Friday, February 24, 2017

Automobile museum in Malaga rides high with fashion, fun, flair

Vintage autos from an impressive, world-class private collection, are wowing visitors in Malaga's auto museum.
Cookie -- under-dressed -- finds herself in a wondrous collage of color.



PICTURE YOURSELF in a sleek Bugatti or elegant Bentley, motoring to the opera or an exclusive cocktail party.
Each of 10-plus auto exhibit areas is accented by vintage clothing,
accessories, artwork and descriptions of the era in this artful museum. 
You must have the proper attire -- something elegant to match your fashionable transport.
No worries if you were alive in the gilded era -- when autos were works of art, money no object, and wealthy men and women dressed to the nines.
We spent a delightful afternoon in the museum-friendly city of Malaga, Spain, where one of its latest jewels is the fantastic Museu Automovilistico.
Bruce Keller takes a close-up look and pictures himself
behind the wheel -- vrooooom, vroooooom, vroooooooom. 

Housed in a stately historic building, an old tobacco factory, the museum opened in 2010, drawing raves and shrieks of delight from both auto buffs and fans of fashion.

THE MUSEUM houses the private collection of Portuguese car fanatic, collector and investor Joao Magalhaes. His impressive collection is valued at over 25 million euros, and is one of the most important vintage car collections in the world.
The museum houses 80 vintage and modern cars, artistically arranged with fashionable gowns and unusual travel memorabilia from the Roaring Twenties, on into the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
Finery and furbelows, flouncy, sleek, ornate and fun, are beautifully displayed at the museum. 
An elderly fellow tourist enjoying the museum during our visit remarked that the first car in the exhibition is so old it looks more like a horse-drawn carriage --  minus the horse.  My husband pointed out its tiny motor, which put her into a reverie, remembering travel in her grandparents' car decades ago. 
WE FELT definitely under-dressed, a bit like misappropriated extras in "The Great Gatsby" as we wandered through nearly a dozen breathtaking displays.
Each one artfully takes up a theme and an era -- Belle Epoque, Art Deco Thirties, Dolce Vita Fifties, English Tradition, etc.  
The variety of splendid attire would be the envy of any theater's costume shop -- from vintage apparel of our great-grandparents' youth, to more contemporary and timeless clothing. The cars follow suit -- from that early "horseless carriage" to an "alternative energies" exhibit with a space-age solar-powered model. 
While it is attractive it is not nearly as exotic, as the custom Rolls-Royce with its beautifully festooned crystals.

Each display area showcases autos, along with artifacts, art and finery. 

WE ADMIRED flashy cars with flames painted along the sides and powerful sound systems. We wandered by gorgeous autos owned by stars, royalty and the rich and famous -- Bugatti, Auburn, Bentley, Jaguar, Ferrari and Mercedes.
We enjoyed bling on the costumes and bling on the cars -- lots of gold and plenty of sparkle, including  a ritzy black Rolls-Royce customized with Swarovski crystals. 
The beautifully curated auto and fashion museum also boasts vintage posters and artifacts, nicely preserved -- polished collectibles from a bygone age.
 IN MUSEUM-loving Spain, Malaga is not the largest city.  But it may have the most impressive variety of world-class museums.  We visited about half of the bounty, including a first rate art museum which focuses on Andalucian art – the Museo Carmen Thyssen.
Space age vehicles are also on view, with modern clothing and space wear.

When we encore our  Malaga trip we'll visit the highly regarded Wine Museum, where one can learn about Malaga’s own vintages.
Besides the Automobile Museum, another impressive private collection resides in Malaga's Glass and Crystal Museum, which also features antique furniture and paintings, all arranged by period.
Contemporary art lovers will enjoy Malaga's CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporaneo), Andalucia’s foremost cutting-edge space.
And we'll soon be giving a nod to Piccaso, native son, who is immortalized in both a beautiful museum and in his birth home.

We're enjoying close-up views of the beautiful grey whale.
NEXT UP:  The magnificent grey whales are migrating now and we've been watching them with wonder, off the southern California coast.  More than 20,000 of the graceful creatures pass by our  San Diego base, on a 10,000 mile journey from Alaska to the warm waters of  Baja, Mexico. There they'll give birth and then make the return trip. We're on the scene to share the wonder, so close we can see the barnacles and baleen with which they filter food. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each weekend for a novel twist on the arts, nature and travel.

Friday, February 17, 2017

King's Highway hike is one of Spain's finest and most challenging

When Cookie first set eyes on this bridge -- one of several
on King's Walkway, not far from Malaga  -- she nearly turned back.....

...but Cookie persisted and joined Bruce Keller and our amiable Viator guide Jose to scale the walkway and survive to climb again. We recommend the fun and safety of Viator's tour of this astonishing place.




Relaxing on a lovely train ride from Malaga, enroute
to the village of El Chorro, Cookie anticipates the climb.
IT WAS NOT going to frighten me.
I could do it without shaking hands.....
Thousands have climbed it through the years. Come on, Cookie, calm down....
When something frightens me, I try to approach it logically and overcome my fear. In the case of Spain's famed Caminito Del Rey, "King's Walkway," I considered this fact: it has been safely climbed for more than a year since it re-opened in 2015. I also considered why it closed after nearly a century:  five walkers plunged to their deaths between 1999 and 2000 when the eye-popping paths and bridges fell into disrepair.
Cookie and Jose enter a cave leading to the start of the famous walkway. 
Still, we would climb with a skilled guide. Jose, an anthropologist, historian and native Spaniard, is an accomplished climber and hiker. He had navigated the pathway dozens of times.
Jose helps suit up smiling Cookie up with hard hat and hair net. 
   THE TRAIN RIDE through the lovely Spanish countryside took us in a few relaxing hours from beautiful Malaga, where we spent an enchanting week, to picturesque Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola, Marbella, Ronda, Ardales and El Chorro, where we met our guide for a half-hour drive to the climb. The narrow gorge is actually in El Chorro, near Ardales in the province of M├ílaga.
We knew from research that we would wear hard hats and hair netting and that we must not have a fear of heights (I lied -- I suffer from vertigo.)
My climbing partner and photographer, Bruce Keller, is unafraid.  He is a scuba diver, water skier, hiker, climber -- adept at navigating the unknown -- both literally and figuratively. Only on the train did he tell me that the climb was closed for 14 years, with a multi-million dollar "redo" and that many consider it "the world's scariest walkway."
I FELT LIKE a cowardly extra in an Indiana Jones film as we bent down to climb through a cave that would lead us to the entrance of Caminito del Rey. No turning back now...
Grateful for strong reinforcement along much of the walkway, Cookie still found it
reassuring to touch the stone walk to her right or hang on to her guide Jose.

The walkway has held a mythic history
 in Spain, since 1901 when construction began -- finishing in late 1905. Its original purpose was practical -- energy related -- not designed to provide entertainment or recreation.  The project was conceived to provide a means for workers to reach an important pair of hydroelectric power plants located at waterfalls along the route. It would also provide a way to transport supplies and equipment.
A breathtaking view of the hillside is available -- if one can look down.

