Hola! This is a special journal post about my first ever trip to Spain with a couple of my friends, including several photos along the way. I hope you enjoy!
I’m back! And I had a wonderful time in Spain with AB and AL. I won’t do a day-by-day diary – partly because I can’t remember everything that precisely, and also because there’s no point, as much of it will be the same. It’s better just to lump things together in different sections.
Let’s start with the flight out though, as that does make sense. The flights went pretty well in both directions. Flying out from Bristol, we had a bit of trouble with the assistance we had requested. It was booked fine (we phoned in advance to arrange it), but when they said they’d call us to be pre-boarded, we weren’t in the departure lounge like we should have been. We went that way only when it was getting close to take-off time, and heard our ‘final call’. So it meant we actually got on last. Had we pre-boarded, we’d have got our choice of seats. As it was, we couldn’t all sit together in one row, so we ended up sitting in seats one behind each other.
The flight itself was fine. We flew with Easyjet, and it was a very comfortable ride. However, at Málaga Airport, it turned out that the girl at the Easyjet check-in desk back in Bristol hadn’t informed the plane crew we needed assistance at the Málaga end! So we had to wait a little bit, but they did find someone for us. And, because Málaga airport is so huge, we got driven to where we had to go! We got on something which can only be described as a golf-buggy type of thing. So that was very handy.
We were able to get a taxi easily enough, even if we didn’t quite get to the right place. We were pretty close, but we had to ring the company we got the apartment from, and a guy took us just around the corner to the right place.
We had apartment 9 in a building called San Andreas, and it was nicely furnished, with 1 bedroom, lounge, a kitchen and bathroom (including a bath and shower). The bedroom had 2 beds, so I let AB & AL have those. And in a separate part of the lounge were 2 pull-down beds, so I used one of those. It was comfortable enough, so I was happy. We also had a TV in the lounge, with a Sky+ box. So we got all the free channels, and there’s quite a few of those.
Doors from the lounge led out onto the balcony. We could only really see roofs and other apartments, but it was nice all the same. The balcony doors lock of course, as does the front door. And not just once – you have to turn the key 4 times to lock it, as it fires deadlock bolts through as you turn it. So it’s very secure, and we were perfectly happy in there. But that wasn’t all we got for our money.
We were staying in the La Carihuela area of Torremolinos, on the Costa Del Sol. It’s a lovely area. And behind our apartments was the hotel Carihuela Park Palace. And we were given a key to the complex with our apartment keys! So that gave us access to swimming pools, a tennis court, bars, etc, all just down the road. Granted, we only ended up using the swimming pools, and the shop for one or two items, but it’s still great value for money. Swimming was lovely, we went down there a few times. The water’s very cold to start with, but you soon get used to it once you start moving. And you don’t want the water warm in the hot weather anyway!
As for the weather, for most of the holiday it was very warm and sunny – perfect holiday conditions. I think May’s the best time to go, because as you go into the summer, it gets unbearably hot, as many people told us. I didn’t get sunburnt, and I’ve hardly tanned either, as I was very careful with the suncream. AL was less so, and got himself burnt along with a touch of sunstroke, after laying on the beach for a day. He did put some suncream on, but not enough. And he didn’t ask AB for her aftersun lotion until about a day later, which didn’t help.
His legs suffered in particular, with someone saying it looked like they had been painted with a roller! He did get better after that, and learnt his lesson to be more careful. Apparently aloe vera‘s very good, if you slice the leaf down the middle and spread the juice from the inside over the affected area. It’s best to take it from the source rather than the stuff in bottles that contain it, so we were told.
We also soon realised why people have siestas in the afternoon – it’s too warm to do too much! On most days, we didn’t get up until at least noon, sometimes an hour or two later. That way, we missed most of the hottest part of the day. Mind you, the weather wasn’t always perfect – we did have a big thunderstorm one night. Not really surprising given all the heat, I know, but it was still a bit unexpected.
