9/19/2010 (Marrakesh, Morocco)
Preview of coming “attractions”: Today we visited a tannery, rode camels, bought a carpet, and got full (and I mean full) body massages… But that’s for the Marrakesh installment. I will set the scene, however. We are staying at the Royal Mirage (a Sheraton hotel in an earlier incarnation) and it is a study in contrasts. The lobbies, pool/patio, 6 restaurants, and stores are spectacular! The carpets are old and stained and the bedspreads are suspicious….it’s clear that vacuuming and sweeping are more symbolic than actual. I’ve discovered that Americans are overly focused on hygiene.
Back to Malaga, at least mentally. The road to Malaga took us through the Sierra Nevadas of the Andalucia region–impressive peaks of green and gray leading to a coastline dotted with villages of white washed, red-roofed houses. Since most businesses and restaurants in Spain shut down at 2:00, it’s impossible to get anything to eat before 6:00. Mike and I have established a couple of traditions since we arrived. We like to make sure that we’re walking around outside during the hottest part of the day and we try to schedule being hungry when no food is available. True to form, we arrived in Malaga at our ultra-modern hotel about 4:00. It was difficult to take pictures that really convey the sense that Jane Jetson designed the furniture in the lobby but I’ll send one or two the next time we upload photos. The Hotel Barcelo’s location (in a train station) with unlovely surrounding neighborhoods persuaded us to eat Italian food in the mall–good actually. (I have to admit that I’m ready to eat something other than Spanish food although Moroccan food may not be it…).
The next day we found the beautiful old town of Malaga and enjoyed sitting out a rainstorm in the Dos Gatos bocadillo before going to the Picasso museum. (One of us was really excited about this and the other was a good sport.) A 16th century building houses 200+ paintings, drawings, and sculptures, all of which were donated by Picasso’s daughter and her son. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures. In each of the salons there was a quote by or about Picasso that revealed the character of the artist and the reality of the times in which he lived. His work, his subjects, and his words were powerful forces in the development of modern art. I loved it all.
After our museum visit Mike and I strolled through a lovely city park and went and looked at a Spanish galleon (a reproduction of the type that went across the Atlantic but built about 200 years ago). The marina wasn’t lovely and, in fact, the beaches on the Costa del Sol are gray pebbles, not the beautiful white sand beaches of the Costa Brava further east (near Barcelona). Malaga and surrounding towns are pretty densely populated and many British people have retired here or bought vacation homes/apartments here. We met a couple from Northern Ireland who has a house near Malaga and mentioned that they come here several times a year. Still, Malaga has the airport we flew from so it was worth seeing for a day or two.
One thing I will always hold against Malaga is the fall I took on the way back to the Hotel Barcelo. There is literally no street in Spain that isn’t uneven and dangerous. So I’ve been very careful, watching my steps and wearing the sensible (old lady) walking sandals I brought instead of the cute, chic shoes I got in Porto. So landing on my knees and hands on a side street pissed me off almost as much as it hurt. No injuries that won’t fade eventually–I’m sure I’ll still be bruised when I see you. I did decide to get a massage when possible because my back was so jarred.
Before I close–a few words about our flights here. We did the usual stand in lines until we got to our alleged gate in the (huge) Malaga airport. There was no indication (anywhere) that our plane would depart from the gate. When I asked someone, he told me that we were at the right gate–probably. Later Mike talked to a woman who said that if we were told the plane to Casablanca would leave from this gate, then it would–usually. So Spanish–it cracked me up. The layover in Casablanca was long and we had planned to leave the airport for a few hours or at least take care of money exchange, find a restaurant, shop, etc. It’s different in an Arabic country… After going through customs we were shunted off to the waiting area for the next flight (we were not allowed to leave). So…we spent 4 hours in a smallish departure area with supercilious, chain-smoking French people, unable to exchange money and told to “attende” (listen) if we wanted to know when our plane left.
French is the language everyone speaks here–French and “hello, I will be happy to overcharge you…” We leave for Madrid tomorrow and by then I will have the distance and perspective needed to write about Morocco…