Having un-followed and blocked this individual on Twitter, over a year ago, due to his unrealistic and provocative comments, I was surprised to see his writing and blog published in a local Spanish newspaper.
Needless to say, like many other people I spoke to, my first reaction was to retaliate and rebuke his lame comments. However, that would be lowering ourselves to his level. We don’t work like that. We had a better idea …
In reply to his invitation … “If you think that after visiting Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Tarifa, Cadiz and Ronda, there is still something Malaga has to offer, share it with my readers. Show them how wrong I am!” …. we decided to invite Pedro Ramirez, one of the two writers of El Boqueron Viajero, to give us his thoughts on the comment made. We also invite you to decide whether you agree, or not, that Malaga is not one of the worst cities in Spain.
Pedro, please introduce yourself …
My name is Pedro and I’m from Malaga. My wife and I write for the travel blog El Boqueron Viajero, a bilingual travel blog where we share our experiences from around the world, from a personal and emotional point of view. I’m also travel expert writer for Homeaway. I have previously lived in Malaga, Madrid and Barcelona and, for the past year, I have been living in New York. As well as the travel blog, I have my own consultancy offering SEO in New York.
I am a travel lover and I always try to find the best and most positives points about different cities, looking to offer different alternatives in every city, because people are not always looking for the same things. So, I had never written such a negative article and from a subjective and unknown point of view.
What was your first reaction when I showed you the article?
I won’t lie to you, my first reaction was sadness and anger. However, I like to analyze the words of other travel writers, trying to find their point of view. I could have accepted a suggestion for visiting Granada or Seville before Malaga, but if you consider yourself a real traveler, you can never write a top list with “the worst cities in Spain”. Only a person with a certain trauma can enjoy writing these kind of titles.
What did you think/ feel once you had got over your original shock?
When I had the opportunity to read the article more times and analyze it with more calm, I could understand him better in order to argue his points. I don’t like people who catalogue cities, cultures and people with the tag “worst” or “bad”. I think that only an ignorant person can ignore and disregard all the different points that a city can offer to the visitors.
When you start writing a chain of articles just for filling a big website with content, you lose the emotion of the travel writing and abandon the essence of a traveler. I won’t say anything bad about Granada, Seville or Cordoba. I love them with all my heart, these cities. My father is from Seville, my mother is from Granada and my grandparents are from Cordoba, Jaen and Huelva. I’m not going to fall into the same error of the author. I think that Malaga has enough charm and and attractions to be worth visiting.
What would you say in reply to the following statements …
“Malaga’s fame stems from just two things – its airport and the fact that Picasso was born here.”
The first mistake is to think that a real defense of Malaga should start with Picasso. Picasso was born in Malaga, but for me, it’s just a small piece of the culture in the city. Our representation is much more extensive: Salvador Rueda or Gloria Fuertes can be some examples.
Furthermore, a tourist will visit a city not only for names that have been born in that city, but also for the museums or the legacy in the city. We have the Museum Thyssen, CAC, the new SoHo area and the most recently bid for theaters, musicals and cinemas.
And if you don’t like any point raised so far, maybe this one will hook you. Most people (at least all my known friends, family and travelers who asked me before visiting Spain agree): “Málaga enjoys a subtropical–mediterranean climate. It has one of the warmest winters in Europe, with average temperatures of 17 °C “ (Wikipedia). Only a few cities in the world can presume of this weather. And during the summer you can combine any kind of tourism with the beach (sun, a fresh beer, a bath, pescaito frito and fun). Seriously, are you kidding me? Is the author saying that all the travelers who left Malaga loving the city and wanting to come back soon are stupid?
“You can see the best of Malaga in a day – and even then, that day could be better spent elsewhere.”
When you are able to write this affirmation, you don’t know how to write about traveling. You can’t treat your readers as stupid people, looking for the most famous and Lonely Planet featured spots in a city. What is a person looking for in a city? I had the opportunity of showing Malaga to my family-in-law (they are from the US) and they spent the best two weeks in years. There were so many things to see and do that I still have a full itinerary for their next getaway.
If the author didn’t have the opportunity of discovering the real city or he was more obsessed with finding the worst parts than with open his heart, I can understand that he couldn’t spend a good time in Malaga. You can spend one entire day on the beach alone, or discovering all the different cultures that Malaga had in the past.
“Si quiere buenas tapas, visite Sevilla o San Sebastián, para tapas baratas, visite Granada”
I think that this is an old myth to bury. I have spent amazing days in Granada during my time at the university and it’s true, this city is fantastic for tapas. Anyway, Malaga has been known to adapt this concept both because it works and due to the crisis. Nowadays, it is easy to find several places offering “caña y tapa” for a great price. I invite the author to go to Teatinos or walk calmly around the city center, just maybe you discover new places.
The concept of San Sebastian is very different. First of all, it’s a little bit demagogue the fact of compare a Northern city with a Southern city. They offer totally different things. Are the traditional “pintxos” better in the north? I don’t think that they are better, they are simply originary from there. I could say that the best pescaito frito is from Malaga, so don’t waste your time eating in “any other city”. It would be unfair. I want to say something else: I have eaten the best pintxos of my life in Bar Jero in Valladolid (I have visited every city in Spain, some of them in different times); and this city is also included as the worst cities.
In Malaga, we have also one the best chefs in the world: Dani Garcia. So, I think that Malaga is a wonderful place for having tapas, for eating good food and for enjoying the pleasure of the tasting.
