Have Bag, Will Travel
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My final Spanish island is Ibiza which I have visited only once, in 1988 and once, I can tell you, was most certainly enough!
We were staying in the resort of Santa Eulalia just east of Ibiza town and the first thing that went wrong was accommodation allocation shortly after arrival. We had booked with a package holiday company and the brochure showed attractive little two story apartments surrounded by flower filled gardens and with an inviting azure blue swimming pool in the centre but the transport coach drove us straight by these to an alternative part of the complex where there was an unattractive high rise, grey and ugly, which looked like something that had been relocated from Stalinist Moscow.
We told the holiday representative that we thought there must be a mistake but she assured us not and after she had persuaded us to leave the coach told us to take the matter up at the on-site office. Getting off the coach was my biggest mistake because once off one thing was certain – they were not going to do anything about it.
So we allocated a third floor room without any of the facilities that we had been promised in the brochure and to make matters worse a dangerous balcony with a gap at the bottom wide enough for a young child like my twelve month old son to wriggle underneath and fall to a certain death. I complained about this and several other things too but the office staff were completely unhelpful and said that they could only move us to different accommodation if we paid extra money.
Paid extra money? This was another problem because I hadn’t actually got any extra money! Two young children, one income, big mortgage, credit card maxed out – that’s why I was on a budget holiday in the first place!
So we put up with it and to cheer ourselves up hired a car for three days to get away from the place and used most of our holiday spending money in the process which on reflection was a rather silly thing to do.
We weren’t to know until three days later of course that hiring a car was not only a silly thing to do but also a complete waste of money because Ibiza is not the most exciting or picturesque sort of place anyway. Up in the north we went to the bay of Portinatx where they allegedly filmed some of the scenes from the film ‘South Pacific’ but if they did I couldn’t understand why because I didn’t find it very thrilling and surely it would have been better and more authentic to do it in the South Pacific!
Once the three days were up we had to hand the car back and then we were stuck in the sub-standard accommodation, quite a walk from the town centre and desperately short of cash. We spent the days on the beach with the children, one day we walked to the hippie market at nearby Es Cana and in the evenings we would take the walk across the river via a shaky wooden bridge and walk around the harbour and the streets and look at the restaurant menus that we couldn’t afford and envied the people in the cafés and the bars who could.
On the way back we would buy food in a mini-market and take it back to the apartment to cook for ourselves. About half way through the holiday I found a take away pizza shop which had one of those old fashioned credit card swipe machines so I went there quite regularly reasonably confident that without an electronic payment system I was unlikely to get the card rejected and confiscated.
I remember my holiday in Ibiza being a rather miserable affair and as a consequence of that I have never had the inclination to return. The only thing that might persuade me is an invitation to an Ibiza town foam party but to be honest time is rapidly running out on that personal fantasy.
Or maybe I am just being plain unfair, after all, I didn’t visit Ibiza town which must be worth an afternoon of anyone’s time and since my holiday there the island has acquired UNESCO World Heritage Site status and that sounds very exciting:
“Ibiza provides an excellent example of the interaction between the marine and coastal ecosystems. The dense prairies of oceanic Posidonia (seagrass), an important endemic species found only in the Mediterranean basin, contain and support a diversity of marine life. Ibiza preserves considerable evidence of its long history. The archaeological sites at Sa Caleta (settlement) and Puig des Molins (necropolis) testify to the important role played by the island in the Mediterranean economy in protohistory, particularly during the Phoenician-Carthaginian period” – UNESCO Website.
With an area of just over five hundred thousand square kilometers Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France and with an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres it is second highest country in Europe after Switzerland. It also has two groups of interesting islands, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Africa and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.
I have visited several of the islands but each occasion was prior to 2009 when my current ‘Search for real Spain’ began. As a consequence these were generally beach or family holidays and I doubtless failed to investigate the islands adequately in groundhog days squandered in meaningless sunbathing and superficial trips around the coastal villages and towns.
