Spain is the second biggest country in Western Europe after France and we have to cross both countries to get back to England. Perhaps surprisingly, Spain is also the second most mountainous country in Europe, second only to Switzerland, which is almost entirely composed of mountains. However, Spain has more beaches than anywhere else, over 8,000 kilometres of them. On this trip we’ve been into the mountains, walked innumerable beaches and still explored only a fraction of this magnificent country.
Much to look forward to then for our next visit. We lived in France for many years, in Spain for many more and now as transients we’re still finding fresh delights on every trip.
This last winter, we’ve basked in warm sunshine most days, been caught by a brief rain shower, twice, and watched the news in horror at the visions of a Britain ravaged by ice, snow, rain and gales. All good things must come to an end, we’ve avoided winter, avoided the ‘flu and spent many happy months in the sunshine, but now it’s time to revert to English life once again.
When we’re back, we love it, love England, love exploring new places, so not exactly a hardship, but on another glorious sunny day it still feels a bit of a wrench to be contemplating leaving in a few days. We travel all over the place, as the many postings in this blog will testify, but we’re about to leave Mojacar, a very special place and our base for recent blog posts. Mojacar is fabulous, but in our biased view, best appreciated when it’s not crammed with visitors. How dare they spoil our perfect oasis of calm?
It’s Easter weekend and Mojacar is packed. Hordes of visitors turn up, some on weekly rentals with their kids in tow, but many are residents/home owners who arrive, usually from Madrid for a few weekends a year by the sea. We’re in our last week at the rented apartment we’ve been in for a while now and whereas we have had peace, quiet and isolation for several weeks that no longer applies.
In the apartment below us, which our terrace overlooks, are two well built women who sunbathe naked, arms and legs akimbo, from first light until dusk. On balance, we prefer the sun rising over a glistening sea as the first thing we see each morning, but there’s an eerie fascination in observing so much flesh turning from pale pink to bright red. Even the (many) tattoos on show are unrecognisable, the original design obviously added at a time when the host body was very considerably slimmer than this present incarnation. They’re Brits, naturally.
Next door are a Spanish family: well dressed, young professional couple from Madrid with three children under five. Their contribution to our increased annoyance levels is based on the way in which our meal times differ from those of Spanish citizens. The family depart, with much scraping of furniture on tiled floors, for their meal in a local restaurant at about ten o’clock in the evening. They return at a time we’ve long since retired to bed, close to midnight, the children still excited and hyper, the adults determined to once again rearrange every article of furniture in the apartment by dragging it, protestingly, across the unyielding tiled floor. We get to sleep by two o’clock, most nights.
The Brits who arrive for Easter are easily spotted by their pale, reddening, skin, their unsuitable clothing and refusal to attempt to say even a single word in Spanish. Not everybody is as bad as this, the more mature visitors tend to be more considerate, but for every librarian there is a counterpart. Britain contains millions of simply delightful people. Unfortunately, they’re mostly still in England over Easter.
Marigold and I decide the female visitors wear far too much make up, their clothes are too short, too tight, reveal far too much of their tattooed bodies and they smell of margarine. The men also have tattoos, imagine a shirtless beer belly is attractive and smell of Old Holborn.
Are we being unkind? Of course we are. It’s a purely selfish recognition of how this influx of visitors has devastated the perfection of our lives over the winter months. Every café is full, there’s not a parking space to be had, the beaches are packed and there’s loud music blaring from car radios all along the sea front. We walk along, tutting at each fresh assault on our senses, like toddlers on first discovering they can’t do exactly what they want all of the time and realising for the first time that most inviolate of all truisms, that life isn’t fair.
We spoke to a couple sitting on the wall of the fancy new promenade the other day. There are plans afoot to extend the promenade and its accompanying cycle track for about half a mile or so, thus threatening the beach frontage of several beach bars. The young couple, late teens or early twenties, were appalled at the prospect. ‘Who uses a promenade anyway?’ The young girl asked, before answering her own question. ‘Old people who think walking for miles looking out at the sea is fun, that’s who.’
We didn’t point out we’d just walked along the promenade looking out at the sea. The boy was more engaging. They’ve just got back from a road trip to the United States. As have we. Their trip was shorter and sounded much less fun than ours, Vegas being their high point, Vegas being our nadir, but we all agreed Yellowstone, even in the snow, was amazing.
‘Tell the guys what you asked me about Old Faithful,’ the boy said. The eruption of boiling water and steam, almost two hundred feet into the air, was one of the highlights of our visit to Yellowstone, even though it’s neither the tallest or largest geyser in the Park, that honour belongs to the unpredictable Steamboat geyser which we stood alongside until the point of hypothermia was reached, in vain. At least Old Faithful erupts at set times; much easier for visitors on cold days.
The young girl pouted. ‘All I asked was, do they turn it off at night?’ She said. ‘It just seems wasteful if there’s no one there to see.’
There really is nothing to say about that, is there?
Marigold went off to the opening night at Titos, a Mojacar institution, accompanied by our friend Kay. We were also here for the ‘end of season closing night’ last October when Marigold was knocked over causing damage to legs, arms and dignity. She left after promising to be careful. Personally, I thought the carbon fibre body armour a bit OTT, but can’t be too careful. I joined her later and all was well. Clive Sarsted has a new partner, a sax player who worked with Ben E King, so I was sorry to have missed seeing how ‘where do you go to, my lovely?’ would sound with a guitar/saxophone backing.
We’re geared up to leave at the weekend. It’s hard work, packing, especially when we’ve been in a fixed place for a while. Life on the road, moving on every day, is relatively simple; the ‘living out of a suitcase’ life is both familiar and easy to manage. In an apartment, we tend to ‘accumulate stuff’ and have to decide what goes to a charity shop, what can be given away, what can be dumped and, hardest of all, what is deemed so essential it absolutely must be packed into the car to be taken off to England. We’re not exactly making life easy for ourselves this trip. On balance, for all its limitations, camper vans are much easier. What can be stowed inside, and crucially be found again when needed, stays. Anything else, doesn’t.
We’ll be meandering back, a straight line between two points being anathema for ‘travellers,’ and have given as yet very little thought as to the route we will take, never mind where to stay overnight. Begur, just across the border from France in Catalonia, or the Costa Brava if one doesn’t wish to embroil oneself in yet another Spanish political schism, holds fond memories so that’s on the cards, but otherwise, who knows? We’ll head where the road takes us, there’s no rush and we’re very well aware that the warm sunshine of the past months may not be quite so evident when we reach England.