Bars, Food & Drink
Anyway, our apartment was booked through a rental company run by a lady called Jacqui, who AB and AL befriended last year. And she also owns The Mermaid Bar nearby, where we spent loads of time over the course of the two weeks, because they’re all wonderful people. There’s Jacqui of course, and with such a strong accent you can’t mistake her for being from anywhere other than Birmingham! She’s got a lovely dog called Millie, who’s very tame and loves being stroked. She’ll even flop over on her back so you can rub her belly, so she often gets called a tart. The only time she ever barks and gets frustrated is if another dog wanders into her territory, even if that’s just walking past the bar!
Another thing we learnt about Millie is that she likes getting ‘friendly’ with a teddy that Jacqui has. Put it this way, the teddy bear’s nickname is Shaggy! Jacqui doesn’t even have to see when Millie’s doing the business – she can hear the tell tale signs of Millie’s claws tapping on the floor or wherever she’s doing it!
As for people, another star of the show has to be the chef, Mike. He serves behind the bar too, but is more renowned for his cooking. Over the course of our stay I had a couple of his curries, a fry-up, fish & chips, lasagne and spaghetti bolognese for main courses, plus a couple of bacon, chicken and cheese melts for snacks, and even desserts of treacle sponge and chocolate fudge cake. Every meal was delicious. And we also tried a great Spanish beer – Strela – which we ended up drinking plenty of! We also met some of the other lovely staff and some wonderful customers too. It really is a great, fun place to hang out, so we were in there practically every day.
Another bar which really deserves to be mentioned is just down the road from the Mermaid. It’s an Australian bar called The Kangaroo Bar. The landlord, also called Mike, is a wonderful guy – always cheerful, and a great sense of humour. In fact, the bar wasn’t open for most of the second week, as his wife had a baby boy, which they called Reyes (after a footballer, but it’s also Spanish for King). Mike loves sport, so AB and AL loved talking to him about stuff like that!
Mike also introduced us to some great food. First we tried kangaroo steak, which was lovely. Then on the day of the FA Cup Final (the first major match at the new Wembley Stadium) we tried bull steak. We had to give Mike a day’s notice for him to get it from his butcher, and it paid off. It was absolutely delicious! Lovely and succulent, with a nice bit of fat on the side. And lastly we tried his burgers, which are also scrumptious! In terms of drinks, he let me and AB try a Piña Colada, which was lovely. But even better was the cider he had on tap – Stowford Press Cider. I’ve not seen it in this country, but it must be around somewhere. It’s better than Magners and Strongbow in my opinion.
Mike also has a games machine in there, so we were all getting our names on the high score tables on the ones we liked. I got my name on a number of games, but the one I seemed to get hooked on most was 11 Ball. Basically you have to get rid of pool balls adding up to 11. Sounds easy, but it’s not always, and it’s a good game to keep you thinking. Anyway, I got better at it, earning myself a few bonus rounds. So, as I write this at least, I’m top of the table. But Mike’s been getting into it too, so he’s determined to beat me now! So he was another great guy to meet.
The third bar, just down and round the corner from the other two, was Twiggy’s. We only popped in here a few times, but the owners Pauline and George are lovely people. The only thing I ate in there was a fry-up – not as nice as the one at the Mermaid, but still very good. Another guy called Mike served in there when Pauline and George had their days off, and he was very nice too.
So those were the main bars we frequented. We did eat elsewhere though. One was a restaurant just down the steps near our apartment, where we had a 3 course meal each, as it was a special ‘combo’ deal (i.e. special menu sets that are cheaper than ordering each item separately). I had a fillet of pork in a red wine sauce for my main course, which was lovely. We went to a Chinese restaurant on our last night too.
