On Being Gay by the Strait
Every facet of Spain’s culture seems to be firmly rooted on the Costa del Sol: Picasso isn’t just celebrated in Málaga, he was born here; gazpacho isn’t just served in Andalusía, the recipe was written here; flamenco isn’t just danced in Seville, it was choreographed here; and Hemingway didn’t just write about bullfights in Ronda, streets and children are named after him here.
“Very new” effortlessly rubs shoulders with “very, very old” in these parts, including at the Vincci Selección Posada del Patio Hotel (VincciHoteles.com) in Málaga, where my backlit bidet, at full blast, rivals the Bellagio Fountains laser light show in Vegas. It’s a little disconcerting when a bathroom is hipper than I’ll ever be. The new-meets-old is also evidenced by the Vincci’s millennial-modern lobby, which straddles a Roman wall circa 400 b.c. Seemingly every basement in Málaga, including that of the magnificent Picasso Museum (MuseoPicassoMalaga.org), has remnants of an ancient civilization on display.
Thanks to a combination of jet lag and this afternoon’s two-hour siesta, my body has adapted rather well to life in Andalusía: Dinner is at 11 p.m., drinks are at 1 a.m., more drinks at 2 a.m., and after a quick shower and change of clothes I arrive fashionably late in Torremolinos, the region’s gay capital, which I’m told “really comes alive” around 4 a.m. The bus to and from Torremolinos runs every 20 minutes or so during the summer’s peak season, when international jet-setters descend en masse. Descending along with them, however, is a steady stream of 100-degree days and nights, a constant reminder of the region’s proximity to Africa, which looms less than 50 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar. A 15-minute taxi ride costs me about 20 bucks, a fair premium for visiting during the cool and crisp autumn.
Aside from my fourth-grade class trip to Six Flags, I’ve neither been carsick nor afraid of heights — but I’ve also never made the 90-minute journey through the Sierra Bermeja Mountains to the ancient cliffside village of Ronda, a Spanish gem that is decidedly worth a touch of queasiness. The town is set on a plateau, encircled by mountains, and sliced in two by a gorge that reaches hundreds of feet down to a barely visible river. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more romantic setting.
“If a honeymoon or an elopement is not a success in Ronda,” Hemingway once wrote, “it would be as well to start for Paris and both commence making your own friends.” The title of the town’s crown jewel is a toss-up between the Parador de Ronda, a five-star hotel next to the Puente Nuevo bridge that occupies the former Town Hall (circa 1761), and the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, one of Spain’s oldest bullfighting rings, which also houses a museum.
I’m saddened to leave, but add both sites to an ever-expanding list of places on the Costa del Sol to which I’m determined to return, again and again. How could I not, when everything here is, as Hemingway would put it, so actively pleasurable to breathe? Spain.info; VisitCostadelSol.com