Monday, June 16, 2008

Cruise Day #4, Malaga

We arrived in port this morning around 7:00am under a cloudless sky. We backed into our berth, giving Libby and me a spectacular view from our balcony of the sunrise over the hills / mountains surrounding Malaga (as a native Floridian I have little ability to visually differentiate between these topological features). The view of Malaga from the port is attractive but not breathtakingly beautiful. The immediate coastline is dominated by high-rise buildings of little architectural interest.

After docking, the ship was quickly cleared by the local authorities. We skipped breakfast today. Disembarkation was an absolute breeze when we departed around 8:30. Amazingly, there was neither a queue on the stairs nor a wait to exit from the gangway! As we didn’t opt for any of the shore excursions, we explored Malaga on foot on our own. We had planned to take the “ho-ho” (hop on, hop off) bus for tourists. But, it really wasn’t needed as the main tourist sights were in easy walking distance. We started by visiting the Cathedral in Malaga (3.50 euro entry fee), known as “La Manquita” (The One-Armed Lady) due to the single north tower and non-existant south tower on its primary fa├žade. From there, we walked to the Picasso Museum, which was closed today as it was Monday. While Picasso seemingly has museums all over Europe, Malaga is an especially appropriate place as he was born here in a house on Plaza de la Merced. We did, however, a chance to view and photograph the Roman amphitheatre on the Western hillside of Alcazaba. The theatre dated from the time of Augustus. The Alacazaba itself is a palace that was on the eastern edge of the then Moorish walled city. Unfortunately, it too was closed today (as it was still Monday…). After this, we started hiking up a mountain via Camino Nuevo to Castle Gibralfaro of Phoenician origin. Thankfully, it’s a ruin. So there was no fear of it being closed today. It’s also fairly steep climb to the top, but the views from the mountainside were magnificent! After climbing back down, we wandered around the downtown of Malaga, which is dotted with a number of small parks with formal gardens and statues. Interestingly, while Malaga’s shopping streets include some international brands (e.g., Sephora, Foot Locker, and the ever-present McDonald’s), we noticed that most shops were local or possibly Spanish national brands. In any case, it made for something of a unique retail landscape for us.

Overall, we were impressed by Malaga. This wasn’t a “highlight” port for us, and we came with little in the way of expectations. I suspect that many aboard the Jade took shore excursions to Ronda or to Granada to see the Alhambra. However, we went on this trip with an assumption that we’d return to Spain (and likely this region) to see it in more depth. Though new to Spain, we’re also experienced and independent travelers. For that reason, it didn’t make sense to spend hundreds of dollars and valuable hours on a bus tour when we had new and interesting sites to see right outside of our backdoor.

We returned to the ship by 3PM for a small snack on the Lido Deck buffet. After 5 o’clock, Libby went to the spa for a manicure. We’re now sitting on our balcony and gawking at the morons (or should I say who display “moronic behavior”) that can’t seem to arrive before or even 15 minutes after the “all aboard” time. :-)

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