Shining Brightly: Malaga’s Christmas Lights

 Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

During the festive season, the Christmas Lights in Málaga are always a great place to visit, but this year they have really surpassed themselves.

They are nothing short of spectacular!

Each evening, Calle Marqués de Larios, the main pedestrianised shopping street is crowded with people enjoying a party atmosphere with balloons and street performers to entertain them. What I particularly love here in the city, as in every village and town across Spain, you will see all the family generations out taking their evening stroll together.

Whilst they are still open, the shops, as well as the bars and restaurants are brimming over with people either doing their Christmas shopping or just soaking up the festive atmosphere.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

Detail of Malaga's gothic Christmas lights  2014

The stars of this particular light show are shining brightly on Calle Marqués de Larios (famous for being paved with marble), and this year’s display has a Gothic feel, with a cathedral-arched frame dominating the street.  

Most surrounding streets have a more modest display of lights too, so have a wander around and see them, but don’t forget to look up at the beautiful buildings, too.

You’ll see bright red poinsettias everywhere – planted on the roundabouts, hanging from lamp posts and displayed in huge cones around Calle Larios.

There’s a huge choice of bars and restaurants to tempt you – many with their gas-flame heaters burning outside to keep you warm.  If you have to drive back home again later, you might prefer to try the best chocolate and churros in Málaga, at Cafe Aranda in Calle Santos.  The light, crispy churros and thick, creamy hot chocolate to dip them in are absolutely scrumptious!

Afterwards, wander down Calle Larios to the main road through the centre, Alameda Principal, to see the beautifully lit trees and the flower stalls or turn left and walk along the edge of the Paseo del Parque to enjoy the many Christmas stalls lining the route.

Xmas lights 2

Marvel at the huge Christmas tree in Plaza Constitución, with the Gothic arches peeping at you from Calle Marqués de Larios, inviting you to come closer.

Malaga's gothic Christmas lights 2014

Malaga's Christmas lights 2014

It’s easy to be fooled by the blue skies and warm sunshine, but yes, it’s only two weeks until Christmas Day.

You can really get in the mood for Christmas by visiting the outdoor skating rink in front of El Corte Ingles, or go to see one of the many the Bélens (crib and Nativity scenes) around the city – of which the best (in my opinion) is in the Town Hall.

Malaga’s Christmas lights shine from 6.30pm – 2am daily, until 6th January 2015

 

What’s YOUR favourite thing to do or visit at Christmas?

 

Málaga Feria: They’ll be Dancing in the Street

Fireworks to start the Malaga feria

Fireworks to start the Malaga feria  [Image credit: Manolo Gómez Flickr CC]

Even the smallest village here in Andalucía has it’s own fiesta or feria, but today sees the final day of the BIGGEST PARTY OF ALL (well, around these parts at least) – the Málaga Feria!   

Held every year during August to commemorate the reclaiming of the city from the Moors by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) on 18th August 1487, the Málaga feria is one of the largest fairs in Spain with millions of people joining the fun throughout the week.

Many daytime activities take place on the main shopping street - Calle Marques de Larios, Picasso’s birth-place – Plaza de la Merced and throughout the historic centre of the city from noon until  around 8pm each day.  There are open-air bars to tempt passers-by with sherry, delicious sweet Málaga wine and tapas while the sound of music fills the air.

Many people dress in traditional costume and spontaneous demonstrations of flamenco dancing often break out in the street.  

Yesterday, it was a joy to wander around the city, soaking up the party atmosphere before heading to the Bodega Bar El Pimpi for a spot of lunch.  El Pimpi seems to get bigger and bigger every time I go, with it’s warren of rooms and outdoor terraces, which were all packed with feria-goers.  The inside walls of the bar are decorated with photographs of famous visitors and historic posters of ferias past.  You can also see the enormous barrels signed by some celebrity patrons including former UK prime minister, Tony Blair and, one of Málaga’s famous sons, film-actor Antonio Banderas.

Tradition then dictates a short siesta before heading to the outskirts of the city (next to the Palacio de Congresos building, near the airport) for La Feria de la Noche (the night fair), which starts very slowly around ten in the evening and continues all night, until the break of dawn.

Here you will find hundreds of marquees (known as casetas) scattered throughout the fairground where you can enjoy more drinks and food, whilst dancing to the sound of both modern and flamenco music.

