Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Malaga Part II

Saturday, I decided, was going to be beach day. 

I had a small breakfast at the hostel and was offered a beer by one of the Americans. Though it was only 10.30 in the morning, I thought it would be rude to decline so we celebrated the good start to the day in the sun. I then had a look at my phone and noticed that the battery only had about 20% power left, despite having been charged all night. I borrowed a phone charger at reception to cross check and found that it was charging fine. Good thing: phone still working. Bad thing: charger fucked.
So I finished my beer and set off to find a new charger. I found one for the very reasonable price of 4 euros in a shop around the corner, returned to the hostel, and delayed my departure to the beach by an hour because I'm one of those people that can't go without their phone for 2 hours. I had another beer and a fully charged phone at the end of that so my day on the beach could now begin.  I decided I was going to have a bite to eat on my way to the beach, and settled on a place called Cortija de Pepe. I walked in and was delighted. This was what I expected a Spanish tapas bar to look like. The narrow place was filled with a long bar lined with stools on one side and glass display cases filled with food on the other side.  An overweight guy in a short sleeved shirt with greasy black hair was busily shuffling around behind the bar, serving up tankards of beer and portions of food. I had a couple of plates of food and 2 beers and set off for the beach.

There are basically 2 ways to get to the beach from Malaga city centre: the fast way or the scenic route. I took the scenic route and it is really quite pretty. You pass by the ruins of the old Roman Amphi theatre and the Alcazaba(or, at least I did) and then you walk down through a beautiful city park called the Paseo Parque, an area filled with big palm trees, well kept hedges, beautiful flowers in bright colors and an Ent. Yes, you read that correctly, they have an Ent in Malaga. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture of it:

After a half hour walk, I arrived at the beach. I likes beaches. I like walking through the sand, feel the water flow over my feet and most of all I like to stare out over the water into the distance. It makes me feel relaxed. There is, however, one problem with going to the beach when you’re travelling on your own; it is almost never possible to go for a swim. If you’re on your own, there’s no one to watch your wallet, passport, phone and all that other stuff you cary around, and since there are no lockers on most beaches, your contact with the water is pretty much limited to walking into it knee deep.
Because of this, I usually get restless on the beach after about an hour.  I get bored of just sitting there doing nothing. The situation improves dramatically if you park me on a bar stool in a beach side bar with a cold beer in my hand.  That, I can keep up all day.  

                        As you can see here.

So that’s what I did, I walked to a chiringuito and ordered a beer. A Chiringuito is a very basic beach bar with a seating area where you can enjoy your beer and look out over the sea. And if, like me, you write stories about bars and travelling, you can call this research.
I ordered a San Miguel and, as was now becoming customary, was presented with a small bowl of olives.  I looked out over the beach and the sea and tried to make out what the 2 Spanish guys having lunch on the stools next to me were talking about. I am currently doing a starters course in Spanish so my knowledge is very basic, but I got an idea of what they were talking about.
Sitting on the beach with a drink always makes me lose track of time. Last year in New York, I went to visit Rockaway Beach, both because it is the subject of one of my favorite Ramones songs and because the weather was fantastic. I went there early in the afternoon, with the idea to have a look around, maybe have lunch and then get back to the city. It wasn’t until I realised that I had 4 empty pint glasses standing on the picknick table in front of me, that it dawned on me that I had whiled the afternoon away, staring out over the Atlantic Ocean and talking to the local weirdos, who always seem to congregate at beach bars in America.  The same thing happened here in Malaga, so when I started to get hungry, I noticed that it was heading on for dinner time. Well, dinner time in the rest of Europe, in Spain it was still hours away.  I walked back to the city at a leisurely pace and by the time I got back to the hostel, I was just in time for dinner, which on this day consisted of hamburgers.  While I had actually planned on going for sea food somewhere, the burgers looked nice and when the hostel staff brought out pitchers of sangria, the deal was settled and I joined the assembled backpackers for dinner.  It is always fun to have a drink in a hostel and share stories with other travellers, so all had a good time. We had a long after dinner session and I finished the night with a walk around the nearby square and a night cap. Life in Spain is good.

