Celebrating Carnival in Málaga, Spain

February 20 – 27, 2020

According to historians, this city is approximately 2,800 years old, one of the oldest cities in Spain, and one of the oldest and longest inhabited cities in the world. It also supported two mighty fortresses – The Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

When we walked up to our Airbnb in Málaga and saw these garage doors, I was a bit concerned. However, once our host arrived and we entered the door on the right and climbed the stairs, all was well. This lovely two bedroom apartment with two levels of patios was perfect for our stay in Málaga. I had taken some inside pics to prove how nice it was. Just a reminder: Never judge a book by its cover.

Whoa, are we residing in a garage for a week?

Cathedral of Málaga

This amazing Cathedral was built between 1528 and 1782 and the exterior has never been completed. The south tower remains a partial tower because the funds were used to help the United States to gain their independence from Great Britain (They may have had a tea party to celebrate).

The inside is a true marvel of engineering. The stained glass windows at the top of the church create an eerily golden hue across the ceiling. There are many chapels along the exterior walls and the choir loft is a series of carved masterpieces. This is accentuated by 40 carvings of the Saints. It’s truly an artisans masterpiece.

You can buy your tickets online or you can stand in line and pay. We just took our chances and stood in line and that moved quite quickly. The entrance fee is €5 per person and this includes an audio guide.

You can’t get far enough away to get a good picture of this massive structure.
One of the original entry gates that is described from your audio guide.
Golden views of the ceiling of the Cathedral.
Rosewood carving of saints in the choir loft.

The Alcazaba and The Castillo de Gibralfaro

The Alcazaba in Arabic means citadel and is one of the city’s most historical monuments. This citadel was built at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill and connects to the Castillo de Gibralfaro by a walled passage known as the Coracha.

The Alcazaba castle was built as a military base and castle between 1057 – 1063. Many of the columns and capitals used to build the Alcazaba were taken from the nearby Roman Theater (that saved a few days of manpower).

In 1279 the city was conquered and taken over by the Nasrid Kingdom (Muslins that built the Alhambra in Granada) and they added gardens, patios and changed the appearance to direct more light into the Palace and gave it a more Arabic appearance.

A view of the Alcazaba at night.

The Castillo de Gibralfaro was built in the 1300’s on the top of Gibralfaro Hill that housed the troops that protected the Alcazaba. For a time, it was considered to be the most impregnable fortresses on the Iberian peninsula. The Castle had two sets of exterior walls and eight towers. There are parts of the walls that zigzag and linked to the Castle. You certainly didn’t want to make it easy for the enemy to get in.

The views are spectacular from the top of the walls as you can get a birds eye view of the City, the Marina and Harbor and you will be able to look directly into the bull fighting ring below. On a clear day, you might be able to see the African Continent.

Climbing up the very steep hill to the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
View of Malaga from the top of the Castillo de Gibralfaro. The continent of Africa is just on the horizon.

Roman Amphitheater

During ground work in 1951 for a new City Center, they came across some unexpected stones. As the City delved into this new discovery, they found the remains of a Roman Amphitheater that was in great shape. Plans were changed and they now have a free exhibit that you can walk up to and check out. The theater was built around the 1st century BC and used for about 300 years until the 2nd century AD.

The Roman amphitheater with the Alcazaba looming above.

Carnival in Spain

Let the fun begin! Carnival is the equivalent of Mardi Gras in the United States. In some areas of Spain, this week long celebration is wild and crazy. In Malaga, it was pretty tame and very entertaining. It all begins with the selection of the Carnival Princesses and then the festivities continue with the lighting of the main walking area and the Drag Queen Show.

Lights on – it’s Carnival time!
Opening for Carnival was an entertaining drag queen show.
The Children’s parade provided a great opportunity for kids to help usher in the festivities. Getting a spidey-sense?

On Sunday afternoon they have a large Carnival parade. You can walk over to the staging area and see the various Princess Floats, bands and entertainment. So many people were wandering around and having their pictures taken with the participants. Everyone was excited to be a part of the parade and the energy level was high.

If you were a peacock, this would not have been a good week for you. I know Spain has a large number of these birds and hundreds of them have given up their tail feathers for this event.

Peacocks were in short supply this week as they gave their tails for these floats.
Another beautiful float in the Carnival parade.

The Original Málaga Tapas Crawl

Our friends had highly suggested that we do a walking tapas tour in Barcelona. However, we would be visiting that city late in our Spanish travels. Therefore, we decided to do it upon our arrival so we didn’t miss out on any good treats along the way.

Thank you Mark and Lori, this was excellent advice.

