central point in the city to find your way around, especially because you can see the bell tower from quite far away!  As with all European churches, the architecture was stunning.

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After viewing the cathedral, we headed to the Alcazaba, built in the early 11th century.  This particular structure is one of the best preserved Moorish fortresses in Spain, and was built as a very defensive citadel.  Many of the walls are double structures, and the gates built at angles to make offensive attacks on the fortress much more difficult.  When you see it in person, it really is ingenious.  There were also many towers built along the walls of the citadel, to enhance its defensive capabilities.  At one point, the walls were connected to the Castle Gibralfaro at the top of the mountain.  Given the very large hill that we’d have had to climb, and the hot and tired kids that didn’t really want to do so, we just saw the one castle today.

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The fortress was built around the topography of the hill, and there is lots of climbing involved to see all of the ruins of the Alcazaba.  As you wind up the hill to the second “level”, there are several gardens and elaborate fountains.  At the top is the remains of a palace at the fortress, heavily protected by gates at both ends.  The detail in the palace is incredible.  The ceiling is made up of mosaic tiles, the Moors reused the Roman architecture in columns that was left behind and added their own style of arch to it, and they had an elaborate irrigation system that channeled water from the top of the hill into the swimming pools, gardens, and fountains that they’d built.  Inside the palace was also a display of Moorish pottery remains.

After we left the Alcazaba, we walked back into the city center to go to the Picasso museum.  There is both a Casa Natal (the house where he was born) and a museum housing many of his works, including very early works.  We chose to visit the museum as Kenneth wanted to see his paintings.  It was very interesting to see the progression of his work from pre-WWI through WWII and the 1960s, and how the events going on in the world at the time definitely influenced his art.

Once we’d had our fill of looking at paintings (in the glorious air conditioning, haha), we decided to look for a place to have tapas for lunch.  We stumbled across Casa Lola, which we’d heard was good (and had the added benefit of being the name of Belinda’s best friend, so it made her excited to eat there!).  We feasted on patatas bravas, various Iberian lunch meats, croquetas,  some chicharrones, and, of course, wine.  We love buying wine in Spain and Italy…at all of the restaurants we’ve been to, some really yummy wines have been only about 20 Euros per bottle!  What a change from the USA where it’d be difficult to buy just two glasses of mediocre wine for that price!

Slowly, we started making our way back toward the ship, looking at the stores along their main shopping area.  It’s so nice that they have actually installed some sort of shaded top on the shopping street to help keep you cool while you walk!  There is definitely a great selection of stores along this strip.

Next time we come to Malaga, we plan to hit the beach and explore more of the city.  We missed La Alhambra, which I know is beautiful (but it quite a drive from the city), and the Castle Gibralfaro this time around.  But this is definitely a great first impression for us!  We plan to come back someday and spend more time getting to know this city.  So far, Spain has been absolutely enchanting!

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