ITS NAME CAME about in 1921 when King Alfonso XIII braved the Caminito for the inauguration of a dam at the site. A decade later, Alfonso was forced into exile when the second Spanish Republic was declared in 1941. But the clever name stuck and Alfonso's great-grandson, the current King Felipe, cut the ribbon on the new improved Caminito when it opened March 28 of 2015. The king, son of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, posed for photos on the walkway.   So I would follow these royal footsteps.
A pair of  Swiss walkers pauses. 
The dam was built to provide water to Malaga's residents. 
Climbers killed on the walkway are honored.
Nearing the end of the walk, Cookie looks straight ahead -- not down. Keller is calm.
AS WE THREE WALKED -- I with one hand on the rock wall and the other on the steel bars much of the time --  Jose described the evolution of the walkway.  Before closing for the   "redo," it was a thrill for daredevils such as Jose and his college buddies. When he told me the reason for closing the walkway for 15 years, I nearly turned back.  (It's not a roundtrip -- there's one way in, one way out -- so this would have been inconvenient.) Five people fell to their deaths in 2001 -- three of them careless thrill-seekers forcing a redo of the three-plus kilometer trail and bridges. We did encounter one 60-something woman going against foot traffic, turning back only a fifth of the way in. "Demasiado para mi," she muttered, head shaking.  ("Too much for me.")
Despite this unnerving meeting, we pressed on. "You'll be fine," Jose reassured, suggesting I hang on to him for strength.
THE NEW walkway is sturdy and industrial strength, a massive effort of aluminum and stainless steel attached to vertical walk face. Skilled mountain climbers were hired for the construction, swaying in the breezes more than 100-plus meters above land and water.
The renovation weighed in at over 3 million Euros with the Andalusian government and city of Malaga footing the bill. They hoped for a major tourist attraction and that is materializing. The tourism bureau touts extra safety measures. This recovering coward was grateful for every one. And thankful for a tall glass of white wine after in the nearby tavern.
You may book the walk for a full day, including lunch, with pick-ups and transfers, or just the walk. To book:;

UP NEXT: Malaga's magnificent Museuo Automovilistico is a wonderland of gorgeous autos and vintage finery, equally eye-catching. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us late Friday  when we post for each weekend.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Treat your sweets to a play, concert, cruise, balloon for Valentine's Day

A theatrical Valentine awaits in "Freaky Friday," at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
 Wherever on the planet you are, consider a play or concert to create an artful, memorable Valentine's Day

Make your Valentine happy at a play -- here approaching La Jolla Playhouse's
 beautiful Mandell Weiss Theater. "Freaky Friday" is the current production. 


how about a wonderful musical, dinner on the water, picnic, reaching for the sky in a hot-air balloon?

"Freaky Friday" ensemble at LaJolla Playhouse. Thumbs, pointer fingers up.

and courtesy La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Musical Theatre, NorthCoast Rep  

LET THE ARTS and innovation be your motivation when you think of Cupid.  Aim your romantic's bow and arrow at a box office, dinner cruise or live music venue.
We have much that is artful from which to choose here in southern California. Wherever you are, let the arts expand your romantic horizons.
You may not be able to hit the Greek Isles, but a trip to the
water -- river, stream or sea -- is a sure romantic bet.
HERE IN sunny southern California, a dozen fine plays and musicals are on the boards now. A stunning new musical, "Freaky Friday" is a wonderful choice for a Valentine gift. It's a play about love -- mother daughter love primarily.  But it's about love and acceptance on many levels. There's romance, a wedding, grandparents, peer pressure and a touching sibling relationship. Based on the Disney movie of 1976, this new musical offers a wonderful score, lively dialogue and a profound examination of the complexities of love and relationships. Watch for it in your town. Better yet, get to San Diego and book it at La Jolla Playhouse. 
SAN Diego Repertory Theater is presenting just through this weekend "Our Great Tchaikovsky," with the brilliant Hershey Felder writing and acting the part of the tormented genius. "Sex With Strangers" is next up. Now that's a suggestive Valentine. At Cygnet, "Bad Jews" offers humor with a bite. It's edgy, funny and touching.
The brilliant Hershey Felder channels yet another great composer in
a fine original production, "Our Great Tchaikovsky" ending Feb. 12.
Whether you're in snow country, or a small town with limited music venues, there's nothing like live performance. Think outside the box to create a truly memorable Valentine for your sweetheart.
Gift certificates can be arranged for practically everything -- theater tickets, dinner cruises, airline travel, dinner on the town, a visit to a spa or hairdresser. One year, I gave my Valentine a gift certificate for a half-dozen piano lessons.
ANOTHER YEAR, my gift was an open-ended ticket to New York to see six Broadway plays.
A trip to the nearest body of water -- here Oceanside, Calif., -- is a perfect
Valentine.  Water's beauty and soothing quality is a gift any day. 
A Hornblower dinner cruise is our favorite treat. All of Hornblower's ports offer Valentine's Day special events -- so if you're in San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Long Beach, Sacramento, Berkeley, Marina del Rey or Newport Beach, problem solved for your Valentine's Day outing. Just go to and plug in your city. We also have Flagship which offers splendid Valentines . Check your own region for what's available. If you're lucky enough to live near water and can't afford a dinner cruise, pack a picnic and go watch the pelicans or seagulls. Even if it's winter where you are!
How about a hot air balloon treat? A gift card for golf on a green you've never tried?  Entrance to a new museum or a movie night out.
Hot air ballooning? An original Valentine!
If you have deep pockets, consider a handwritten note tucked in a deck of playing cards pledging a long weekend in Las Vegas. Or take your last Playbill and turn the cover into a promise of a trip to New York, Las Vegas or New Orleans. Sky's the limit. Even if you're watching the budget, be creative, unique. Think "homemade" and "heartfelt."
THINK OF IT this way: what does your Valentine want that would be special to provide? Reach beyond the cliches.
Flowers and candy are okay, but an evening out with your sweetie, seeing a play, concert or movie, hopping on a dinner cruise are superior, more artistic and memorable.
Both Hornblower and Flagship offer Valentine's cruises.
If your budget is modest, make the card yourself and promise to provide some service -- a home cooked meal or two (the Valentine can choose the main course), supper out and a night at the movies, doing the laundry for a month.  Dinner out doesn't have to be the expensive French restaurant; it can be a taco joint, neighborhood bar or pizza house.
I ALSO FOUND a fun website called Uncommon Goods, with clever and original gifts under $25.

