Next up in our series of expats in Malaga interviews is Andrew Forbes. Like so many others, he arrived in Malaga for the short-term and never went home again!
In this interview, Andrew describes his gradual love affair with the city and how he has come to see it as home.
When did you arrive in Malaga?
I have been living full-time in Andalucia since the Spring of 2005, although I had been visiting Southern Spain and Malaga for some years before that. I have since become a resident and married a Spaniard here. I know that expat is a convenient short-hand for foreign residents in Spain, but I don’t feel like an ‘Expat’ – I feel at home here; I have built a life here.
Why did you arrive in Malaga?
I took a 6-month professional sabbatical to learn Spanish at a local language school, and I never went back to the UK!
What were your first impressions of Malaga?
First impressions were not the best, I must admit. 10 or 15 years ago, the city still had much to do in terms of cleaning up the central area. For someone coming from the UK, seeing so many mid- to late 20th century shabby tower blocks in the city centre was a bit of a shock, as that type of architecture in northern Europe is associated with deprivation, and inner-city problems. What’s more the potential charm of the old town had not yet really been realised, with many lovely old buildings in a state of collapse. Yet in the brilliant Mediterranean sunshine I knew the city had something special.
What do you think has changed most about Malaga since you arrived?
It’s practically unrecognisable! Admittedly those ugly tower blocks remain, and that does still lead some people, I believe, to unfairly judge the city on aesthetics when there is so much more to enjoy. Malaga remains a city where you need to seek out its qualities; on the surface, it may still appear a little unsophisticated and raw. Yet invest time to explore with an open mind and I defy anyone not to fall in love with the city.
The city is now significantly cleaner than it was; with most of the blocks painted and renovated, and the central areas are better maintained. The old town has finally been recognised as the jewel in the city’s crown and has undergone much needed investment, making it a truly gloriously area to spend time – walking, shopping, eating …
The Picasso Museum, which in many ways signalled the city’s rejuvenation, has now of course been joined by the Centre Pompidou and the Thyssen to name just two galleries, so these have transformed not only the physical environment, thanks to attracting further investment; but also, totally changed the city’s perception internationally. Also, the contemporary arts scene in Malaga is going from strength to strength, driven by the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC Malaga).
The port too has finally been reunited with the city, thanks to stunning architecture and smart city planning. It’s a pleasure to stroll along the quaysides, or stop and enjoy a drink.
The food scene, reflecting the overall world-class creativity in Spain, is superb in Malaga and there is much more to indulge in than just a classic espeto of sardines on the beach.
The city still has a rawness, an authenticity that is uniquely Malagueño. It’s not like other major cities in Spain in that it is so relaxed and informal. You don’t really see that many well-dressed people on the streets; it’s not a place for high fashion, business elegance, or wealthy ‘bling’. This is not Barcelona (yet!); it’s still very much an Andalusian city – laid back and understated.
What do you like most about living in Malaga?
Of course, the city and its province is blessed with the best climate in Europe, so that helps make life better, but that isn’t the most important thing for me. The attitude of the people in Malaga is what really stands out. In my experience Malagueños are without doubt the warmest and friendliest in Andalucia…and walking down the street, you see just how many people are blessed with those Mediterranean good looks!
What do you like least about living in Malaga?
That’s a tough question. I think to some extent I’m still frustrated at the speed of change; I suppose I want more to be improved, and faster. For example, the river that runs through the city is disappointing and I think Malaga needs to address that area. It is an ugly reminder of what Malaga once was not so long ago.
Also, the city has a long way to go to change its image internationally, and I still come up against the perceived wisdom that Malaga is a city with little to offer. I spend lots of time persuading people to be more open-minded about Malaga – especially with other Spanish people from outside Andalucia! The city still has a stigma that it has yet to fully throw off.
Things are moving forward, and Malaga is emerging as a city break destination, helped by the opening of the new 5-star hotel and the galleries, but there is still a way to go.
Where’s your favourite corner in Malaga and why?
It is hard to choose! I enjoy the botanic gardens, despite the fact they are tricky to get to; I love too the view from the Gibralfaro; but I think the place I most adore I the old town with its period architecture and bustling bars. For me, Calle Larios and the surrounding streets convey the unique Mediterranean, Andalusian flavour of the city.
Which is your favourite restaurant in Malaga and why?
Ask me in a month and I am sure that will have changed; so many new places are opening! I have old favourites, like the Refectorium, and El Meson de Cervantes, which despite rising prices due to popularity are bar restaurants that maintain their quality. However, over the last few months I’ve been enjoying the sharing plates and paired wines at Araboka (and the cocktails at La Sole del Pimpi!)
Describe Malaga in 3 words
Mediterranean – Friendly – Unpretentious
Andrew is a Marketing Communications expert, with a track record in PR, marketing and branding that has spanned 25 years.
He writes regularly on travel, lifestyle and luxury.
Originally from the UK, Andrew Forbes has lived in the US and France but now calls southern Spain his home,
where he is Contributing Travel Features Editor for Spain’s leading English language newspaper, SUR in English;
and a freelance Marketing Consultant.
Guide to Malaga would like to thank Andrew very much for his time and most of all, for his passion for Malaga. Much appreciated – thank you Andrew!
Many of the places Andrew mentions are included in our Guide to Malaga. Take a look and decide what you want to do and see when you come to Malaga!
Read more interviews with expats living in Malaga in our other interviews: