“We waded out at the edge of the sea to a fishing village and it was so lovely we promised to go back and stay. When I did go there, ten years later it was unrecognisable. Only the name remained of what was once so exquisite” Patrice Chaplin – ‘Albany Park’
I managed to stay in bed until about eight and being a naturally early riser this was a bit of a challenge. Finally I could wait no longer and crept out of bed and onto the balcony with a cup of tea to enjoy the early morning rays of the sun. I was unsuccessful in my efforts to be quiet and predictably woke Richard up with the cranking mechanism on the window blind that creaked all the way to the top but thankfully he wasn’t too grumpy about it.
We planned to drive and find the La Finca golf course that we would be playing tomorrow and we decided to find a breakfast on the road. Rather than take the direct route through the village of San Miguel Richard decided to take the coast road and then cut inland at an appropriate junction. Unfortunately we didn’t have a map and so for directions we were relying upon a hopelessly inadequate apartment sales brochure that seemed to indicate more or less where it might be but without the sort of precision that you would expect from say the AA.
This wasn’t entirely sensible as you might imagine, a bit like Stanley setting off into the jungle to find Livingstone with a drawing of the River Nile scratched on the back of a fag packet. And then just to make things even more difficult for ourselves we forget to take the inadequate directions anyway and found ourselves setting off with only a vague idea about our intended destination.
Things went well at first because it was almost impossible to get lost on the coast road so long as you kept the sea in view and to the right, which wasn’t especially difficult even for us. It wasn’t a particularly attractive road; in fact I would have to say that it was downright ugly, with the usual scruffy strip of development, which seems to be a feature of the Spanish Costas.
Unfinished pavements lined the road on both sides and beyond those were a sprawl of stylishly challenged buildings that looked as though they had been thrown up without any regard to planning or design and it was all finished off with all of the eyesores associated with supermarkets, garages, excessive advertising hoardings and flags and bunting that were waving everywhere. It was a real assault on the eyes and certainly wouldn’t inspire me to go rushing for a travel brochure when I returned home. Later we passed by Torrevieja, a vast sprawling resort thirty miles south of Alicante that looked like exactly the sort of place that you wouldn’t choose to spend your holidays unless you were forced to as some form of punishment.
We drove north past the town and passed by the salt lakes, or Las Salinas, which were the principle basis of the town’s economy until the tourist trade began in earnest in the 1960’s and everything else stopped while the town concentrated on becoming a tourist hot-spot to rival Benidorm, approximately the same distance north of Alicante.
Finally we passed out of the urban sprawl and Richard identified a turn that he had pinpointed as the road to La Finca and we turned left away from the coast and towards the abundant citrus groves and the small towns hiding away from the concrete of the coastal resorts.
After a while it was clear to me that this had quite possibly not been the correct turn and we wandered around aimlessly for a few kilometres while we tried to guess which way to go. Finally my patience was tested too far and in an effort to take control of the situation I made a guess of my own. Richard disagreed with my decision and confident that I was right and we were lost I told him that he knew nothing about our whereabouts. He quickly proved me wrong when he pinpointed our position with an impressive accuracy that cruelly exposed the fact that out of the two of us it was in fact me that was lost.
What a beautiful course it was and we sat on the terrace and had an expensive beer while we watched the groups of players teeing off on the first under the watchful eye of the course marshal and we plotted our tactics for tomorrow. Actually this consisted of only one simple strategy and that was to get the ball off of the first tee if at all possible with the minimum of embarrassment, if we could achieve that we figured that we would be able to take things as they came after that. We left the course looking forward to the return trip in the morning.
We drove back sensibly using the direct route and we returned to the coast without any further incident and arrived at the small seaside town of La Zenia where we stopped for our breakfast, which was now, on account of the time, really our lunch.
There was a nice clean sandy beach and a convenient restaurant situated in an opportunely elevated position so that we could eat, enjoy a beer and keep an eye on the beach activity below. The lucky-lucky men pedalling their fake designer sunglasses, watches and belts amused us because they appeared to suffer from serious memory deficiency on account of the fact that their sales technique was to offer their goods for sale and after rejection give it about fifteen minutes or so (sometimes less) before trying once again to sell exactly the same merchandise to exactly the same people who had said no thank you only a very short time previously. These boys really could take rejection squarely on the chin!
After a satisfying tapas lunch we returned to our apartment and were pleased to find that it was just as deserted as we had left it and we enjoyed the rest of the day lazing about in the garden, swimming in the pools and sun bathing on lilo beds bobbing about on the water. Later we went back to Villamartin and stopped by the supermarket to stock up on more supplies and in the town we dined at the same restaurant and had enjoyed a fish medley starter and paella to finish.
Villamartin was nice enough but not very traditional Spain. It is a purpose built resort town with everything the British holidaymaker in Spain seems to demand. Most disappointing of all is the overwhelming Britishness of the place, the restaurants, the menu’s, the pubs and most of all the staff who were all sons and daughters of ex-pats who probably moved here a dozen years or so ago. It made me wonder where all the Spanish residents had gone but of course there never were any Spanish residents here in the first place because developments like this were built especially for the British migrants.
You have to go a few miles inland to find anything really traditionally Spanish here. And the British obviously don’t integrate very well either and it is a sad fact that they want to bring a little bit of Essex with them to their host country because they don’t need the culture or the way of life, only the sun and the cheap booze, and that is a real shame and the reason why it would never appeal to me to sell up and move across to join them.