Malaga, Spain: This is what “high livability” looks like

A view overlooking Málaga from atop Castle Gibralfaro. 

Our time in Málaga, an Andalusian port town hailed for its high “livability,” has been pretty spectacular. At first I was annoyed by that description. What does that even mean?

And now I say it all the time. This place is just so….livable! 

But our three month stint is coming to an end. We were going to go to Morocco, Portugal, and France, but we’re in the middle of a major site upgrade for Outdoorplay (coming soon!) and can’t risk bad Internet, or a grumpy husband, so we’ve severely pruned that itinerary. I’m particularly disappointed about not going to Morocco, but such is nomad life. I’ve learned to not get too attached to any outcome.


Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.  – Jorge Luis Borges

We were lured to Málaga by the weather. It’s one of the few places you can climb in winter. And, to our surprise, there was a local crag called San Anton in the actual city of Málaga, only 7 minutes from Sol’s school–with an ocean view!

On the weekends, we ventured to better crags further from the city as a family. Here we are in the cave at Archidona. 

Flying like a bird a plane a Super Soleil at Villanueva de Cauche. 

But our favorite so far has been Desplomilandia in El Chorro. I have a feeling we’ll be climbing a lot there in the near future. (We’re moving to the campo for three weeks)

While we were here in Málaga, Soleil attended a Waldorf pre-school (easily half the price of one in the States–email me if you want info).

She loved all those nature songs, magic stories, and weird faceless dolls. 

But one day I missed the exit off the freeway, and then the next one (“How do you miss TWO exits?!” says husband), and then I couldn’t find the onramp again (Be quiet, husband!), soooo we wound up at Castle Gibralfaro for the day. 

With school came friends for Soleil, friends for us, lots of playdates and birthday parties. We totally played house. 

Playdate at Pier 1 with Luna and Alma…

Playdates with neighbor boys, Fran and Oliver.

On a treasure hunt at Iris’ birthday party…

At a kids musical of “La Sirenita” (The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson) at the Music Museum in Centro Historico…

And then a two-hour Spanish lunch afterwards…

Followed by the inevitable meltdown.

We went to an archaeological workshop put on weekly by two parents/archaeologists where Soleil learned about neolithic humans and the various earth goddess/Venus sculptures. We got to mold clay Venuses, etch magic amulets, string shell necklaces, and learn about cave paintings. All for 8 euros! 

And, ohmygodohmygodohmygod, we got to see Mark Ryden’s first ever European exhibit held here at the Contemporary Art Museum in Málaga!! For free!

I love taking Soleil to art museums. We walk up to each piece, and I ask her questions like, “What do you see? How does it make you feel?”

My favorite reply was when we saw the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Broad last August in Los Angeles. Cindy Sherman is a photographer who dresses up in character and takes self-portraits that are provocative critiques on society and culture. Her ability to look like a doe-eyed centerfold in one picture and an aging matriarch of high-society in another is truly astonishing.

Anyhow, we came upon a film-noir styled shot where Sherman, in a slip, is looking forlorn, maybe even distraught, and I asked Soleil, “What do you think she’s thinking?” “Ummmm,” she took a few seconds, “it looks like she doesn’t like the taste in her mouth. That’s so sad. Right, mama?”  That’s right. Apparently Sherman was critiquing 1950s oral hygiene. 

On the one hand, Mark Ryden is the perfect exhibit to take a small child. He features bunnies, birds, dolls, toys and even Santa Claus in his colorful and imaginative paintings. 

On the other hand, you have to be really careful to avoid the creepy pedophilia-feel of some of the others. Let’s just keep moving past this one. No strangely developed child-boobies to see here. WTF? 

I actually had a similar problem at Cindy Sherman. Sherman went through a gory-pornographic phase with lots of blood, prosthetics, blow-up dolls and sex toys. It was totally weird and, of course, a necessary reflection of our totally weird society–but way too much for a pre-schooler. Fortunately the museum put those works in the back room so they were easy to avoid.

Mark Ryden! Cindy Sherman! What kind of mother am I? 🙂 Don’t answer that.

Let’s talk about rainbows instead. 

When I was a kid growing up in LA, a place where it never rains, I thought rainbows were so rare, like a once a year phenomenon if you were lucky enough to be looking the right way at the right time. I’m not even sure I put the rain + sunshine = rainbow math together until adulthood. Poor LA kids. We’re so meteorologically challenged.

Anyhow, this year was a particularly rainy winter for sunny Málaga. Lucky Soleil! Now all of her own paintings feature rain, a sun, and a big colorful rainbow. 

Our new plan is to meet Tree’s brother in Seville for a week at the end of April, then spend a week in Madrid, a few days in San Sebastian, and then cross into France for 2 months of summer climbing before heading to the States for 5wks to visit family.

I guess hearing the call to prayer will just have to wait, at least until we move back to Southern Spain! Málaga is just so, what’s the word, livable, we’re coming back after our summer travels. Aside from all of this rad shit to do with all of these rad people, it’s only an hour ferry ride to Morocco. 😉





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  1. Where you guys heading to?

    • This weekend we head to the countryside near El Chorro, then Selville, Madrid, San Sebastian and then Gorge du Tarn in France. Where are you? Can we make our crazy paths cross? We miss you locos. Muah!

    • We’re in the UK waiting for the Landy then off to Germany via France! Would be awesome to get together! Luff

  2. be care for litle girl !!! haha

  3. Yes we love the Malaga area too – especially for home ed community.

    Are you renting or house sitting? Be interested to know your experiences on that.


    • This time around we’ve been renting thru AirBnB. Since we were here during off-season, we’ve been able to get things at half price or less. But, if/when we come back, we’ll try to get a more longterm place so we don’t have to move around so much. Of course, that will depend on how long we actually plan on staying, and that will depend on a magic iron we have in the fire….outcome unknown for a few more months. 😉 Shhhhh

    • 😄😊😊😊

  4. You are in o e of my favorite cities in the world! Is a little cafe named “Paco’s” still there? A little waiter there fell in love with me when I was young!

  5. Cindy Sherman!!! ahhh! is it still up to see? can’t knock a livable place dude…so happy you found a little zen spot! ^_^

  6. Love this, Stevie. Write on . . .

  7. You guys are taking World-Schooling to a whole other level! Insane! <3

    • I’m pretty proud. We crushed it here in Malaga! But, I swear, this town just makes everything (except parking) so damn easy!

    • Parking is actually so awful that today in a parking garage in el centro I got out of my car and asked the guy in the car behind me to park my minivan in an impossibly small space because it gave me too much anxiety. The line was 10 cars deep behind me, winding down the hot and stinky garage levels. Big van (well, big in that moment), tiny space, no wiggle room. Oh hell no! Luckily chivalry is not dead en Espana!

  8. Rosi Li Is In San Sebastian!! Hope you guys are well saludos

  9. Dear Stevie, what a fresh new experience

    • Yes, and more are on the way!! I’ve loved Malaga but am so excited to hit the road! Seville, Madrid, Basque country, France, yippee!

    • Someone may have asked, but will you be renting on your new journey. Get some good photographs

    • We are renting, mostly through AirBnB, but in San Sebastian we’re staying at a cheaper Pension, and then in France we’re renting an apartment for 2 months directly from owner. If we come back to Malaga in September, then we’ll probably rent an apartment as well. Either way, we haggle to get the price right 😉

  10. We were at the exact same climbing crags when we were there in December!

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