It was the 2nd day of my 2-day tour of modern art in Malaga with Hotel Alphabet. We were meeting at Centro de Arte Contemporaneo at 10.30.
Sunrise isn’t until about 8.30am and I’ve found it strange to get up relatively late in the dark, so have been pleased I added breakfast to my hotel booking. I like to have just some cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt and juice first thing and go in search of a good coffee and pastry a bit later – once it’s light! Even at 9-9.30 it’s very quiet everywhere. Life in Spain starts late and goes on late. It’s not unusual to see families with even very young children arrive at a restaurant at 10.30 at night for a meal and tapas are traditionally just a snack to have with an early evening drink.
I was planning to have coffee in a historic cafe in Plaza de la Constitucion, which, my guide book told me, opened at 8.00am. However, even after 9.00 there wasn’t much sign of life, just a couple of waiters slowly putting out tables. This is Spain: don’t try to be in a hurry. I went to another cafe almost next door where I had a good coffee and croissant overlooking the pretty square, still relatively deserted at this early hour.
I had about an half hour walk to the art gallery but set off early enough to take things gently. From the square I walked down the wide, pedestrianised Calle Larios (where the day before I’d enjoyed ice cream at Casa Mira), a street lined with historic houses over 100 years old, though now mainly shops and restaurants. The far end opened onto the port area. The port is the oldest continuously operated port in Spain and one of the oldest in the Mediterranean. At the point I arrived it was very industrial and I couldn’t walk along the coast so instead followed the next road inland towards the art gallery. It was still a nice walk.
The Contemporary Art Musuem opened in 2003 and its shows have an emphasis on promoting 20th century Spanish art. It was formerly a 1930s wholesale market building and this background lends itself to providing a wonderfully light spacious setting for the displays. I wasn’t familiar with the artists so it was particularly great to have art historian Marie-Anne Mancio to inform me. It’s very easy to dismiss unfamiliar art that doesn’t immediately appeal and you don’t understand but when someone explains it and gives it reference and offers insight, it all changes. You don’t necessarily fall in love with it but there’s great interest in opening your eyes to the new.
We spent 2 hours there and when we emerged it was lunchtime. Marie-Anne and Paul led us towards the beach – which was also in the direction of our afternoon gallery visit – and it was great to see the sea in the sunshine. We ate at a beach restaurant, all 14 of us round a large table. I shared a vegetarian paella with Sheila and other paellas were ordered but some salads too. We took our time – mainly as paella takes a long time to cook from scratch! It was all good fun and a nice thing to do on our final day.
Afterwards we walked a fairly short distance to the State Russian Museum, a branch of the legendary St Petersburg museum.
We saw sardines being barbecued at another restaurant on the way. Chargrilled Espetos de sardinas are a Malagan speciality. Clearly I need to try them another day!
The Russian museum was in a quiet area, some way from the historic centre. It was interesting art – though far from uplifting. During Stalin’s time and up to Gladnost in 1986 under Gorbachev, artists weren’t free to paint what they liked, they had to paint government approved things that were basically propaganda. To do otherwise was very dangerous indeed!
It was time to say goodbye to the group as we made our way back to the centre of the city. It had been a great two days.
Back in the hotel I rested tired legs for a while before heading out for supper. I noticed how much busier it was now it’s the weekend. It’s an advantage to want to eat fairly early when restaurants are a bit quieter. I was able to get a table at Vineria Cervantes for an hour, otherwise it was fully booked.
Vineria Cervantes is sister to El Tapeo de Cervantes next door, which is considered one of the best places to eat in Malaga, and has the same menu.
I like eating in an informal bar like this. There was a long specials list on a blackboard as well as the usual menu. I chose two dishes from this and ordered white wine and a small bottle of mineral water.
Rather thoughfully – and a nice surprise – they brought my two dishes separately. At lunchtime many dishes are available as tapas (small dishes), raciones (½ portions) or full portions, but small tapas size wasn’t an evening option so I chose 2 raciones.
The first, Ceviche with Mango, looked wonderful as it was put before me and tasted amazing. It looked small but was a deceptively large potions that would be plenty to share between two having a selection of dishes. My second dish, Grilled Tuna with Cauliflower Purée, was fabulous too. There was carrot as well as cauliflower purée and the tuna was so rare it was almost sushi but incredibly tender and tasty. This was food of the highest order.
Yes I did want dessert, I told the waiter with a laugh when he asked. I’m on holiday! I ordered fig flan. I have to say it wasn’t quite what I had in mind; I need to remember I’m in Spain not France and Spanish desserts are entirely different.
It did indeed taste of fig though – dried figs – and was cake like. It looked as if it would be very sweet but surprisingly wasn’t and I enjoyed it.
It was a wonderful meal of fantastic food, and made all the more enjoyable by the friendliness of the waiters, their obvious enthusiasm for what they were serving and their knowledge about the food and wine.
I took a slow, slightly winding route back through the busy streets to the hotel, passing as ever through Plaza de la Constitucion, a lovely end to another good day.