We met our group of six for a three hour walking tour of the best food and drink scene in Málaga. Our guide, Tanita, was excellent as she guided us through the City to multiple places to share tapas, pinxtos (tapas on steroids) and various local drinks.

We had a great group and it was so much fun listening to everyone share their travel tales and stories about their home countries. After our guide left us for the evening, we continued to have another cocktail and enjoy the beautiful terrace view of Málaga. Safe travels to our new lovely friends.

Highlights of the night included: PaJarete and Vermut wines, grilled sardines (which our lovely guide Tanita demonstrated how to eat), gazpachuelo soup, pork cheeks, padrón peppers and a yummy cream cheese dessert. We booked this tour through Airbnb and it was $75 per person and this included our guide and all of our food and drinks.

Sweet Vermut and Pajarete being served at our first stop. Jeff thought they tasted like cough syrup. I thought they were yummy.
A plate of pork cheeks being shared with our group.
Don’t confuse Spanish anchovies with those you get in the US. These are “cooked” in vinegar and then served with parsley, olive oil and garlic. They are tasty and not fishy at all.
Tinto de Verano – a red wine and lemonade drink that is quite refreshing.
For 40 years this gentleman has been cooking sardines over coals (in the front window) at this restaurant.
Grilled and salted sardines equal a tasty tapas.
Point to what you want, it’s heated and served to you on a plate.
Group hug! And photo bombed by a Flamenco guitarist.

Pablo Picasso

The famous painter was born in Málaga and lived here for the first ten years of his life. He was baptized in the Church of the Santiago in Málaga and you can still see the baptismal where he was baptized. Picasso started formal training at the age of 7 and the family moved a few years later so he could attend a fine arts school.

The baptismal font from which Picasso was baptized. This is found in the church next to the museum with the annotated book turned to the page of his baptism.

Most of the contents of the Picasso Museum are the personal collection of Picasso’s daughter-in-law and his grandson. The paintings display a sense of origin, roots, family and everyday life.

The Museum is a representation of eight decades of his life in paintings and ceramics. We both enjoyed his paintings and the narrative behind them, but his ceramic work was a show stopper for us. It’s amazing that he worked in oils, charcoal, sculptures and ceramics. Many artists only focus on one medium.

Entrance to the museum is €10 per person and this includes an audio guide. You can purchase the tickets at the museum or online. We purchased online and used our e-tickets for entrance. Since no photography is allowed inside, you must see it with your own eyes.

When visiting, don’t miss the film narrated by David Douglas Duncan, a photographer who was invited into Picasso’s home to chronicle his daily life and to photograph and catalogue his collection of art. He and Picasso became good friends and the story and photos from their time spent together are just wonderful. (Hint: We would have missed this if we hadn’t gone to the bathroom.)

Woman with Raised Arms picture from our brochure.

The Mercado de Atarazanas

The Spaniards love Christopher Columbus and it was exciting to see this market with the large stained glass window of Spanish explorer ships. I chose to believe it was the ships that headed to America for his best discovery to date. But, I am an American after all.

The Mercado de Atarazanas is all about food. Lots of great tasting, eye appealing and interesting varieties of food. It is the most important shopping market for citizens of Malaga. People shop every few days in Spain for their food. When visiting a vendor, you never touch the product as this is the job of the vender. You tell them when you plan to eat the produce and then it is picked for the perfect ripeness.

Strolling all through the market is a must before making a decision as there is so much to choose from. If you want to eat there, just head to the back of the market where there are many stalls that will cook your items for you to eat there. We visited this market almost every day.

Quite the stained glass wall at the market. I’m sure those were Columbus’ ships.
Let the vender make the choice for you. Tell them when you plan to eat the fruit and they will pick the perfect one for you.
A colorful variety of shrimp and their wonderful clams.
One of my favorite fruits from South America – the cherimoya. It’s creamy custard-like insides taste like a creme brûlée with a bit of lemon.
Sun dried tomatoes with herbs in olive oil. The flavor is amazing.
Multiple dinners from the market. Fresh red peppers, cheese varieties, freshly cooked Padrones, salsa olives, sun dried tomatoes and mini toasts.

A Bit of Nature

With so many parks and ocean front Prada’s, you will come across nature no matter where you stroll.

Parakeets clipping off the new branch to build their nests.
As we walked along the pier, the sea had an abundant supply of fish.

Directions: We took the train from Ronda to Málaga. The tickets were €15 one way per person and you purchase these at the train station in Ronda. The train took 1 hour and 30 minutes and we had to change trains in Bobadilla.

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