Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Málaga & Torremolinos: Keeping the TH in AndaluThía

Note:  No current information exists online for Malaga LGBT life - so this post serves as the only comprehensive listing for Málaga and Torremolinos.

I'm told Málaga serves as the 3rd best city for gay life, and with Torremolinos this is likely true, especially as a sunny get-away for those winter months (if you can't get to the southern hemisphere). Yet winter remains low season here - so don't get your cute suits packed just yet! Sunny days in winter are incredible - you can feel that heat - but the damp cold does put a damper on anything further than a nice run on the sand. December, January & February are also the area's rainiest (yes, we're still technically in Europe) - but Spain is far from London or Amsterdam for the weather (¡no te precupes!). 

Torremolinos - Gay Capital of Andalucia

In Spain (and the latin world, generalmente) Drag shows mean
comedy shows (still with a dance at the end). Here also, heteros
parade on-stage, instead of the gays!
It’s a true touristy-beach town - with rare architectural flourishes apart from obligatory features for grandiose hotel views on the beach and cute Spanish tapas bars. Sure the cookie-cutter, square cement buildings in La Nogalera are spruced up with flashy lights & shiny surfaces - that's only on the interior! While the beaches are beautiful - the bar area is cramped & (at least now) not too exciting - with a line up of similar small bars and a couple more popular ones. In any case, la gente, la playa & la fiesta are the only reasons you’ll come to Torremolinos and of course, Spain has the best of these!

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The popular spot in the center of La Nogalera (the gay complex) is now Eden Copas. For February, the bar/lounge held a strong audience (~100 people) for a drag show until 4am and other places did have some customers. For a less crowded option, try any of the spots along the main drag - you’ll likely have your pick of drink deal options.

Center of La Nogalera, gay
ghetto of Torremolinos
Very few gays I met (as you know, this skews young) really enjoy the scene here - especially during low season - but all told me to visit Passion and mainly for the end of the evening (3-7am). Listed as "gay-friendly", the disco has weekend acts and parties for all. Famed DJ Loco Dice made my entrada $42 this weekend - but it's usually 10-15 ($13-$18). Depending on who or what you like, you can also browse the very-dated dedicated website or another with a long list of venues - but you'll have to reach out (gaytlas.com) to get the latest info!

You can also try Pantheon later in the night - but remember later in the night isn’t 2am - it's more like 4! Cute promoters standing in the center will be handing out free drink passes - it's Spain, so be friendly - the promoters are cute enough anyway. Of course, if you want to chug jungle-juice, take advantage of a chupito gratis, but otherwise you won’t need to bother. As always, if it’s being promoted, it’s unlikely to be worth attending! 

El Carmen close to the popular Plaza
de Merced - kitchy & usually crowded
Quality, value food is difficult in tourist-land - but if you’re looking to stray from tapas (like I was after 6 weeks in España) check out Tiki - it’s bound to be packed, so you may need a reservation at the height of the season, but it's hip - and I can’t imagine eating sushi anywhere else! For local fare, follow the locals to Bodegas Quitapenas conveniently located between the beach & clubs, at the top of the stairs & ramps that lead to the center. Head out for dinner at 11pm - eat, and hit the clubs!

Back in Málaga's Center

Opps she caught me!
Malaga’s gay scene is pretty typical of a smaller, mid-sized city. On weekend nights, you start drinks at the chic, but grown-up El Carmen (which also doubles as a café & bar all week) or at What's Up. Then move on to Reinas (but don't Google it - the new address is not updated online), a recently moved & renovated bar with a dance floor. At the end of the night - you get to say to your friends “¡Vamos a la cama!” nope, not what you were thinking - La Cama (formerly Orisha's here on Google Maps) is a dive-disco - that closes the evening (slash morning!). ¡Va a La Cama! around 4am and stay until 5 or 6 (on Friday or Saturday).

Weeknights you can also chill at café-bars Calle de Bruselas or back at El Carmen on opposite ends of the north side of Plaza de la Merced, a main focal point of the nightlife. El Carmen even holds Drag Bingo on Thursdays! Afterwards, see if you can handle taunts from Drag Queens at Peter Pan, which is also open Thursday to Sunday. After taking this picture, this Queen took me to task en español for 5-10 minutes. It's always fun to be the butt of the jokes - and point of jubilation - especially when you have no idea what's happening.

Food & More in Malaga

Hip newly re-relocated bar &
disco near Plaza de Merced
For great tapas for decent prices (2.5) - check out Los Gatos in Uncibay Plaza – not only a great value but los camareros más divirtidos and a bull to boot! You can get cheaper tapas, of course – but they won’t have as much calidad (quality) - Don't believe me? check out more recent tapas reviews. For quantity, más barato price (it is crisis after all) hit-up El Tapy back near Plaza de Merced (where the gay bars are) or Vacaloca right off the main-drag Larios. Also, a good meeting point & cafe is Ultimo Mono (just off Constitution Plaza).

