It might be only 60km from Marbella, my home for many years, but Malaga is a world removed from the Costa del Sol holiday resorts. I knew moving to Malaga would be a change, but I didn’t expect it to be quite this different.
An unexpected bonus of moving to Malaga is that almost everything costs less than it did in Marbella. So, a cup of coffee costs between €1 and €1.20, and a big plate of fried anchovies just €7. Even three drinks on the Parador terrace only came to €7.50. But I say almost everything because your wallet empties quickly in the tourist traps – ice creams on the Muelle Uno are expensive (and small). But keep to the well-trodden locals’ path and money goes a lot further.
After 25 years in Marbella I thought I’d got the hang of the accent. That maybe because it’s softer in Marbella or because so many people who live there aren’t actually native Marbellíes. But here in Malaga I’m having to fine-tune my ear to get the full gist of what’s going on. It’s so strong sometimes that I’ve found myself resorting to a non-committal head movement that could be a no and could be yes. This takes me back to my arrival in Granada in 1985 when I spent three months nodding/shaking my head vaguely even though I considered myself fluent. But I haven’t lost heart because my daughters confess to having the same problem so it’s definitely the accent, not me.
Take a walk in the park
I could never have imagined that Malaga would have so many green areas. My area of town boasts (and I mean, boasts) three large parks, all well looked after with sculptures, water features, endless rose beds… and all amazing outdoor spaces. And as for the children’s playgrounds – I can’t wait for my youngest nephews to visit so we have an excuse to try them all out.
The Malagueños love their sugar. Whether it’s lashings of ice-cream (there are three parlours just on my block) in whatever the weather, giant pastries that look as if they’d feed a family for several days but are shared by two or three, churros served at every bar and café, or the dozens of kiosks that only sell sweets (and piles of them), this is one sweet-toothed city.
Views and vistas
I think Marbella has one of the best scenic backdrops ever and I do miss seeing Sierra Blanca, but Malaga also turns out to offer some lovely views too. From my home office for a start, I can take in Malaga city, the Axarquía mountains and even the snow-capped Sierra Nevada on a clear day. Views of the coastline are spectacular from the seafront, especially in the afternoon when there’s usually a cruise ship leaving town.
Or not as it turns out. Malaga isn’t nearly as clean as Marbella and people seem quite happy to throw their litter on the floor even when there’s a bin nearby. But maybe there’s hope – my mother-in-law who first arrived in Malaga in 1959 assures me that things have improved drastically.
2015 is definitely Malaga’s year. Thanks to a pretty long list of cultural attractions the city has been touted one of Europe’s most up and coming travel destinations. It’s even been christened the new Barcelona. I’m just hoping the new-found fame doesn’t go to Malaga’s head and that it remains as authentically Spanish as ever. Even if I can’t understand what they’re saying and there’s litter everywhere.