by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
That I couldn’t locate a pub in downtown Malaga showing either Arsenal v Everton or Ireland v Italy was intensely frustrating. The first match was a quarter final cup clash against strong opposition and Arsenal were to score 4 glorious goals to progress to the FA cup semi-final. Ireland v Italy was arguably more important as legend and gentleman, Brian O’Driscoll, rugby’s equivalent to Bruce Springsteen, was playing the last home game of a glorious career and was to provide three sublime assists in a game that Ireland eventually won with some comfort and ease.
Unadulterated Andalucian Charm
My frustration, however, actually reflects well on Malaga as a destination for Malaga, you see, has largely rejected the crass, bland Anglicization that has blighted so many Spanish Coastal locations. You can spend a couple of hours walking around the traffic free downtown zone, expectantly explore the entries and alleys off the various public Plazas, amble past endless cafe bars and restaurants but you’ll struggle to find an English pub, or an Irish one for that matter, so you’ll have to resign yourself to an unadulterated, undiluted authentic Andalusian experience!
I first visited Malaga in 2008 when Paco Quereda of the Malaga Convention Bureau almost single-handedly persuaded the European members of Site to stage ESNEP there. The Barcelo Malaga, a superb 4 star hotel with great meeting space, had recently opened and played host to the Site event. 6 years later the hotel’s sleek contemporary design still looks great, your stay there further enhanced by free WiFi with great speeds, Nespresso coffee on the breakfast buffet and its signature piece of whimsy, a 6m high snaking slide that whisks you from the 1st floor to the lobby.
I was in Malaga on the instigation of Olga Navarro, one of a very small number of individuals in my circle of friends with genuine super-model attributes. Olga’s company is among the 21 members of SpainDMC, an industry association representing the dedicated DMC sector in the country. I was invited to participate at their annual assembly to discuss and debate the future of our sector and to join for the social part of the programme, a wonderful opportunity to up-date myself on recent developments in Malaga for meetings and events.
Opening Night at El Pimpi
Paco and his partners created a truly memorable opening party that included a leisurely stroll along Calle Larios in the heart of Malaga’s old town. The sweet smell of Spring surrounded us as we glided along the marble paved, geranium bedecked pathway towards Los Patios de Beates, our first stop for the evening. Los Patios is located in 2 re-modelled buildings dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and offers a combination of public and private spaces for tutored wine tasting with food with an emphasis on local produce.
From there we proceeded onwards to Bodega Bar El Pimpi a huge complex of contrasting spaces including period rooms and terraces for al fresco dining. Jamon Iberico de Castana, Surtido de Quesos and Pescaito Frito were followed by Helado de naranja al AOVE – Orange Ice Cream served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a local speciality. Our evening concluded with a unique motivational experience. After tapas, Paco led us upstairs where Javier Ojeda of Danza Invisible, one of Spain’s most successful bands of the 80s and 90s, treated us to ringside seats for a one night only performance of songs about wine!
An afternoon of high culture
I lied. The “frustrating” afternoon described above wasn’t really frustrating at all. In fact it was a culturally enriching, positively challenging experience of modern and contemporary art with a little historical perspective thrown in for good measure via the Museo Carmen Thyssen. The Thyssen includes some Old Masters (there’s an astonishing wood sculpture of The Dead Christ dating from the 1200s), nineteenth century romantic and fin-de-siècle. There’s also a temporary exhibition surveying landscape painting from 1850 – 1950 with Spanish works of the period presented in juxtaposition to works by Van Gogh and Monet. It’s a small gallery, easy to navigate and has an ultra-cool, discrete café bar.
Picasso was born in Malaga, lived there intermittently until he was 19 and then, like James Joyce and Dublin, never returned to his native city. The city celebrates her famous son at the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, a restored Renaissance Palace, with a permanent collection of works dating from between 1917 and 1972. Donated to the city in his memory by Picasso’s family the collection is small, when compared with the Picasso Museum in Paris, but perfectly formed, presenting highlights from the artist’s multifarious thematic concerns, styles and media.
Situated in an old wholesalers’ market astride the Guadalmedina river, the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga (CACMalaga) consolidates the city’s reputation as an important artistic and cultural destination. Temporary exhibitions of works by El Roto, a comic satirist from Spain and Kati Heck, an avant garde artist based in Antwerp enhance the permanent collection of challenging multi-style installations that include a truly mesmerizing video presentation on twin plasma screens by US based, Bill Viola. You stand transfixed as ghostly figures, one male, one female, gradually materialise from a snowy, opaque background and walk into a water cascade out of which they appear in full vibrant colour. CACMalaga exhibits works that challenge and cajole, using a wide spectrum of materials, media and processes that push out the bounderies. You mightn’t always like it, but you cannot ignore it!
Importantly, all three museums mentioned above can be hired for private use for meetings and events.
Padraic Gilligan and his business partner of 20 years Patrick Delaney lead SoolNua, a boutique consultancy offering another viewpoint for meetings and events. He may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org