|Laura and I got off the plush train at Malaga terminus. Whilst Laura planned the route to the pension using her smartphone I planned using the ice cream vending machine at the exit to the train station using a mixture of euros and sterling rummaged from my pocket.
While Toledo had been beautiful, Madrid had been frantic (for our brief two hour visit, half of which was spent crashing our backpacks into produce and people in a small supermarket with aisles only wide enough for two slim cats to pass, half in train station which was bigger than the entire town of Somiedo and included an enormous glasshouse stocked with huge rainforest trees and illegal terrapins - LW), Malaga felt comfortable. A place that was happy within its own skin as a Spanish city with a large port, industry and business as well as a long beach front promenade peppered with cafés and seafood restaurants which led to a marina bordered by large public tropical gardens and a long stretch of white beach and a strip of tourist hotels and cafés.
The first night we dropped our luggage at the pension and headed straight out to the Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena stadium to watch basketball team 'Unicaja' Malaga vs German team Brose Bamberg, also, handily another basketball team. It should be mentioned that the Malaga team is referred to as Unicaja. Unicaja is a big bank that sponsors Malaga, the Scottish equivalent I suspect would be Edinburgh rugby team calling themselves 'Royal Bank of Scotland'.
We sat amongst the fans before the game started, drinking cañas at a nearby café watching for when the fans would leave to the stadium and we would follow. It became fairly clear there was a large following, dressed in green and white, and as people started to move we joined the diverse crowd of varying sexes and ages and without trouble found our section, row and seats.
Basketball is Spain's 2nd biggest sport, it was my first basketball game and Laura's first competitive sporting game. The game is split into ten minute quarters, which with all the timeouts turned into about two hours of sport, interrupted only by mandatory hotdog eating. It's fair to say the first quarter was spent learning some of the rules, the second quarter spent choosing our favourite players, the third quarter was spent getting confused by sudden reactions in the Unicaja crowd for no obvious reason and the fourth was on the edge of our seats as the scoreline seesawed back and forth until my chosen favourite player, Giorgi Shermandini, a towering Georgian monument to big hands, lost the ball allowing Brose to score. And then did it again. And despite a timeout with seconds to spare which restarted and then just played out, that was it. We spilt out amongst a frustrated home crowd with my disappointment at the home team losing lost in the fun of watching an eighty year old lady vocalise her disgruntlment at the courtside team.
A friend advised us that whenever you travel its always good to watch the sports that the locals are passionate about. In this case we really enjoyed it and decided for our travels in Spain to look into future sports games, preferably supporting better teams.
The next day we walked into Malaga from our pension along the promenade. Malaga has a huge and beautiful beach front interspaced with cafés and restaurants. We followed these until we got to a plush marina and ignoring the shops and bars spent half an hour watching the fish swim alongside the quay and agreeing the most desirable parked yacht would be the viking longship (it was actually a cutter but Laura insists it was a viking longship so for this record it was definitely a viking longship).
Our main purchase from the trendy marina was a bubble tea each before we continued onto the strip of tourist hotels and beach where we fed, rested, drank and then walked back via lush tropical gardens only stopping to watch some egrets fishing under a bridge.
It's fair to say Malaga unlike Toledo felt like a real working city. Our pension seemed to be in the Spanish community of Malaga which was friendly and pretty and at the other end of town was the tourist Malaga which seemed clean, also friendly and nice. (It is also filled with healthy, tanned and fit people who emerge in the warm evenings to 'work out' either by running or roller-skating along the promenade or doing gymnastics in a grown up playpark. All whilst watching the sun set into the sea leaving a red sky above it. No wonder everyone seems happy. - LW)
The next morning we found the seedy part of town and the bus station it contained. Alsa buses are generally clean, comfortable and on time from our experiences, however getting tickets if you haven't printed them beforehand from an Alsa window is the first step towards suicidal tendencies. To elaborate, there's always at least five windows with only two open. One window won't be working as the agent is busy with one customer, both customer and agent at this window will look infuriated. They'll be a queue of at least fifteen other customers waiting on the one window, a couple of customers will be due on buses departing in seconds and one or two customers will reach the window to be directed to another window while the cocky backpacker (in this case me) will leave the queue fairly early to use a ticket machine and then realise the ticket machine has frozen, is only accepting coins or shows MS DOS before returning to the back of the queue.
Eventually we got our tickets, in roughly just under the same amount of time we would be actually riding the bus and then went to a cafe where we got hot chocolate and churros (long dipping doughnuts) -Laura just got coffee - wrote some postcards and then boarded the bus for the hour journey along the coast to Almuñecar and the awaiting farm adventure.
An important aside, I never did use the ice cream vending machine at Malaga station. Laura's navigation to the pension in a bustling confusing new city made me use some of my modicum of survival sense and not distract her with my yearnings for an automated ice cream. Needless to say, now it has been discussed we have vowed not to rest until we find another Spanish ice cream vending machine and make use of it.