For my Sunday, I had planned a trip. It wasn't a particularly taxing or long trip, but I was going to leave the city of Malaga, even though I was only going to the next resort down the coast. I was going to Torremolinos. I wasn't going there to find sea food or sunshine or beaches, they had all that stuff over in Malaga as well.    No, The reason for going to Torremolinos can be found a dozen years back in time. I was working for a company in Holland with 2 friends. We weren't exactly working together, we all worked in different departments, but we spent 40 hours a week in the same building so we ran into each other on a regular basis. One day, while I was slaving away over a large pile of information requests regarding disability insurance (yes kids, life doesn't get much more exciting than that!) one of my friends came over to my desk so I decided to take  a break. He told me that he was planning for his summer holiday and the requirements were that it had to be warm, sunny and have plenty of beaches and asked if I was interested in going with him.  I told him that I had already planned my summer holidays around heavy metal festivals in Germany (hey, why sit in the sun on a beach if you can stand in the rain and listen to songs about Satan?) so I politely declined. About an hour later, during my lunch break, my other friend came over and told me that he was planning for his summer holiday and the requirements were that it had to be warm, sunny and have plenty of beaches and asked if I was interested in going with him. I told him that I had already planned my summer holidays around heavy metal festivals in Germany  so I politely declined.
It took about 10 minutes before the coin dropped, but then I finally realised that they could go together. They weren’t as close as either of them were to me, but I figured that if they ended up in a sunny tourist trap that they’d have a great time anyway, so off they went to Torremolinos. 

                Looks nice, doesn't it?

As it turned out, I was quite wrong in my assumption. I heard the stories from both of them, and they had completely different ideas about holidaying.  One of them wanted to sleep til noon and then spend the day on the beach. The other wanted to get up reasonably in time and see the surroundings. One wanted to sample the local food and drink, while the other did not venture beyond fried chicken and Heineken. One wanted to go to local bars and hang out, the other wanted to hit the night clubs until they closed. All in all, it was a long 10 days for both of them.   And now, over a decade later, I was going to check out the place for myself. I made my way to the trainstation and was in Torremolinos within  15 minutes.  I had a quick look around in the train station area (I always do this, for reference on the way back, in case I end up in a tavern and have a drink) and made my way into town.  Well, town.. Torremolinos isn’t a town in the traditional sense of the word, with a real centre and neighbourhoods. It’s  a holiday resort like most others along the Spanish coast, basically one big clusterfuck of highrise hotels, souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.

                        Like this..

Which is, ofcourse, awesome, if you’re only there for one or two weeks a year.  What can I say of the place.. I had a good afternoon there, visited a bunch of bars, spent an hour on the beach and half an hour in an arcade (I’m still 12 in some part of my brain. When I see an arcade, I have to go in and play a game) . I had a nice pizza in a bar on the boulevard and had a drink in a pirate theme bar on the beach. I could entertain myself here for 2 days, 3, maybe, but I can’t see myself spending a week and a half here. Having said that, this place is absolutely awesome if you’re 19 and the only goal of your holiday is to spend the entire day on the beach and the rest of your time in nightclubs. 

Or shooting plastic Hilbillies in the arcade
And with this thought, I made my way back to Malaga.  I whiled away my final night in Malaga as I had pretty much done the first 2 nights. I walked around for a bit, sat down for a beer here, and for an ice cream there and just had a really relaxed evening.

And that, I think, is what Malaga is great for, and great at. Malaga does not have the varied and wild nightlife of London or Berlin. It does not have the air of sophistication of Paris or Vienna and it does not have the gritty industrial feel of Glasgow or Rotterdam. What does it have? Malaga is just a really nice place, with really nice people, really nice food and really nice weather. In short, it’s a really nice place and I will definitely go back.

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