In December 1983 I visited the island of Lanzarote and except for a jeep drive into the interior this trip was mostly about hanging around in bars and drinking lots of beer so I missed a visit to the capital Arrecife except for a drive through the middle without stopping on the way to somewhere else.
Two years later I went to Gran Canaria. The first time was in May when I had a one year old daughter to entertain so a fortnights holiday was spent mostly around the swimming pool and walking backwards and forwards to the beach although we did hire a car for a couple of days and did some driving around the interior. I got a puncture one day high up in the mountains and that put me off driving much more on the holiday. Later that year in November I went back with my brother and stayed in the resort of Playa del Ingles and this again wasn’t a particularly educational visit I have to confess!
In 1989 I went to Tenerife but by now I had two small children to keep amused so again there was a lot of swimming pool and sun-bed time and not a lot of opportunity for serious sightseeing although one day I got to go out by myself and took a coach trip to Mount Teide, went to the top and was presented with a certificate for having risked the rather shaky cable car ride to the summit.
My last visit to the Canary Islands was in 2002 to the large island of Fuerteventura where, to be honest, there isn’t a great deal to see anyway but it was here that I discovered what, in my opinion, is probably the best beach in the World at the remote hippy commune of Cofete.
I have also visited Minorca and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands but so far not Majorca. I holidayed in Minorca in 1987 and 1989. On the first occasion we visited the historic town of Ciudadela on the west coast and the lively port of Mahon on the east. Ciudadela was the previous capital and Mahon enjoys that status today and, by certain measures, claims to be the second deepest natural harbour in the World after Sydney in Australia. With the children getting older but not having developed an interest in anything historical, geographical or philosophical the return visit two years later was mostly about beaches and ice cream!
Squeezed in between these two holidays to Minorca was a week in Ibiza in 1988 and this was a similar Mediterranean holiday experience except on this occasion we had no money because we were going through a bit of a financial crisis for the whole two weeks because I forgot to take my credit card with me and getting money abroad was a lot more difficult twenty five years ago.
So whilst I can lay claim to having visited the islands I cannot claim that I have done them justice and so now, in my search for real Spain I just may have to put them on the itinerary for a return visit and perhaps it would be a good idea to go to the one that so far I haven’t been to – Majorca.
Each new trip to Spain includes visits to World Heritage Sites so when I counted them up I was interested to discover that out of the forty-three sites on the UNESCO list (second only to Italy with forty-seven) I have now been to twenty and that is nearly half of them.
In 2005 I went to Barcelona in Catalonia and saw the works of Antoni Gaudi, Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau. Then in 2008 I saw the Historic Centre of Cordoba, the Caves of Altamira in Cantabria, the Old Town and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella and the Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville. In 2009 in the motoring holiday around Castilian cities it was the Old Town of Segovia and its Roman Aqueduct, the Walled Town of Cuenca, the Historic City of Toledo and the Old Town of Ávila. This trip in 2011 added Cáceres, Mérida and Aranjuez and also Trujillo which for the time being is only on the tentative list.
Even before I knew anything about World Heritage Sites it turns out that I have visited two more in the days of my beach type holidays. Although, to be absolutely fair, when I went to these places neither of them were yet on the list. In 1988 I holidayed on the island of Ibiza which was accepted onto the list in 1999 in recognition of its biodiversity and culture and the following year I went to Tenerife and took a cable car ride to the top of Mount Tiede, a national park that was accepted to the list in 2007.
Even though they weren’t World Heritage Sites at the time I visited them I am still going to count them but the final two might be a bit dubious – but anyway here goes. In 1984 while driving back through Spain from Portugal I drove with friends through the city of Burgos which was accepted in that year because of its Cathedral and in Galicia in 2008 while visiting Santiago de Compostella I managed to drive over parts of the Pilgrim Route, which exists on the list separately from the old city itself.
World Heritage Sites (posted June 2009)