From the gloomy gray and freezing latitudes of northern Europe, the allure of a low-cost February flight to sun-drenched southern Spain must be hard to resist. To those that can’t endure the cold any longer, most fly to Málaga, the “Capital of the Costa del Sol”.
The Costa del Sol is a series of beach resorts along the coast of Málaga province, branded by the Spanish government to help foreign vacationers find their place in the sun. To further aid the winter-weary holidaymaker, a frequent and economical train service links Málaga and its international airport with the renowned beaches of Fuengirola and Torremolinos.
Torremolinos, just four miles (6.5 km) from the airport, was the first of the Costa del Sol resorts to be developed in the late 1950s. Formerly a poor fishing settlement, Torremolinos is now a jungle of concrete apartment blocks facing the mild-mannered Mediterranean Sea.
To see Torremolinos for ourselves, stroll its sweeping beachside promenade, and have lunch at one of its many restaurants, we made the 20-minute train trip from the center of Málaga city. Predictably, Torremolinos doesn’t look much like the rest of Spain.
Stepping off the train, we were surprised by all the people speaking Germanic languages like us. If you don’t speak Spanish, there is no problema in Torremolinos. English, German, Scandinavian, and Dutch are all spoken here.
Walking down from the train station to the beach, the narrow streets are a gauntlet of souvenir shops selling tee-shirts, trinkets, and trivialities. If you are looking for a cheap mass-produced memento to take home from Spain, there is an endless assortment in Torremolinos.
Once through the souvenir zone, the beach of Torremolinos is a repetitious five-mile (8 km) long swath of sand backed by a broad beachside promenade. On this brisk and breezy day, the seafront esplanade was a continuous stream flowing with “older” folks like us, out for a morning walk.
All along the promenade we passed a never-ending string of northern European restaurants. Since Esther was born and raised in Holland, she insisted that we stop at a Dutch restaurant that served all of her beloved childhood snacks. After lunching on loempia, bitterballen, friet with peanut sauce, and appeltaart for dessert, we felt like we had left Spain and returned to Nederland.
In Torremolinos, the usual sights, sounds, and smells of Spain have been swapped with northern European niceties to help vacationers feel at home. As we boarded the train and returned to Málaga city, we had to admit that our day trip to Torremolinos and the congenial Costa del Sol was a welcome respite from the unceasing soul of southern Spain.
Blogger’s Note: This past week, we had the very good fortune to make friends with Fiona and Con, a couple of intrepid fellow travelers from the Solway Firth, on the border between England and Scotland. We first met at a bus stop in the coastal town of Nerja, and later re-united for a fun and interesting night on-the-town in Málaga. Like us, they had come to southern Spain to escape the cold of winter and enjoy some outdoor activity and Spanish atmosphere. As we bounced between Spanish tapas bars, Esther and I agreed that sharing some laughs and getting to know our enjoyable new friends has been one of the highlights of our month in Málaga.