If you're looking for LGBT info - visit the LGBT Center Colegas Malaga they hold meetings at 8pm on Friday's - but you can drop by anytime. Antonio helped me finalize the updates for this post!

And if you need a budget place
to stay - Oasis Hostel isn't
a bad place to wake up!
If you feel like exploring ex-pat land (Spanish boys are friendly, but sometimes more difficult to make into friends) party at the Oasis Hostal Rooftop - and head out on their weekend or weekday bar crawl - people here are employed to drink Monday-Saturday! Or attend one of the diverse Erasmus parties with people from all over the world. If you're trying to aprender español you can join the Pachange Inter-cambio language exchange - and speak with Spaniards who often desperately (crisis remember!) want to learn English - for only a euro!

If you're planning a summer adventure, Trip Advisor can show you how things have worked in the past, but as the weather warms, I'll provide an update with the best gay-beach info. If you're here now, or on your way -- I guarantee this is the only place you'll find the latest info about gay Malaga!

Come, enjoy some warmth in the winter, learn Spanish (with that cute Adaluthian accent) and meet the friendliest people in the world.

In Spain, you must grab the bull by its horns...
yours truly, the @GAYographer

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Málaga: Searching for the Sun in Europe!

Malagueta Beach east of the city center
The warmest place in Europe can still be cool (and I’m talkin’ tiempo) – but that’s the only part that’s unfriendly. Whether you’re hostel hopping around Spain – or taking some time off to learn Spanish (like me), Málaga is a perfect locale to soak in the Sun as well as Spain. Beaches, check, Palm trees, check, new friends from all over the world, check – what more really matters?

You might not make it to Málaga if this is your first time to Spain – you’ll likely plan to swing through Granada, do the very-American touristy/study-abroad thing in Sevilla or keep to the biggest, best urban centers Barcelona & Madrid – Málaga might not make your list. But if you’re coming here to live, it’s definitely on a short list.

And you won’t be alone – from familiar westerners to more far-from-home Russians, South Koreans & Chinese – everyone’s here taking advantage of Spain’s beauty combined with its fabulous weather (must I repeat: Spain is the best place on earth). There's good reason that Spain is the #3 destination for study abroad for US students, nearly 10 percent of the quarter-of-a-million students abroad choose here. Of course, this is the only reason NOT to come:  Brits, Germans & Americans do take over a bit - but you'll still meet Spaniards if you are determined to speak Spanish. (At my inter-cambio language exchange on Monday a Spaniard told me he rarely sees foreigners - but I think he's not looking...)

Surrounded by the harbor and beach, Málaga's city center's near perfect weather is only surpassed by it’s beauty. Cold here is 50 (that’s 8 C) – but if you look around in the winter, you would think it’s 32 based on the dress! To be fair, it’s a different feeling when its’ wet and cold – and it can be a bit windy and rainy this time of year (but thats only a few months - or I hope, weeks!). It’s still the warmest place in the land-mass of Europe - and the sun still feels warm here & shines more than half the time in winter.

Gibralfaro - Nothing beats a great sunset with mountains & cityscape!
My favorite attraction is the viewpoint (Mirador) from Gibralfaro, on the hills above the Alcazar – but there’s a few more, including the Picasso Museum, City Center with lovely Calle de Larios, and Cathedral, - the typical places that make each city in Spain so special. The place to get food and drink (& not too caro) is Bodega de Pimpi or El Pimpi. Drink with new friends there overlooking a Roman amphitheater. If you get tired – or get lost – wandering through the city center, you can always find the water and walk along the beautiful (if touristy) waterfront, and look back at the Alcazar and city center & shop and eat shops and restaurants.

And during these cooler times, gays are online in full force – but you’re looking for the student crowd stay away from January & June these “cram times” mean less students out (or at least Spaniards). Yet the party rages in the city – as Europeans continent-wide try to find somewhere close to keep warm for the winter. Just yesterday, I heard Málaga - or more specifically just south in Torremolinos - is the 3rd gayest place in Spain after Madrid's Chueca & Barcelona's Sitges (and you'll note each includes a dedicated LGBT webpage!).

I'm headed to the gay spots this weekend - so I'll save my gay-Málaga post for the next! Suffice it to say, you can always find friends & fun if you seek it - and have patience. For example, you could just chill out at a hostel - who knows - a cute, eager "gap year" student might swing through town with all his girlfriends... ;)

Back to learning spanish and trying to meet Spaniards for now!