Hola de nuevo! (Hello again!) After our first trip to Spain in 2007, my friends and I were keen to go back. So this post is all about our return trip, including visits to a local park and Fuengirola Zoo, and a day trip to Tangier in Morocco. I’ve also included some photos that I took on a disposable camera, and video footage shot on my friend’s digital camcorder. I hope you enjoy!
I’m delighted to say we had a great time in Spain – AB, AL, P & I that is. P’s girlfriend couldn’t make it in the end, because her employer lost her request for time off, so they’re not very well organised!
So, I went up to AB’s in Exeter last Saturday evening (April 18th), as did AL, and we all went over to The Globe for a drink and a bite to eat. They had a band there, who sounded alright, but we ended up going to an Irish bar nearby, who also had a band (Moss Bros, short for Moss Brothers), and they were very good. The singer had a very good voice, so you could hear proper feeling in what he was singing, and the musicians with him were great too, often getting long instrumental sections to play as well while the singer had a rest. So we had a nice night.
On Sunday we got a coach from Exeter to Bristol, and then the ‘flyer’ bus to Bristol Airport, where we had lunch, before meeting up with P, whose Dad brought him along. Getting the flight was pretty easy, although we were split up on the plane, as I was on my own while the other 3 were sat together, but that was fine by me.
A guy called Glen was one of the stewards on board and, like all the other staff, was very helpful, including in helping me find a seat. I couldn’t sit in the one I was originally allocated, because it was by a fire exit, and they need able-bodied people there, which is fair enough. There was also a laugh from the others as well as me when the crew were being introduced, as it turned out Glen was also the toilet monitor!
But anyway, the flight was fine, and we got a hot meal included, which wasn’t bad. And because I was on my own, I got off the plane with the woman next to me, who helped me to the baggage reclaim area, where I hooked up with the others again.
We then got on a coach to the Hotel Bali in Benalmádena, which was our home for the week. And it’s a very nice hotel. The staff there are very helpful, and even the holiday company – Thomson, who I would certainly use again incidentally – had a desk there with representatives to help.
The rooms were easy to find and, while small, did the job perfectly adequately. I shared with P, seeing as his girlfriend now wasn’t with us, while AB & AL shared the room next door. The keycard actually goes into a slot on the wall to activate the mains switch (and a credit card also has the same effect). Each room had an en-suite bathroom too of course, with a bath and shower. There was also a safety deposit box that we made use of for our passports and phones and things like that – 2 euros per day, with a 3 euro deposit returned when you leave.
There was also a TV up in one corner of the room, which only had about 25 channels from their satellite package. They’d tried to vary them though, so we had programmes not just in Spanish, but English, German and French too. We caught foreign versions of Countdown and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? for instance. There were also a couple of music channels in there, plus we had Sky News and CNN, while the British channels consisted of BBC1 and ITV3 for some reason!
The beds were also comfortable to sleep in. And it was easy to request clean towels, as the signal to the cleaner was to just leave them on the bathroom floor, which worked out very well as they’re very efficient. Plus we had a balcony where, looking out to the right, we could see one of the two swimming pools on the complex.
So it was all pretty nice. They had a bar downstairs where we had a snack and a drink a couple of times. They have entertainment in there during the evenings, but we didn’t end up seeing any of it (we heard some of the music though). There’s also a games room where we had a few games of pool – although, having red and yellow balls on a red cloth wasn’t the easiest to see! AB & I also spent half an hour in one of the swimming pools, which was nice and refreshing on a hot day.
Food & Drink
The hotel had a restaurant downstairs, where they served breakfast from 8:00am to 10:30am, and dinner from 6:30pm to 9:00pm. So you can be a bit flexible about when you eat, and they can arrange an early breakfast if you need it (like we did one day – more on that later). For both breakfast and dinner, you get a very wide selection of salads, meats, puddings, etc, and you just take whatever you want and as much as you want. Everything we tried was very nice, on the days we went down there. We didn’t eat there every day, but as it was part of the price, it would have been silly not to. As soon as certain trays of food get low, they’re quickly replaced, so there’s never any problem with things running out.
