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Malaga Update

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View from San Nicolas apartment

I haven’t written anything about Malaga recently, so following a short visit there I thought it was time for an update on things to do, where to eat, and a quick look at some of our new apartments.

First up are three museums, which while not new, I’ve just recently visited. The Museum of Glass and Crystal is a fascinating exhibition with around 3,000 pieces spanning some 2,000 years of the art of glass making, set on the first two floors of a charming 18th century private residence (the owners live on the upper floors), complete with paintings, period furniture and a typical courtyard. In an hour-long visit you will be taken on a guided tour by one of the owners, whose enthusiasm and knowledge make this one of Malaga’s best small museums.

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Beautiful decorated glass from the Glass and Crystal Museum

Next was the Interactive Music Museum. For anyone, of any age, with an interest in music and musical instruments this is a must-see, with more than a thousand exhibits from around the world and through the ages. Unlike the “please don’t touch” rules of most museums, the slogan here is “please play them” (in Spanish tocar means both to touch and to play a musical instrument, so it’s a kind of pun), and each section of the museum has a space where you can experiment with some of the instruments and watch videos of others in use.

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Paco de Lucia and Robert Johnson – Interactive Music Museum

My personal favourite though, was the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions. This can be found in the 17th century Posada (coaching inn) de la Victoria, which has been lovingly restored to preserve most of its original appearance. From the moment I went in I was completely charmed, and spent a happy hour wandering through rooms devoted to the daily working life of a Malaga house, the kitchen, bakery and dining room, and others to local crafts and industries, notably fishing, wine making, and olive oil production. Upstairs is a complete change of style, with rooms showing the family life of the 19th century bourgeoisie, and exhibitions of ceramics and religious objects. The friendly greeting from the receptionist also helped to make this a really enjoyable experience.

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Olive Mill – Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions

On the eating front I can hardly believe that I had never been to legendary churro outlet Casa Aranda. You have to have breakfast here at least once during your stay, and follow it with brunch at one of the bustling bars in the Atarazanas Market. Also new and worth going to are the Croqueteria Añil (more than just croquettes of course), Café Estraperlo, La Luz de Candela (Candlelight) and Óleo, the Sushi-fusion bar in the Contemporary Arts Centre (not new, but new to me). Our top rated new find was the El Señor Lobo café, essentially a burger and sandwich joint in the Soho barrio. Genuinely new (it’s only been open a few weeks) I really wish it every success. With good food, humourous wall scrawlings, and a wonderfully friendly and enthusiastic owner it certainly deserves it.

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the “Kevin Bacon” sandwich at Sr Lobo

We are also pleased to announce that Veoapartment has several top quality new one and two bedroom holiday apartments available for rent in Malaga. Los Alamos and Madre de Dios 2 are both near the famous Plaza Merced in the historic centre with easy access to monuments and beaches. San Nicolas, in the Malagueta (one of the central beach neighbourhoods), has stunning views of the Alcazaba and the harbour. The San Lorenzo and Martinez Campos complexes both feature 1 and 2 bedroom apartments and are located in the Soho neighbourhood, the triangle of land between the harbour, the historic centre, and the Guadalmina River, which has become famous for its street art.

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Apartment Martinez Campos 2

Seville | The Church and Plaza del Salvador

For many tourists the main reason for going to the El Salvador church is to buy a joint entrance ticket to the Cathedral, so that they can get in without having to endure the, often rather long, queues at the Cathedral. Now this is fair enough, and it’s a useful trick to know, but can mean that the El Salvador church itself is often overlooked. This is a bit of shame as it’s an important historical and architectural site in its own right, and the area immediately around it has a good claim to being the original heart of the city.

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Principal Facade of El Salvador Church

La Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador, to give it its full and proper title, is the second largest church in Seville, only the Cathedral being larger. The present building is in the baroque style, which is relatively recent (as these things go – it’s still old), having been completed in 1712 after nearly forty years of work. Like the Cathedral the interior is gloriously (or ostentatiously, depending on your point of view) ornate, with a major league gold altarpiece, and important artworks. These include the two statues of the Christ that are used for the Semana Santa, El Cristo del Amor by Juan de Mesa, and Jesus de la Pasion by Martinez Montañes (there’s a statue of Montañes in the Plaza outside).

