Monday, 25 October 2010

Algarrobo breaks, forks, divides into two distinct realities. One of them wedged on the banks of the river Algarrobo, amidst farming plots of orange and fruit trees, peaceful and scented with orange blossoms in spring, lemon trees in the late autumn, and the sweet smells of pies all year round. The other faces the sea, which laps at its dark sandy coast, getting pregnant with foam and salt, a hardened sun in the summer, skewers and burning charcoal, Bavarian or German accents bringing their hopes for warmth to the beach. Algarrobo has a coastal life, yet it is also the gateway to deep Axarquía –a region leaning over ravines, breathing an unmistakable Mudéjar past, boasting silent whitewashed homes, spick-and-span streets, hidden gardens, towns like Árchez or Sedella or Salares or Cómpeta or Arenas… This dual life of sense and sensibility is the foundation where Algarrobo stands –a small town where contrasts come alive, a town feeding on sunlight and fruit on equal parts.

Zooming in and Starting the Tour

The road that connects the hinterland with the coastal area runs across the lower part of Algarrobo. A square shows the way to the town centre up ahead. A narrow one-way alley joyfully brings me to the heart of town. The sign of a white P against a blue background indicates where I can park. I find my way to an empty spot, opposite a huge park with a playground, sports courts, table tennis tables, and benches. It’s Escalerilla Street. Algarrobo Pueblo is a cluster of houses of huddled streets, flights of steps, bridges, and little squares. I walk up Calle Las Flores, collecting evocative street names: Calle Corta, Calle de la Iglesia, Calle Desamparados. Old homes mix with more modern constructions, although the essence of Algarrobo is purely traditional.

The Church and the Chapel

The maze of streets has brought me to Plaza de la Iglesia, dominated by the tall religious building. Its white and ochre-trimmed façade featuring a square belfry tower. It’s the Parish Church of Santa Ana, dating back to the seventeenth century. It’s a three-nave cruciform church with round arches separating its naves. Its most remarkable features are its wooden coffered ceilings and an eighteenth-century side chapel. Back on Las Flores, I walk down Santo Domingo Street to bump into a shop whose sign read: “Carmen Lupiañez. Algarrobo pies. Baker’s shop.” Of course, I walk in. The pies from Algarrobo are famous all over Málaga Province. Carrying two basic ingredients –olive oil and almonds–, they are part of the local Arab heritage. I buy two dozens of the highly-prized jewels (€8). To the left of the baker’s shop, Desamparados Street leads to the chapel, besides showing a bunch of surprising patios, corners, little squares, and high alleys. Algarrobo’s Arab past is written on the town’s body, in its unfathomable labyrinthine layout. I climb a flight of steps and reach Enmedio Street. Following the directions they gave me at the baker’s shop, I turn right and come to a new flight of steps to the left. Then Sol Street, a new turn to the left, and a climb to Mirador del Cielo, whose “Sailor’s Window” affords views of the Mediterranean gnawing at the sandy beach of Algarrobo Costa. From the viewpoint I access the Chapel of San Sebastián, walking across its beautiful gardens. This is the higher part of town, so I can take a look at the surrounding mountains, which, without being steep, box the river Algarrobo in. Their slopes have been converted to farming plots where subtropical and citrus trees grow. I take a seat in the well-kept gardens and watch Mare Nostrum from such a privileged location. The chapel is at the far end. It was built in 1975, based on an older, seventeenth-century temple. The breeze hailing from the sea makes my break sweet, for it’s smooth, mild, and cool. I think of a story from the rich past of the area: Legend has it that there used to be a secret passage which linked to old fortress in Algarrobo to the Bentomiz Castle in the neighbouring town of Arenas. The passageway was never found. The legend in mind, I resume my tour, going back to town along an alley bearing a rock & roll name: “Escalera hacia el Cielo” –just like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Only that I climb down the alley, so instead of taking me to heaven, it brings me back to earth. Santo Domingo Street, Beatas Street, Cobertizo Street, and back to Escalerilla Street where my car is.

