This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Andalusian adventure

Well, we’re two days in to our holiday down on Spain’s Costa del Sol and having taken a break from the arduous task of sunbathing I thought it was about time I started bombarding you with another load of drivel!

Where we are is Calahonda—almost midway between Marbella & Fuengirola. It’s the first time on this part of the coast for both of us and we looking forward to finding out just why it’s so popular.

You will see yet another new layout for the blog. I’ve been dabbling with MS Publisher so we’ll see how it goes.

Thursday 2nd June

Aer Lingus was the choice of carrier this time and a first for both of us. When I was looking for flights back in January the usual suspects cropped up, i.e. BA and sleazyjet. However Aer Fungus offered both better flight times and were cheaper. Predictably that sealed the deal.

Having checked on car parking at Gatwick We’d decided to have a taxi there and back. Overall, the difference was minimal and certainly makes for a less stressful start to the holiday.

Check-in was ok, hardly any queue, which was just as well as there was hardly any staff. We’d done the usual check-in online and print your own boarding pass stuff (they make out it’s a privilege!) to save time at check in. It didn’t.

Security was straightforward, though still no strip search regrettably. An errant tin of deodorant and pot of hair wax was found in Mr. W’s bag however. With the usual admonishments the items were whisked away to be destroyed (or more likely the male locker room)

The idea of a traditional (well, I’m trying to make it traditional) pre holiday breakfast pint sidled it’s way into my thoughts so we headed to Wetherspoons, grabbed one of the last remaining tables and sat down. The atmosphere was, to put it nicely, lively. I headed to the bar to order and squeezed past a large tableful who had clearly been there for sometime. All thoughts of alcohol went  and I settled instead on coffee.

To be honest, for what we paid, it was shite, possibly the most tasteless bacon I’ve ever had. We decamped next door to McDonalds for a sausage  muffin and a bit of (relative) peace and quite away from Chav Central.

The flight was on time, more or less, uneventful and the plane was reasonably comfortable. At a little before 2:30pm we touched down at Malaga airport and proceeded to the car rental desk. I’d prebooked direct with the company this time which even with the inevitable extras worked out cheaper than going through a price comparison website. For a bit of fun we’d decided on a Smart car and with paperwork completed and credit card swiped we went to pick up the car.

Well, it has to be said they’re great little things. Enough room for our bags (just) though Trev did later liken it to driving a roller skate powered by a sewing machine motor. It’s semiautomatic and the gear changes aren’t the smoothest (nothing to do with the driver obviously!) but for nipping around it will be great.

It did take slightly longer than it should have done though to get to our destination. We’d had some directions from Mark & John, the owners of the apartment, and they were quite straightforward. However there were some major roadwork's going on and it took a little while to get on the right road. And a bit longer to head in the right direction. It was nearly 5.00pm when we eventually arrived.

What a place! We had booked it on the recommendation of some good friends and certainly weren’t disappointed. What we have is a one bedroom self contained apartment below and to the rear of a beautiful villa. Beautifully furnished and appointed, not least in the bedroom where there is a proper mattress instead of the usual Spanish slab of concrete. A multi jet shower that attacks you at all angles leaving no appendage untouched awaits in the bathroom. All mod cons abound in the kitchen. A lovely lounge-diner opens out onto a secluded patio and completes the set-up. The boys had very kindly put some stuff in the fridge to get us started. Including some wine. Our reputation clearly arrived earlier than we did!

In the main garden, which we also have the use of is a lovely pool and covered bar area, complete with tap beer. We sat down and sampled.

Dinner was a quick burger and chips at one of the bars on ‘the strip’ just up the road. Supper was a bottle of plonk and some crisps in front of the telly. I forgot to mention that the apartment also has Sky TV. Great for keeping up with what's happening in the world and at home. Not so great if you want to avoid Simon Cowell’s cash machine, better known as Britain's Got Talent.

That’s it for now. Last sentence of the day though must go to Jodie, Mark & Johns gorgeous West Highland Terrier. A lovely little bitch!