But, of course, we did eat and drink out a fair amount of the time. We went to see Jacqui in La Carihuela, where we stayed last time. She still owns the Mermaid Bar, but is now starting to rent it out. So instead, she’s running the Cheers bar just around the corner (on top of her rental and commercial businesses as always). But business isn’t great by all accounts, so I think she’s trying to sell it.
Anyway, it was good to see her and Wesley and Silve the chef. We had one of his curries again, although only a korma this time. They have another chef there too, a Dutch guy whose name I can’t remember. But they’re both very good cooks. I also had a lasagne there on one evening, and a lovely big gammon steak with pineapple followed by treacle sponge on another night.
We also frequented a place just down the road from our hotel called Murphy’s, an Irish bar run by a lady called Jess. She and the other customers we met are also very nice and friendly, and we had a bite to eat in there a couple of times (burgers or baps, nothing huge). We also had quite a few games of pool in there during the week. The table had a red cloth with yellow and blue balls this time, which actually seems to work better that way.
We also popped into The Kangaroo Bar (the Australian bar) near Cheers, which a guy called Mike ran with his wife Loretta last time we were there. They’ve since moved back to Australia, sadly, so we couldn’t see them, but the guy we met seemed nice enough. He’s actually one of two gay guys who run it together, but the other guy wasn’t there.
Drinks-wise, in all the bars we frequented, we usually had lager, namely Mahou (pronounced Mow to rhyme with Cow), Estrella (pronounced Estraya) and San Miguel (pronounced San Mig-el). All of which are very nice, but I think Mahou was the best one.
We didn’t get to eat any Spanish food in the end, although we did hope to. Towards the end of the week, AL took AB out for a meal at a Chinese restaurant, so P & I had a wander around to find somewhere to eat, as it was too late to have dinner in the hotel by then. We wanted to find somewhere that did Spanish food, but being as late as it was, it turned out not to be an option, so we went to an Indian restaurant instead. Which was worthwhile, as that was very nice too.
Walks & Shopping
We also did lots of walking this week. For instance, we walked along Benalmádena Marina to see all the boats, and had a few strolls along the promenade by the beach, including a few games of pool in the arcade down there.
We also had a look around the local shops on a few occasions, which naturally included visiting Harry in La Carihuela, who had sold us some t-shirts last time we’d visited, as well as football stuff to AB & AL. And we didn’t come away empty-handed from him this time either. I bought t-shirts of Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, while P bought the same Pink Floyd top as well as a Guns N’ Roses one. Harry even gave us a free wallet each to take away. He likes us because, not only are we friendly, but his son is also disabled, so he has great respect for people like us. As for other shops, I got a few fridge magnets but not a lot else there – there wasn’t the need to buy lots of things, and I didn’t want to spend too much either.
La Paloma Park
Another place we went to, not far from the hotel, was La Paloma Park, which is lovely and very big, plus it has animals including cockerels, which were walking around and making their usual noises. The lakes had ducks and turtles in, there were various birds around the place, and there were even one or two rabbits around as well, although they were harder to see.
And talking of animals, we also took a train ride into Fuengirola to visit the zoo there. That again was a lovely afternoon out, because of the various animals, and we even had a photo taken of us that we could buy at the end.
We did have a big day trip out too – well, all of us except AL, as it would have been too much for him. We booked it through a local travel agent for £45 each, compared to the Thomson offer of £92. The trip was a guided tour of Tangier in Morocco, in Africa. So I can say I’ve been to two countries, and indeed two continents, on this holiday!
It was a long journey getting there. As the coach picked us up at 5:50am, we were up for 4:30am, in time for an early breakfast at 5:00am which we’d arranged with the hotel. It was naturally very quiet in the restaurant that time of the morning. The bus journey took about 3 hours, and the boat across the Strait of Gibraltar took another hour. The boat was quite big, with two decks for people above a car deck.
The tour itself was great. We had a bus ride around Tangier first, looking at all the wonderful scenery and hearing about the history of the place.
Then, after a short walk, we went to a restaurant where we were served dinner, consisting of soup, kebabs, couscous with chicken, and finally a sticky pudding, all of which was very nice. So even if I haven’t eaten Spanish food this past week, I can say I’ve eaten African food (and Indian and Italian and English given the food I was eating back in Spain!).