Algarrobo Costa: Algarrobo’s Coastal District

Algarrobo Costa lies some 3km away from Algarrobo Pueblo. Its beaches are watched over by modern apartment buildings that overlook the ancient sea from their cheeky twentieth-century façades. The skyscrapers make a puzzle against the bright blue sky. The two beaches, La Mezquitilla and Playa de Algarrobo, are connected by a wooden bridge across the river Algarrobo. They’re dark sand beaches, sun loungers scattered on their blackish grey gravel. I can hear a mix of accents, with prevailing German sounds. Maybe it’s because Algarrobo is celebrating its own version of Oktoberfest this weekend: Bavarian beer, sausages, knuckles, cabbage and potato salads, and Ein Prosit songs under a huge blue and white gazebo. Strolling along the Sea Promenade, I can see the traces of old sea architecture –low houses with open porches facing the sea where boats sleep, two-storey homes decorated with fishing nets and the like. I walk on, across, in the opposite direction, across the bridge leading to La Mezquitilla. There’re archaeological sites in the area that attest to its rich history: Age of Bronze, Carthaginians, Romans. There’s a bunch of restaurants on La Mezquitilla. Most of them serve fish and seafood, notably sardine skewers and salted fish. There’re options for all kinds of guests, catering everyone’s tastes and pockets. On my way back, I search for Algarrobo’s two watchtowers. As a matter of fact, the whole of the Andalusian coastal strip –including Costa del Sol– is peppered with such towers, which were used to spot privateers and Berber pirates. The unique feature of the towers that have stood to this day in Algarrobo is that one of them is straight whereas the other is leaning. This is why they’re known as “Torre Derecha” (derecha is the Spanish word for “straight”) and “Torre Ladeada” or “Ladeá” (ladeado means “leaning”) –a local version of the Tower of Pisa. According to a woman I talked to, the tower’s so close to the sea (it’s only 20m away from the beach) that it was battered in a storm and hence its present shape. I take a look and a couple of pictures, too. Yes, it is leaning. I think the lean could be some 20º. But then, how come it’s still standing? Walking away from the beach, I visit the Phoenician ruins of Trayamar, some 500m away on the road connecting the beach to Algarrobo Pueblo. A detour to the right shows the way to both a tree nursery and the ruins. I drive into the nursery and reach the office where they give you the keys to visit the ruins. They’re private property, but the owners are kind enough to show them to visitors. They believe they’re part of everyman’s heritage. I get off the car. The owners are a couple with an eight- or nine-year-old daughter, Eva, who tours me around. “There used to be a tomb here and another over there. The vase was found when they unearthed the tombs and was just left there,” she explains. “Aren’t you afraid of the tombs,” I ask. “No way. I’m never afraid,” says the brave girl. The boards on the walls inform of the unearthing of the Phoenician necropolis of Trayamar: the artifacts found, their conservation, the most valuable pieces, and so on. I say goodbye to Eva and go back to my car, once again feeling the ever-present strong fruity smells.


The breeze from the sea reaches me from the beach, with its subtle yet unmistakable salt aromas. It blends with the strong smells of the fruit trees, conjuring up a unique essence. I’m sitting in the Gardens of San Sebastián, staring at the sea from this high place. I can also smell the freshly watered grass. A unique viewpoint, indeed. The early slopes of the Axarquía mountains at my back, with their farming plots; the shimmering Mediterranean Sea in front of me. I take a deep breath and gulp down my first Algarrobo pie. There’re 23 left now.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Feast of San Sebastián: On January 20, Algarrobo pays tribute to its patron saint. His image is carried in a procession to the Chapel of San Sebastián, along the winding alleys of the town centre. Pilgrims are accompanied by boisterous fireworks. Mardi Gras: Carnival is becoming an increasingly popular fiesta in Algarrobo. There’re fancy dress, dance, and street musician competitions. Folklore Festival: The last weekend of August, Algarrobo holds its Folklore Festival, drawing the best of the local, regional, and international popular dances and traditions. This festival is an attempt to make different cultures converge in town.
Algarrobo’s Flamenco Evening: The first weekend of September, there’s Algarrobo’s Flamenco Evening, one of the oldest flamenco festivals in the area. Deeply rooted in Andalusian popular culture, Algarrobo’s Flamenco Evening gathers the leading flamenco artists in town.
Useful links: To read more about Algarrobo, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Algarrobo Town Hall.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A subtle veil of haze, spreads in shreds across the Guadalhorce Valley. It’s cool in the morning; the wetness of the night has made aromas stronger. You can smell the earth, the pines, the fruit trees, citrus essences. The fertile valley ends in this broad meadows which Alhaurín de la Torre watches over from above. It’s an intense, sweet-smelling, fertile morning. No wonder that the Phoenicians and the Turdetans settled here to exploit the gold and silver mines. No wonder that the Romans called the area Lauro Vetus (old laurel) and Caesar’s men captured Gnaeus Pompeius here. No wonder that the Arabs were here too, giving the town the name that’s come down to us. Remarkable modern events took place in Alhaurín de la Torre, too. “The Casa Refugio de Torrijos is the place where general José María de Torrijos took shelter when he came to Alhaurín de la Torre fleeing from the troops of Ferdinand VII. He had rebelled against the King in 1831 in an attempt to restore the Constitution of 1812. The general and his men sought refuge in an estate owned by the Count of Mollina, Hacienda de la Alquería (now Torrealquería), where they were taken prisoners. Torrijos and his men were executed by firing squad on San Andrés beach, Málaga City. An obelisk was erected in Plaza de la Merced as a memorial to these events” (source: Costa del Sol Tourist Board website).