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Moorish Arches in the Church Courtyard

But my favourite parts of the church, which also show us the long history of the site, are to be found outside. In the courtyard you can still see the arches that date from the Moorish period, when the Old Grand Mosque (built in 893) stood here, and also the minaret that forms the bottom two thirds of the bell tower (the bells were added later). Although replaced as Grand Mosque in the 12th century (when the new Grand Mosque was built where the Cathedral is now) it remained a Moslem place of worship even after the Christian reconquest of 1248, only being converted to a church in 1340. Eventually, having fallen into ruinous disrepair, it was demolished to make way for the new building.

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Minaret and Belltower

In Moorish times the area around the Mosque was an important commercial centre, particularly the Plaza Jesus de la Pasion, popularly known as the Plaza del Pan (bread), and the Alcaiceria del Lozo (the pottery market) and the Alfalfa. Even in modern times there is a row of small shops built into the side of the church in the Plaza del Pan.

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Shops behind the Church

But the history of the site goes back even further, as the original building here was the Roman Basilica. The Plaza del Salvador has probably been a civic space since the building of the Roman wall (which ran along the side of the square opposite the church) in the time of Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. The Roman forum was just a short distance away in what is now the Plaza Alfalfa.

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Los Soportales

Other things to look out for include the Iglesia del Antigua Hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Paz (now San Juan de Dios) on the opposite side of the square to the El Salvador (in the 16th century it was a plague hospital), the Cervantes plaques in the Plaza del Pan and Alcaiceria (places mentioned by him in his novels), and Los Soportales, the columns supporting the houses in one corner of the square. This is a building style that has virtually disappeared, but was once common. Finish your explorations with a cold beer at one of the popular bars here.

For somewhere to stay in this fascinating ancient part of the city try one of our range of city centre holiday apartments.

Seville | The New Seville Eye

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Seville’s latest tourist attraction, La Noria de Sevilla (Seville Ferris Wheel), opens for business this Saturday, June 27, following its inauguration on Thursday. Situated at the end of the Muelle de las Delicias, where visiting cruise ships dock, it’s part of a new “tourism hub” to the south of the city’s historic centre that already includes the Seville Aquarium and riverside bars and restaurants, and connects directly to Maria Luisa Park and the Plaza España, and by the riverside walkway, the New York Wharf, to the historic centre.

noria seville (2)the VIP cabin

The wheel was manufactured in Germany and shipped via Rotterdam to the port of Seville, and has been erected on a specially prepared plot of land between the aquarium and the port entrance. The project cost over 7 million euros in total, and the new wheel is expected to attract 350,000 visitors a year, also benefiting the aquarium (there is expected to be a joint ticket for both attractions available) and local businesses.

noria seville (3)a different perspective of the Cathedral

The wheel is 40 metres in diameter, and will take riders up to 50 metres above ground. Although this is quite modest compared to, for example, the London Eye (135 metres), or the Las Vegas High Roller (at 167 metres the world’s tallest), it will provide great views of the river, the park, and the World Heritage sights. There will be 30 cabins and for 7.50 euros (5.50 for children under 4 years old) you get to go round four times, which takes just under 15 minutes. There is also a VIP cabin for 20 euros, with darkened windows for privacy, a glass floor and television, which lasts twice as long. All of the cabins are air-conditioned with optional music, and a “help button”. Coming soon: a shop, a tapas bar and cafeteria, and a VIP area.

If you’re looking for a place to stay we still have apartments available to rent in the historic centre within easy walking distance of the wheel and other sights.

La Noria de Sevilla
Muelle Las Delicias
Open: 10 am – Midnight

Seville | Plaza España and the 1929 Exhibition

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Seville has played host to two major international exhibitions in the last 100 years, the 1929 Spanish American exhibition, mainly intended to promote the commonwealth of Spain and the former Spanish colonies in Latin America (but also including the US, Portugal and Brazil), and the 1992 Universal Exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that it’s further back in time, it’s the site and remaining buildings of the 1929 exhibition that are of the greatest interest to the visitor. It is, of course, much closer to the city centre, but the site is also in and around Seville’s largest park, the Maria Luisa. The park was once the gardens of the Palacio San Telmo, but was donated to the city in 1893. Following the 1910 decision to hold an exhibition in Seville, the gardens were remodelled by the famous landscape gardener Jean-Claude Forestier, and in 1914 Anibal González, the architect in charge of the project, began construction work on the pavilions.

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Eighteen countries took part, and although many of the minor buildings have gone, most of the national pavilions, many of which were intended to become consulates of their respective countries after the expo finished in June 1930, are still in use, together with some of the other principal pavilions, and can be found either in or near the park, and along the Paseo de las Delicias.

