Simon Calder: Culture, style, and easy living too

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We rarely allow considerations of safety to impinge too much on our choice of destination; after the Sharm el Sheikh bombings, a tranche of discounted holidays to the Egyptian resort was sold out in the UK within 24 hours of the attacks.

Nor is extreme weather an obstacle: Florida was empty in summer until Freddie Laker started shipping Englishmen (and women, and possibly a few mad dogs) to the noonday sun of Miami in August, and during hurricane seasons anywhere in the world it is a fair bet that the British will be the ones taking advantage of low package prices.

But we also know that the answer to most of our holiday dreams is to be found just 1,000 miles south of Gatwick.

Malaga is more than the gateway to the villas, apartments and holiday hotels of the Costa del Sol; it is also one of the great cities of Spain.

The layers of history extend from the Romans (the airport code, AGP, celebrates the original name of the city, Agripina) via the Moors to the modernist: Picasso was born here in 1891, and Malaga's latest museum is devoted to him.

Andalusian culture and style is at its most intense here, yet it is also a cosmopolitan city: the signs on the autopista along the coast are translated into Arabic.

The coast is the main attraction for the millions of Brits who fly in each year, offering a breathtaking shoreline that is struggling to bear the weight of development. The cognoscenti shun Torremolinos and Puerto Banus in favour of inland hill towns, which are set amid dramatic mountain scenery. But on any day in southern Spain, it is a fair bet that the sun is shining and the living is easy - which is more than you can say for 21st-century Britain.

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