European City Breaks

Band entertains the crowds below
Malaga 
The cultural hub of the Costa del Sol has come a long way since its discovery 3,000 years ago. Its old meets new scene has plenty to offer the 10 million tourists who pay a visit each year. The Mediterranean weather is a major factor with sunny temperatures basking as high as 31oc in the summer months. The hot weather was an initial reason of why I choose to see Malaga, having had the taste of other Spanish cities such as Barcelona prior to my visit. However, this time I was in search of an authentic flare. The city was found by the Phoenicians, an ancient civilisation, who used its natural harbour for the use of salt-fishing to gather food back in its primitive days. The Phoenicians also built the fortress now known as the Alcazaba, the rustic building which sits on top of the hillside as a protective gateway to the city. The fortress's entrance area adjacent to the Plaza de Aduana and the Roman theatre in Calle Alcabazilla, forms part of the city walls. Now in the age of the 21st century it seems Malaga has never lost its mystique, in my opinion, a secret component in helping it overcome the decades suffered by the Spanish Civil War in the 18th century. 

Authenticity and Attractions
The authenticity that lies within Malaga instantly transported me into the real Spain where Paella eating locals wined and dined in the heart of the cities traditional buildings. Malaga Cathedral is a must see known locally as La Manquita, the one armed lady because of its single tower structure due to a lack of funds to complete the second.
I found that the cities other attractions comprised of a stunning beach and an electric entertainment scene; more on fire than the feet of its colourful flamenco dancers.  The beach known as the Malagueta beach is one of the most unique in the World with its central location, literally a pebble throw away from the city centre amenities. If you’re in doubt of how to find the cities amenities then for 20 euro’s the hop on and off tour bus will set your direction straight. I always find the Red tour buses most useful when stepping out in a new city and in particular Malaga. The bus even takes a steep climb, all the way up to the Alcazaba to give passengers the option to jump off and explore the fortress in its entirety with breath-taking panoramic views en-route. So get your camera, smartphone or selfie stick ready.
The bus will then take you to the Cathedral so after a gander inside you will find the surrounding streets an interesting intertwinement of outdoor cafés, food stands and designer shops. Calle Larios and Calle Nueva are the main shopping streets in the city with popular Spanish brands such as Mango and Bershka.  As this was my first visit to Malaga, the rising temperature’s made all the sightseeing a tad tiring after a while. So I found the perfect watering hole for a refreshing beer, The Sherlock Homes pub, an ode to the famous London detective, which can be found in the street parallel to Malaga Cathedral. The cool Heineken Beer wasn’t enough to satisfy my appetite as a heavenly savoury smell took over my senses. I discovered there was a snack stand across the pub so I took a stroll over. There I was presented with large American style Pizza slices, too tasty looking to resist and for 2.50 Euro’s it was a done deal.
Flamenco dancers show off their talent

Festival Fun
Malaga is a lively, fun filled city all year round and even more so in August when the Feria De Malaga comes to town. The festival was created after the City was re-conquered in 1487 by the Spaniards and is celebrated between Saturday to Saturday on the third week. In August. This year it ran between the 15th – 22nd of August where an addictive ambiance awaited locals and tourists alike. The festival is a vibrant mix of live entertainment in the form of Spanish bands known to them as Banda’s, dancers and street artists. One minute you can hear the chatter of locals and then the historic stone paved alleys becomes a blaze of live music with merry locals dancing and singing along to songs - I wish I knew the words too. Another thing I discovered during my time in the city is the locals know a thing or two about fashion. Whether it’s their festival clad costumes, where it appears polka dots will always be on trend. Or the ladies that elegantly finish off their look with a bold flower accessory, Malaga is certainly a city of Style. Sure, it’s in its blood, as the city was the birthplace of famous artist, Picasso!

