Malaga, 2014

Day One…

After an early and quite delicious breakfast, we head to the sun terrace expecting to queue like Germans until it opens but instead are lucky to get the last two loungers. Twisting and turning as we toast ourselves in the glorious, and much needed, heat. Listening to church bells ring and looking at the city views from this wonderful, roof top, location. Two doses of hay fever drives us inside eventually. This is after the Après Teen finds that a dying bird has taken up residence in her flip flop and an American seeks to educate us all that they have Italians in America too (narrowly stop myself saying ‘Yep, we’ve all seen the Godfather…’)

 

Day Two…

Plans to go to the beach are averted by nothing other than sheer laziness. Lounger on the sun terrace beside the fab bar – couldn’t be bothered moving. Tanning like the red head I am – I pop freckles at a ferocious rate and tan in the unenviable pattern of a dalmatian. Walk to the commercial centre where the Après Teen picks up some fab shoes and I buy a stunning 50th birthday present for a pal. Lovely meal. Cold beers. Great chat. Perfect company. Life is good.

 

Day Three…

…and it’s time for culture!

We toy with the idea of Seville, Granada, Gibraltar but instead settle on the Red Bus tour because tapas-sized culture is all we are up to. As the bus is packed, we resist taking up our usual spot, sitting at the front pretending to drive the bus, adding in the vroom-vroom sounds and doing our tuneless rendition of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ that we have sung in all major cities to date.

We go up to Picasso’s place to have a look at his etchings. 285 pieces of art and a guest exhibition of Lissitzky later and I’m cultured out of it.

Chilling under a tree in one of the many beautiful squares while the Après Teen heads off – with my credit card – to sample the cultural delights of Pull and Bear, Springfield and whatever other shops pop up on her route. As long as I’m not there to witness the carnage, we should be okay.

 

Day Four…

Starts with me getting tangled in my swimsuit and the Après Teen having to unravel me. Next I put on my clothes back to front. I really am not ageing well.

Eventually – and surprisingly – we make it out of the hotel and to the beach where we lie under a parasol, minding ourselves from the rain. It is all so dull, as if the world is monochrome but we and our fellow Celts continue to battle the elements. The Après Teen makes me quit despite my repeated plea of “But Google Weather says…”

So we sit at a beachside café – bliss – or so we think until the rain starts again, bucketing down through the old canvas that limply covers the space. The coffee is delicious though – even with the rain plop, plopping, into it.

We wander from the seafront through this beautiful city, from the new through the old. Back at the hotel, and while herself hides out in the bedroom, I brave the elements on the sun terrace. It is so cloudy but ever so warm. When I see two muppets turning their sunbeds towards the invisible sun, however, I know it is time to quit.

Here’s hoping that, in the immortal words of my fellow red head, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow…”

 

Day Five…

As Google Weather tells us the day will be cloudy and dull, we gear ourselves for a repeat of yesterday. I brave the sun terrace again, burn to a crisp and am now basted like a turkey in After Sun for the umpteenth time today. Maybe the Après Teen is right about that weather forecast not being too reliable…

This evening, we go to the Arabic Baths. I have to admit the entrance scared the bejaysus out of me. It looked a bit rough and ready. If the Après Teen hadn’t urged me through those doors, I would have run away – run very fast – and at my size, that would be some sight indeed! Even with her by my side, I remained apprehensive.

We go through the door and wow, wow, wow! It is like Doctor Who’s Tardis – enter by a small shop front and be led through a series of corridors into an amazing, purpose-built, enormous, complex. Stunning.

The experience? Wow, wow, wow. We enjoy an hour and a half of sheer bliss – warm, hot and cold water pools plus hot stones to lie on and a steam room. And on top of that, a wonderful massage too.

Regrets? That I didn’t brave this earlier! I could have enjoyed this every second evening. What a loss.

Dinner? I pass on the Apres Teen’s suggestion of a Vegan restaurant when I notice it also doubles as a Steak House! We end up in another restaurant – lovely food but the staff let the kitchen down – such a bunch of rude and disinterested people (yep, that’s the polite version).