Zooming in

Following directions to the city centre, I came to the local police square and parked there, close to the hallmark tower bearing the town’s name, next to the former Rural Hygiene Centre and Doctor’s Home. As soon as I got off the car, I was seized by a strong smell of jasmine. It was a powerful, sweet, evocative smell. About 36,000 people live in Alhaurín de la Torre, so it’s quite a large town, with lots of housing developments that have sprung around the original districts as a result of steady growth since the 1970s. It’s also a modern town, but it has a long, eventful history.

The Park, the Fraternities, the Church

I walked down Álamos Street across España Avenue and Juan Carlos Primero Street to reach Plaza de España. The square led to the Chapel of Alamillo (left) and the Church of San Sebastián (right). I went into Málaga Street to the right –a pedestrian street with multiple shops on both sides. It looked quiet in the early morning. The church was in Plaza del Conde, straight ahead, but I went through an archway into the Town Park. The park was a leafy space featuring a small kiosk, a playground for children, several benches, a fountain, a spring flowing into a pond, and a bunch of trees and bushes: cypresses, rose trees, China roses, poplars, rubber plants… I could hear a purring cat, seconded by cooing pigeons. It felt so good. From the park I sauntered down Calle de la Mezquita to take a look at the houses of two of the leading fraternities in Alhaurín de la Torre. Easter is a major event in town. Designated as a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest in 2001, Easter celebrations bring to the fore the rivalry between two of three local fraternities: Real Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno del Paso y María Santísima de los Dolores, a.k.a. “Moraos” (Purple), whose procession takes place on Maundy Thursday, and Cofradía del Santísimo Cristo de la Vera Cruz y Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, a.k.a. “Verdes” (Green), who take to the streets on Good Friday. Their houses are on the same street. I left them behind to walk up Pasaje Félix Revello de Toro and into Cantarranas Street, then turned right and came to Plaza de la Concepción, home to the Church of San Sebastián. It was sober, modern square building with a curious trait: no belfry tower! Instead, it had a three-eyed belfry on each side of the frontage, one of which included three bells and a clock. This made it look peculiar. The white and ochre façade, in the Neoclassical style, features a series of drawn columns with a triangular pediment. This church was original built in the seventeenth century. Then an earthquake brought it down and it was rebuilt in the nineteenth century, almost from scratch.

Up to the Chapel of Alamillo past El Portón

Málaga Street brought me back to Plaza de San Sebastián. Alhaurín de la Torre was waking up. Some of its dwellers were having coffee and toast, or ham-and-cheese sandwiches, on the terrace bars. I strolled down a narrow pedestrian street, Calle Ermita, flanked by two-storey houses. Ermita Street led to Plaza Santa Ana, which housed the Town Library. I walked up Real Street and across Juan Carlos Primero Avenue. It was quite a walk to the Chapel of Alamillo, which I undertook with pleasure in the morning breeze carrying citrus smells. After a while I came to Finca El Portón, a fully rehabilitated auditorium surrounded by a leafy garden. In the late nineteenth century, this estate was transferred to the local government by a Mr Robinson to be used as a venue for social events and cultural activities. El Portón makes the ideal setting for concerts, dance performances, and art shows. Events take place in it throughout the year: band festivals, the International Folklore Festival, the Jazz Festival, Summer Film, the beauty pageant on St John’s Eve. A curious fact: the place is also used as a venue for wedding parties! (If you’re interested, make your booking at (+34) 952 417 164 or go to the Town Office from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). The road to El Alamillo opened up to the first lemon and orange groves. The town and the field met, affording glimpses of the depression known as La Hoya. Autumn smells came to me shamelessly. The chapel was in the backyard of the Hacienda del Cura. I could see it now. A quiet walk indeed, accompanied by the singing birds, a barking dog in the distance, a bunch of clucking hens. I was there. It was an 1875 chapel, dedicated to St Francis of Paola. It was simple and austere, delicate, ethereal. It seemed to rise up from the lemon and orange groves. I sat down in front of it, letting the wet morning air wrap me in.


