On the first day of 2014, Trevor Leeden (“Lord L”) continues travelling through Spain’s best known ‘costa’ with his family. They discover not the Costa del Sol of the old days but one filled with tourists, bad waiters and closed bars and restaurants. Is this a holiday or what…?
Feliz Ańo Nuevo and welcome to the first day of 2014. The itinerary hasn’t gone exactly to plan up to now, so it’s no surprise when the plans for New Year’s Day are totally torched. After a year here we should have adjusted to those things peculiarly Spanish and, in the main, we have. But, even in tourism Mecca, it comes as a surprise to find that everything is shut on NYD – bistros, supermarkets, TOURIST ATTRACTIONS, everything. The Spanish hold on to the old fashioned concept that Sundays and public holidays are days of rest, and do so accordingly. I guess it’s their way of saying SLOW DOWN WORLD, and we respect that, even if it means we can’t visit Nerja today, can’t get food etc. Anyway, we eventually find somewhere for desayuno and decide on what is par for the breakfast course in Andalusian (nowadays all over) Spain – refreshing tostada con tomate (fresh grated tomato and olive oil). (Travel Tip: certainty is a good thing. In Spain, no matter where you are, you can be guaranteed that, as certain as the sun rising every day, if you ask for a ‘sandwich mixto’ you will ALWAYS get a toasted ham’n’cheese sandwich, there is no variation to this unless you ask for it).
We take the kids to Malaga beach where they happily play in the sand. We expected glistening white sand as far as the eye could see but instead find a quite small stretch of black, pebble speckled sand (bordered by an endless sea of high rise apartments – not particularly picturesque). There are actually people swimming in the Mediterranean, clearly English or German tourists because no one in their right mind swims in the sea at this time of year. BUT, it has to be said that it is in the mid-teens and convention says that although the Costa del Sol has 4 seasons, it is 1 Summer and 3 Springs.
We decide to fill our day in with a drive towards Marbella, and arrive unexpectedly at Benalmadena where there’s a teleferico (cable car) operating. It takes us from the coast up to the top of the Calamorro Mountain, 800 metres above sea level.
Everywhere Lidia recommended for dinner is closed for the holiday, but a few restaurants have opened and we make our choice – Taberna Cantarrana – bad move! We get the waiter from hell (he mutters under his breath), unaware that Aimee can speak Spanish and translates for us accordingly. In a rare display of new found temperance, Don L keeps his powder dry, and the food is deplorable. This is a real shame as we have decided to try the southern Spanish specialty of ‘Boquerones Pil Pil’ (spicy anchovies) and ‘Gambas al Jibia Plancha’ (grilled prawns and cuttlefish). I’m sure in the right establishment it’s great, but not tonight. It’s a thumbs down experience, only the 2nd time we’ve delivered this verdict in Spain.