“Para los museos, Madrid debe ser su elección.“
Well, he is not lying here; I have lived in Madrid for years and it is such an amazing city for art and museums. We are talking about one of the most cultural places in the world, so I think that he is using demagogism* again. Are we comparing Madrid with Malaga just for the museums? Are the travelers just looking for museum, museum and museum every single hour of their trips? May it be more fair to talk about the cultural offer in Malaga if a traveler want to do some cultural activities?
Malaga has strongly bid for the art and culture recently. Nowadays, Malaga has the Cinema Festival, one of the two Thyssen Museums in Spain, the SoHo neighborhood specifically dedicated to the art , one of the most importants Contemporary Museums of Art in Spain; apart from different museums and exhibitions. Malaga is not maybe a city for a “Museums Trip”, but please let’s not kid ourselves; almost everybody wants the museums as part of the trip and Malaga has a good cultural offer to complement other aspects of the trip.
And,I have also to talk about the importance of Malaga in the history. Visiting Malaga, you can see the legacy of Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Muslims or Visigoths.
*(NOTE: the art and practice of gaining power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. )
I would like to highlight a phrase saying: “This important cultural infrastructure and the rich artistic heritage have culminated in the nomination of Málaga as a candidate for the 2016 European Capital of Culture.”
So there you have Pedro’s responses to some of the comments made in the article. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It does make me wonder though, how you can claim to be a travel writer and publish such articles …
The author of this piece claims to be “a travel writer and consultant”. Really? Aren’t travel writers and consultants supposed to keep an open mind and let readers decide for themselves? Obviously, we expect them to offer their opinions and provide facts for others to make up their own minds, but blatant slandering of a location?
The author also boldly stated that “Having a sense of humor is good for you.”
As Pedro said earlier, “Only a person with a certain trauma can enjoy writing this kind of titles.“ Or, maybe we just have a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a “sense of humor”. Do you think that writing negative articles and making scathing comments about a city you hardly know is funny? I’ll let you decide on which side of the fence you sit on that one.
The author stated: “When I arrived in Spain I was amazed by the variety of the country, the beauty of its architecture and landscape and the passion of its inhabitants. I hope that by reading these pages you too will get a sense of what Spain is like. Hopefully it will inspire you to make the journey yourself.”
Reading the above statement of intent, I kind of feel sorry for the author and believe he may have derailed. He appears to have lost the initial purpose of his writing. His current articles in no way appear to inspire others to visit parts of Spain. Maybe, as Pedro said, “When you start writing a chain of articles just for filling a big website with content, you lose the emotion of the travel writing and abandon the essence of a traveler. “ This, unfortunately, happens to many bloggers/writers. The quantity demanded by the internet, to keep you at the top of rankings, is often detrimental to the quality produced. It shows character to stick to your morals and stay focused. However, when monetary reward prevails …
In order to help you to decide whether you agree, or not, that Malaga is not one of the worst cities in Spain, I thought you may be interested to read some recent articles about new and future projects in the city.
“Malaga has been announced as one of the six finalists shortlisted to become the first ever European Capital of Innovation with the chance to win €500,000: An independent panel of experts has agreed upon the six cities that will compete to become the European Capital of Innovation. The European Commission has recognised Malaga’s progress made within the fields of urban regeneration, sustainable mobility and the promotion of entrepreneurial spirit.
Malaga City Council has based its application on three main platforms: the Soho arts area of the city, the Zem2 All electronic car scheme and the technological hub known as Malaga Valley.
Some 58 cities initially applied and now five remain to compete with Malaga: Paris, Barcelona, Espoo (Finland), Grenoble (France) and Groningen (Netherlands).”
Here are just a couple of the many comments made by reputable journalists and others, after their recent visits to Malaga. In hindsight, maybe Malaga city was not previously considered as a popular and noteworthy destination, however, I do believe opinions are changing and the modest Malagueños are finally realising they have plenty to shout about…
“Despite all this, both city and region have been undersold for decades. Part of the blame lies with years of package tourism that have seen the city of Málaga as the “airport place”. Fernando Rueda
“What I felt above all was the social and emotional value of food – pleasure before pretentiousness – and that even the high-end places had deep connections with traditions, enhanced by the edible riches of the two seas – Mediterranean and Atlantic – and the sun-baked land of the south. This was localism without any banner being waved.” Chris Moss, The Guardian.
“Ciudad del Paraíso” – the Paradise City. This is how the Nobel Prize winner for literature, Vicente Aleixandre, described Málaga. A city that vibrates with life and fascinates with its mixture of ancient history, folklore and modern culture. And of course, it is easy to imagine paradise in this harbour city with nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and several kilometres of beach right in the centre.
“With its new museums, tapas bars, shops and waterfront development, maybe it’s time people in Málaga stopped apologising for not having the best of anything. It all looked pretty good to me.” Annie Bennett, Travel writer.
Molly Sears-Piccavey ” Malaga is certainly not the worst city in Spain to visit. I have chosen Malaga city for my family holiday this year for one week. It will be a great base to enjoy Malaga for its great food and climate. Looking forward to enjoying a few evenings along Muelle Uno too. We will also take a few day trips to different areas of Malaga province. Last year I enjoyed a weekend in Malaga and enjoyed the culture side of the city. The Alcazaba, roman theatre and museums.”