The orchard at the feet of Alhaurín de la Torre is a real paradise for citrus and subtropical trees. Heavy rows of orange trees and tangerine trees and lemon trees and avocados and mango trees stretch out in bushy areas tamed by the hand of man. I fancied a stroll amidst them in spring, when orange blossoms are in bloom and branches become yellowish and orange in the form of small buds –little treasures in a deep-green ocean. I took the smells of the wet earth and the citrus in and understood why the Guadalhorce Valley attracted the Phoenicians and the Turdetans and the Romans and the Arabs and the Christians and the Malagueños and now, right now, visitors like me.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Torre del Cante Flamenco Festival: On the Saturday before St John’s Eve, the football stadium in Alhaurín de la Torre plays host to one of the leading flamenco festivals in Málaga and Andalusia, drawing top flamenco stars. International Folklore Gala: Held in September, the Traditional Folklore Gala, “Raíces,” gathers musicians playing traditional music from all over Spain, who perform to show their highly personal ways of understanding the music of their homelands.
Portón del Jazz: A must-attend for jazz enthusiasts since 1997, this festival takes place in June, featuring concerts by the leading jazz musicians on Fridays.
Useful links: To learn more about Alhaurín de la Torre, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A lanky man walks amidst the rows of orange trees. He carries a dark hat and a cigar in his hand. And a notebook under his arm. He’s strolling around, enjoying the perfume of the fruit trees. One step at a time. He has many names: “The Englishman,” “The Traveller,” “The Writer,” “Don Gerald,” “Mr Brenan.” He came to Alhaurín el Grande and settled here a few months ago. He chose the town as the place to live in, write in, walk in. I see him amidst the rows of orange trees and wonder if his shadow is real.

Zooming in

The morning mist covering the fruit trees like a subtle wool cloud is soaked with their exuberant citric aromas, pervading the air with them. Alhaurín el Grande has an Arabic origin, for “Al-haur” means “valley” or “basin” and the full name is thought to mean “Garden of Allah,” as the old inhabitants of the land used to call it. It is a quiet village on a hillock, in the first northern slopes of Sierra de Mijas. From here it watches over its fields of orange and lemon trees. The area is peppered with ancestral homes –modern cortijos showing their towers, skylights, walls enclosing tamed gardens. The cool of the early morning finds its way along the long straight streets leading to the town centre. It’s still silent in the autumnal morning which hasn’t quite set in.

First Streets, Church, Archway

I accessed the town through the road from Coín, down Convento Street into Plaza Alta. This was where I parked my car. I took the tour book out which I had downloaded from the Town Hall website, which proved to be extremely helpful. I got out and began my tour down Cruz Street, the early sunlight painting the houses in shiny gold. Life was waking up, quiet and calm. Big, high-roofed houses whose shady hallways and doors led to bright patios. I let the street guide me. Passing by a baker’s shop, I remembered Alhaurín el Grande was famous for its wide variety of high-quality, traditionally made bread. I bought myself a loaf (€1.60) –huge, crunchy, fragrant, smelling of wheat toast, with a strong crust and coated with flour which stained my hands. In fact, it is on Cruz Street that the first Bread Museum in Spain opened in 2007 – a tribute to the Garcías, a family of bakers, the owners of “El Colmenero de Alhaurín.” Then I went down Albaicín Street (to which I’d come back later) and turned left, after the steeple of the Church of La Encarnación. I reached Plaza Baja in front of the church –a huge square where the bars had already arranged their breakfast tables. “The Church of La Encarnación was built just after the Christians settled in the village in 1485. It was built at the top of the hill, where there used to be a castle. It is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Gracia, the Patroness of Alhaurín el Grande. Traces of the original building can still be seen, like the Gothic ribbed vault in the lower part of the tower. The whole church was rehabilitated in the nineteenth century to get a Neoclassical appearance,” my tour book reads. The church was a solid square building with a six-sided tower crowned by a bright blue tile steeple. Inside, it features a bright, longish nave with a white marble floor, ochre trims, and wood column bases. On the sides, eight niches featuring different images. The ringing bells spread their sound across the adjoining streets. In its wake, I came to the back of the church, where the Arco del Cobertizo was. “The Cobertizo Archway dates back to Muslim times (twelfth century). It used to be the entrance to the medina, probably part of the city walls,” my guide explained. “It lay near the souk, where farm and cattle products where sold and bought.” I could picture it: travellers and traders coming and going, laden with products, spices, cloths, fruit, fish, meat; donkeys and mules climbing up from the bottom of the valley.

