Marching Through Malaga

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I HAD AN UNEXPECTED TREAT today. My friend Sylvia decided to give me a lift into Malaga, a seaport city of half a million on the Mediterranean coast, and a custom tour of the city’s architectural highlights. Once again, common wisdom (“Malaga? Pfff!” — which I had heard more than once) fails to hold up. Picasso’s birthplace is a suitably colorful city, and a pretty one, with romantic 19th and early 20th century buildings on squares fringed with palm trees.

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Marble-paved calle Larios is a pedestrianized street lined with cafes and shops, where we stopped first for coffee and churros (fried dough strips, alright!) and then, like the professional travel writers we both are, made a whirlwind circuit of the historic center in a couple of hours.

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Malaga has an extraordinary Renaissance cathedral, below, as well as a Roman amphitheater in a very decent state of preservation, topped with a medieval wall in an even better one — things you just don’t see in the USA.

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We stopped into the indoor produce market, a 19th century iron shed with a magnificent stained glass wall (below, market hall on the right).

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 Below, Picasso’s birthplace on Plaza de la Merced, now offices of the foundation that bears his name.

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We looked into a few intriguing restaurants, like El Pimpi, with a plant-filled atrium and wine barrels signed by well-known visitors, below. But that is for another time.

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This time, we lunched outdoors at Vino Mio on a quiet square, below.

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It’s goodbye to Andalucia for now; I’m writing this in Cordoba, an hour north of Malaga by train. Zaragoza’s next. (What’s in Zaragoza? Besides a hotel reservation, damned if I know, but I’ll soon find out.) Though I’ve visited Spain a few times in recent years, mostly on business, I never totally warmed to the country before. With this trip though, I’m definitely getting it.