Louise Brace “Don’t look at the past, look at the present. If you like art: the world’s best urban artists have chosen Malaga to showcase their work, the CAC features some of the best contemporary artists from around the world and Paris’ own Pompidou centre is coming to town. If you like eating out: the city now combines Michelin star cuisine, with down-to-earth tapas. If you want to relax: the city’s beaches are clean, safe and lined with good bars and chiringuitos; you also have the Hamman for a relaxing treat after shopping in some of the city’s latest independent boutiques. Oh yes and you still have all the old favourites: Picasso, the Alcazaba, the cathedral, etc. Finally, you’ll never be bored in the evening, unless you go to bed at 10pm.”
In case you are still not convinced that Malaga is not one of the worst cities in Spain, go and pour yourself a cup or glass of something and sit back and watch these videos.
This may look like a plug for Spain-Holiday.com, as these are videos made by them. However, it isn’t. They have no interest in this post whatsoever. I have chosen to show you these videos as I believe they give a true picture of what Malaga is really like. I also know that John Kramer, the author of these articles, knows the city very well 🙂
Malaga’s new port – Muelle uno and the Palmeral de las Sorpresas
Muelle Uno was opened at the end of 2011. The 14,000m2 shopping and commerce centre is home to restaurants, shops and has underground parking for over 1000 cars. The most exclusive part of the port, it is home to Malaga’s only Michelin-starred restaurant (Jose Carlos Garcia’s) and has a marina for luxurious yachts, known as “Ricardo Gross.”
Despite its exclusivity, there are also numerous other cafés and bars that cater for all tastes and budgets (including an Indian restaurant).
Being a coastal city, a beach is never far. Nearly all the ones mentioned below are within easy walking distance from the centre of Malaga. These are not your typical tourist beaches. You won’t find row after row of sunbed rentals and the usual bucket and shade crew, in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to hear anything other than Spanish on them. Which just adds to their appeal. Many of them are also home to some reasonably priced and good restaurants. According to the official town hall website, there are 15 beaches within Malaga’s city limits.
Read more here: http://www.spain-holiday.com/Malaga-city/articles/malaga-city-beach-guide
And what do recent statistics say about tourism in Malaga?
The city of Malaga is now one of the Spanish tourist destinations that is least affected by seasonality. This has once again been shown in the tourism trends report for the off season. In fact, according to the figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), in the months of November, December, January and February, a total of 257,277 tourists stayed in the city’s hotels, 14.07% more than in the previous winter. (27/03/2014)
Turkish Airlines, Europe’s Best Airline*, held a regional road show for travel agents in Qatar with The Andalusia Tourist Board and Malaga-Costa del Sol, announcing increasing flights to Malaga in response to Andalusia’s growing appeal as a holiday destination for tourists from Qatar and the wider Gulf. –
See more at: http://www.qatarisbooming.com/article/turkish-airlines-announces-increased-flights-malaga-andalusia-roadshow-qatar#sthash.G9f7y0XF.dpuf
The following information is just a taste of what the Tourist Board promotes in Malaga:
The Alcazaba: This fortress palace, whose name in Arabic means citadel, is one of the city’s historical monuments and is much visited because of its history and beauty.
Castillo de Gibralfaro: This Castle, built in the 14th. Century to house troops and protect the Alcazaba, is today one of the most visited monuments in Málaga. From its walls, visitors get spectacular views of the city and you can visit the Interpretation Centre to discover the site’s history.
The Cathedral: Its full name is Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (Our Lady of Incarnation) although in Málaga it is simply known as “the Cathedral”. Cathedrals are important in all cities, but here in Málaga it is even more important than usual. It is not only a religious building but a landmark, a national landmark, a milestone along the road and a witness to many events.
El Teatro Romano: Málaga’s Roman Theatre is one of the remaining symbols of Roman Hispania in the city. In addition to the theatre itself, it has a modern interpretation centre where new technologies present the life and customs of the time. The Theatre has also been returned to its original use and different types of shows take place inside.
Read more here: http://www.malagaturismo.com/en/sections/historical-monuments/4
Málaga’s natural heritage provides opportunities for other types of tourism. Places of extraordinary environmental wealth, such as the Montes de Málaga natural park, the natural setting of the estuary of the Guadalhorce, the Historical-Botanical Garden of La Concepción and Málaga Park or museum spaces such as the Museo Alborania and Ecomuseo Lagar de Torrijos offer a more educational approach to Málaga’s natural resources.
We think the city has been undiscovered by too many for too long. It may not offer as many tapas as San Sebastian, as many museums as Madrid, as many historical monuments as Granada or Cordoba. Its feria may not be as grand as that of Seville. The beaches may not be as white as those in Tarifa and Cadiz. The bull ring not as historical as that of Ronda. But, Malaga is definitely not one of the worst cities in Spain.
Malaga is a place full of beautiful, friendly people, enjoying life at their own pace. It is a town full of character, with history, with passion, that invites outsiders with open arms. Food and drink to suit all pallets. Authentic tapas in tucked away bars, gourmet tapas and fine dining served to the highest standard and not forgetting the fresh fished cooked chargrilled in fishing boats on the many beaches.
Whether you are looking for a cultural discovery, a sunshine getaway or merely a base to discover what Andalucía has to offer, we do not believe you will disappointed if you stay in Malaga.