The evening ends with me reading and drinking beer while my face continues to sizzle. Celts and sun will never be a good mix!

 

Day Six…

And we are back to cloudy weather. The Apres Teen insists on a return to the beach. So there we are alternating between hot sun and wrapping ourselves in towels to keep warm. A man beside us sings constantly – in no key we have ever heard and hazard a guess has yet to be discovered. Out of tune plus all the wrong words. The Way We were is belted out until it miraculously turns into ABBA’s Fernando. Excruciating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I insist on getting a taxi down and am stunned by the driver. He is the happiest person I think I have ever met. Keeping his mobile on a stand on the dashboard, it is easy to see the texts that come in quick succession: ‘Where are you?’ the texts asks again and again and again… When he clicks on the screen to open the messages to reply, the root of his happiness is there for all to see – a selfie of a naked lady, legs apart, leaving *nothing* (and I mean NOTHING) to the imagination. He barely stops the car to let us out before he tears off again!

Our neighbouring chanteur on the beach gets a bit frisky too. Sitting beside his partner, who is sunbathing topless, he has a rub of her breasts but gets a swift slap when he goes in for a nipple suck (yep, extra dark sunglasses are pretty handy when people watching in earnest). When he tries to apply a clip to her nipple, I can watch no more…

The weather is switched up from gloomy to fab and lovingly lasts the whole day. The taxi back costs far less – due to the fact we have to walk a big chunk of the way after the poor driver’s gear box goes – in the middle of traffic. His day ends with a bang but obviously not as much fun as the one his colleague got earlier…

 

Day Seven…

So the tale of ‘One woman, four cardigans and the Apres Teen go to Malaga’ ends today. And a very pleasant week it was too. Lovely city, lovely people and great food – we will return.

The journey home is somewhat uneventful. We have an extra bag to transport the unplanned purchases which looks large enough, and heavy enough, to be carrying a small child. We are stunned to get it through under the category of ‘Hand Luggage’.

The flight home is also uneventful – that is, until the mother beside me lets her toddler have a good jump around the aisle – in a stinky nappy.

A-R-O-M-A-T-I-C

And when the plane lands, they clap and the Ryanair trumpet music blares. Revenge for my comments against clapping on the journey out methinks…

 

Majorca 2012

Every exchange I have with people on this holiday makes me feel like I am on holiday in The Twilight Zone. A few examples?

Reporting my bag stolen at the police station and the rather delicious looking cop tells me – in Spanish – that he doesn’t speak English. Fine. In Spanish, he outlines the procedures for making the report and then repeats the exact same words slowly (in Spanish) as if proffering a translation…

Then I asked at Reception for directions to the nearest Western Union outlet. The response was “You know where it is?” I stop myself from giving a sarcastic answer…

At the Western Union outlet, the man tells me – in English – he does not speak English but the guy beside him will translate. He then says – in English – “I must go to the bank and get this money. I will be back in 15 minutes.” Guy beside him looks puzzled but eventually says – in English – “He says he must go to the bank to get the money. He then comes back here [gestures with fingers to show he means this place] in 15 minutes.” He finishes off his slowly delivered ‘translation’ by illustrating 15 minutes with his hands…

 

With drink, there is ‘wisdom’…

Majorca, 2012

How wonderful to listen to an English man recite what was effectively a monologue for half an hour – meandering through such topics as how well “connected” he is in Northern Ireland, how he understands why Catholics fight back, how much Irish history he has read and how he has in-depth knowledge of, what he called “Your problems!” Believing himself to be on a roll with me as his captive audience, so close his breath is bouncing off my face, he continued on with his statements of how awful “You Catholics have it…” Eventually, I dropped that clanger that we are Church of Ireland to which he responded “Wow! I never even though there were Protestants in Ireland…”

 

Spain, June 2017

Day 1
A long awaited trip back to Murcia. Everything is booked but I’m still nervous. Precise planning does not a smooth trip make – well, if my track record is anything to go by. There has to be some twists, turns and a few characters…