We had fast food as well. At Bristol, while waiting for our flight, we went into Burger King. And AB & I went into Pizza Hut while walking around in Benalmádena. Plus we had various snacks – an ice-cream sundae in a bar in Torremolinos, and tapas in one of the bars in the shopping area (which we happened to get with the Cokes we ordered, so that was a nice surprise as a little free extra).
So that was the eating and drinking we did. It wasn’t always alcohol we drank in the bars – Coke and water were also consumed, as you can’t just have alcohol in that climate. We didn’t bother with much Spanish food – partly because trying to read and translate the menus is hard when you can’t understand it and can’t see very well. Add to this the fact that AL got a bit of an upset stomach in the second week, and we found out that fish is often sold by the kilo, and we thought it wasn’t worth it. Maybe next time.
We also did plenty of shopping of course. There are quite a few nice people around. In the long shopping district not far from our apartment, we met a couple of guys in particular, in different shops.
The guy we saw most was Harry, an Indian man, who was very cheerful and always pleased to see us. He would often invite us in for a chat if we were walking past. He sells t-shirts with pictures of music artists, as well as football gear, watches, etc. He’s a good salesman – he doesn’t force you into buying anything if you don’t want to, but he’s good at tempting you. I got a few t-shirts from him, as well as a watch. Well, actually, the first watch he sold me had the knob on the side missing, so I couldn’t set it, but he replaced it for free. The other guy we met a few doors down was Vinnie, who sells similar stuff.
There’s lots of shops down by the beach too, and in the town centres of Torremolinos and nearby Benalmádena. So we had lots to look at. Among the things I bought were:
- Rock & heavy metal t-shirts – Black with designs on both the front and back, all for around 10 Euros each, for Queen, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Guns ‘N’ Roses.
- Large laminated photographs of Torremolinos. They’re intended as table placemats I think, but will look good on the wall too.
- Books on the Costa Del Sol and Torremolinos, with lots of photos inside.
- A Torremolinos fridge magnet
- A Costa Del Sol beach towel, with a design of a palm tree under a sunset.
- Postcards of places we visited – not to send, but because they have nice pictures.
We did also venture outside of Torremolinos on a couple of occasions. The first was a train ride up to Málaga. The trains in Spain are wonderful, with air conditioning and seats you can move around to the direction you want to face. The original intention of visiting Málaga was to visit the wife of Mike who runs the Kangaroo Bar, who was in the University Hospital there after the birth of baby Reyes. We couldn’t find it though, so just had a walk around Málaga for a little while, which was still nice.
Our big trip, however, took place in the second week. We went on an excursion to Ronda, a lovely town up in the mountains, which involved a pretty early start – our only early start of the whole holiday, not counting the flight home. The bus picked us up in the morning, and collected people from their hotels on the way. The guide, Jackie, pointed out places of interest as we went along, which was cool. There were lovely views from the coach on the way up, although AB didn’t look at them much as she doesn’t like heights.
Instead of getting the coach all the way back, the excursion included a ride on the scenic train, passing by lots of beautiful scenery looking down from high up in the mountains. It was a lovely day, if also a long one. One big trip like that was enough for us!
Today’s flight back was easy enough. We got assistance again at Málaga, being driven around the airport again. And we were in the right place for pre-boarding this time, so we did get seats together. The only thing we got wrong at the beginning was the timing – after misreading the ticket, we got to the airport 2 hours earlier than we needed to! We thought the flight left at 9:05 for some reason, when it was 10:25. We were getting check-in times mixed up with flight times I think. It was another comfortable flight anyway. And I was able to change my remaining Euros at Bristol Airport, so I’m not stuck with any.
That’s about all I can think of really. It was great to get away and spend a couple of weeks with my mates. I expect I’ll see both of them again soon. And one day it would be lovely to go back to that area of Spain to revisit the friends we made there, either on my own or with my mates. We’ll have to see. I certainly won’t go over in the summer, it’ll be far too hot! I don’t think I’d want to live out there, but it’s a lovely place to visit, so I’m sure I’ll go back.