We’d love to hear what you think …. Please add your comments below and share with your friends 🙂
Friday morning we packed up the van and headed home. We took a different route that the one on which we came, crossing some impressive viaducts in the Alpujarras region. (The Alpujarras are on our never ending “to visit” list)
Impressive viaduct near Las Alpujarras
Once home, we unpacked just the clothes bags and the food bags. The rest of the gear stayed packed in the van, ready for the next trip.
By Sunday, we were refreshed from a couple of decent nights sleep. We were clean. Mum was more relaxed as the inbox had been cleared. We were back in the van and heading South to our favourite campsite in Tarifa. Woo hoo!
This is mainly due to the extreme weather conditions. The weather is more favourable, except for windsurfers ;-), further up the coast. However, if you have a good wind monitor, like my hubby, and the website www.windguru.com, you can successfully plan your trips. As we did this time.
Tarifa, these days, is more of a big fat BMW and boutique hotel kind of destination than the bohemian, beach bum, VW campers kind of place that it used to be. The volume of people, particularly at weekends, can be horrendous. It really is worth thinking about when to visit, taking into consideration dates and wind forecasts. If you are lucky, like us, you will see Tarifa at its best and fall in love with the place.
With its immense, stunning, sandy beaches, breathtaking sunsets and unbroken views over to Africa, Tarifa still holds a special place in our hearts. It always feels like coming home when we visit.
Like at Camping Las Lomas in Granada, Camping Torre de la Peña has a more natural feel and offers amazing views from many of its non-regimented camping plots.
As an added bonus, it has a great pool area and is walking distance
One of the things we don’t like about many campsites is the feeling that you are allocated a parking spot next to or even on top of everyone else who is there. You know the ones where you wake up thinking there is somebody else in your tent because the guy in the plot next door is snoring so loudly …
This short video shows how we spent our days: beach days in Bolonia, BBQ’s morning and evening, chilling in the campsite, extreme rubber ringing and landsailing …
Enter Our Great Wild Swimming Spain Giveaway Competition
As you will know, if you follow our Facebook page and Twitter, we don’t need an excuse to head off on holiday or on a road trip. We are lucky that we don’t need to venture too far from where we live to find what we are looking for. Spain is a wonderful country with so much to offer so many. Whether you are looking for sandy beaches, rural retreats, fabulous ski resorts, rolling countryside, architectural delights or simply a place to relax and unwind, you will be spoilt for choice.
We are always looking out for ideas for new trips and adventures.
This wonderful guide has recently been published and we have 3 copies to giveaway. See below for details…
About Wild Swimming in Spain …
Forget Spain’s busy, developed coastline, and instead discover wild swimming in the most beautiful rivers, deep pools, cascading waterfalls and shining lakes across the country – the best way to escape the scorching summer heat. Lola Culsán and John Weller, the authors of new book Wild Swimming Spain, travelled the length and breadth of the Iberian peninsular in search of the best swimming spots, including those that are safe for families and young children.
Perfect for family explorers or romantic adventurers, this stunning travel book combines beautiful photography with all the practical information you’ll need to get off the beaten track, including maps, directions, grid references and walk-in times, and recommendations for canoe trips, campsites and places to eat.
Needless to say, we are already planning a few trips. We’ll share our pictures with you on Facebook and Twitter (make sure you follow!). Our 12 week long summer holidays are suddenly not looking long enough!
FamilyLifeInSpain.com readers have a chance to win 1 of 3 copies in our Wild Swimming Spain Giveaway!
We had originally thought of going to our favourite campsite in Tarifa but as we have several beach destinations planned already for this summer we decided to head up into the mountains. And we were really glad we did.
Having asked local friends and acquaintances on Facebook for suggested campsites, we opted for Camping Las Lomas in Guejar Sierra, Granada.
It was our first time camping in Granada. We are more used to visiting the neighbouring valley, the well-known ski resort of the Sierra Nevada in the winter months.
We decided on Camping Las Lomas for 4 main reasons:
It is located within 2 hours easy drive of where we live.
The views looked stunning.
It has a large swimming pool.
The plots are private and not too regimented.
We were not disappointed!
Güejar Sierra is a village and municipality located in the province of Granada, Spain. According to the INE, it had a population of 2,988 at the start of 2010. The village is situated in the north-western part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, at an altitude of 1,088 metres.
The municipality borders Pinos Genil, Dúdar, Quéntar, La Peza, Lugros, Jérez del Marquesado, Trevélez, Capileira and Monachil. Its boundary with Trevélez and Capileira runs along the highest ridge of the Sierra Nevada, and over Mulhacén, making these the three highest municipalities in peninsular Spain. The Genil and Maitena rivers rise in Güéjar.
Woo hoo! It’s finally here. The first day of our twelve week long school holidays in Spain. We’ve been waiting for this day for what seems like ages. As crazy as it may seem, we know these holidays are going to be over before we know it. We have so much planned. So much to be enjoyed.
Many people are shocked when we tell them that the children have twelve weeks of school holidays in Spain in the summer.
“What do you do with all that time?” “What about work?” “How do you cope?”
So, what do we have planned this year, summer 2015?
As I said at the beginning, today is day 1, it’s Tuesday 23rd June 2015. We have 3 months, 12 weeks, 78 days of holidays and family fun ahead of us.
I’m writing this post, sat in our VW Transporter, with hubby at my side at the wheel, the children in the back, Joshua, Francesca and Mika (our football playing, trampoline jumping, German Shepherd). The boot is jam packed with tents, scooters, games, beach gear and far too much camping stuff. It’s amazing how much you pack just because you’ve got the space, isn’t it?