And I’m off…

Erratic drivers. Pedestrians with a death wish. Small children screaming. Sweltering heat. Sweat dripping off me. Clothes stuck to my back. Jumping over small children and avoiding large obstacles as I check in at one Terminal and have to leg it to the other Terminal to depart. Ordering a flat white on route and being told “That’s a small Cappuccino…actually…”

And I’m not even at the Departure Gates…

And I’m there-ish…

So I arrived and headed off site to collect the rental car. Then the mayhem began. Little thanks to ‘Beryl’ who relinquished her title of ‘trusty’ in front of Sat Nav. The minute she was let lose, she was like a little lamb frolicking in a field. She brought me back to the airport and into a section where I needed a ticket to exit. With no ticket, I had to reverse through on-coming cars, crunch over some hidden bollards and exit via a section marked for buses only. I expected to see a stream of blue lights flashing in my wake but not this time.

Out on the motorway, Beryl got bored easily and decided to veer off and take us on a tour of some mighty fine industrial sites. Back on the motorway, she quickly had enough and took me off again – this time for a scenic tour of some lovely lemon groves.

When we eventually arrived, Beryl was not impressed. Obviously she didn’t like what she saw as she tried to convince me to head back in the direction of the airport. She flatly refused to tell me where the hotel was. I switched her off and made my own way there. She can stay switched off until she learns to behave.

I arrived later than planned but found a sun lounger and enjoyed the last few hours of sunlight for the day. Nice dinner. Some gins and now bed beckons.

I also realised why my foot was so ‘ouchy’ when I arrived at the airport. Two of my toes are broken – again. Drumroll please – that means I have now broken a total of 8 toes on the one foot. Go me!

Day 2
Today passed off largely without incident. This is in no small part due to the fact that Beryl has been decommissioned (the technological equivalent of grounding my disoriented sat nav).

Spent most of the day horizontal on a sun lounger popping freckles like a mad aul wan. And while basting myself regularly, have a burn mark across my Celtic pasty face which resembles butterfly mask. Red heads are not built to tan.

I went exploring. Four shoe shops later and nothing. It doesn’t matter how cute the heel, the cut or the colour, this gal doesn’t do sandals of which there was a multitude to choose from.

My evening ended with a performance in the Pharmacy where I requested much needed anti histamine through interpretative dance. And pretty crap I was too. After he loaded the counter with every cough syrup known to man, I’d to rely on Google translate to ease the situation.

But tomorrow’s another day!

Day 3
More sunbathing. It’s a tiring activity but someone has to do it. Swam a bit too. Am beside two beautiful coastlines – one onto the Mediterranean and the other a mineral inlet. Alas, their collective beauty does little to woo me. I simply can’t get past the fact that I loathe sand.

I dragged my crispy body through the heat and propelled myself into my favourite shoe shop. Five minutes, and three pairs of shoes, later, I emerged. One pair is ‘functional’ while the other two are ‘lovely’. ‘Total spend…? €27.45. Yes. You did read that correctly. €27.45 for all three!

Day 4
It’s 26 degrees and cloudy. This means the ‘northern Europeans’ are happily lying out while the fully clothed Spanish look on, mystified, from the Bar.

Not for the first time, a man tries to control his screaming child with a bunch of techniques – which include hissing, clicking his fingers as if it were a dog and reasoning with it as if it were a U.N. official. Get up, you lazy shit. He’s barely one year old and driving the rest of us mental as he cries and cries and cries for a cuddle.

I am badly burnt in some places. In all the places I used the highest factor… At this stage, all I am aiming for is a ‘winter’ tan – neck, face and hands!

Day 5
It’s 26 degrees and raining. Now everyone is in the Bar, fully clothed, staring out, mystified, while dripping sweat from the humidity.

I could go exploring again but I did that yesterday. Drove for miles and miles and miles. No mean feat for a gal who drives an automatic on the left, now driving a stick, on the right, and with broken toes!

