The worm has turned.
I can no longer wear shorts every day. The “two veg” which go with my “meat” have transitioned from salad to vegetables. And I’ve reluctantly turned the central heating on.
If like me you’re lamenting the arrival of autumn and craving sunshine then I’d highly recommend an escape to the Andalusian city of Malaga. Boasting some of the warmest winter temperatures in Europe, the daytime average is a balmy 17°C.
It’s not just the weather which is a bit lush.
Malaga’s mix of Islamic and Christian heritage means there’s impressive architecture - the Catholic cathedral and the Moorish Alcazaba palace were both jaw-dropping.
Our hotel's rooftop pool was also rather handy for reading, drinking and taking in the panoramic views. The Molina Lario is a definite win - it's centrally located, modern and reasonably priced (£75 a night approx).
A nose around the Picasso museum's impressive collection (Malaga was the artist's birthplace) provided some welcome respite from the midday sunshine whilst an impressive mural by Shepard Fairey displayed Malaga's grip on contemporary culture.
However, let’s cut to the chase and get to the most important thing. The nosh.
Every tapas bar we visited was of a remarkably high standard – even a chain place called Volapie, located a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Hyper crisp patatas bravas (€6) were served in a sauce which combined the garlicky goodness of aioli with the spicy potency of tomato sauce.
Oxtail croquetas (€6) were dainty warheads of velvety meatiness.
A platter of meat (€9) combined fennel fragranced roast pork, lean jamon fillet and fatty shoulder.
For breakfast we mostly picked up a “light” snack of a pastry or sandwich from one of the bakeries near to Malaga’s central market – a tourist destination in its own right packed with overflowing stalls of stunning produce.
Our two favourite tapas joints were both popular with the locals.
Los Gatos is the Cheers equivalent of tapas bars.
Everyone knows each other; the restaurant appears to break-out on occasion into impromptu song; a customer took our order so as to give the frantic waiting team a breather; and another table congratulated us on our choice of restaurant.
A half portion of jamon (€10) was mouth-meltingly good.
Two types of croqueta (€6), one studded with jamon the other with salami, were both equally moreish.
A huge menu of montaditos (mini sandwiches) included an earthy morcilla and toasted pine nut variety (€2.50) and another of tangy goat’s cheese and caramelised onions (€2.50).
A simple salad of impeccably fresh tomatoes (€3.50) was dressed with a little oil and vinegar.
A couple of hours spent perched at the bar of Cortijo de Pepe, drinking beer (€1.50) and tinto verano (€1.75) and grazing on cheap yet exceptional tapas was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Grilled chorizo (€2 each) was everything it should be – lightly charred, juicy and paprika-laced.
A heaving plate of soft, salty boquerones (€7) were coated in crisp crumb with out the merest glint of fat.
Uber-tender pinchos morunos (€2.10 each) were made from pork marinated in North African spices.
Plates of manchego (€5) and jamon (€8) were ordered because… well it would be rude not to.
Whilst we eschewed dessert in each of the bars we visited, we more than made up for it by the amount of ice cream we purchased from Casa Mira.
Located on the main drag, these guys have been doing their thing for over 100 years and it definitely shows.
Their smooth, milky ice cream certainly gives the best Italian gelato a run for its money.
insanely rich Belgian chocolate and creamy dulche de leche,
and a zesty, mouth puckering lemon granita were all seen off during the trip.
What more have I got to say? Escape from this cruddy weather and book your flights to Malaga now.
You can fly directly to Malaga from Cardiff by Vueling or Bristol by Easyjet
Hotel Molina Lario - Calle Molina Lario, 20, 29015 Málaga
Volapie - Calle Strachan, 7, 29015 Málaga
Los Gatos - Plaza Uncibay 9, 29008 Málaga
Cortijo de Pepe - Plaza Merced, 2, 29012 Málaga
Casa Mira - Calle Marqués de Larios, 5, 29015 Málaga