We’re leaving the 30ºC heat of the Costa del Sol and heading towards the stunning scenery of the Sierra Nevada in Granada. We’d originally planned to head back to our favourite campsite in Tarifa, but as we already have a delicious 5 weeks of bohemian beach living already booked in Cadiz this summer, we opted for a change of scenery to start off our 2015 summer holidays.
Stunning mountain scenery
We will add links to the details of each trip as we write them. Remember to let us know if you visit the places and what you thought too! (We also share lots of pics on our Facebook Page: CLICK HERE)
As much as this is an exciting time, it is also a slightly sad time in our lives here in Spain.
In the Spanish state colegios, students often have the same seño for 3 consecutive years. However, due to an unusual placement allocation system, it is not unusual for teachers to be moved to different schools at any time.
Mari- Tere is from Alhaurin. She applied for a position in her home town. She got it. She’s going. And that is that.
Gutted does not go anywhere near how we feel right now. But that’s life. We move on. The disturbed nights and unexpected upsets for our daughter have already begun. The nervous, maybe tearful return to school is 3 months, 12 weeks, 78 days away …
Fiesta fin de curso 2015
On September 10th, Joshua will enter his final year at our beloved CEIP San Sebastian. Eeeek! We will be making decisions about his future education. Will he continue in the Spanish state system, change to private or manage to secure a place in our first choice which is a colegio concertado?
On September 10th, Francesca will state 3º with a new seño.
On September 10th, I, mum, won’t be in Spain. I’ll be in London, preparing to spend 2 days talking to families considering moving to Spain at The Expat Show – Living & Working Abroad.
The Show is open on the 11th & 12th September 2015 at Olympia in London. Single tickets are £10 with family tickets at £15 however, thanks to OGC there are 2,000 free tickets available for anyone registering before Wednesday 1st July. Registration is quick and easy plus you will receive advanced information the free seminars, interactive features and exhibitor offers to help plan your time at The Show. To claim your free ticket click here. – http://theexpatshow.co.uk/free-tickets/
The trips we have planned so far are:
Camping Las Lomas, Güejar Sierra, Granada
Camping Torre de la Peña, Tarifa, Cadiz
Babysitting 3 guinea pigs in Vejer de la Frontera and a Campus Acuatico
A trip to London in September (theme parks and city sightseeing)
Oh, and work? Did I mention that?
As we are “lucky” and in a fortunate position to work for ourselves, we let all our lovely clients know that we are closed for our 3 months, 12 weeks, 78 days summer holidays. We check in from time to time and meet up with the odd person, but we are basically on skeleton cover until mid September.
Do they complain?
After all, that is one of the many reasons they too want to come and enjoy their own family life in Spain.
The Fallas Valencia fiesta is one of the crazy Spanish traditions and festivals that we are really keen to experience for ourselves. Stunning and intricately designed statues are designed, built and then literally set fire to, in the streets.
How crazy is that?
I’ve heard the rumours about Valencian politicians so-called “burning money”, but there is no secrecy to this festival. It takes place in full public view.
As we have not yet managed to visit the Valencia Fallas for ourselves, we have invited the lovely Sarah from My Destination Alicante to tell us little more about this fiery tradition.
Over to you Sarah. Tell is what this crazy festival all about …
Valencia is a noisy city at the best of times, but the bar is raised even further during the fiery Fallas Valencia Fiesta in March.
For a few days leading up to St Joseph’s Day, on March 19th, the streets come alive with satirical, colourful statues standing several storeys high. Some are poking fun at celebrities and politicians, others look like gigantic cartoon characters while a few will be making a political statement.
These papier-mâché statues take all year to build and cost €100,000 or more. But, come St Joseph’s Day, they will be set alight with just a pile of ashes remaining. Thousands of spectators gather as each statue is burnt in turn.
The ‘elf and safety brigade in the UK would be having a blue fit by now. Not only are these giant statues set on fire close to thousands of revellers and near to high-rise buildings, the ceremony also takes place in the middle of the night.
It’s a fabulous fiesta and a great money spinner as tourists head to Valencia each year to enjoy a walk around the statues, called ninots, to stop off at a few bars for a quick refreshment and dance along to the bands leading the parades.
The women are dressed in elaborately-embroidered dresses with hairpieces which look similar to Princess Leia’s hairdo in Star Wars. The dresses are very heavy and the women – and little girls – wear them from morning to night during the fiesta.
Another wonderful part to the fiesta is the mascleta. Twice a day, thousands crowd into the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (town hall square) to see and hear one of the most important events of the fallas.
It’s an incredible show of firecrackers which are let off in sequence to make a thunderous noise, together with the powerful smell of gunpowder and smoke filling the square. It can reach 130 decibels or more with the whole square seeming to vibrant. The windows of nearby buildings can certainly be seen to be shaking.
The fiesta heralds the start of Spring. It hails from humble beginnings in the Middle Ages when the carpenters burned off old bits of wood and furniture during their Spring cleaning. They then started to carve little statues and dress up the sticks before burning them. The statues became bigger and better to turn into the fun festival we know today climaxing on St Joseph’s Day, the patron saint of carpenters.
Valencia is the best place to see the fallas fiesta but other towns also take part including Gandia, Denia and Benidorm.
