05 June 2019

An overnight stay in Málaga
on the way to visit Cordoba

The tower of Málaga Cathedral against the night sky last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Málaga this morning, having arrived on an evening flight from Dublin yesterday [4 June 2019]. I stayed overnight in the Ibis Málaga Centre Ciudad in the Centre of Málaga, close to the harbour and the port and within walking distance of the main sights, including the cathedral, the Picasso Museum, and the Roman amphitheatre, and Gibralfaro Castle and La Alcazaba, a magnificent Moorish fortress.

This short break was booked a long time ago, so I am sorry to miss the protests in Ireland today and tomorrow against Donald Trump's visit.

This is my third time in Spain within a nine-month period, and my sixth time to visit Spain.

In recent months, I have visited Seville and Tarifa (October 2018) and Santiago de Compostella (April 2019). In the past I have stayed in Madrid (2009), in La Carihuela near Torremolinos during Easter 2014, when I also visited Granada, the Alhambra, Málaga, Marbella, Fuengirola, Mijas and Gibraltar, and in Barcelona during Easter 2016.

For most of my adult life, I resisted the idea of going on a package holiday to Spain. For 40 years or more, I had travelled around the world for work and pleasure. But, apart from that city break in Madrid ten years ago I had never been to Spain for a holiday until 2014.

Until then, you could say, I did not know my Málaga from my Marbella, my Frigiliana from my Fuengirola, or the Costa Blanca from the Costa Brava and the Costa del Sol.

I took Spanish at school for five years, motivated perhaps by stories that it was an easier language to learn than French, German or Italian. I had inspiring teachers who introduced me to Spanish literature, from Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote to 20th century poets such as Federico García Lorca, and Spanish artists from Velázquez, Murillo and Goya to Miró, Picasso and Dalí.

Why, I even managed to pass Spanish at Intermediate and Leaving Certificate levels, although 50 years later I have managed to forget most of the Spanish I learned at school.

I think my reluctance to go on a package holiday to Spain was partly due to my own snobbery, disguised as political certitude. Spain was the land of Franco, Guernica and the garrotte; Spain was a land of brutality symbolised in the bullfight and the civil war chillingly depicted by George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia; Spain was the land of the Spanish inquisition and the brutal expulsion of Jews and Muslims; and, before the package holiday industry boomed, Spain was popular with Irish people whose political sympathies on one hand were with the Blueshirts in the 1930s, or on the other hand with Frank Ryan who had defected to Nazi Germany.

Journalistic colleagues, including Paddy Woodworth, Colm Toibin and the late Jane Walker, chided and upbraided me for my inhibitions. But these prejudices persisted, reinforced by Monty Python sketches about Torremolinos, with half-built, high-rise hotels, Watney’s Red Barrel and pools with no water. Monty Python even reinforced my images with that sketch on the Spanish Inquisition.

Those prejudices have dissipated in recent years, hopefully, and I am back in Málaga after five years. After dinner last night, I strolled through the centre of Málaga, with its cathedral, squares and fountains. This is known as the capital of the Costa del Sol – but, without falling back on past prejudices, I should say that I am not here for a sun holiday at the start of summer.

I plan to travel on later today [5 June 2019] to Cordoba to visit the city’s famous Mosque, Cathedral and its Jewish Quarter.

I am back in Málaga later this week. Perhaps I shall find another opportunity on Friday to see a little more of the city before catching a return flight to Dublin.

A fountain in front of the cathedral in Málaga last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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