It’s now Sunday afternoon and to be honest there’s not an awful lot to report on from the last couple of days. But, at the risk of writing the most boring blog ever, I’ll get you up to date. A day out in the little black, Singer powered roller skate is planned for Monday, so there should be more to write about. Anyway, here goes.



Friday 3rd June

A leisurely start although neither of us slept that well. We’d brought a load of bacon over from home  - surely that’s the wrong way round, I thought you were supposed to bring home the bacon. Anyway, that, couple with the holiday starter kit thoughtfully provided by Mark & John meant that we didn’t have to go scurrying off to the shops first thing. However later that morning we did go shopping for the usual tubbystar holiday essentials: wine, crisps etc. You get the idea.

Sunbathing was of course on the agenda so we headed up to the pool area and stripped off. The position of the property means that the garden is not overlooked so going ‘au naturel’ is the done thing and is really quite liberating. Although when I turned over to get some sun on my back Trevor commented that he thought that the moon had risen early. Can’t think why!

We overdone it a bit for the first day, although thankfully the important bits remained unscathed.

Dinner was at a little place about 10 minutes walk away (we drove it!) following a recommendation from the boys and was without doubt the most delicious steak either of us have had for years. A return visit has been pencilled in for later on.

Saturday 4th June

I must start off by mentioning that it’s one year ago today that our dear friend Roy passed away aged just 50. We was in Ibiza when we got the phone call. I just can’t believe where the time has gone. Thinking a lot of his family back home.

A day in the shade today after yesterdays over exposure, but no less pleasant. The usual lunch of rolls and crisps was supplemented with a couple of beers from the pool bar. I even slipped, all be it temporarily, out of CBA (cant be arsed!) mode to start on the blog. I should say too that free wi-fi is included here and makes life so much easier (and cheaper) than farting about with the mobile.

For dinner we fired up the roller skate and headed to another part of Calahonda on one of Trev’s legendary long short cuts. Whilst the areas nearer the coast cater to the holiday trade, there are  a lot of expats living out here. There are certainly worse places to be.

Eventually we pulled up at an eatery, which whilst offering typical tourist fare was pleasant, reasonably priced and tasty without being particularly memorable. What’s more we even managed to avoid the final of Britain's Got Talent too. Definitely a plus point!

Sunday 5th June

Another beautiful day, though both of us were a little sluggish this morning thanks to the cheap vino tinto procured from Lidl on the first day. There’s no  doubt though that despite Spain’s economic problems things are still generally cheaper on the main land than in the Canaries or Balearics.

Normal service resumed in the sunbathing department after making sure the old fella was well protected  - and Trevor too of course! At the time of typing it is now late afternoon and rapidly approaching beer o’clock. We may dine in tonight but we’ll see how it goes. Gibraltar is on the radar for tomorrow, so hopefully there might be something more interesting in the next blog

There are some pictures of the apartment below. There are some more still on the camera that are not for public consumption—unless you are into (very) burnt offerings that is!

Monday 6th June

After three lazy days chillaxing it was time to start exploring, so this morning after a quick cuppa and toast we wound up the roller skate and pointed her in the general direction of Gibraltar.

It has to be said that the car is surprisingly nippy, sitting happily on the motorways at 80-100 km/h or whatever the mph equivalent is. Gib is about 90 or so kilometres away so it was in little over an hour that we caught our first glimpse of the famous rock. By this time however the weather had turned and the majority of it was shrouded in mist. It made quite a centre point however for the forks of lightning that frequently appeared along with the rain.

Now, you cross into Gib via the Spanish town of La Linea de la Concepcion. Being British of course, Gib has retained it’s border controls so there is normally quite a queue. Advice from many sources suggested that going across on foot was much much quicker, but given the current weather, that was out of the question.

Although we had missed the morning rush hour (many Spanish work in Gib) there was still a long queue snaking back around a number of roundabouts. Unfortunately we didn’t immediately realise that this was the queue until further up. Trev nosed the little roller skate into the tiniest of gaps much to the ire of the woman behind us. Still, it was well over half an hour before, having waved our passports at border control we were wave through without even stopping.

