Costa Christmas can be draining!

It seems to me that Christmas is getting earlier each year. Decorations, music, advertisements and films etc. etc. etc. concerning the 25th have no place in September, October, November or dare I say even before the 20th of December! AND as soon as THE day is over, we are sure to be reminded that there are only 364 shopping days left until Xmas!!!!! I do look forward to this magic day, and it might be an age thing, but when it does eventually arrive it feels as if I have just  been running two marathons, back to back……… exhausted and not able to raise a smile let alone a mince-pie (which I don’t like). So, if I don’t manage to purchase any cards or presents for my loved ones this year I do hope that they will understand that I don’t care for them any-the-less, it’s just that I have succumbed to fatigue and in need of some sort of therapy (and it’s not retail).  HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

One Saturday morning we had a visit from our neighbours, they enquired as to whether we had been having trouble with our drains. Their toilets were filling up and wouldn’t drain away, that can be very tricky. They wanted to look into the drain beside our kitchen to see if it was blocked. We had been having the odd gurgling noise from the bath plughole in the downstairs bathroom, but it wasn’t concerning so it was with reluctance I raised the cover to the drain. It WAS blocked, and full of our neighbours attempted flushings of that week. They had bought some rods that morning to use on the drain outside their house but they had failed to free the blockage. They were now inserted into our drain but failed to impress whatever was causing the problem, fetching my own set of rods they were attached to those already in use and despite the extended length the brown liquid sludge stubbornly refused to budge. Remembering that I had another drain up the drive under a large Blue Spruce, we (with difficulty) lifted the cover. That was also full to the brim with the offending secretion. When the rods were lowered, I was surprised at the depth of the manhole. It was just over two metres deep! With some judicious poking with the rods the blockage was eventually dislodged and thankfully everything quickly flushed away with a gurgle to only god knows where. And he is welcome to it. The smell on my hands stayed with me for several days, no matter how many times I washed them.

On the 15th Nov. Jamie and I travelled to Fuengirola on the Costa Del Sol. Jamie had spent the previous three days in London on BD business and didn’t arrive back into Harborough until  late on the 14th. We flew from Birmingham with Jet2 on a mid morning flight to Malaga, the 2.5 hour journey meant we arrived at 2pm. We took the train from the airport to Fuengirola. A fast, clean and efficient method of transport that shames the extortionate and stumbling British Rail system. The route is the same length as that from Harborough to Leicester, but a much more pleasurable ride and at 2.70 Euros compared to the crowded £10+ Midland Mainline version there is no comparison.

It was a 15 minute walk to our centrally located Hotel, the Itaca. A comfortable hotel just a few minutes from the beach and its long, long ribbon of bars, hotels and restaurants  stretching without a break along the southern Spanish coast. After checking in and approving our top floor, sea view room we changed into shorts and T-shirts and hit the first beach bar that we came across, We had the first and last authentic local meal in Fuengirola of our stay. I opted for a plate of anchovies and Jamie a dish of local prawns, mashed potatoes with coleslaw and tomatoes. Very acceptable fayre, but unfortunately our choice of bar for the rest of our stay in Fuengirola ensured that local cuisine was definitely not on the menu. It is well-known that the Brits have taken over the Costa Del Sol and exported their taste in grub ‘to boot’, bars and restaurants run by expats are predominant.

We walked down the strip to the little harbour crammed with low and mid range yachts, nestled up against a few, much larger trawlers that were either being repaired or disgorged of their catch. Conspicuous as ‘non-locals’ with our sunny gear on amongst the ‘wrapped up’ Spanish and naturalised Brits we returned to our hotel after first choosing a sports bar aptly called ‘The London Pub’ as the venue for our evening meal and entertainment: the England v USA match with the added interest of Wayne Rooney making an appearance.

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As planned, and taking into account the time difference we were  sat in front of the bar’s large screen at 9pm, with two curries and a pint each of Spanish lager to wash down UK’s national dish. The game did not disappoint, 3:0 to the good guys and though Rooney had only a late cameo role, he displayed the skills that made him England’s record goal scorer. The bar was well populated by fellow countrymen, however there was a distinct lack of locals, they were possibly wringing their hands in darkened rooms after Spain lost to Croatia 3:2 earlier in the evening (we watched it in our hotel room).

Breakfast was substantial and of course suited the English taste buds. We caught the train into Malaga Central, a 45 minute journey and cost 14 Euros for two return tickets!

We ambled downhill through the bustling streets of this small city towards the harbour checking out the many statues and festive displays on route. Christmas comes early here too. As we find in many of the countries we have visited in the past, the local population are very law-abiding when it comes to pedestrians. Look across a road and the cars will stop. At pedestrian crossings, if the  green man is not flashing, locals will not cross, not even if there are no vehicles visible from horizon to horizon. Why did Jamie and I feel so guilty each time we exercised a bit of judgement and marched across junctions, leaving a crowd of obedient Spaniards behind, no doubt tutting the foreigners.

The harbour had some esteemed visitors that day. The Costa Pacifica was in port, and had discharged its cruisers into the city, some of whom we were to come across in the castle, high above the city. But more impressive was the Octopus, the £220 million  super yacht with a permanent crew of 60 and once belonged to Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen, it now belongs to his sister Jodie. Jamie was particularly inspired by the sight and size of the vessel and vowed to have one just like it. I preferred the Costa Pacifica.

The climb up to Malaga castle was strenuous but worth it. Seven Euros entrance for the both of us certainly was more cost-effective than Windsor Castle, but then I guess we are not paying for part-time Royal residents here. Great views of the city and port and lots of battlements to scramble around on. A must for any visitor to Malaga.