And, if like me, you LOVE fairground rides, then you can be flung here, there and everywhere on some wild, mechanical rides or take a gentle journey on the huge ferris wheel, for great views across the feria.

There are shuttle buses throughout the night from city centre to the fairground.

 Would you like to join in the party next year?  

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay: Marina del Este

Mackerel Rock at Marina del Este

Mackerel Rock at Marina del Este

Just a few miles to the east of Maro and Nerja, situated between the towns of La Herradura and Almuñecar lies one of the few marinas along the southern coastline of Spain, Marina del Este.  

The Marina (also known as Puerto Deportivo Punta de la Mona) was developed in the 1980s around a large natural rock formation known as Peñón de las Caballas (Mackerel Rock) and features a small attractive harbour protected by the pine-clad promontory of the Punta de la Mona.  

Marina del Este on Google Earth

Google Earth view of the Marina

Located in a privileged setting where the peaks of the Sierra de Almijara finally slope into the sea, this area is known for the exceptional quality of its seabed, immersed within the Parque Natural de los Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo (a Natural and Marine Reserve) which has been declared of important ecological value by UNESCO.  

The Reserve follows a narrow twelve kilometre coastal strip and extends into the Alboran Sea (covering 395 land and 1,415 sea hectares), spanning the provinces of Málaga and Granada.  

A ban on fishing within the Marine Reserve provides the perfect place for snorkelling and scuba-diving in the crystal-clear waters.

View across La Herradura Bay

View across La Herradura Bay

How to get to Marina del Este

Do yourself a favour and take the old N-340 coastal road from Nerja to the Marina (rather than the motorway) for the spectacular views across the horseshoe-shaped bay of La Herradura whilst passing the unique and dramatic coastline created by the steep cliffs (acantilados) along the way.  If you have time, you might consider calling in at one of the few sheltered coves between the soaring cliffs, where you will need to take a staircase or steep track down to the beach.

As you might expect, Marina del Este is not directly off the road and can be a bit tricky to find by car. To access it you need to turn off the N-340 just after Km 309 (signed for Pto. Deportivo Marina del Este) and bear right into the Punta de la Mona urbanisation.   Follow the road downhill until you see a sign ahead pointing left towards the Marina.  Turn left here past the 4* Hotel Best Alcazar and continue down the hill all the way to the bottom, where there is a free car park.

If all the free parking spots are taken, there is an official car park to the right of the entrance of the Marina, where it costs just €3.50 to park for 24 hours.

Entrance to Marina del Este

Entrance to Marina del Este

As you enter the Marina, turn to the right just past the barrier and follow the promenade towards Mackerel Rock, past all the beautiful boats.

I usually bring a loaf of bread with me to feed to the fishes here.  They are always so hungry and entertaining, as they climb over one another to get to the food!

Feeding frenzy at Marina del Este

Feeding frenzy

Once you’ve walked past Mackerel Rock there are some steps up onto the harbour wall, which is a great place for “watching the ships roll in, and then watch ‘em roll away again”.

As you walk along the harbour wall you get an elevated view over the boats and spectacular views across to Almuñecar and, as you near the end of the wall, you will see the Blue Flag (currently for 2014/2015) flying near to the entrance of the harbour.

If you are interested in chartering a boat for a few days, this is the best place to look.  Or, maybe you just want to take a boat excursion for an hour or two around the Cerro Gordo Marine Reserve and to the hidden coves along the coastline, which can also be arranged.

There are several diving clubs based at Marina del Este and good snorkelling from the adjoining Playa de los Berengueles, near to the car park.

For boat owners, there are 227 berths within the marina (to a maximum length of 35 metres), and all the services you would expect, including a fuel berth, boat hoist (up to 6m), chandlers, mechanics, hardstanding etc.   More information from Marinas del Mediterráneo.

However, if like me, you just want to stroll around the harbour drooling over the beautiful boats, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and the great views across to Almuñecar, then Marina del Este is a great place to while away a few hours, both during the daytime or in an evening.

There is an art gallery, shops and a great selection of bars and restaurants all with outdoor seating, where you can enjoy a cool drink, tapas or a meal.

Yes, I’m pretty sure that even Otis Redding would enjoy sitting on the dock of this particular bay!