Sarah Farrell is a journalist living in the Alicante region of Spain. She also runs the My Destination Alicante – www.mydestination.com/alicante – online travel guide and takes HD 360º virtual tours for Business Streetview to be included on Google Maps.
Graham, our colleague at Spanish-Property.net sent us these great pics from the 2015 Fallas Valencia. Which one is your favourite?
A Great List of Costa del Sol Family Days Out from Marianne.
As parents, our children are the centre of our world. We love them unconditionally and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for them. Living in Spain is one of the choices that most of us have made in order to give our children a happy, healthy lifestyle. We all know the advantages of living here; the climate, the opportunity to learn a new language, the value placed on family and so on.
In our family, we especially value the opportunity to spend time outdoors and in the Málaga area there is no shortage of fabulous activities and attractions aimed at families, but they often come at a cost. Some of these places are very expensive for the admission price alone, and then they frequently require additional payments once you are inside. Extras such as food, activities, souvenirs and photographs can quickly add up and a fun day out can end up being prohibitively expensive.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are numerous places in the Málaga / Costa del Sol area where you can have a fun family day out for little or no cost which is one of the things that we appreciate most about living here. These are some of our favourite things to do and places to go.
Parque La Batería, Torremolinos
1. Parque la Batería, Torremolinos. This park is full of fun things to do, there is no admission charge and ample parking is provided inside. My boys love to climb to the top of the Torre Mirador, look at the cannons, splash each other at the fountains, run around on the many open, grassy areas and play in the fantastic, large playground. The park doesn’t have a cafe, but there are some vending machines next to the playground. Rather unusually a ‘dummy tree’ gives you a place where you can hang your child’s dummy to give them an incentive to stop using one when they are at an age to do so, which I have never seen before or since but I think it’s a great idea. There is a huge, old-fashioned carousel which you do have to pay for, but it is only 50c per ride. There is also a big boating lake where you can hire a rowing boat for only €1 for 30 minutes and you can have a pleasantly relaxing sail in the sunshine. Or, alternatively, you can do as we usually do and spend the whole time trying to avoid crashing into other boats, shouting “look out!” and “sorry!” rather a lot, embarrassing yourself by getting wedged in under the bridge in front of amused passers-by, before eventually being called in at the end of your allotted time and trying to reverse rather amateurishly into one of the numbered bays!
2. Paloma Park, Benalmadena. This is another place full of big, open spaces for energy-filled children to run around in and if you stop and look under the hedges and bushes there is a good chance you will see some rabbits hiding underneath! There are also freely roaming chickens, geese and peacocks as well as various other animals housed in enclosures which are located just behind the big playground. This has equipment suitable for younger children as well as other more adventurous climbing apparatus for the older ones. The park has a few cafes and some other smaller playgrounds scattered about, along with a big fountain and some rather wonderful metal sculptures of heads lying around on the grass which are large enough for children to crawl into. The lake is home to lots of ducks, geese, swans and turtles and you can hire segways and pedal powered carriages if you fancy travelling around the lake at a slightly faster pace! We love it here! There is lots of parking around the outside of the park, but it can get a bit busy at the weekends and in the Summer.
3. Los Pedregales Park, Estepona There are two parts to Los Pedregales. There are the more-developed bits with playgrounds, picnic tables and open-air barbecue facilities which are very popular with families and which can get quite busy at the weekend. It is a good place to hold a birthday party if you aren’t averse to carrying all your party paraphernalia through a bit of overgrown terrain. This bit is also due for further development in the future as there are plans to create a dinosaur-themed park there and a go-karting track too. Or there is our favourite bit which is the wilder, undeveloped side of the park. We go in through the smaller side gate with the Adana sign (the rescue home for dogs is also through this gate and further up the mountain track a short way) where there are lots of pine trees (great for pine cone collecting missions but not good for dogs in the Processionary Caterpillar season) and rocky tracks leading down to a stream that rushes over the pathway at the bottom in the rainy season. We take our dog up there and we all love to clamber over the rocks along the stream and climb up the tree covered slopes at the top of the hill. Great fun for bracing walks, rock climbing and for burning off your children’s energy in the fresh air!
San Pedro Boulevard
4. San Pedro Boulevard, San Pedro The fantastic new boulevard is an ideal place to go for a walk/scooter/skate with the children, stopping en route at one of the many playgrounds. There are a couple of cafes too if you fancy stopping for a drink while your children play. My boys especially love the big skating park at the far end where they can ride their scooters in the large, open space and also the undulating bridge which they love to run over.
5. Parque Tres Jardines, San Pedro This park is relatively new and hidden away in the industrial estate of San Pedro. It has a lagoon with some hungry ducks always eager to be fed, lots of open spaces, two playgrounds (one aimed at older children and the other ideal for younger children) and a kiosk which admittedly I’ve never actually seen open but maybe I’ve just been unlucky. There is also an adjoining area set aside as a dog park so its a great place to go with your dog too! This is another popular venue for birthday parties and it can get quite full with party goers at the weekends and competition to reserve the picnic tables can get quite fierce!
6. Paseo Walks Our favourites are the San Pedro and Estepona paseos, both of which have playgrounds on the beach and on the paseo itself along the course of them, as well as chiringuitos and cafes if you want to stop for a drink along the way. Paseos are a great way to spend a few hours on foot or on bikes and scooters.