The park itself is Seville’s largest green space, and was designed as a “Moorish Paradise”, with ponds, pavilions and walkways, and the famous Fountains of the Frogs and the Lions.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was the Plaza España and the surrounding semicircle of the Spanish pavilion. Built in a mixture of art deco and neo-Mudejar (an early 20th century revival of late Moorish architecture), this held the largest Spanish exhibit, the Salon of Discoveries, about the exploration of the New World. Nowadays the building mostly houses government offices, as well as a small military museum. In front of the pavilion are the forty alcoves representing all the provinces of Spain, with illustrations in ceramic tiles of important scenes from their histories. The four bridges across the boating lake to the Plaza represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Everything is decorated in a profusion of tiles showcasing the craftsmanship of Seville’s ceramics industry. Not surprisingly the complex has featured in a number of films, including Star Wars – Attack of the Clones, Lawrence of Arabia and The Dictator.

1-photo 2 (1)Plaza de España boating lake and tower

Other important buildings in the park include the Palacio Mudejar (now the Museum of Popular Culture), the Palacio Renacimiento (now the Archaeological Museum), and the Palacio de la Casa Real, all in the Plaza America at the far end of the park, and the horseshoe shaped pavilion of the Telephone Company (now the Gardening School), just beyond the Plaza España.

mudejarPalacio Mudejar

Prominent among the national pavilions, and worth looking out for, are those of Portugal (next to the Prado San Sebastian), Peru (now the Casa de las Ciencias), and those of Argentina and Mexico (both now used as schools) on the Paseo de las Delicias.

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Pavilion of Argentina

Preparations for the 1929 exhibition also included the building of new hotels (most notably the splendid Alfonso XIII for the Royal family and visiting heads of state), the widening of many streets, including what is now the Avenida de la Constitución, and the refurbishment of the old Jewish quarter as a tourist attraction. This area is a perfect place to rent an apartment to explore the old expo site and Seville’s other principal monuments.

Seville | City of Opera

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Statue of Don Juan

Did you know that there are more operas set in Seville than in any other city in Europe? As well as a number of minor works, three great stories have been the source of a huge number of operas (and books and plays, too). Who hasn’t heard of Don Juan (Don Giovanni), Figaro (the Barber of Seville), or Carmen, the gypsy girl who works at the Royal Tobacco Factory? The stories and the characters are timeless, and resonate through the ages, and even today new works based on them, and their themes of freedom, revenge, love and jealousy continue to be written. The great age of opera composition, however, was the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when some of the most famous works, such as those of Rossini and Mozart were written. By this time the “Golden Age” of Seville was already over, and these operas were set in a city that had become distant from the centres of cosmopolitan culture in Paris and Vienna, almost on the edge of the world, but still remembered for the time when it was the richest city in Europe. It was consequently a great stage, partly mythical, partly real, on which grand dramas could be played out.

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Commemorative Plaque in Plaza Doña Elvira

Seville today still has something of the same character. On the one hand it’s a modern, working city, a place where people live and work, but as you stroll around the narrow streets and pretty squares of the historic centre it’s another place, too, a place where the stories of the past linger on. Beautiful and historic, city of gardens and blue skies, dreaming palaces and rowdy taverns, bustling gateway to the new world, full of wealth and poverty, this Seville has captured the artistic and romantic imagination through the ages.

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The Prison of the Royal Tobacco Factory

To be sure, you don’t need to have a great knowledge of opera, or even to have actually watched any of the operas that are set here, to follow in the footsteps of legendary characters. As you walk around Seville you may have noticed brass plaques bearing the legend “Seville city of opera” set into the pavement, and white china “plates” with operatic information on them placed nearby. These are part of a local initiative to introduce visitors to the magic of Seville by means of self-guided tours around the city’s operatic locations.

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White China Information Plaque 

For me, Seville is always an uncompleted work of the imagination, stretching into both the past and the future, and walking these routes is less about the operas themselves than about thinking yourself into the life and times of these characters from Seville’s mythic past. The itineraries can be found online here, together with background information about the key operas and places. For some light and entertaining operatic performances, Sevilla de Opera  have a venue in the Arenal Market, with a show of excerpts from popular operas.

But don’t take it all too far. Unlike opera characters, who often find themselves in uncomfortable situations, you can retire at the end of the day to one of our very comfortable apartments without leaving the picturesque streets of our historic city.