We then went for a very interesting walk around more of the town. We spent a bit of time in a big gallery and museum, where they had lots of handmade items on display, from rugs (which they gave us a little talk about) to pottery and ornaments and clothes and leather goods, and all sorts of other things. It was quite amazing to look at, and we bought trinket boxes from there.
We also had a little talk given to us in a health store at the local spice market, where we were told the benefits of various spices and creams, so we all came away with something from there too.
The streets there, many of which are narrow alleys between buildings, are very busy too, and they are absolutely full of people desperate to sell you things! They will follow you up the street trying to tempt you to buy things, lowering the price further and further, with items like fez hats and fake watches. Some of them got quite intimidating, but we didn’t succumb to any of their offers.
Keeping up with the tour group was also tricky in those circumstances, but the tour was very well organised in that respect. As well as having stickers on to identify our group, we had also let them know we were visually impaired, so they were making sure to keep an eye out for us. So if we did stray off with the wrong people (as we weren’t the only tour group), which happened a couple of times, they found us again within a couple of minutes. And everyone was very friendly in helping us to get around. We also ended up with a few photos the group photographer took of us – which we didn’t know he was taking until he offered us the snaps after our restaurant meal, but that meant we weren’t posing for them, so they look more natural.
All in all, Tangier is an amazing city so, despite it being 4 hours there and 4 hours back, it was well worth going, to experience a different country and culture. And we got back about 7pm, so it wasn’t too late in the end. We did sleep well that night though!
Our journey home was again pretty easy, just like the way there, if not even easier, as we had very good assistance at both airports. We were driven to the plane in a buggy at Málaga, and entered the plane via a lift with a couple of wheelchair users. Then we also used a lift to get off the plane at Bristol, and were driven to the terminal building. We were split up on the plane again – this time both AL & I had seats to ourselves, with P & AB sitting together – but that wasn’t a problem. The flight was very good, with a very smooth landing, and the food onboard was good enough as well. So I can’t complain about the flights at all.
P’s Dad met us at Bristol, so we all caught the bus to the train station, where P and his dad went on home, while AB, AL & I got on a train to Exeter. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, as we had to stand for the 1½ hours of the journey, because all the seats were taken. Plus all the toilets were out of order – not that we needed to use them, but it still isn’t very good service! They had to give people time for toilet breaks when they stopped at stations instead. It turned out someone had been smoking in one of the toilets too, which the conductor was less than pleased about when she warned people about it over the tannoy. But still, we got chatting to a 16-year-old girl called Helen whose currently joining the Navy down near Plymouth, so that was something interesting to take from it.
When we got to Exeter, AL’s Mum was there waiting for him, so he and AB made their ways home, as did I. After leaving the hotel at 9:30am UK time (10:30am Spanish time), I got home about 8pm UK time. It seems that we did alright with the weather too, as it was just starting to rain when we were leaving Spain, and they’d had rain just before we got there. It’s been raining here at home today as well.
So that’s that. It was a very worthwhile holiday and a lovely break, and it would of course be nice to go back again one day. And maybe we will, who knows? I’ll get my photos developed soon, to see what comes out, and I’ll probably see some of AB & P’s photos in due course too. In fact, P brought a digital camcorder with him as well, and we did a fair amount of filming, so that’ll all be interesting to see as well.
Nothing much has been happening at home in my absence, so there’s little to report here. I’ve got two £25 Premium Bond cheques to put in, but I already knew that before I left. Nor have we missed much in the news – we’ve had the Budget this week, and there’s also a worldwide scare over swine flu, which seems to have originated in Mexico, and cases have now started popping up elsewhere, from people who have visited that country. So it’s not been anything too cheerful to come back to! Still, my best mate should be back from his Caribbean cruise with his uni friend round about now too, so it’ll be interesting to hear how he got on.
And then, for me, it’s back to work on Wednesday, as I gave myself an extra couple of days off. Next Monday is the May Day Bank Holiday as well, so I get 3 days in work, then 3 more days off! Other than that though, it’s back to normal for now. Part of me does wish I was still out there, as I did very much enjoy it, but it is good to be back too!