Almost as soon as you have passed through you have to cross the runway of Gib’s airport. There’s not a lot of air traffic at present, but given it’s size (about 3 miles long and barely a mile wide) when there is movement virtually the whole of the islands’ traffic comes to a standstill whilst take off or landing manoeuvres are completed—as we found out later on.

It was still raining as we crossed so we decided to head to the big Morrisons supermarket to procure the duty free. That’s the other thing here. Not only are booze and fags cheap but fuel is too. Everything is in pound sterling and you will pay less than a pound a litre for unleaded and for the smokers cigarettes are only around the two pounds a pack. It’s very popular with both local Gibraltarians and ex-pats living along the Costa del Sol. We paused first at the supermarkets café for breakfast before picking up a couple of bottles of the hard stuff for the drinks cabinet, some cigs for the local barber back home and some Pg Tips for the boys back at the villa.

The rain was easing as we left the supermarket so we headed down the west coast to Gib (and probably Europes’) most southerly tip—Europa Point. Here you can easily see the coast of Tangiers in Northern Africa and in fact ferries from both Gib and Algeciras across the bay back in Spain will whisk you across in under eighty minutes. Algeciras is Spain’s main entry point for trade from Africa including unfortunately drugs and sometimes human cargo too.

To the west, the Spanish coastline curves away, eventually becoming southern Portugal, the sea becoming the Atlantic. To east lies the Mediterranean. Many cargo ships sit in the bay either awaiting entry to the ports of Algeciras or Gib whilst others bunker fuel for their onward journey.

With necessary photographic duties completed we continued up the east side. There is very liitle here as the rock climbs steeply a short in from the coast. The town is all on the west side. In no time at all we had rounded the north-western tip and were back where we started. It was at this point that a plane had either taken off or landed as, for a short while, traffic was at a standstill.

We headed south again although this time to the interior which basically means up. We were soon at the entrance to the Nature Reserve which contains, caves, tunnels and the world famous monkeys.  Thought to have been brought over in the 18th century from Northern Africa they are one of Gib’s main tourist attractions. They seem friendly enough but have been know to attack small children and grab food from peoples bags as well as grabbing women’s nether regions.

Anyhow, you can drive around most of the area although some of the steeper inclines caused the roller skates engine to squeal a little. The caves were an unexpected highlight and the openings for the canons in the siege tunnels gave some fantastic views of the airport and bay below.

Our journey back down skirted us around the edge of the town, but we resisted the lure of a look at the likes of Marks & Spencer & Next and headed instead for the border.

Duty Free allowances into Spain from Gib are quite limited. Spanish customs make spot checks to enforce these limits. We were fine and they left us alone but we did see one car that had been pulled over with at least a dozen cartons of cigarettes piled up at the side of it. No doubt the drivers was getting a verbal roasting.

The journey back was uneventful, we did divert into Estepona to have a quick look around. It was pretty enough and well kept but extremely quiet.

A late afternoon snack was devoured at the café next to the local supermarket. Provisions having been procured we grabbed a couple of beers at the bar before and early evening nap.

Had a touch of the CBA syndrome again, have just been too relaxed to think about anything other than turning the page of a book, a dip in the pool, a drinkypoos from the bar. Anyhow, will try and bring you up to date.

Monday 6th June - continued.

It was quite late when we eventually stirred from our nap, so when we got to the nearby strip of eateries options were becoming somewhat limited. Neither of us being particularly hungry for once, we settled on what proclaimed
itself as traditional English fish & chips. Even the odours wafting out of the door suggested same.

The reality, sadly was somewhat different, although it took a long while to find out; the owner being on her own and trying to juggle waitress, cashier and cooking duties. The chips were overcooked and the batter was hard, the
best bit was the accompanying cuppa which was lovely.

What livened up the occasion however was the appearance of two gentlemen at the door before the food arrived. They made there way somewhat unsteadily to the counter and ordered fish & chips. The plan seemed to be for a takeaway but one of them appeared to be about to lose the use of his legs, so instead they sat, well lurched down. Next to us. They were here for golf they said along with six others, although clearly none had been played today. Both in their seventies, one was Dublin and the other Edinburgh although now both living in Hertfordshire - though not together!

