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Malaga, Spain - Saturday 17th December 2016

This visit the QV was berthed closer to the lighthouse than in 2014, although it was still a long walk along the edge of the marina to the park which is along the Passeo de los Curas. There is a modern Pompidou Centre on the corner and after turning left the pedestrian route follows the line of a canopy then passes the glass Maritime Museum to reach the Plaza de la Marina. The shuttle buses also went to the Plaza de la Marina. The shopping streets leading from there were nicely decorated for the festive season and there was the usual conical Christmas tree in the Plaza de la Constitution, where there is also the department store El Cortes Ingles. Large metal information panels in the pavement are reminders that the constitution of Spain only dates from 1978.

The narrow shopping streets are decorated and after exploring north and then east it was time to focus on reaching the Roman Theatre, which is not far from the cathedral. The cathedral is a significant building, with its large towers, and easy to see and find above the shops in the town. We sheltered in the entrance to the Roman Theatre while it rained and then emerged to visit the site. Access is free and it is also allowed to go up onto the rows of restored stone seating and look down onto the stage. The road alongside led to the Plaza de la Merced, where there is still the promise of restoration work. The little market at the far side of the square was open and there were just a few useful stalls - including a cheese shop. The house of the Picasso Foundation is on the opposite corner of the square. Continuing north into new areas we found the Teatro Cervantes and then decided to turn south towards the general direction of the large Central Market, hoping that it was still open in the afternoon. This brought us to the Church of the Martyrs and then alongside the Museo de Carmen Thyssen.

The distinctive market hall was visible in the distance and we were pleased to find it was very busy and definitely open. Our impression was that there were a lot of good quality products, but that prices were cheaper at the other market. However it is difficult to compare like with like. The one end of the market hall had a window decoration of stunning stained glass but it was difficult to get far enough away to admire it in its entirety. Now it was raining again and it was time to end our walking tour. By the time we reached the Plaza de la Marina the weather had improved and instead of catching the shuttle bus it was more pleasant to stroll back through the gardens, and browse the tourist and craft stalls in their little white sheds.

Finally we reached the Bull Ring and noticed a crowd queuing to go in. We discovered there was a charity event, El Rastrillo de nuevo futuro, a mixture of craft and secondhand stalls with lots of food and drink stands. We paid 1.50 euros each and tried a free sample of malaga wine, bought a nice piece of cake to share, and browsed the stalls. Most people were local and were eating and drinking with friends. We were able to get a few pictures of the bull ring but there was not much to see because the tent which was used for the charity event filled the bull ring. Leaving the Bull Ring behind we walked back along the beach. It was deserted except for two restaurants who were cooking fish on steel blades on outdoor wood-fired BBQs. The beach ended at the lighthouse and it was then only a few minutes walk to the cruise terminal.

Malaga for the first time visitor

The port is quite a way from the main city but there are shuttle buses into the Plaza de Marina, free on full Cunard fare, or a little blue tourist train to the port gate at 3 euros. We usually decide to walk leaving early before the crowds gather. There are several alternatives to start the visit but on a nice day it is a nice vigorous walk up to the Gibralfaro Castle, on the top of the hill overlooking Malaga. It is a pleasant climb up a wide twisting path with a number of view points where we took some pictures back towards the harbour and ship. One finally passes the Parador hotel which seemed very empty but had some marvelous views. Last time we reached the top just before the opening time of 0900, not bad for the walk across town and a 400 foot climb! A Cunard tour bus arrived shortly afterwards. There was a lot more to see than we expected including a small museum area with a history of the fort. We walked all round the main ramparts, which have a narrow path with lots of steps up and down. There used to be a route down to the Alcazaba below which was again fortified on either side but that was not accessible, which was fortunate as we would have probably felt obliged to descend and re-ascend the extra couple of hundred feet. In 2013 the views were excellent in all directions and the day clear and blue so it was well worth the trip up. We must have spent an hour looking round.

We started back down the same route rather than the long way down the tour coaches have to take – the path is quite steep and the stones are well polished so it would be a nightmare in the wet. The Tunnel de la Alcazaba led to the Placa de la Alcazaba and then to the Plaza de la Merced. The birthplace of Picasso, now the home of the Picasso Foundation, was on the corner, but closed. Malaga has unearthed a Roman Theatre at the foot of the Alcazaba and some of it extends beneath the foundations and we like to visit to see how their excavations were progressing. The interpretation ‘portacabin’ shows a video about the development of early theatre, and contained a small museum of pieces found on the site. It was free and there was limited access to the theatre and the workings on a boardwalk. The wide street led on, past the tunnels de la Alcazaba to the Plaza de la Merced. Here there is a market hall, not very interesting now, and there used to be a small supermarket but we could not find it.

We then spent a while in the Church of Santiago where Picasso was baptised which is very richly decorated in the Spanish style with all the statues dressed in sumptuous robes as part of the celebration of Christmas. It must count as one of the most beautiful churches we have been in. It reminded us of the statues in the churches in Malta and in the Canary Islands.

The narrow streets are very pleasant to stroll along, and we were looking for a small supermarket to buy some extra coffee for the rest of the week. We had been told that Starbucks, who do the best decaffeinated espresso coffee we have found, has a shop near the El Cortes Ingles department store, but that was quite a long walk so we hoped to find a smaller shop. We did not find any coffee but did find another beautiful church - the church of the Martires Ciriaco and Paula, which we had plenty of time to admire before it was closed for lunch at 1330.

Everything seems to stop around 1300 or 1400 for the afternoon siesta. Walking back towards the Plaza de Marina there was a sign towards the Atarazanas Market. We had not been there before and were pleased to find a traditional metal framed market hall with meat, fish, cheese, bakeries and bars/cafes. It was very hard to walk around and not buy the spanish hams. On our first visit to Malaga we were dining with the Staff Chief Engineer and to also have a pre-dinner snack of spanish cheese and smoked ham would have been excessive. In other visits we have been tempted.

The centre of town has Christmas decorations, mainly silver, and the Plaza de la Constitution area was again the most impressive with a large conical artificial Christmas tree. In 2014 there was a row of tall silver arches the length of the Calle Marques de Larios, which made the entire street resemble a cathedral.

Finally we turned away from the port towards the cathedral and the bishop's palace. The Cathedral is one of the standard tourist destinations, with good reason and it justifies a visit the first time you go to Malaga. The cathedral site was originally an old mosque, and building of the cathedral began in 1538 and it was partially consecrated in 1588. There was an earthquake in 1688 which destroyed part of it and building recommenced in 1718. It is in Spanish Renaissance style.

One returns back to the ship along the Paseo del Parque. It is an area of substantial public buildings including the Bank of Spain and the City Hall.In 2014 a demonstration by local workers was in progress, with rhythmic whistles to encourage passing cars to blow their horns in support. Pedestrian access to the cruise terminal was then by the marina and the lighthouse, and in contrast to 2013 there was sunshine and there were people strolling along the edge of the sea and some were in the water.

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Content revised: 31s t December, 2016