The Pain’s in Spain

I am just back from nearly a fortnight in Spain, and it was a disappointment.

I wish I’d known more about the place before the family and I headed out there. I really do. But there is not a lot of choice during the Glasgow school breaks, one has to act – quickly and decisively and that’s that.

Let me get the moan out of my system. First up – it took us nearly ten hours to get from Glasgow, Scotland to Fuengirola, Spain. That’s three hours’ drive from Glasgow to Newcastle Airport, then over three hours sitting on a plane on a spare bit of tarmac on account of the French Air Traffic Controllers’ Strike, then three hours flying and a hair-raising taxi ride from Málaga to our Hotel.

We left Glasgow’s sunny 22C and arrived on the Costa Del Sol for an overcast, and showery 18C, followed by a massive storm that moved the sand about.

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This was our first ever beach holiday, but the entire 8km of beach was taped off and closed while large trucks and diggers tried to put the sand back on the beach. The beach was closed the whole time we were there.

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It is a shame that the storm closed the beach for our holiday, but it’s one of those things that cannot be helped. An “Act of God”, Mother Nature and all that. 2015-04-15_1429-072015-04-16_1300-40

When the weather cleared up a bit, we found another beach further away – it was not very busy – which seemed strange. At first we thought this was because there were no shops, bars and restaurants following the line of the beach, but after finding many dead fish washed up – and a putrified rat too – we decided it must be somewhat polluted.

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We later wandered Fuengirola beach promenade to find many shops, bars, and restaurants closed down, with signs for sale or to let. Many of the high rise apartment block were vacant too. The place is infested with beggars and jet black folks selling fake handbags, sunglasses and wristwatches. This is a troubled part of the world. I realise that they have very high unemployment, and economic problems, so there’s not much we could do about it, except to crack on and try to make the best of our holiday.

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We were surprised by the massive Mosque (one of the biggest in Europe) and the number of Muslims. What a juxtaposition with the long supermarket aisles of legs of ham, bacon and non-Halal foods!2015-04-18_1058-42

There was a lot of building work going on. This made the place noisy and dusty everywhere. We were surprised at this considering the economic state of Spain – they seem to be hell bent on removing the big unsightly plastic rubbish and recycling bins that are parked at the roadside in favour of aesthetically pleasing and very expensive recessed bins. I wondered how they could manage to pay for this sort of thing instead of investing in schemes to reduce unemployment or increase output. If not investing, then what happened to austerity measures?2015-04-15_1259-132015-04-11_1307-18 2015-04-11_1141-53

We tried food and coffee in whatever cafés and restaurants we found open, but the food was not very good, and not very Spanish either. Everywhere was Heinz Tomato Ketchup. I suppose it can’t be helped that they have to try to cater for English tourists who want home comforts rather than Spanish grub.The best food we ate was Lebanese, and Aruna Shaw’s Indian Tapas served up decent Indian grub. Everywhere else was pretty pathetic.

There was a massive shopping centre below the castle. I mean massive! It is so massive it has a go-karting and racing track on the roof!2015-04-14_1149-33

Sadly, a shopping centre filled with the same shops as back home, is as far from the authentic Spanish experience as one can get. KFC, Burger King, Primark and so on. With the rain, this was a home-from-home, not a break in the sun.

The architecture is horrible, especially so near to the Castillo Sohail (which was closed at this time of year). The hotel’s kids club and events for children were closed, and there was a general feel of getting ready for the English School summer holidays. This was definitely off-season. Hence the very cheap price.

However, cheap prices bring cheap types too – and our hotel had yobs – lots of them. Some urinated from the balcony at night – facing the road – and this would dribble and pool in all the balconies of the rooms beneath, others played loud music and partied in their rooms late into the night.

We rose above it all and made the best of it. The children did bungee trampolining, we hired pedalos, and toured about on hired bicycles. We found a nice beach to play on and swim from, the kids swam in the hotel pool (even though it was very cold), we tried restaurants, read books and bought tat. The food and wine was very cheap in the Eroski Hipermarket, and clothes were comparatively cheap too. The exchange rate is 72p to the Euro, so everything was even cheaper.

One can’t help the climate or the economic climate. Off season works and teenagers trying to be American with “Spring Break” also cannot be helped. French Strikes, immigration and pollution are part of the modern world.

It was not our usual type of holiday, and it was not what we’d expected, but we made it work, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely, we had great fun and made great memories – which we’d also have done if it had been sunny, had a beach and better food. At just under a grand, it must be one of the cheapest trips a family of four can take.

So – would we go back? No, thanks.

Spanish Tourist Seaside Package Holidays are just not our thing, but may very well be someone else’s perfect break.

I cannot rule out Spain altogether as I would still like to visit Barcelona, Pamplona at Navarre, La Tomatina at Buñol, and more besides – just not for a few years; I think we’ll steer clear of Spain for a while and perhaps return to France or Italy, or perhaps try something new to us – like Greece or Turkey for the next break.

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