Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Porque Me Gusta Malaga

It all started 14 years ago, my love affair with Spain; and, indeed, another, even more important, love affair. The two are linked. I met my partner, Andrew, in a nunnery in Bury St Edmunds in May 1997. As you do. The story of that meeting is a story for another day. Suffice to say I was late for dinner that night and when I arrived there was only one space space - opposite Andrew. Fate, I guess.

At that time, I was not necessarily looking for a life partner but I was hoping to meet someone who lived near me in Finchley. 'Where do you live?' I asked on that evening keeping my fingers crossed under the table. 'Fuengirola' came the reply. It wasn't exactly close to Finchley!

So Andrew went back to Spain. I went over to visit a couple of months later. And have done regularly ever since. And that's how my love affair for Spain started.

Shortly after our meeting, Andrew returned to the UK to work but we continued to visit Spain on a regular basis staying firstly in Andrew's rented flat in Fuengirola and then, when he gave that up, in hotels or guest houses in Torremolinos, Alora or Malaga.

Then about seven years ago, we took the momentous decision to buy a flat in Spain. It ended up being a very small basement flat - in the centre of the Centro Historico in Malaga. And we still have the flat. Our neighbours are Spanish, the local shops are Spanish-owned, the local restaurants are for the locals not for tourists and there is a wonderful food market close to the flat. And that's how I like it. I don't want to live on an English enclave.

Yes it is a basement flat and yes it is small. But is was affordable - not much more than £50,000 given the exchange rate at the time. It is, for me , in the ideal location. Very close to the local theatre, also close to the local gay bars on the Plaza Merced, right in the heart of the city of Malaga, yet only 20 minutes walk from the Malagueta town beach; not too far from the airport; near the old cathedral; and a short walk from the main shopping centre. We've been to many concerts in the Teatro Cervantes (The Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra are excellent) and also spent many hours on the beach - and of course quite a few in the terraces outside the bars.

And I have come to love Malaga. It is vibrant, very Spanish city. Full of life, but also very cultured. And the beach, and the beach bars, are great. And, dare I say it, the Brits fly into Malaga airport but don't go into the city - heading off instead for the all-inclusive hotels in Torremolinos or Benalmadena. Leaving Malaga almost untouched by the influx of British tourists.

I also love the surrounding area, the villages of Ardales and Alora, the town of Antequera, the mountain of El Torcal and particulalry the lakes of El Chorro.

We have just come back from six days in the flat in Malaga. These pictures were taken there using my new water-resistant camera. It was feria time so the city was full of street parties, music and dance. A great atmosphere. Each day we spent some time on the beach - the weather was hot and the sea was warm. And each evening we had a glass or two of wine on the terrace of one of the local bars. Some evenings I did some cooking; sometimes we went out. As always we had a wonderful meal at our favourite restaurant, the Vino Mio.

Yes I slept too much. I guess I ate too much and undoubtedly drank too much. But it all added up to a wonderfully relaxing six days.

Today we flew back. It was like travelling in time - from mid-summer to late autumn; like travelling from colour to black and white - from bright blue to dark grey. And from a different sartorial society - from t-shirts/shorts to dark waterproof jackets.

I always wish I could stay longer. But it great to know that I have clothes over there in the flat and that I can return at short notice any time. There is a buzz and a life about Malaga that I love. And sharing it with Andrew is just so great. That day in the nunnery changed my life for the better. It gave me the love of a partner and the love of a country. I am so lucky. Now I just need to learn to improve my ability to speak Spanish. Hablo Espanol solomente un poco.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Summer slipping away

On Saturday it was still dark when I got up. Sure it was quite early, around 6am - I was heading off to play golf. And there was a drizzle outside. But nonetheless, it was dark. Yet we are still in August.

And I wondered where summer had gone. And why I have not done all the things I had planned to do this summer. I was planning to visit my sister in Devon - I haven't. I was planning to go to the Open Air Theatre - I haven't. I was planning to visit friends that I had not seen for ages - I haven't. I was planning to sort out some of the boxes that remain from my flat move - I haven't. I was planning to get the bicycles out for a number of cycle rides - I haven't.

And why is that? Well I could blame the weather. Summer seemed to stop at the end of April this year. I could blame work. I just don't seem to have the energy when I get home after work. I could blame increasing old age. Certainly I seem to have a degree of lethargy that was not part of my make-up a few years ago.

And shortly we will move into September, the mornings and evenings will become increasingly dark and, if I don't watch, I shall retreat increasingly into a pattern of work, television, eating and sleeping with nothing adventurous to break that pattern.

Anyway we had for Malaga on Wednesday for a few days in the sun. I hope that helps recharge my batteries and kick-starts me into doing some of the things I had planned for this summer. Hopefully summer is not quite over.