Chapel of San Sebastián, Houses

Past the Archway and the house of Nuestra Señora de Gracia Fraternity, I walked down across the Village Gateway and came to the House of Culture, a handsome rehabilitated building with a whitewashed façade and black barred windows. Crossing Ollerías Street, I reached Plaza de San Sebastián, preceding the Chapel of San Sebastián –a curious building of Muslim origin that in 1485 was already dedicated to St Sebastian (a saint the Catholic Monarchs were devout followers of). Remarkable features: an elaborate single-eye belfry with two bells and purely Andalusian ornaments resembling four pottery vases in glossy white and lilac. I retraced my steps back to the corner of Convento and Albaicín Streets, surprised at the high number of stately homes, some of them dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries –huge constructions in bright colours against a white background, with grilled doors and windows, tiled hallways, patios and fruit trees. A mix of jasmine and citric perfumes pervades the air. Alhaurín el Grande smells sweet.

San Rafael Archway, Chapel of Vera Cruz, Town Hall

Going up Albaicín Street, I got ever broader images of the Guadalhorce Valley at my back –a huge basin filled with fruit trees. In the foreground, the blue belfry of the church. At the far end of the street (which was steeper than it looked), there was the Portón de San Rafael, the old archway that marked the entrance to one of the several chaplaincies that used to be in Alhaurín el Grande and the exit into the sierras of Mijas. The so-called portón was in fact a brick archway, with a niche bearing an image of St Raphael and plain cross on top. The street on the left lead to Arquilla del Agua Park, where I sat down to regain strength and enjoy myself. I was close to the town boundaries, getting glimpses of Sierra de Mijas a few miles away, with the Chapel of San Antón standing out against the sierras. After the break I went back to the Portón de San Rafael, crossing Albaicín Street and then Molinos de Arriba Street and getting to Calle de la Calderona. Even in this older district, there were some extravagant homes, offering hints of a noble past. Long streets whose twists and turns prevented me from seeing their far ends. After changing its name to Calle de Burgos, La Calderona led to the main street, Calle Convento, which I’d taken before to get to the town centre. I turned right. A complicated network sprawled here, with streets and alleyways going up and down to build the layout of Alhaurín el Grande. Sauntering down to Plaza Alta, I went past Plaza del Convento, where the Town Hall and the Chapel of Vera Cruz (now undergoing rehabilitation) stood almost back to back. It was a quiet square, overlooking the Guadalhorce Valley and Serranía de Ronda, with Sierra de las Nieves in the foreground and white brushstrokes in the distance: the towns of Yunquera, Alozaina, Casarabonela (right), and Coín (in front). Why was this place called “Plaza del Convento”? There used to be a convent where the Town Hall stands now: the Franciscan Convent of Santa Catalina. Now, the original basement is part of the Town Hall, serving as storage facilities and event venues. Since the Town Hall door was open, I walked in to find a huge Andalusian courtyard. As to the Chapel of Vera Cruz, “it first was a Muslim temple and then a Christian chapel in the sixteenth century. It was torn down alongside the Convent of Santa Catalina (now the local Town Hall) by the Napoleonic troops on August 27, 1812, which killed 104 Alhaurinos. It was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style in 1921. It stands out for its façade decorated with floral and vegetal motifs, whose twin towers, crowned by slender steeples, flank the door below a beautiful rose window” (source: my faithful tour guide). Oh, war! You change the history and the looks of towns! Down Camino de Coín Street, I bumped into the Lucena or Twelve-Spout Fountain, which was renovated in the twentieth century. Locals say this fountain has never stopped pouring water, not even in times of drought. I cooled myself and found my way to Plaza Alta, where I’d left my car.


I could hear echoes from Gerald Brenan, the murmur of his poems and stories. I can picture him wearing his hat, standing in the higher part of the Albaicín, strolling down Convento Street, sitting by the Coberitzo Archway, thinking about his next novel or article. I could hear his pen scratching his notebook, and the sound gets mixed with the breeze of the orange and lemon trees. I took a seat myself and opened his autobiography, reading about his life in the South, in the South of Andalusia, and here, in the South of Málaga.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Gerald Brenan and Alhaurín el Grande: Gerald Brenan was a British writer and Hispanist. He was also an inveterate traveller. He came to Alhaurín el Grande on January 18, 1968. From 1968 to 1973, he travelled in Greece, Turkey and Italy. In 1973, he published the biography of St John of the Cross. One year later, he released his second book of memoirs, Memoria personal (1920-1972). In 1977 he published a book of poems in English, Los mejores momentos. Poemas and one year later, Pensamientos en una estación seca, a collection of aphorisms based on his numerous readings. In 1982, the village of Yegen in Granada paid homage to him and he was awarded the Order of Knight Commander of the British Empire. On the contrary, his wealth shrank by the year. On October 11, 1983, Ugíjar, a town in Granada, named him an “adoptive son.” In 1984, his financial difficulties became evident. He was sent to a residential home in Pinner, a suburb in Greater London. His followers in Spain launched a campaign to have him brought back. They succeeded: with the help of the Andalusian and Spanish Governments, Brenan returned to Alhaurín el Grande. The Gerald Brenan Foundation was created on June 1, 1984. Brenan died at 93 on January 19, 1987. He donated his body to medical science, so his mortal remains went to the School of Medicine of Málaga University, to be cremated on January 20, 2001 and buried in the Anglican Cemetery of Málaga with his wife, the American poet and novelist Gamel Woolsey. Brenan wrote about 50 books, most of them travel books.
Easter: In Alhaurín el Grande, Holy Week processions take place amidst the “battle” between the purples and the greens, that is, the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno Fraternity (procession on Maundy Thursday) and the Santa Vera Cruz Fraternity (procession on Good Friday). The “battle” consists in having the best images and floats, and all the citizens join in the celebrations. These includes a re-enactment of scenes from the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Useful links: For more information on Alhaurín el Grande, visit the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Alhaurín El Grande Town Hall. To learn more about Gerald Brenan’s life and works, check the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.


