There’s a well-established community of expats in Malaga and foreign residents have been part of the city scene ever since Malaga was founded. There’s something about the warm climate, attractive scenery and welcoming people that makes Malaga irresistible and over the years thousands of foreigners have made it their permanent home. In the latest of our series Expats in Malaga, Else Beekman from the Netherlands, tells us why she’s still here after nearly 13 years.
When did you arrive in Malaga?
I arrived in the midst of a heatwave in the summer of 2003. The feria had just begun and it felt overwhelming and surreal to walk among partying people by myself. My small apartment just around the corner of the Alameda Principal gave me right away a good impression of the noisy side of Spain. Two months later I travelled back for a week to Holland and when I saw the Mediterranean coastline from the airplane window I felt very clearly ‘at home’. That’s how Malaga got to me right from the start.
Why did you come to Malaga?
I was offered a job for six months in Malaga through a Dutch friend. When that job ended a year later my only thought was ‘I am not finished here’ and though my financial situation was not very secure, I stayed and eventually found myself the perfect job writing about Spain for a Dutch magazine. I met my husband and we now have two small boys who feel both Spanish and Dutch and speak the language far more fluently than their mother.
What were your first impressions of Malaga?
Lively, sunny, dynamic but not too big, friendly, very Spanish, approachable and open. I thought the people I met were very friendly and helpful even with my poor Spanish at the time. I loved walking around through the narrow streets, suddenly being surprised by a street concert, the very cheap and good tapas and the nearness of the sea, in which I swam every day after work. Or sitting on Sunday with my newspapers and books to learn Spanish at Baños del Carmen until the very last sunbeam went out behind the mountains.
What do you think has changed most about Malaga since you arrived?
The friendly, welcoming and Spanish atmosphere is still the same I think, but the historical centre has been through a dramatic and positive change. I love the way old façades are being restored and the city council makes way for pedestrians all over the centre. This is the reason why people now literally stumble across the endless terraces of another new bar or restaurant. The renovation of the port is also very positive and gives the city front a whole new appearance.
Not to mention all the new museums that have been opened within a decade. When I arrived there were only two restaurants with an international menu, now they are just like the terraces – no end to them.
And then there’s the cycle lanes. When I arrived I was that crazy Dutch girl on a mountain bike in her smart cloths to go out. Back then the bike was only for sports, not for transport. Over twelve years later someone on a bike is far more common. It is almost a pity that Malaga right now is so booming. Hopefully it can handle the ‘success’ and keep its Spanish heart and soul.
What do you like most about living in Malaga?
I love the fact that even when Malaga is a very big city with over 550,000 inhabitants lots of times I run into people I know in the relatively small centre. I still like the friendly people and the cultural events the city has to offer. And a sunny weekend (when are they not sunny?) isn’t complete without a long lunch on the seafront of the Pedregalejo district.
What do you like least about living in Malaga?
The ever present noise! The aggressive speeding adolescents on their loud motorbikes, the garbage trucks which seem to always come in the middle of the night when you just fell asleep. Taking the car to the centre means paying lots in the underground car parks because parking on the street is impossible (a side effect of the beautifully paved city center). And last but not least, the bad smell on the streets in summer the mornings after a busy night out. All those people who suddenly couldn’t find a toilet – the summer heat takes the smell along walls and open windows.
Where’s your favorite corner in Malaga and why?
I know it’s not very original but I love Los Baños del Carmen because of the slow service, the dilapidated appearance and the stunning views over ever changing skies and sunsets. I love Pedregalejo too because that’s where I lived for almost four years. It has the atmosphere of a fishing village but within 15 minutes’ bike ride you’re downtown. The mix of original inhabitants, mostly very old, missing some teeth and sitting on their doorstep of their always dark interiors with the television blaring, and of the hipsters mixed with language students strolling along the paseo looking for a nice bar to eat there sushi or high quality traditional fish meals.
In the city centre I have too many favourite corners to mention. I have good memories of tapas bar El Rincón del Pepe on Plaza de la Merced, of the smoothies and nice teas in Café con Libros on the same square. The best coffee I drink is at Doña Mariquita at Plaza Uncibay and Café Bruselas at the Plaza de la Merced because it’s what we call a real café in Holland. To go shopping in Mercado de Atarazanas is the best. With one stand in particular with the biggest choice of cheeses, hams, patés, cold cuts and countless other things I love to eat.
Which is your favourite restaurant in Malaga and why?
My newest experience is Los Patios de Beatas. Amazing, refined food and presentation. It’s a winery, so a big choice of the best Spanish wines makes the dinner just perfect. I always like Gorki because of the endless choice of small bites. The food is always good too on the very nice terrace of restaurant Oleo in the CAC Museum. And I could go on like this but the best tip for new visitors is to follow their nose and visit the restaurants that have the most visitors around the time Spanish people start eating. Middays around two and evenings around ten. In my experience, tablecloths don’t point to quality food at all in the city center but more to the tourist traps (exceptions aside).
Describe Malaga in 3 words
Warm (in three dimensions: people, climate and atmosphere), culture, gastronomy
About Else Beekman
After a short career in public relations departments in the Dutch publishing industry (books and a newspaper) I traded the commercial side for the content side because I love to research, read and write. Now I own two websites InSpanje.nl (Spanish news in Dutch) and MeerSpanje.nl (travel information on Spain in Dutch). Furthermore I am journalist for several magazines like Especial Life and Espanje and websites about Spain and in the travel industry, Ambiance Travel. My specialism is Spain, though for me anything can be quite interesting as long as you dive into it.
Guide to Malaga would like to thank Else very much for her time and all the insight she’s given into what living in Malaga is really like. Much appreciated – thank you Else!