Out of Season Travel: Malaga & Granada

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Whilst the weather takes a turn for the cold here, I managed to squeeze in a couple of days in sunny Malaga & Granada, Spain. It’s not quite the season for vacations but here’s a potential summer place to bear in mind because I have absolutely never been to anywhere quite like these two places before. Malaga is often known for its beaches & summer partying but for all you history/culture buffs out there – this one’s for you as well.

Malaga & Granada were Islamic cities up until the 15th century when the Catholic Monarchs, Isabelle & Ferdinand, finally conquered the Moors. If you know your history, you’ll know the reason why those names sound familiar is because they were none other than the in-laws of Henry VIII of England. Of course there’s potentially six sets of in-laws right there but no, they were the in-laws; as in, the parents of Catherine of Aragon, King Henry’s first wife. While I wouldn’t say no to a good party, I must confess, this was the very reason that drew me to this part of Spain.

Malaga has everything you could ask for in a city – good food, shopping & historical sights. Some highlights include the Moorish outpost Alcazaba, Castillo de Gibralfaro & the Roman Theatre just to name a few. What I can’t go into is the plethora of museums available which much to my regret, I did not have the time. Malaga has everything from a Picasso museum (for the unaware, Malaga was Picasso’s birthplace), to one on crystals and another on automobiles, just to name a few.

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I speak of both Malaga and Granada when I say I was absolutely fascinated with the Islamic influences on the architecture & interior decor of their palaces. The intricacies of detailing & Arabic words entwined within the design is nothing like the fancy gold ornate-ness of most European palaces, nothing like the sheer Oriental-ness of the Far East. I have never wandered through such a palace of rooms opening up in the most unexpected of ways to gorgeous courtyards of gardens, fountains, marble even. Their gardens are a perfect oasis, even in spite of the many other tourists milling around you. Never have I seen such an apt physical incarnate of the phrase “paradise on earth”. The sense of peacefulness just washes over you completely as you wander as you will amongst the countless rooms.

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This could be me being biased, but I confess, much of the inspiration for this trip stemmed from historical fiction novel, The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory. I can’t say that it’s anything in the way of my favourite book but her description of The Alhambra from Catherine of Aragon’s point of view was positively poetic. I was instantly enchanted by her portrayal of the lush yet peaceful paradise that Alhambra was to Catherine. Even though of course the Alhambra you see today is different from the Alhambra of the 15th century, it is actually one of the most well-preserved of such architecture. It takes but a little imagination to see it as it might have been back in the day.

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The Alhambra is essentially usually the only reason why tourists ever go to Granada, and I am no different. The city seemed interesting enough, with a more Muslim incline it appeared, than Malaga. Unfortunately we didn’t really have time to explore other parts, although I have been told that the Albacin neighbourhood, the remnants of the Moors, is an interesting place.

Malaga is the oft-overlooked neighbour of Granada and Seville but it is most definitely worth a visit & a day or two.

Nichola Koh

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