Monday, 18 October 2010

Torremolinos is a puzzle with a lot of pieces: a cosmopolitan essence, a very recent kitsch past, a touristy avant-garde, a face turned to the sea, a powerful history and deeply-rooted traditions, sandy beaches and the sea promenade, shops and shopkeepers, a tasty sea-bound gastronomy, the endless stripe of the horizon… I could go on and on to make the Torremolinos puzzle, lots of faces that make a single face, lots of impressions on thousands of tourists every year. And it all started with a couple of rocks, a water spring, a mill, and a river.

Torre de los Molinos

1,300 Nasrid mills and a Christian watchtower were the source of inspiration for the town’s name: “Torre (Tower) de los Molinos (of Mills),” “Torre de Molinos,” “Torremolinos.” Other civilisations had been here before the Moors and the Christians: Ancient Mesopotamians and then the Romans, who set up their salted fish and garum factories in the area, right on the way from Málaga to Cádiz. Intrinsically and historically linked to Málaga City until it was granted independence in 1988, Torremolinos is not one of the hubs of international tourism, a pioneer, transgressive town. Its origins as a touristy place date back to the early twentieth century, when Sir George Langworthy bought the Santa Clara castle and converted it to hotel residence in 1930. Then, Doña Carlota Alessandri had the Cortijo de la Cucazorra renovated to house the Parador de Montemar. A few years later two new hotels opened: La Roca and, in the late 1940s, El Remo, in La Carihuela. In the following decade, two new establishments were added to the already existing ones: Los Nidos and Pez Espada, the first luxury hotel. In the 1960s and 1970s Torremolinos began to welcome international tourists. In the 1980s it was the Jet Set. And in the 1990s, mass tourism. Now, in the early years of the twenty-first century, Torremolinos is striving to keep quality and excellence in tourism.

Calle San Miguel

All manners of kitsch souvenirs, rag dolls wearing flamenco outfits, polka-dotted aprons with flounces, miniature bulls, bullfighters in all possible positions, flowerpots with plastic flowers… You can’t resist San Miguel Street and the slightly decadent style that makes it so special. It’s not just another pedestrian street; it’s a street feeding on the bafflement of foreign tourists, the smiles of Spanish ones, and the conspiratorial satisfaction of local dwellers. In the summer, San Miguel is trodden upon by over 100,000 visitors a day. It’s no mistake: 100,000 visitors! It’s a boisterous, busy street, with people coming and going, shoppers, onlookers, people born or come to stay in Torremolinos, an endless list of shops and stores –jewellery, footwear, clothes, tattoos, watches, bags, perfumes, gifts and souvenirs–, restaurants (in the area near the Pimentel tower), traditional places like La Casilla, where you can get toy soldiers, little angels, or figurines, factory outlets, newsagent’s shops, currency exchange offices, ice-cream parlours, liquor stores, clinics, and more. With so many alluring temptations I couldn’t help it: I bought a sardine skewer magnet for my fridge (€2). Across San Miguel Street, the pedestrian avenue Jesús Santos Reina leads to a large square with an old-style bandstand, a secluded fountains, and a statue by Laverín, “Birth of Eve.” Here shops give way to restaurants and bars. I went back San Miguel Street. I felt good strolling in a fully pedestrian area, where I could perform the delicate art of shopping at ease. As the morning became afternoon, crowds poured in. As I came closer to the flight of steps in front of the Pimentel tower, the shops mushroomed.

