“I think you are missing the fact that ex-pats in little England actually do enjoy their view and their way of life in Spain. What’s wrong with sunshine and cheap booze and cheap fags?” – fellow blogger, roughseasinthemed (Be sure to visit, you might like it)
I last visited the Levante east coast of Spain on a golfing holiday in May 2008. We didn’t play golf every day and we alternated playing days with sightseeing along the coast. One day we went to the seaside resort of Torrevieja and as we drove away I said that I would never go back.
I had to keep this ‘not on my bucket list’ thought to myself this morning when my sister Lindsay revealed that this was the plan for today.
In 2008 I still considered Spain to be massive holiday resort for the benefit of visitors from the north, it was only a year later when I began my travels into the interior and came to realise just how wrong I was.
Since then I have been fortunate to be able to visit almost all of Iberia, Spain and Portugal (except for Gibraltar, La Rioja and Navarre) and I am much better informed now and much less critical of the coastal Costas.
I didn’t like Torrevieja that day in 2008 because I wore blinkers and couldn’t see beyond the crowded beach and the long concrete strip overlooked by 1970’s high-rise hotels with towels hanging from the balconies like carnival bunting and littered with bars with cheap plastic orange furniture and tacky pictures of the food on the menu displayed on pavement boards.
To be honest, on that day I set out not wanting to like it and I successfully fulfilled my own petty ambition. So here was an opportunity to set the record straight.
One thing that I did like that previous visit however were the impressive sandcastle artists who had constructed the most amazing displays of castles, dragons, ogres and naked ladies and were diligently carrying out constant running repairs to prevent the things drying out and collapsing back into the sea.
I was glad to see that they were still there…
It was rather cold this morning, there was no sun so there was no question or debate about taking the swimming costumes and towels and I think everyone was relieved about that and appropriately dressed we drove the short distance to the coast where we parked the car and set off for a walk along the seafront promenade.
It was much as I remembered it, still concrete, still lined with high-rise. It isn’t an attractive place, it isn’t Alicante with its attractive patterned paving and palm fringed boulevards. It is much more utilitarian and functional. Sprawling and horizontal it invites a direct comparison with vertical Benidorm, fifty miles or so to the north. Benidorm is better (in my opinion).
In 2008 I wanted to snigger about Torrevieja but today I wanted to find the good in it. We strolled along the promenade, popped inside some tacky seafront shops because I wanted some postcards and then selected a café for a drink. There were no orange plastic chairs and no pavement picture boards and there was an impressive lunchtime tapas menu. We had a drink and as we left promised to come back later to eat – I wonder how many times the staff hear that?
So we continued the walk along the seafront and then Mick made the fatal mistake of taking us back through a shopping street and we were detained several times as Kim and Lindsay were distracted by shoes and sparkly things! How many pairs of shoes does one person need I always wonder?
We went back to the bar for lunch and where it had been quiet and abandoned earlier it was busy and vibrant now and we set about choosing our tapas. In this part of Spain a surprisingly high percentage of the population speak Valencian, a form of Catalan, and here the tapas were the northern Spain alternative – Pinchos.
A Pincho is a Tapas where the topping and a slice of bread is held together with a small wooden skewer (a Pincho). It is a good trick, you just keep choosing small dishes and lose all wallet control and when you have finished the waiter counts the sticks and makes a charge for each one at the same time as you pick yourself up from the floor and dust yourself down after the shock of the bill.
It is a system that relies completely upon a lot of trust! I can tell you that they were all delicious choices and I could easily have blown our entire daily food budget in that place if Kim hadn’t insisted on a bit of gastronomic restraint.
After lunch we made our way back to the car park and left Torrevieja. In 2008 I said that I would never go back but in 2016 I have moderated that and said that I wouldn’t rush back. That is a compliment!
As we left I snapped this picture of the clouds over the sea. Is it just me or can anyone else see an Angel smiling at my unexpected conversion?