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Spain’s Costa del Sol

by Martin Green

   Let me preface this with two personal items: one, my wife Beverly and I are retirees who like to travel, primarily to Europe, and, two, our youngest son Chris, with wife Flindie and our two grandkids, Logan and Stephanie, live in Galway, Ireland. Since we no longer feel up to two trips over the Atlantic (from California) in one year, we look for places in Europe to visit before making our annual journey to Ireland. This year we opted for a two-weeks stay in Torremolinas, on Spain’s Costa del Sol in April, before flying from there to Galway in early May. The thinking was that at those times it wouldn’t be too hot in Spain and not to cold (and rainy) in Ireland. (Pause for laughter).

     We were a little concerned about Torremolinas as the guide book Chris sent us, after we’d booked our trip, called it “a bizarre place lined with sweeping (but crowded) beaches and infinite shopping arcades, crammed with Irish pubs and estate agents, "…has a large expatriate population (and) a notorious concentration of British crooks.”  On top of this, it was raining when we arrived and we learned the apartments in which we were staying didn’t provide soap, necessitating an immediate shopping trip after a long day of travel.

     True, it’s a tourist town, but the beaches were not crowded (possibly because it wasn’t hot enough), the shops were no worse than in any other tourist town. We saw only one Irish pub and the only Brits we met were two nice ladies who vacationed there every year.  

   Although it rained our first day and then on and off we had many days with clear blue skies and a peacefully blue Mediterranean. We enjoyed walking on the nice wide promenade along the sea during the day and every night after dinner.  And, as travelers know, sometimes things work out for the best. On our first walk, to a nearby fishing village, we were thirsty and wanted to stop at a place for a drink, only to be told that this was a restaurant and we had to order some food. We retraced our steps to a place on the sea we’d passed, called by Beverly the “Banana Cabana,” but really Banana’s Beach, which had great sangrias at a reasonable price, served with green olives which I’d developed a taste for, just right for a mid-day snack between a buffet breakfast and a three-course Spanish dinner. We returned to the “Banana Cabana” twice more, (meeting the two nice British ladies the last time).

   The three-course dinners were courtesy of coupons that were part of our tour package. I noticed that every restaurant had a spaghetti entrée; I thought this was Italian, not Spanish. Two restaurants are noteworthy. At the Don Canape, our meal appropriately started with a huge tray of canapés, all very good, and including peanuts popcorn and chips. This was followed by salad. I ordered shrimp salad and this came with two shrimp standing up with a melon slice in between so it looked like a face and with a lit sparkler in the middle. The canapé tray and salad were enough for a meal, but after came the entrée (we both had baked salmon) and dessert (flan with strawberries).  The other restaurant is the La Escalera, which is reached by taking the elevator up from the beach area to the main town, and which has a sweeping view of the Mediterranean.  We went up to the main town several times and I usually found a café to sit at, with a sangria of course, while Beverly shopped.  

   Although we stayed in Torremolinas, our tour group was taken on several trips elsewhere so that we saw a little bit more of Spain and learned a little bit more of Spanish culture and history. In Malaga, the largest city in Andalucía, we went to the bullring and had a demonstration of bullfighting technique by a young matador. We also visited the house where Picasso was born but didn’t have time to go to the Picasso museum there. We went to Ronda, a town in the mountains that dates back to the Phoenicians and Romans, split in two by a gorge and with the remains of a Roman bridge and now spanned by the “New Bridge,” built 1751-93, and having magnificent views. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles, we learned, were frequent summer visitors there and Welles’ ashes are buried in the well of a farmhouse owned  by the famous bullfighter Antonio Ordonez. We went to another town in the mountains, Mijas, not quite as picturesque, but also with great views and having a church built in a cave well worth visiting.     

     Getting back to Torremolinas, mindful of the warning about British crooks, we’d packed our money belts, but never used them as the town was as safe as it could be. The elevator to the main town cost one Euro per person per round trip. The main street, with many shops, is Calle San Miguel. As mentioned, while Beverly shopped I indulged in my favorite activity while in Europe, café-sitting. In one of the tourist gift stores off the main street, I found some nice summer shirts at only six Euros apiece that I’m wearing now. 

       So you could do worse than pay a visit to Torremolinas and use it as a base to visit other places in Andalucía. You can also get to Gibraltar if you want a change of pace and have a desire to see “The Rock.” As for the weather, it can rain in the Casa del Sol but overall in late April it wasn’t too bad. Despite our misgivings and inauspicious introduction, our stay in Torremolinas turned out to be a pleasant one. 

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