I wasn’t going to post about my holiday; I just didn’t think it was something people would want to read about. But my one ‘fans’ (lol, you know who you are!) encouraged me to, so here it is.
The 16 of us (yup, 16! Ten adults and 6 kids: my hubby, son, and I; sis-in-law and her 3 kids; hubby’s aunt and uncle; bro-in-law, wife, and son; hubby’s cousin, wife, and daughter; and one spinster cousin 😉 ) departed for Liverpool airport April 3rd fashionably late. Despite Ryan Air’s not-so-favourable reputation as Britain’s least favourite airline, they were only slightly grumpy and gave us no problems checking in. We breezed through security (all except me, the perpetual trouble-maker; I was frisked, as I always am). As it was final boarding, we immediately boarded the plane and easily found seats.
Yes, found seats. Ryan Air works like a bus system. You queue up, get on, and jostle for a seat. No perks, no frills. They drop you off at your destination, more passengers board, and the whole process repeats, I think, all day. Yes, a bottle of water costs, like £2 or £3, we couldn’t complain. We got there quickly and alive. The one suitcase that my sis-in-law checked in even arrived.
Ok, the landing was a bit scary, but I think this may be due to the fact that San Javier airport in Murcia provides a landing strip the size of a tea towel. And not the big luxury ones, the cheap ones from Primark (what a coincidence).
It was wonderfully warm. After several cold months of English winter, it was like sinking into a warm bath; bones thawed and muscles relaxed. I was quite surprised at how dry and dusty it was. I’m assuming it’s not so arid everywhere in Spain, but apparently it hadn’t rained in Ramonete since October. That spell would be broken during our week there.
We breezed through immigration…except me, of course, with my American passport. Of course, I was the only one who got a stamp, so I didn’t mind. 😀
We rented 3 Seat Leons, stuffed our bags in, did a few test laps (sitting in the other side of the car takes a little getting used to) and then struggled to get out of the car park. We had to wait (a good 15 minutes; they’re quite laid back in Spain) for someone from the rental place to open the gate to release us from the car park.
Mountains and blue sky. The scent of lemon trees as we drove with the windows down. No billboards (except in the towns), no McDonald’s on every corner. Quiet. We felt a million miles from home.
We journeyed south (I think) to a little village called Ramonete in Lorca. Strangely, travelling through Spain made me quite homesick. The motorways were new, wide, and empty. And it was right-side-of-the-road driving. I really wanted to drive, but I was not one of the designated and insured drivers. I saw our exit pass us by and made a fuss. No one listened. A few minutes later we all turned around and went back. We found the exit, met the man who who owned the house we were renting and followed him.
Now, by followed, I actually mean got lost following him. My brother-in-law and cousin-in-law had no trouble keeping up in their cars. But my husband, the third driver, is a bit more relaxed. By relaxed I mean slow. We turned onto an unmarked dirt road and within 2 minutes we were literally left in the dust. At one point, instead of turning, we continued straight, through gates with a tiny sign (hidden in the dark) which read ‘prohibito el paso.’ Now, my Spanish isn’t great. One year of Spanish in school over 10 years ago hasn’t made me into any sort of proficient. But even I can translate that one. But we didn’t see the sign. All we saw were these plastic tents for raising tomatoes.
Two Seconds in a Foreign Country and We’re Already in Trouble
Within seconds the police were behind us. This is not a touristy area. They don’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish. It was not a good situation. My husband tried to explain. They wanted our passports. Our mobile reception was poor. Their mobile reception was good, and they were soon phoning in our passport details. I never thought I would have police shining flash lights into my face, but there you have it. I lamely held up my hand when they read my name from my passport, pronounced phonetically ‘Mitch-ell…’
The police started mentioning taking us somewhere with them. It wasn’t looking good.
I then had a brainwave. I quickly told my husband to phone his brother and ask him to put the owner of the house on the phone; he spoke Spanish. Luckily, we got a bit of reception and things were quickly sorted.
At last we arrived at the house, the owner heartily laughing at our run-in with the police. We produced some nervous laughter and escaped inside to have some tea.