"We've been drinking all fooking day" the Irishman said, as if an explanation was needed. The Scot burped in acknowledgment then, having just about got brain cells and jaw working in harmony enquired as to where we
were from. "Aye, Brighton" he said to our reply, "Thas the gey capital is it nae?". Trevor decided to plunge in head first and clear things up straightaway. "Yes", he said, "That's why we live there!". Well, the look on these two
guys faces were priceless, but when they'd recovered from the shock both shook our hands!

The food arrived soon after. The Irish fella was making a good job our devouring his but his mate was having a bit of trouble with the rock hard batter. A fair percentage of it ended up on the floor but I had to duck more than once as another piece of killer batter hurtled passed my ears!

We had one drink back at the bar then called it a night.

Tuesday 7th June

Little to report. Good weather, lots of sunbathing, a few cold beers in the afternoon, but a fantastic meals this evening. Three courses, wine coffee and brandy. Lovely. The bill. Ouch.

Wednesday 8th June

The boys had organised a bbq this evening to which we were invited. A fantastic evening with great food and the chance to meet more ex-pats who had moved over. In answer to the question of whether they would move back to
the UK was always the same. No.

The time passed so quickly and it was gone one in the morning by the time we all said our somewhat drunken goodbyes.

Thursday 9th June

Oh dear, more sunbathing. This is getting tedious (as if!) Nice meal at a little Spanish place tonight. Yes there are some here still!

Friday 10th June

Pointed the roller skate north this morning, to Fuengirola for our mandatory holiday visit to the department store El Corte Ingles. Honestly, there's not a suitcase big enough to accommodate all the stuff I'd like to buy here but
I did manage to resist this time. We stopped at another shopping centre on the way back and, at the time of typing are now back by the pool making the most of this great weather. Sadly, Monday and the journey home are started to loom large on the horizon so we are gonna make the most of it.

Right where were we? Ah Yes. To be honest, not much else to tell you, but I'll tie up the loose ends:

Friday night we went out for a meal with Mark & John. Another delicious fillet steak, absolutely divine, you just don't seem to get them at home like this.

Saturday 11th June.

Yep, you guessed it, sunbathing. The boys had to chance the sand stuff in the swimming pool filter, apparently it needs doing every few years (how tough!) and Mark seriously done his back in. By the end of the day he could
hardly move and looked really in pain.

Another great meal at a place across the road tonight.

Sunday 12th June.

Our last day, but the sun was shining more of the same. Whilst about 28 degrees in the shade it 43 degrees on the sun beds mid afternoon.

Some friends of Mark & John called in late afternoon on the way back from the beach and we had a long chinwag with them. By the time they left, it was late, we were starving and couldn't be arsed to get showered and changed. So our last meal of the holiday was from you know where. Yes that chain of 'restaurants' beginning with 'M'. How sad is that!

Monday 13th June.

We said our goodbyes early Monday morning and were soon at the airport. We had a little while to wait for check-in to open but were soon through to departures. The flight was on time and we were soon deposited at Gatwick.
There was a wonderful welcome home from the cheery smiling faces at passport control and it took over an hour for the bags to appear. And really that was the end of that.

So, to sum up. Although we were in Andalucía it was hardly an adventure, so I suppose the blog title was misleading. Having read back through it, it will certainly not rate as one of my best - probably the worst in my
opinion. But that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy ourselves because we most certainly did. We could have done a little more sightseeing but to be honest we were so relaxed just sitting by the pool in wonderful surroundings we
weren't bothered - there is always another time. I don't usually put links in but I'm going too this time: http://calahonda-villa.com/index.php Without doubt the best apartment we have ever stayed in. If you fancy a quiet
relaxing break in a wonderful place, you won't be disappointed here.

What was interesting and thought provoking was meeting people that have made a great life for themselves in Spain. Mark & John specifically but their friends too. It just shows what you can achieve with hard work and, as they will admit, a little but of luck upon the way. This area is full of expats and you can see why. Everything is here, all the facilities you need and terrific weather too.

A lot of food, and even more thought.

One day, maybe.