On our return to the city, we briefly visited the outside of the city’s enormous cathedral before taking lunch in the sun at a pretty restaurant in the centre. It was fun watching one particular waiter trying to attract would-be diners with a variety of patter and dances. He had some success and obviously enjoyed what he was doing, I don’t think he minded at all when they walked on, he would get them next time. I guess it is the thrill of the chase rather than the kill that mattered.

With appetite satisfied and the afternoon moving to its conclusion we retraced our steps back to the Itaca.

That evening we again chose ‘The London Pub’ (when in Rome etc. etc.) and watched the Welsh lose to Denmark, despite Gareth Bales best efforts his fellow team mates were not up to the same standard of the opposition. Jamie opted for spare ribs washed down with Sangria, and I chose the more exotic steak and kidney pie, with chips and peas, washed down with Guinness.

After a late awakening and another substantial breakfast we headed towards the castle that we had seen from our balcony, lit up in the distance before we retired  the previous night. It didn’t take us long to find ourselves on the opposite bank of the little river running into the sea next to the small but imposing fortification. An information board gave us the name Castle of Sohail. We crossed via a contrasting modern suspension bridge before climbing up the usual winding and cobbled track through the entrance and into a large courtyard with the only evidence of internal structures being up against the walls and in poor repair. There was a small information office set into the wall by the entrance, it had a few artefacts and leaflets and entry to the castle was free. We climbed the walls, photographing the vista as we circumnavigated from tower to tower, inside one of which we squeezed our way up to the very top via a narrow, claustrophobic staircase. It reminded me of my pot-holing days.

Returning to the bridge we stopped awhile watching a group of canoeists play ‘pass the ball’ with great skill. As we headed back down the coast, the sun decide to hide behind ever darkening clouds. Passing by the haunts of the previous night we continued on past the harbour and on towards Torremolinos. Striding on with determination we reached the hill housing atop a large black bull statue and derelict windmill that marks the location of this resort made famous in song and for drunken tourists  (in the 80’s). As we climbed a quite treacherous local path up to these iconic features it began to drizzle and then quite soon after, pour down. Hurrying down the slope to a group of trees we sheltered until the worst of the cloudburst had moved on. Arriving back at the beach we made our sodden way back towards Fuengirola. On the way, the sun came out and dried us out so that by the time we had reached ‘The London Bar’ we were feeling refreshed, ready to take on the world. Well, the Japanese at least! And that is what we did.

With great timing we had arrived in front of a large screen, just in time for the England v Japan rugger match. With proper English grub ordered and suitable refreshments in hand we spent the rest of the afternoon cheering on the lads to a well deserved (but tricky) win.

We returned to the hotel to change into long trousers in readiness for the evening’s entertainment. It may be November, but as Jamie found out on the first night that this is southern Spain and the mosquitoes are still out at night and just as keen to bite as they are in the hotter summer months. After ordering a 4am taxi from the front desk it was back to the our favourite bar on the beach and the Portugal v Italy match, more wholesome British fodder washed down with suitable beverages. Can’t remember what the score was, I wasn’t that interested in the match, but Jamie was keen and no doubt can.

We did indeed catch our 4am taxi back to Malaga airport. We would have preferred the much cheaper option of the train but as the first train of the morning was 6.10am and our flight left at 7.15am that was not a choice we could risk. However, Jamie informed that we were transported in a top of the range Mercedes (whatever that is) and it did make for a very comfortable journey.

The Ryanair flight did leave on time (why does Michael Kevin O’Leary have his planes fly at such ungodly hours?) and though I was expecting to watch a few episodes from Netflix on my mobile, I fell asleep and woke up on the descent into Birmingham. We were back in Harborough by midday and enjoying another wonderful British traditional meal, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with all the trimmings, cooked by a very English lass, my Sue (by gum, it doesn’t come better than that!)

On the 20th Nov. Sarah dropped Mia off before travelling on to work in Northampton. Mia spent the rest of the day with Peter and I, ambling through a very chilly south Leicestershire countryside before having our favourite lunch in Foxton. Sue went shopping with Charlotte during the morning and then went to her U3A History group in the afternoon. I arrived back home with Mia shortly before Sue returned and it wasn’t long after wards that Sarah made an appearance. She stayed for tea before accompanying Sue to Harborough theatre for a performance of ‘The Madness of King George 3rd’, Mia and I curled up in front of the log burner and watched ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, on the TV. Mia found the programme quite boring and soon fell asleep and snored (loudly).

The 21st was another bitterly cold day, I couldn’t get warm at all on my morning bike ride, no matter how frantically I pedaled. We met Joan and Phil for lunch at the Sondes Arms in Rockingham. They had flown in from Italy at the weekend, it is their yearly visit to relatives and friends with an opportunity stock up with items that are difficult to obtain on the continent. The venue used to be a regular Tuesday haunt of ours before Charlotte slipped two discs last February and we have not eaten there since. The meal, and the company was excellent, both Joan and Phil looked well and appeared in good health, though they were quite concerned about my recent eye problem. We presented them with a bottle of my experimentation batch of red and pear wine to drink before they return to Italy at the weekend, fingers crossed on that one! They are concerned about their situation with Brexit and it was no surprise that we obviously shared the same opinions on politicians, there appears to be no difference between any of them in whatever country they purport to represent. As a solution they are contemplating returning to the UK, renting out their home in Santa Vittoria and renting private accommodation in the Harborough area. In preparation they have visited an estate agent to look at the cost of rental properties. With a great deal of luck, things will be much clearer as to whether such decisions have to be made by next March. Fingers crossed on that one too! If all goes well we are hoping to meet up with them again during the spring.

 

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