7. Benahavis Parks Benahavis has two excellent parks for children. The first one you will come to, which is on the left just as you drive into the town has a lovely little playground, a lake, a waterfall, open spaces to play on the grass and even an amphitheatre where children can put on a ‘show’ on the big stage area. There are pathways that you can walk or ride along, beautifully tended gardens and picnic tables too. In the lake we have often seen turtles and even a water snake. The second park is further into the town, right opposite the school and this has a nice little kiosk. There are lots of play facilities for all ages and it is also a popular location for birthday parties.
8. Duquesa Castle and Park My boys love visiting this castle. They like to climb up to the top to see the great views and enjoy going into the little exhibition rooms. There is one room where you can have a try at fencing and others that offer historical information and displays of relics. Next door to the castle is a park with a playground and a wishing well. It is all nearby to the beach as well so there are lots of opportunities for playing here. And if you happen to find an orange frisbee somewhere in the trees at the back then it is ours!
San Pedro Golf Club
9. San Pedro Golf Club Driving Range This is located opposite the Bárcelo hotel and for just 1€ you can get a bucket of 25 golf balls to use on the driving range. It is suitable for adults and children and there are golf clubs that you can borrow if you don’t have any of your own. There are a couple of putting greens where your little one can practise their finer golf skills and a big grassy bunker where they can whack the balls with a little less finesse! Golf lessons are available if you discover that your child could possibly be a golfing genius and there is a cafe where you can enjoy a drink while watching all of the golfing action.
Pedal boat rentals at Parque Fluvial, Fuengirola
10. Fuengirola Castle and River The castle grounds are a great place to run around and there is the added opportunity to have fun on the water for the more energetic types. There are pedal boats that you can hire for a few euros for 30 minutes (30 minutes has never seemed longer than when I was pedalling a swan full of excitable children with my rapidly tiring legs, to the shouts of “faster, go faster mummy!” coming from the smaller passengers in the back!). There is also a zip line going over the water and a cafe on the water front. We have never actually seen the castle open so I can’t comment on what is inside those elusive walls as that remains a mystery to our family!
NOTE: Here’s a video we made at the end of last year by the river at Fuengirola … (Lisa)
11. Benahavis River Walks Just before you get into Benahavis town you can park up on the right hand side and explore the river walks. There are places you can swim as well as more adventurous routes that you can follow through rocky terrain and water. In the Summer it gets very busy and it can be difficult to park but it is a fun way to spend a few hours and get some exercise too, all for free!
So keeping your little ones entertained needn’t cost the earth. These are just some of our favourite things to do and chances are you have your own family favourites. I would love to hear about them as we are always looking for new, fun and more importantly, inexpensive things to do!
NOTE From Lisa: Click on the Google map below to get directions to these places and many more. Where else should we add to our @FamilyInSpain Costa del Sol Family Days Out That Don’t Cost The Earth map?
Thanks Marianne! Why not pop over and have a look at Marianne’s website and join in her Facebook page 😉
Marianne Hill is a primary school teacher who, in those rare, quiet moments when she is not surrounded by children at work or at home, can usually be found either writing articles or blog posts, reading, listening to music or posting on Facebook. Alternatively she could be out running or cycling around the Estepona area of the Costa del Sol of Spain, where she lives with her partner Neil and their children Sam, 6 and Henry, 4.
What child wouldn’t love the fact that we get to celebrate, not once, nor twice, but three times, during the festive period here in Spain? (And that isn’t counting New Year celebrations!)
When our children were born, we felt it was important to return to the UK for Christmas once every two years, so that the children could celebrate it with our families. However, we didn’t want them to think that Christmas had to be spent in the UK to be fun. Luckily, in recent years, Spain has embraced more Christmas traditions so it is easier for us to make it fun for the children.
This year we should have gone back to the UK and yet we opted to stay home. Our home is here.
So, what are our usual Christmas in Spain traditions:
On Christmas Eve, we enjoy our own Spanish-style Christmas. We always buy a full 5 to 6kg Serrano ham which is sliced and served until there is almost nothing left on the bone. (See our Sopa de Picadillo recipe, one of our children’s favourites, where we use the leftover bone to make stock for this scrummy soup).
We also have typical cold cuts such as salami, cured pork, chorizo, cheeses, olives and pickles. This is washed down with a good red wine, usually a Ribera de Duero, and sometimes finished off with an anis (sweet aniseed liquor). (The alcohol is served only to the adults of course 😉 )
Our Spanish Christmas Eve
In previous years the children opened one present on Christmas Eve, as is traditional with some Spanish children. However, this year we have added a new Family in Spain Christmas tradition.
Our New Christmas in Spain tradition: Introducing Our Christmas Eve Box
This year we’ve prepared a special Christmas Eve box for them, as a gift from Nana. This year the box contained a pair of pyjamas, some socks, chocolates, a Christmas mug with a selection of hot chocolate drinks and a book. They loved it!
Opening Nana´s Christmas Eve Box
All ready for bed …
This is our way of spreading out the gifts and helping the children to appreciate each gift they receive.
I really feel that children are too often inundated with too many presents that the true appreciation of the presents is difficult to control. As long as there is still another present to open, the opened gifts are not of so much interest. It’s like a race to the finish line …
Ready. Steady. Go. Do not stop until the last gift is opened. You never know what is in that last box … the last box is the focus.
Do you agree?
