Christmas in Spain is very much a family holiday, and before we’d planned our trip, we’d read on TripAdvisor that many places shut down on Christmas Eve and remain closed on Christmas Day as well. We didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel or apartment without many options around, so we took some travelers’ advice and found a room at a hotel down in Torremolinos, a beach resort about 15 minutes west of Malaga.
Turned out to be a great tip, as we spent the rest of the week there (with a day trip to Ronda), and there was plenty to do. The beach itself was the best part, especially for the boys – after several very active days shuttling back and forth between Malaga and Granada, and lots of sightseeing, shopping, and exploring, they were very happy to just play.
Our trip back from Granada to Malaga was easy enough, and from there, we bought train tickets at Maria Zambrano Station for the quick ride out to Torremolinos. Every beach town I’ve ever visited – from the Jersey Shore to Mexico – is always a colorful jumble of high rises, apartments, restaurants, travel bureaus, shopping malls, and palm trees, and Torremolinos is no exception.
After several days in more authentic Spanish surroundings, it suddenly felt as if we’d arrived in some other, gaudier, and infinitely more touristy version of Spain – and one populated almost entirely by half of Britain’s elderly snowbirds. B and I took a cruise to the Mediterranean in 2011, and we were among the youngest people on the ship. Same thing in Torremolinos – we saw a few young families and couples here and there, but for the most part, this was like the British version of Florida, except with Irish pubs mixed in with all of the tapas joints.
After lunch (a random mix of bad pizza, worse fish fingers, and surprisingly tasty ramen stir-fry from a random Chinese/Spanish/British cafe) and haircuts for me and the boys, we arrived at Hotel Amaragua, a coral-colored high rise right off the beach. It was too chilly out to swim in the (unheated) pool, but the Mediterranean was just beyond the promenade, and the boys scrambled down to the shore to start collecting seashells. The weather wasn’t exactly hot, and the ocean water was as frigid as the pool, but it was much warmer out than in Granada, and pleasant enough that we could play on the beach in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
And that’s pretty much what we did for the next two days! Beachcomb for seashells, wander the promenade (there were lots of restaurants and shops open, even on Christmas Day), build sandcastles, eat, nap in the room, swim in the hotel’s indoor saltwater pool (limited schedule for kids) and then back out to the beach.
Christmas Eve was mellow – we had dinner at a delicious seafood restaurant (some of the best baby squid I’ve ever had), and then played Go Fish with the kids in the hotel lobby (with a very unbalanced deck of cards!). Also discovered a new Spanish treat: delicate, crumbly holiday spice cookies called polvorones. They literally fall apart in your mouth – unlike anything we’d ever tried, and so tasty.
It didn’t matter that there were no presents on Christmas morning – the kids were excited enough about the huge beachcombing haul we amassed during our time in Torremolinos. (Although our house elf, Fritz, did text us a picture of our tree at home, stacked with presents!).
Our prize possessions included tumbled sea glass, a bull’s horn which washed up at dawn on Christmas morning, some pieces of decorated clay tile that B kept an eye out for, a chunk of folded coral, and a few delicate sea stars. M even found a live one wriggling in a midden heap!
Next up: a fantastic day trip to Ronda.