The house we stayed in is called The Aspirations Cave Retreat. I supposed by ‘retreat’ they mean it’s far away from civilisation, has a view of the sea, and doesn’t have a clock. Or a kettle. Or a microwave. Or hot water that lasts an entire shower. (Ok, they do offer reflexology and some other treatments, but I’m trying to set a tone, so work with me)
But it was lovely, quiet, and had a pool. Our first day there, all we did was lounge by the pool and get sunburnt. It was great.
The house is set into a cave, as are many houses in that area. The open-plan sitting room, kitchen, and bathrooms are built onto the front of the cave, with the bedrooms set into the cave. The rooms stay a fairly cool temperature, and, having no windows are very dark. I think this is supposed to cure insomnia. It definitely made me oversleep.
It was too cold to swim, but a few of the more crazy members of the family did. For a few seconds, anyway. The children sat around it, their legs in. My son fell in and had his first near-death experience. (A note: the children were never allowed by the pool alone; it was fenced in and adults were always present; my son was hauled out within 5 seconds).
That evening my son managed to lock himself into our room, which has no windows. He went on to have his second near-death experience when I said, in desperation, after 10 minutes of trying to instruct him on how to unlock the door and his being unsuccessful, ‘if you don’t get this door unlocked, you’re going to be trapped in there forever!’ Eventually he did it and we swiftly removed all the door keys (all the bedrooms and bathrooms had them) and put them on high shelves.
So it was an exciting beginning to our holiday. A bit too exciting. Luckily things slowed down and we spent the majority of our time just relaxing and commenting on everything. Smug with the knowledge that in England it was snowing while we were roasting ourselves to a crisp. It did rain a little, but even that was lovely. Oh, and we did have 2 tyre punctures, and one more experience with the police, just for extra fun. Apparently there are a lot of illegal immigrants from Morocco, so the police are always checking people.
There was a little shop a few minutes away that we went to for essentials. We thought it would be really cheap and interesting. It was neither, nor did it have many essentials. No fresh milk, just the UHT stuff, and it was just as overpriced as it is here. But it was a shop and we made do. We found an Eroski about an hour away and loaded up on food. It was like a big ASDA; I even found some goodies I used to enjoy in America.
My immediate thought is: don’t bother. But everyone’s different. You may enjoy it; many do. Maybe if I’d read about it beforehand, learned a bit more history, I would have been more interested, but I didn’t know we were going until we arrived in Spain. Yes, it was beautiful and I am happy I went, but I was disappointed. I expected more.
It rained. It was cold. Ninety-percent of it is outdoors. We weren’t prepared.
Al-Hambra is a lot like IKEA. Once you’re in, you can’t get out. You just have to keep following this winding path until it ends. If you had a heart attack while touring the place you’d surely die before anyone could get to you. You just can’t escape.
The gardens were beautiful, the palace was beautiful, but hard to appreciate with so many other tourists, literally queuing up to take a picture of a window. Despite the fact that there are, like, 1000 windows. And most of it is gone; it’s mostly just ruins.
But I suppose it was an experience…about as much of an experience as brushing your teeth is (only kidding).
Ahhhh…this is more like it. I loved the seaside. The kids loved it. We all loved it. There were big, beautiful waves and I wanted to dive in, but I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold, so I let it splash over my legs and gasped with delight…and then ran away back to the warm sand.
We went to the seaside several times, once to Puerto de Mazarron, which was lovely. We even went on our last day, a few hours before heading home, just for one last bask in the sun.
All in all…
A lovely trip, a week well spent, with a few unexpected adventures thrown in to make it memorable. No, they may not all be the kind of adventures we were looking for, but I relish all experiences, even scary ones and ones as dull as brushing my teeth. 🙂
A feat of organisational wonder trying to get 10 adults and 6 children to Spain and back, on time, in one piece, without any real disasters.
Probably the most enduring memory for me will be when driving through a windy back road: a monastery set high on a hill with 2 nuns, in full habit, standing on the balcony, wind blowing their robes. Hard to describe, but it filled me with wonder.