Back to our usual Christmas in Spain traditions:
On Christmas morning, we have a family stocking that we open together. These are fun gifts that Santa brings the children and the parents 😉
We enjoy a cooked breakfast with a glass off Bucks Fizz , then I’ll spend most of the morning cooking a traditional roast meal followed by mince pies, pudding or christmas cake. The main meal is almost always a turkey with all of the trimmings. For our Christmas dinner ideas I usually rely on Jamie Oliver magazines. We are lucky where we live as the foreign supermarkets over here, such as Iceland, stock most typically British festive ingredients, although I often have to improvise.
After our main meal we distribute the presents from beneath the tree. These are a mixture from overseas family members and Santa 😉
This year we spent lots of time making things for the festive season. We will share our recipes for homemade: mince pies, christmas cake, ginger biscuits, chocolates, truffles and lots of decorations.
Making more decorations
Making gingerbread trees
Home made 😉
Festive Pantomines and Belens …
As Spain is a catholic country, the nativity is a very important part of the celebration of Christmas. We always make time to visit them wherever we are. We did get a shock once when we came across a Barbie and Ken nativity scene: Barbie was belly dancing for Ken who was sat in an arm chair drinking beer. It wasn’t quite the earnest religious moment we were expecting! It was challenging, to say the least, trying to explain the alternative interpretation of the religious nativity scene to our children who appeared quite shocked at scantily clad dolls and men with drinks in their hand…
The Ten-tacion Belen in Malaga plaza!
This year, 2015, Malaga surpassed itself. The nativity scenes and festive lights were amazing. People flocked from far and wide to see them.
The stunning lights in Malaga Capital
We also love the Panto season. When we are in the UK, with my husband’s family, we go to High Wycombe with all the cousins. When we stay in Spain we go to Malaga Capital. Last year we enjoyed a show by Cirque du Soleil in Malaga and this year we went to see Pinocchio performed at the Cervantes Theatre in Malaga Capital. It was magical.
One of the most memorable Christmas pantos we saw, in Spanish, was the Wizard of Oz. During the show, the lion spontaneously broke out singing Spanish flamenco (the traditional Spanish custom style of singing) and proceeded to skip down the yellow brick road, in full voice, with Dorothy, the scarecrow and the tin man!
Keeping the belief in Santa alive:
As the children grow older it is sometimes a challenge to keep the story of “Santa” alive. Is it important? I don’t know but I just imagine the discovery that he doesn’t really exist would be quite a blow to a child.
As a result, I’m always looking for fun activities to keep the Santa Claus story alive. Wherever we are, the children leave a note for Santa and their stockings on the chimney. A plate with a carrot for Rudolph, a mince pie and a glass of PX sherry for Santa sits by the chimney too.
Setting the fireplace for Santa …
I always order the PNP santa message to be delivered to the children, adding an upto date photograph and something personal that not many people would know.
The ability to track Santa online nowadays also makes his existence more of a possibility for Joshua, our 10 year old. We often discuss how it is possible to deliver so many presents to so many children in so many places.
We know it would be impossible just for Santa … that is why he has his elves 😉
And then come the Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos):
We then celebrate again on the 5th and 6th of January, which is called Los Reyes Magos (Three Kings). This the day that Spanish children most look forward to during the festive season. This evening “Los Reyes Magos” will deliver them either gifts or coal, depending if they have been good or not.
On the evening of January 5th, we head up to the village, Mijas Pueblo, to:
listen to rather out of tune music, played extremely loudly by the local brass band
join the crowds, young and old, as we follow the Cabalgata (floats) through the streets
desperately try to avoid getting hit on the head by rock hard, boiled sweets that they lob from the floats
help the children gather as many sweets as possible only to secretly dispose of them before arriving home
This year was extra special for us as our son, Joshua, was on one of the floats with the village football team.
Parade in Mijas Pueblo
And last but not least, on the 6th of January, whilst most Spanish children are finally enjoying their gifts, we are taking down our decorations and getting ready to start an exciting new year. We do however enjoy a Roscón de Reyes ( a traditional Spanish cake filled with fresh cream). This year we had not one but two lucky charms inside. We are taking this as a sign 😉
Our Roscón de Reyes
Not 1 but 2 lucky charms!
The children love the festive season here in Spain because they get to enjoy the best of all of the traditions.
It’s not quite the sameas back in the UK, but it’s our version of Christmas and we really rather like spending Christmas in Spain !
Here’s to getting back to normality after almost 3 weeks of festivities … 2014 was a great year and we are excited to see what 2015 has in store.
If you’re planning how best to use up your holiday entitlement in 2015, or simply trying to work out the most economical times to travel, then you’ll need to take into account the dates for Spain public holidays 2015.
In Spain there are national holidays, regional holidays and local holidays. The dates on which the national and regional holidays are to fall are communicated each year via an Official State Bulletin or BOE (CLICK TO ACCESS). Among other regulations, this Bulletin specifies which of the national holidays are obligatory and which are optional on a regional basis, as well as defining the rules surrounding those days which can be celebrated the following day in the case when the holiday itself falls on a Sunday.
Don’t forget that most towns in Spain will also have two local holidays per year when they celebrate their feria and Saint’s day. You can find out more information about these days on your local Ayuntamiento website or by checking the Calendario Laboral for your town on Seguridad Social’s website (CLICK TO ACCESS).
Plan your days to relax …
In 2015, the eight national public holidays will be as follows:
If you look at the dates for Spain Public Holidays 2015 noted for your area (below) you will see that each of the Spanish regions adds a further three or four days to these obligatory national holidays, especially at Easter when it’s usually two holy days which are observed.