I visited the land of shoes (otherwise known as ‘Cartagena’). Resisted going into any shops as they would all be screaming at me to buy them while my suitcase would be roaring back “I. Don’t. Think. So!” Instead I sat on a pretty square drinking a large coffee and a water and, with parking, still got change from a fiver!

Today, those around me would not suspect…I have a swimsuit under this dress. I am a Super Hero waiting to break free! If the rain holds off, I will be sitting on that lounger reading and snoring. Better that than drowning in my own sweat from all the humidity. After all, I am a fearless bastard!

Day 5
Last night. Five nights and six days is the absolute max I can tolerate my own company. It’s been swell though. Lots of reading, good food and yummy alcohol. I’m now watching Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Bates on the telly box – fierce good at the Spanish so they are. I opted for the Spanish channels after enduring the only English language channel which ran a (very lengthy) documentary on the price of Spam in South Korea…

I am lying here coated head to toe in a gorgeous concoction of aloe vera and after sun because I so don’t want to feel the burn. I’m tomato red. I used a new suntan lotion and report that it was not a success. I reckon slathering myself in beef dripping would have provided more protection. Awful stuff!

I will miss lazing by the pool. I will not miss the chorus of voices calling “Meeeeeee – qweeeeeeeelllll” as the toddler with the face of an aul fella legs it here, there and everywhere!

Day 6
Heading towards the airport now and as the song goes – ‘back to life, back to reality’…

And what did I learn on this holiday?

– when a small toddler called ‘Meeeee-gwelllll is joined by a toddler of equal stature and speed called “Maaaaaaan-welllllll”, the fun is over

– it doesn’t matter how much care I take, I still burn like the red head I am

– Larios gin is one step up from drinking nail varnish remover

– many men of varying ages, and degrees of wrinkling, are way too happy encasing their meagre offerings in a pair of Speedos

– the Spanish moan about humidity the same way the Irish whinge about the weather (including an elderly woman emerging from the lift roaring “Oh my God, Oh my God! The humidity! The humidity!” before collapsing into the arms of her daughter (I suspect she only travelled two floors…)

– far too many young fellas can’t put their arms down straight by their sides due to excessive weight lifting

– sympathizing with me about the state of my face is mistaking hideous sunburn for the effects of humidity

– with my pasty skin, and my ability to tan like a Dalmatian, I will never be mistaken for Spanish or any race living within an ass’s roar of the Mediterranean

Ah, Sebastian (Croatia: 2009)

Lying on a sun lounger in the glorious, Croatian, sunshine. So peaceful. Everyone either reading or snoozing. Bliss.

Then he arrives – the four year old from hell.

And so it starts – jumping in and out of the pool. Splashing everyone around. Splashing a lady full force in the face.

Daddy stands there saying “Oh no, Sebastian. I may have to put you on the Naughty Step.”

“But Daddy, I am playing ‘splash-around, splash-around.”
“I know”, responds Dad – without insisting he apologise to the lady, calm down and behave.

And so it continues.

Now Mummy and Daddy are sitting at the edge of the pool, legs dangling in the water as their little joy annoys everyone around.

“Would you like lunch, Sebastian?”
“NO!”
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“NO!”
“Wouldn’t you like to have something to eat?”
“NO!”
“What about Pizza?”
“NO!”
“Mmmmmmmm…lovely pizza!” and the two parents rub their tummies in a circular movement.
“NOOOOOOOO!”
“Yum, yum, yum in your tum!” continue the parents using gestures better suited to a TV programme for tots.
“NO!”
“Mummy and Daddy are hungry. Come have lunch with us!”
“NOOOOOOO!”

On and on this negotiation continued for what seemed like an eternity but what was probably 20 minutes. All around were now sitting bolt upright, growing angrier and angrier by the upset.

Then the end of the conversation which got him out of the pool and hurtled the rest of us to besiege the Manager with complaints.

“Mummy and Daddy need to eat, Sebastian.”
“NO!”
“If you don’t get out of the pool now, we will have to go back to our own hotel…”
“Oh!”