Caminito Del Rey beckoned Keller -- so Cookie donned her hard hat, too.

UP NEXT: "King's Walkway," Spain's famous Caminito del Rey, took Cookie's and Keller's breath away. In a stretch of bravado and athletic acumen (and a wish not to spend the day alone) Cookie joined Keller to climb seven kilometers of ravines and rock arches. Take a train ride with the pair from Malaga to meet their guide and brave the remarkable path, which reveals the beauty of the landscape of southern Spain and explains the industrial history of Malaga. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Fridays when we post a fresh take on art, adventure and nature-driven travel.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Malaga, magical Malaga charms with mix of music, nature, history, art

Malaga's seafaring history dates back centuries and modern Malaga is an attractive tourist destination for good reason.


Parador Gibralfaro is our latest find, a true hotel gem in a city replete with
gardens, museums, plazas and charming neighborhoods. Oh yes, and the sea.

OUR VIEW from the top of the city was hypnotic.
We watched cruise ships come and go -- including the one that we would soon board for the Canary Islands, north Africa and an Atlantic crossing.
We admired the energy and grace of would-be bull fighters having a lesson in the ring below us.
We admired the marvelous Alcazaba, best preserved fortress in Spain, dating to the 12th Century Moors.
The bull fight ring is empty of audience, but a pair of apprentice matadors
 in Plaza de Toros de La Malagueta is taking a lesson from the master.

The scent of autumn foliage complemented our tasty olives and goat cheese from a nearby village. We'd shopped at the local market -- a tradition for us in a new city -- to buy happy hour appetizers and snacks unique to the region.
WE ENJOYED the user-friendly "Hop On, Hop Off" red buses to avoid renting a car, and found they took us everywhere we desired to go -- museums, cathedral, parks, gardens, restaurants, plazas.
Our week in Malaga was relaxing -- yet one of our most active holidays.

Castillo de Gibralfaro is among the oldest remaining citadel and fortresses in 
Spain. It is above the Parador Gibralfaro which is named after the fortress. 