The Eiffel Tower  lit up in gold glory on an Autumn night (2013)

Paris 

Is the city break for romance, shopping in style and seeing spectacular sights. It is known as the city of love, so is the ideal place to take your loved one if you’re planning on popping the question. It’s worthwhile to know the city is one of the most popular engagement destinations in the World. The dazzling light show of the Eiffel tower at night will pop the idea of a glittering engagement ring into your loved ones head making it the perfect place to propose. The Eiffel tower still makes a grand presence in the city after Gustave Eiffel built the structure for the World Exhibition in 1889. Whether it's basked in sunlight during the spring and summer months or lit up during winter nights - the Eiffel Tower's beauty is timeless. Tickets cost 8 Euros, 50 cents for adults and 4 Euros, 50 cents for children, once you get the tickets make your way straight to the queue as it can be roughly an hour’s wait before you get through the gate to go up. If you would like a more subtle way of showing your partner that you love them why not take them to the Pont de l’ Archeveche also known as the cities Lock Bridge. 



Out of the thirty-two bridges along the River Seine you will recognise the Lock Bridge as it is covered in different padlocks, where loved-up tourists have inscribed their initials as a token of their everlasting love. Once they fasten their padlock onto the wired mesh on the bridge the romantic ritual means they have to throw the key into the river below. If you can’t find a space for your padlock on the Pont de l’ Archeveche then head for the Pont des Arts on the right bank of the River Seine where the trend has continued. Paris is the city where shopping becomes an art form as shoppers, head to barter at the many markets that run daily, except Mondays. Le Marais district of Paris is where to go if you want to shop like the Parisian's do, as you will find some of the best Markets in the city. Marche' Les Enfants Rouge is the oldest market there where you can buy fresh homemade bread and patisseries. Paris, a city of high fashion is home to rows of designer stores for the more upmarket shoppers out there. Boulevard Haussmann is an expensive shopping district where you will come across designer brands such as Chanel and where you can shop in the Galeries Lafayette - a luxury department store. The Art- Nouveau style building has an impressive glass dome ceiling and three floors full of brand goods. If you’re more a vintage person then head for central Paris where you can find some retro shops, check out Rags & Vertige in the rue Saint Martin area of the city.  If you haven’t got Romance in mind, Paris can still deliver on shopping and sight-seeing – it will not disappoint!

Barcelona 

La Sagrada Familia built in 1882 by Antoni Gaudi  (June 2012)

Brace yourself for Barcelona, the cultural hub of Costa Daurada and the second largest city in Spain.
You will be unable to find an excuse not to go to Barcelona, whether its for the amazing architecture, impressive sights or its beautiful beaches.
The city is renowned for the Gaudi buildings which were designed and sculpted by Spanish artist Antoni Gaudi and attract millions of visitor's each year.
La Sagrada Familia is the famous cathedral in Barcelona which is due to be completed next year after work began on the building in 1882, it is also a UNESCO heritage site.
The cathedral's facade is unique to any other as it tells the Nativity story to people who come to look at the intricate architecture of the historic building.
The Casa Mila is another Gaudi attraction in the city and the quirky building was once the home of the artist before his death in 1926. Architect Josep Maria Jujol worked along with Gaudi to build the Casa Mila building also known as La Pedrera. There is an exhibition on the top floor apartment where you can see furniture collected from the 19th century.
After you've seen some of Gaudi's work reward yourself with a nice bite to eat, head for Las Ramblas in the center of Barcelona. It's the busiest street in the city where you will find several shops and restaurants, try out La Poma a cute little restaurant where you can people watch in the heart of the city.
La Poma has an a la carte menu with a variety of tasty dishes and a lunch deal of a main course and starter for fifteen euro's.
The Barcelonaeta beach is the main beach in Barcelona therefore is popular with sun worshipers visiting the city. Sailors and swimmers head for this beach too where waves come in from the Mediterranean sea.
Before you leave Barcelona make sure you see the Magic fountain show of Mountjuic its like something you will never see before. The fountain movements are choreographed in tune with classical music where water quirts up to the sky to a height of fifty-four metres - its amazing. As the song changes so does the colour of the water giving those watching a multicolored water show.