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The time we painted Picasso's birthplace red

THURSDAY Parents of small children take note, PortAventura theme park has added a €10m Sesame Street area, filled with small-scale rides, including a baby rollercoaster and, my favourite, Elmo's farm. It's the end of the season and the park is refreshingly free of queues.

Dinner in Arena Restaurant with Pere Granados, Mayor of Salou and other dignitaries. Philip Airey, the new president of the Irish Tour Operators Federation, makes his speech and The Parting Glass is sung in honour of our hosts.

FRIDAY An amazing trip to Tarragona. You regularly come across cities with Roman remains -- in Tarragona the Roman remains are the city.

SATURDAY Flight IB65631 from Barcelona's gleaming new terminal to Malaga. The city looks clean and bright and Enrique, my driver, brings me to the newly opened 4km promenade. Malaga has seven beaches, which means you can go for a swim from a city centre hotel. And it won't get much more central than the Petit Palace Plaza.

The Malaga Bar in Santa Maria has hanging hams and old men discussing bull fighters. The beers come in at less than €4 a half litre.

SUNDAY Kay Farrell runs a cycle tour of Malaga, and brings us through the largely pedestrianised streets, merrily jingling our bells.

We run into some colourful medieval religious procession and a band of balladeros performing at a random streetwalk.

Malaga is full of colour and enthusiasm and it makes you wonder why people go to pricier Barcelona or treat it as a stopping point on the way to the Costa del Sol.

MONDAY The Picasso museum which displays 285 of the artist's paintings is the city's highlight. Picasso left Malaga when he was 10 (describing his scallop-eating neighbourhood as "del chupa y tira", 'the suck and throw quarter').

Dinner in Parador de Gibralfaro is a journey through the local cuisine.

TUESDAY The beer in Taberna Cantera on Calle Sanchez Pastor doesn't look like it's going to run out anytime soon.

WEDNESDAY Malaga is still big business for the Irish holiday maker.

There are 160 golfers in one group lined up with golf bags in the airport.