Chapel of San Miguel, Pimentel Tower, Towards the Sea Promenade

At the end of San Miguel Street, to the right, there’s San Miguel Square, featuring a recently built church. Two belfry towers, a frontage dominated by a sword-waving St Michael, whitewashed walls, a built-in main altarpiece also dominated by St Michael, wearing a cuirass and a helmet, a dragon at his feet and a threatening sword in his clenched fist. From San Miguel Street, I headed for El Bajondillo, a fishing district, walking past the Pimentel tower. It was built in 1300 as a fortification against privateers and Berbers. A curious fact: The first man recorded to have lived in Torremolinos was called Alonso Martín. He was hired in 1503 as a tower keeper, earning 25 maravedis a day. He wasn’t allowed to have a fishing rod, a dog, or cards, so that he was always focused on his tasks. The watch tower proved to be too short for its strategic goals. In 1770, a fortress was built where the Santa Clara hotel stands now. Some of the bunker’s remains can be seen at Parque de la Batería. The old tower was equipped with six 6km-range 24lb cannons. It was the first tower in town, the town in “Torre de los Molinos.” I sauntered down Cuesta del Tajo, Bajondillo Street, and Peligro Street to the right. More arts and crafts and gift shops. At the far end of Calle Peligro, Torremolinos comes face to face with the sea.

El Bajondillo

When I reached the Sea Promenade, I walked to the left. A mix of smells –salt, sea, charcoal– found its way to my nose and seized me. The stroll down the Sea Promenade was just delicious, feeling the delicate breeze on my skin. The light of the sun shimmered in the sea, and bather silhouettes stood out against the horizon, which went blurry between the sand and the sea. To one side, peaceful fine-sand beaches. To the other, the hustle and bustle of the shopping life. Silhouetted against the hill where the town centre rests, I could see an odd construction, the Casa de los Navaja –an extravagant 1925 house built by a man coming from Churriana in the Neo-Mudéjar style. From there I reached the monument to the beach, unveiled in 2004, drawing inspiration from Picasso’s “Women Running on the Beach.” Torremolinos is blessed with 7 kilometres of beach, linked by the Sea Promenade. All the beaches provide the necessary services for visitors’ safety and comfort. Some of them are sheltered by wild palms projecting their shadows on the sand. In the square there’s a Tourist Information Centre (Plaza de las Comunidades Autónomas, s/n, El Bajondillo; winter hours: Mon-Fri 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; summer hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m.). Other Tourist Offices can be found in La Carihuela (C/ Delfines, s/n, i.e. La Carihuela Sea Promenade) and Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza de la Independencia, s/n). The opening hours are the same for all of them. I got myself a street map and a few brochures and asked how long it took to get to La Carihuela on foot. They told me about 30’. Great, I thought. It was a fine day, the warm sun shining in the bright blue sky.

Sea Promenade and La Carihuela

A 30’ walk by the sea brought from El Bajondillo to La Carihuela (the gastronomic cradle of fish and seafood). It was a very pleasant walk. Foreign residents, tanned in the early autumn, read their newspapers in the sun, leaning on the Sea Promenade parapet. The charcoal burnt, getting ready for the sardine (and gilthead and squid) skewers, its aroma promising delicious fresh fish. Privileged homes were perched on the rock banks amidst prickly pears, overlooking the Sea Promenade and the beach –a long and winding Sea Promenade indeed, adjusting to the rocky inlets, and shaping them and my walk with them. I sat on one of the wrought-iron benches the Sea Promenade was peppered with. The charcoal smells, the soft murmur of the ocean gnawing at the sand, the echoes of bathers’ voices in the distance, the bell of a passing bike, two triangular sails in the horizon, and the sea breeze sweetening the sun falling on my face. Skirting a rocky mound, I came to La Carihuela, a charming district of fishing flavours, narrow alleys, colourful flowerbeds, and flowery pots. There’re boats resting on the sand next to the pulley, lying upside down, waiting for their time to go fishing and then come back to the beach. La Carihuela is quietly busy, a peaceful neighbourhood. But it really seems to come to life when it’s time for lunch.

