We have just returned from a fantastic 9 days in Nerja in Andalucia. I’ve already posted (quite a few) pictures on my Facebook page, and will certainly be blogging about the Alhambra Palace in Granada in more detail (because it’s simply one of the most astonishing places I’ve visited), as well as a couple of other things that struck chords while we were there.
This holiday was our first foreign trip since our Grand Tour de France in May/June 2008, and we deliberately chose to go to Spain in August because we wanted ‘guaranteed sunshine’. We certainly got it, and a few other things besides…
- It was a real thrill to see Hannah & Eleanor spend hours (and hours) in the swimming pool. Rachel has recently bought them Swimfins for them both, and they proved absolutely brilliant at enabling the girls to swim confidently in water way too deep for them to stand up. We had a whale of a time, and their swimming came hugely – Hannah even learnt to use a snorkel.
- We had dinner at the various restaurants on Burriana Beach three times during the week. Of course these were popular with the tourists but also seemed to have a large local clientele; probably because of the quality and value. The Montemar was probably our favourite, mostly for its fantastic barbacoa and the fresh fish on offer.
- The Siesta approach to living with the heat is very relaxing! On all but one day we had cloudless skies and temperatures in the mid-90s. It really was too hot to do very much outside of the pool or the sea; so we didn’t. Indeed, as our balcony was shaded for the afternoons, we started a new family holiday tradition…
- …playing UNO! This simple card game brought out some memorable moments, notably the refrain “it’s not about love, it’s about WINNING”, which was started by Rachel, but willingly taken up by both Hannah and Eleanor whenever they played a wild card or scuppered someone else’s plans. “I cannot go, said the Big Bells of Bow” was a cheery jingle started by Hannah and adopted by the rest of us. In the end we scored a running total over a few days, and with (almost) no quarter given by the grown-ups, it woz the kids wot won it, with Eleanor (4) and Hannah (8) outscoring Rachel (ahem) and I (41) pretty comprehensively.
- We stayed in a small complex of around a dozen apartments around a shared pool. Most of the people were Brits, and I experienced the ‘towels on sunbeds‘ mentality for the first time in years. Every morning, the sun was barely peeping out over the mountains, but there was a row of sun loungers, aligned with towels and parasols at the ready. It all seemed rather childish (“you can’t sit there, it’s saved“), but then I found myself at least partly entering into the mentality. We usually went down much later, but even then I would guard ‘our’ territory jealously. These other families left before us, so at the end of our holiday I would look down from our balcony to see empty loungers, lonely beside the pool; and I almost felt cheated, no longer able to scoff at the playground behaviour.
- The proximity of mountains and sea in Andalucia is fantastic. I sometimes wonder which I prefer (the Lake District or the Cornish Coast), but here you can have both.
In just a few miles from Nerja you can be in amazing countryside. Precipitous valleys and winding mountain roads take you to places like Competa or Frigiliana, where you can marvel at the impossibly steep olive terraces, the avocado trees and prickly pears at the roadside, and the countless villas and houses built on ridges and hilltops.
The astounding drive from the coast near Motril to Granada is barely 40 miles but takes you over 850m above sea level. A further 20 miles and you’re at the Sierra Nevada ski station at Pradollano, 2,100m above sea level and with skiing above 3,000m…
- The entertainment at Burriana Beach was fantastic. The Ayo restaurant has regular Flamenco evenings which are massively popular with locals, Spanish and foreign tourists. Even more “impressive” was the other act. After the Flamenco group had finished their first set, before the seated group of children had a chance to move from their places in front of the stage, a cheer went up as a lone man approached the stage.
He must have been in his late 40s or early 50s, looked fit (Spanish tan, quite lean), with a white shirt open to the waist. He started a dance routine to a tape of disco music. He looked like a camp ex-matador, twirling capes and cloths around him like a kind of middle-aged Rhythmic Gymnast. The tourists seemed to look at each other, partly in disbelief, partly in apprehension at what might happen next.
We were right to be nervous. After much bowing and blown kisses, he disappeared and returned in a long coat, apparently without his shirt or trousers. A few more twirls later and the coat was gone. Now he was shimmying, gyrating and thrusting in cut-off denim hotpants. A few moments later and his shuddering hips caused the shorts to fall, revealing a rainbow thong. All of this to loud disco tunes and barely 6 feet in front of the row of young children, sat cross-legged on the sand. It was like you’d booked the VERY wrong entertainer for your child’s birthday party. The crowd laughed and cheered. Lord knows what the kids thought.
- On Sunday evening we went to Church in Nerja. The congregation was fairly elderly, and most of the women came armed with fans. Throughout the service (fairly swiftly done, the Priest looked pretty hot in his robes) we could hear the sound of fans flicking open and shut, like the swoosh of primitive light sabres. There were many different techniques to admire – subtle, flamboyant, and even a ‘his-and-hers’ where the woman fanned her partner as well with a larger action of the wrist…
- Did I mention the Alhambra? (more of that later…)
I realise this reads like ‘what a great holiday I had’, but we truly did. And I was resolute in not tweeting about it while we were there etc. In fact, I’m delighted to have found that the Twitterati and Interweb seemed to get along just fine without me. All the time I spent playing with the girls, chatting to my very lovely wife, swimming or reading or just doing nothing instead of checking Facebook et al was extremely well spent.