Memories of the Alhambra, Malaga from the last leg of a dream trip

RAZZLE-DAZA – Pat-P Daza – The Filipino star

August 22, 2022 | 00:00

This is the last chapter of my “revenge” travel series, and it’s about my visit to Málaga, a municipality in Spain. When my fellow travelers Leo Katigbak, Keren Pascual, Tim Son and I were planning this trip, one of the decisions we had to make was whether to take the train or hire a private van to take us from Barcelona to Malaga. Although a train ride would have been cheaper and faster, we ended up hiring a van as it was more convenient (e.g. we didn’t have to lug our luggage around and could be dropped off right outside our door) . Not only that, driving a van also meant we could stop in Valencia and Murcia for more sightseeing.

We left Barcelona on Sunday July 24 around 9am and arrived in the coastal city of Valencia three hours later in a van driven by our Filipino driver Mark Malapitan. We had lunch at Helen Berger, a restaurant highly recommended by the hotel concierge where Keren stayed a few years ago. Although the food was tasty, what “stole the show” for me was the sweetest, freshly squeezed Valencian orange juice and rich, flavorful olive oil that came with our order. The waiter proudly declared them to be the best in the world.

After lunch, we headed to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, better known as the City of Arts and Sciences. It is a cultural and architectural complex that includes a museum, restaurant, gallery, congress hall and sports facilities. Considered one of the 12 treasures of Spain, it is the essential tourist destination of Valencia.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the whole complex, consisting of three buildings occupying three massive blocks. Mark, in typical Filipino fashion, parked the car near the entrance to each building so we could take quick photos. Never mind, it was 2pm and the temperature was a terrible 38 degrees! After about 40 minutes we were back in the van, sweaty but happy.

Three hours later we were in Murcia. Surprise, surprise… as it was a Sunday, everything was closed! We rode hoping to grab a bite to eat and stretch our legs. But nothing was open, not even the churches. According to Leo, closing on Sundays is a rule that protects small businesses, allowing them to rest. I also suspect it was too hot for locals and tourists to be on the streets on this sweltering Sunday.

Palacios Nazaries with its intricate wooden carvings and meticulous tile work makes it the most beautiful and impressive Islamic building in Europe.

By the time we arrived in Malaga it was late evening as we stopped several times for bathroom breaks and dinner. The next day, Keren’s friend who allowed us to stay at his house also lent us his car. Not only that, he also asked a good friend’s son to drive us. Our driver in Malaga was Diego Soler, a 24 year old who is half Filipino (dad) and half French (mom).

Diego, a native of Malaga, recommended that we visit the Picasso Museum. Located near Picasso’s birth hospital and the house in which he spent his early years, the museum displays many of the artist’s early works and shows how prolific he was. In the plaza across these buildings there is a sculpture of Picasso sitting on one of the benches.

Later in the afternoon, Diego took us to the Designer Outlet Store for retail therapy. The complex was typical of American factory outlets and carried brands like Prada, Escada, Karl Lagerfeld, Hackett, La Coste and many more. I was happy with my purchases, but made a mental note to get my tax refund when I got to the airport.

But the highlight of my trip to Malaga (apart from dining in its fine restaurants) was when we drove an hour and a half to Granada and the Alhambra (where Hyun Bin’s K-drama Memories of Alhambra was filmed ). The road was very scenic with lots of olive and orange trees along the way. Our first stop was the Generalife Gardens at Alhambra.

Plantitos and plantitas will definitely love it there as the gardens are lush even in the height of summer. I can imagine what it will be like in the spring. Next to the gardens is the Alcazaba, which is a fortress and one of the oldest parts of the Alhambra. After exploring the fortress, we went to Palacios Nazaries. For me, this is the ultimate and most stunning centerpiece of the Alhambra, and it has been described as the most brilliant Islamic building in Europe. When we entered the palace, we couldn’t help but be amazed at the beautiful intricate wood carvings and meticulous tile work. Whether or not you are familiar with Moorish art and history, I highly recommend a visit to Palacios Nazaries.

The next day we took a day trip to Ronda, 90 minutes away, to see the Royal Cavalry Bullring of Ronda, the oldest bullfighting arena in Spain. Although I’m not a fan of bullfights, it was a treat to see the museum in the back where the intricate costumes of the matadors over the years are on display. From there we went to the famous Puente Nuevo bridge. We would have liked to explore it more, but we had to be back in Malaga and catch a train to Madrid, where my flight to Manila was waiting for me.

Thus ended my memorable and rewarding journey of revenge after a hiatus of more than two years. May you also find yourself very soon on a horizon-broadening and soul-enriching travel adventure with your loved ones, if you have not already been on such a dream trip.

Sculpture of Pablo Picasso, Malaga’s favorite son.

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