Lunch at La Lonja

There’re a zillion places to eat in La Carihuela. Fish and seafood rule in most of them. Casa Juan is one of the largest restaurants; it’s very popular. I chose a different one, though, based on a friend’s advice: La Lonja ( Besides the regular fish and seafood dishes on the menu (clams, crayfish, rice, pescaíto frito or fried fish), there were other possibilities: redbanded seabream à La Lonja (€16), shellfish and Marqués de Villalúa wine for two (€75), cod or monkfish with garlic large red prawns (€19), clams with artichokes and prawns (€14). So many delicacies… I ordered a helping of clams, the monkfish with garlic large red prawns, and a grilled gilthead bream (which changed to red bream, for the gilthead bream was too much for one). To drink, I had two 1l bottles of water and two iced coffees. The bill = €71.20. I’d picked a table by the sea promenade, facing the beach and the sea. Inside, the place was air-conditioned. Quite close to heaven. The clams kept the flavours of the sea and added new ones –salt, oil, lemon. Strong flavours indeed. The monkfish was just amazing, its delicate yet powerful sauce wrapping my palate with Mediterranean notes with every new bite. The red bream was juicy, tender, done to a turn. I just couldn’t ask for more, could I?

La Batería

Torremolinos held yet one more surprise in store: La Batería park. It has a single entrance and it’s a rather long uphill walk away from La Carihuela, which I used to digest my lunch. Directions: take Avenida de Carlota Alessandri to the east, Calle de la Ermita up, Calle Monte Coronado, turn right into Calle de la Cornisa to find the entrance to Parque de la Batería. It was quite a stroll, but it was worth it. The park is 74,000sq m. It’s dominated by a 9,000sq m manmade lake. A serene park, perfect for children thanks to its two playgrounds and amazing surprises. The trees project a tight shadow network on the lawn. Fountains with mythological motifs, boards giving information on tree specimens, a spiralling white watchtower, modern cannons pointing at the sea. Boat rides across the lake are available for €1 (30’). Each boat can hold up to four people. Some of the apprentice sailors were having trouble handling the vessels. The boats are really safe, for the lake isn’t too deep. I spotted a series of black iron gazebos with benches inside. I imagined a stormy afternoon in winter there. I went to see the cannons, the white watchtower like a huge magnet in the park. The cannons, themselves impressive, lay by two bunkers, ready to be visited at the magazines. La Batería was first a fortification. This is hardly surprising, given its key geographic location (a fortress had been built in the area in 1770). The tower had a lift inside. Taking it means having amazing views of La Carihuela at your feet, with the town centre to the left and the sea ahead, drawing figures in different shades of blue with the help of the bright blue sky. The breeze cooled everything down. I leant on handrail and looked on and on and on, letting out a sigh.


Torremolinos is a delicate blend of kitsch and traditional. I can still feel the bland sand on my feet, the winding course of the Sea Promenade in my legs, the salty breeze on my face, the charcoal smells on my nose. I can still see the blue shades of the sea emulsifying before my eyes, green threads weaving and vanishing in the line that separates the sea from the sky.

Travel Tips and Useful Links

Molino de Inca: Located in the area of Los Manantiales, this is the oldest mill in Torremolinos (there were 19 of them in 1923). It was also the first to get water from the sierras. Dating back to 1488, it was used to grind grain. It has been fully rehabilitated to get its original shape and functioning back. Making it operative again meant creating a 50,000cm3 water tank. It’s set on a privileged environment, near the source of the water springs El Inca, La Cueva, and Albercón del Rey. Four strategically sited viewpoints help get the best views. (Hours: Tue-Sun 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 6:00-9:00 p.m.)
Aqualand water park (C/Cuba, 10; tel.: (+34) 902 114 996): An excellent complement to the Torremolinos beach for many visitors. A 70,000sq m recreational space featuring as many attractions as a water park can offer: “Kamikaze” (a 24m high water chute), the pirate ship, the castle, “Seta Acuática,” “Rapids,” “Jacuzzi,” “Mini Golf,” plus tree-lined green areas for a great day out with your family. Find all the information on hours, admission fees, and directions at
Crocodile Park (C/Cuba, 14; tel.: (+34) 639 169 347): This recently opened 16,000sq m park features bamboos from Malaysia and Borneo, a huge, 6,000sq m lake with five islets, where the crocodiles live, a monkey house, a video room, and a viewpoint. Over 300 crocodile specimens live in the park, including caimans and alligators from the Americas. You can read more about it on
Fiestas: There’re lots of celebrations in Torremolinos throughout the year. These are but a few: Retro Dance Competition in the last week of February, Verdiales Day in late March or early April, St John’s Eve on June 23, El Carmen Fair in mid June (La Carihuela), St Michael’s Procession on the last weekend of September, Tourist Day on the first Thursday of September, Fried Fish Day on the first Thursday of October, Bobbin Lace Event in late May, EUROAL- Fair of Latin American and European Tourism, Art and Culture in June.
Useful links: To learn more about Torremolinos, check the websites of Costa del Sol Tourist Board and Torremolinos Town Hall.

Comments, suggestions, and opinions from travellers/visitors to this blog are very welcome. See you under the Bright Blue Sky.