Barcelona beckons? Click here
Malaga invites both of those essential elements for the vacationer. One can hike in the morning, tour a museum in the afternoon, enjoy a flamenco
Malaga's bountiful paella is world class.

concert, tapas or late meal at night.
The birthplace of Picasso is rich with history and has been claimed and enjoyed by several great civilizations. The Romans created the marvelous Teatro Romano, in the first century B.C., in the time of Augustus I.  It has been carefully restored and is used as a concert space.
Keller poses in a geranium
patch at the Alcazaba.
MUSIC IS as much a part of Malaga as the ancient walls of the fortresses, its love of nature and affection for the cafe life. Guitarists play for tips -- brilliant musicians, who could be on concert stages. Rural Spain's beauty
Buskers abound around the museums and public places, and one can sip a sangria while listening to first-rate musicians.
Gifted street musicians abound on the streets of Malaga.
We dined on shellfish and anchovies while listening to Bach chaconnes.
Malaga is a shopper's delight.  Here, Keller finds his favorite
N/A beer, while in the next aisle, Cookie shops for olives.
Within walking distance are lovely cafes and bars, all beautifully flower bedecked.  Nature loving Malaguenos revel in the outdoors and even in November, we found them enjoying coffee, lunch and cocktails -- even dinner on the warmer nights -- al fresco, eager to share recommendations.
The attractive southern European port played host to the Phoenicians who positioned themselves on the side of the mount of Gibralfaro, from which our elegant and welcoming Parador takes its name.
Moors built their fortress Alcazaba upon the remains of Phoenician digs, constructing a grand palace with gardens, pools and running water over a period spanning the 11th to 13th Centuries when Muslim governors and royals called Malaga home.
Cookie enjoys a moment with Pablo Picasso in Merced Square near
the home, in the background, where he was born and raised. 
Delights of Dali
MUSEUMS WERE a big part of our draw to this picturesque city. From Chagall paintings at the Russian Museum, to the beautiful primary-colored "cube" called Pompidou Center with its 20th and 21st Century works. Malaga boasts museums devoted to saints, bullfighting, flamenco and wine, and airplanes, so we could easily have spent another week.  The city's automobile museum is one of the finest in the world, a sleek and engaging blend of cars and fashion. Malaga has more than two dozen museums to nourish the curious soul.
WE SOAKED up splendid Chagalls at the Russian Museum and enjoyed the fine Picasso Museum as well as a fascinating illustrated history of his life with drawings, letters, commentary and even his favorite cape in the "Natal" museum in which he was born. Outside in the Plaza Merced, we even sat with the master. He is memorialized in a handsome lifesize bronze, sketchbook and pencil in hand, patina on his head where thousands have rubbed it.
We rode in a horse drawn carriage, noticing carriage, driver and steed meticulously groomed and cared for.
We climbed a pretty walkway to the Alcazaba we had admired for days, delighting in this thousand-plus year old marvel of art and architecture.
We recommend the Hop On, Hop Off bus pass, a bargain way to navigate the city. So much did we enjoy the two loops that we made two forays, enjoying a well written commentary.
MALAGA'S  PARKS and boulevards are second to none. Its tourist bureau ranks among the best we've visited, with dozens of helpful maps, brochures and cheerful staff.
A perfect holiday, our Malaga week.

A charming play about love gets standing ovations at La Jolla
Playhouse. "Freaky Friday" features a tender story,
 fabulous music and terrific acting.
Cruising New York's famous harbor may not be in
your budget -- but perhaps a dinner cruise in a
 closer town is. Be imaginative this Valentine's Day.
UP NEXT:  Valentine's Day approaches so time to think beyond candy and flowers -- how about a pair of tickets for you and your sweetie to a play about love? "Freaky Friday" at La Jolla Playhouse is a charming tale, a well acted, beautifully orchestrated musical. Based on the 1976 Disney movie, the title doesn't begin to convey the delights of this gem. Theater tickets are a fun alternative to candy and flowers.  Or how about a hot air balloon treat? A gift card for golf on a green you've never tried?  Entrance to a new museum or a movie night out. If you're lucky enough to live near water, how about a dinner cruise? If you have deep pockets, consider a note in a deck of cards pledging a long weekend in Las Vegas. Or take your last Playbill and turn the cover into a promise of a trip to New York, Las Vegas or New Orleans. Sky's the limit, even if you're watching the budget. Be creative. Think "homemade" and "heartfelt." We have suggestions to help Cupid. Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Fridays when we post a fresh take on the arts, adventure and nature-driven travel.