The next in our series of interviews with expats living in Malaga talks to Josephine Quintero, travel writer and long-time resident of Malaga. Here, Josephine talks about how Malaga is no longer gritty, the lovely weather and the difficulties of finding vegetarian food.
Unlike some of the other expats in Malaga in this series, Josephine doesn’t live in Malaga city itself. She lives in Churriana, a district to the west of the city that belongs to Malaga city administratively but otherwise a world apart. In Churriana you can see one of the more unusual things to do in Malaga – Gerald Brenan’s house. Brenan was one of the first expats living in Malaga and his home is now a cultural centre based around the Hispanist’s work. And you can also try the most delicious watermelons in Spain!
When did you arrive in Malaga?
I moved to Malaga in 1993.
Why did you arrive in Malaga?
So many reasons really. I fell in love with Spain after a leisurely driving trip we made across the country in 1982; my ex husband is American of Mexican parentage and had spent a couple of years in Madrid in his teens and loved it. He stayed with a family whose son eventually worked as an air traffic controller at Malaga airport. They remained friends so our destination back then was Torremolinos where he lived. At that time we were based in California; we moved to Kuwait the following year before being ousted by Saddam Hussein in 1991 and moving to Seville. My ex is an architect and we bought a finca in Churriana with citrus and olive trees and used to drive here at weekends with our two young daughters to stay in what was then a converted chicken house with an outside kitchen. We eventually built a house and made the final move to Churriana from Seville in 1993.
What were your first impressions of Malaga?
The most surprising thing about Churriana, which remains to this day, is that it is a very Spanish village with virtually no tourism, despite being so close to Torremolinos. It is not a picture-postcard pueblo with colour-coordinated flowerpots and a bar-lined central plaza in the ilk of, say, Benalmadena pueblo or Mijas and this has been its saving grace in my view. It has been, and remains, a genuine place with picturesque backstreets, small family-run shops and friendly locals.
Regarding Malaga, I was writing for the website andalucia.com when I first moved here and the owner recently reminded me that I had described Malaga as being “gritty” – something you certainly could not say today! It was definitely a lot shabbier in the 1990s and the shops were mainly local, national chains were only just starting to move here. I always loved the central market and, despite the granny-style stigma, invested in a shopping trolley and used to hop on the train and buy my weekly fruit and veg there; it is still fabulous, but more packed than ever and elbow shoving, camera-touting tourists can be a little irritating if all you want to do is buy a kilo of tomatoes!
(Editor’s note: It might be 2019, but some people still describe Malaga as “gritty” 😉 )
What do you think has changed most about Malaga since you arrived?
As above, the centre of Churriana has changed very little, although a lot of new housing has been built on the outskirts. The main change to Malaga that I always notice now is the number of tourists. In the 1990s, they were a rare breed. The city has a slick sophisticated feel now, with gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques, but thankfully it still has plenty of traditional Andalusian atmosphere as well, best appreciated during the August feria – an annual must on my calendar.
What do you like most about living in Malaga?
It sounds glib but of course the weather plays an important part in the city’s appeal; I also love living near the sea (and so do my family who live in landlocked London and Madrid). The culture and lifestyle is great, ranging from the fabulous art in Malaga to the emphasis on the family which is wonderfully contagious. To me there is little more enjoyable than enjoying a long leisurely summertime lunch at a beachside chiringuito with family and friends.
What do you like least about living in Malaga?
There is a definite increase in traffic and I try and take the train whenever possible. I am vegetarian and although there are a handful of veggie restaurants in Malaga and on the coast, overall the choice is pretty poor when compared to other European cities – but it is getting better!
Where’s your favourite corner in Malaga and why?
I love La Casa Invisible, just for a drink and the surrounding backstreets; there are some intriguing and idiosyncratic small shops around here, as well.
(Editor’s note: La Casa Invisible is 1 of the 5 best unusual pit-stops in our recommendations. Read about the area around this restaurant in Malaga here.)
Which is your favourite restaurant in Malaga and why?
My favourite restaurant has long been La Consula in Churriana. It’s a cooking school, of course, and the food and service is second to none. Unfortunately, it is currently closed, but the rumour is that it will be opening again. I hope so.
Describe Malaga in 3 words
Vibrant, colourful, warm
I studied English (what else!) at the University of California, Berkeley and, for most of my professional life, have worked as journalist and travel writer (inflight mags particularly). I have been an author for Lonely Planet since 2002 contributing to some 45 titles ranging from Mexico City to Victoria (Australia), but with an emphasis on Spain and Italy – I contributed to five editions of the Spain guide and the last two Andalucia editions.
I also enjoy painting (my specialty is collage) and tennis and have recently hooked up with a friend who is a bit of a culinary whizz and am helping her with a new venture: A Taste of Andalucia which provides cookery classes, wine tours of Ronda and tapas tours in Malaga. Although my main residence is Churriana, I part own a small place in Comares in the Axarquia which has mesmerizing mountain views and no wifi: bliss!
Guide to Malaga are extremely grateful to Josephine for providing her thoughts on being an expat living in Malaga and for taking the time to answer our questions. ¡Muchas gracias!
Experience “vibrant, colourful, warm” Malaga for yourself but don’t forget to browse Guide to Malaga before hand – bang up-to-date and packed with recommended things to do and see, places to eat and stay, need-to-know info…
Read more interviews with expats living in Malaga in our otheR interviews: