Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The Rain in Spain... 19th December 2007
Funny day on Friday. We had booked to go to see my son Ben in his new bar in Porta Banus, Marbella Spain. However, we hadn't received the usual email confirmation and Jim was pretty certain the booking hadn't gone through, so gloom descended like a black cloud over me and I went to bed in a black shroud. In the morning, Jim phoned Ryanair and, blow me down if we weren't on the passenger list after all, so we had to hurry and pack ready for the flight at 5.15pm! We made it in plenty of time and off we headed to Mallaga. We picked up our hire car, a fine little Golf diesel, and drove to Porta Banus, where we had booked into a hotel 'Bena Bola'. Now this is really weird. My son's name is Ben Bowler, say the hotel name and it's almost the same!
Having reached the Port, we couldn't find the parking spaces for the hotel and tried to go down to the marina, through a barrier. It had a buzzer so we pressed it and an irate spanish male shouted at us, in Spanish! He could obviously see us, but we couldn't see him! Eventually, after more shouted abuse, this extraordinarily large, long haired Spaniard appeared and shouted at us some more! We worked out that we had to turn round and go to an underground car park behind us. Why he had to get so excited I'm not sure! The hotel was clean and bright and our room, which we expected to be minuscule, was enormous. Settee and chair in the main section, plus 2 3' beds pushed together, an en-suite with bath and shower cubicle and wardrobes enough for the Spice Girls!
We phoned Ben and met him near his bar, 'Zoo Lounge'. It's a small bar but well kitted out. He and his partner Brett have bought and installed a pool table and it has an amazing sound system. This was Saturday night and the place was hopping! Unfortunately everyone in Spain seems to smoke and we must have inhaled the equivalent of 60 cigarettes over the next few hours. Ben seemed at ease and happy in his bar and Brett, from South Africa, is extremely handsome and knows it!
We headed back to our hotel in the early hours and happily collapsed into bed.
In the morning we had decided to head off to a lovely old town in the mountains called Ronda. Ben sleeps the morning away, not closing the bar until 4am, then having to clean it up. The drive to Ronda was fabulous, the scenery striking and the road incredibly winding. Luckily Jim had got to grips with the golf by now, and remembered for the most part to drive on the right!
Ronda is a beautiful old town with a huge gorge running through the centre, crossed by an old, enormous bridge. How they built it so long ago I can't imagine. It must have taken years. The views over the bridge are spectacular, see the photos for a flavour of the town. It also has a bullring and some interesting little shops in various nooks and crannies. We couldn't stay long as I had to get back to meet Ben for the afternoon. We had sunshine for most of the morning, but on the drive back, the clouds descended and it rained. Then it rained for the rest of the afternoon and evening!
We drove to Ben's apartment which he shares with Brett and a lad called Danny, who is a DJ amongst other things. 3 Lads in one apartment. Chaos. They also all smoke, so the air was thick. Washing up hadn't been down for some time and the ashtray overflowed. Washing was strewn around the floors or draped over the chairs outside. Presumably that was clean. Jim beat a hasty retreat to visit an old work colleague of his, Carol and I stayed and washed up while Ben and co washed and dressed. They had some shopping to do, so I went too and loved the huge department store in the centre of Porta Banus. I had taken Ben a present of 2 new jumpers and 2 shirts, all of which were too big for him. Ah well. He wanted a coat, so we scoured the shops and bought him one for his Christmas present instead. Jim has kept the jumpers and shirts!
We went back to Zoo Lounge for a while, then Ben, Sasha (another friend) and I went for an Indian meal in a restaurant overlooking the marina. It was quite lovely, so I paid for us all.
It was still pouring with rain as we headed back to the Zoo Lounge. Brett had taken 4 euros and spent just over that! Sunday night and torrential rain didn't do too much for business. Ben had a phone call from a friend, Sabrina, asking us to go to the bar round the corner, one of the many Irish bars in Porta Banus. So we did. Their bar was just as empty but Ben played pool with Sasha and beat him soundly. I chatted to Sabrina, also from South Africa and her friend who was from Ireland. I hung around for a while then decided to go back to the hotel and get a reasonable night. Unfortunately I'd left my mobile phone at Ben's apartment so had no way of contacting Jim in the morning, but he thought he'd be back to pick me up around 11. I was awake really early, worrying I'd oversleep, went down for breakfast but the cafe is 'closed on Mondays'. I was starving and thirsty so made my way to a pub by the marina and had toast, jam and coffee, which was delightful and watched the rich arriving in their cars in the rain. (oh yes, it was still raining).
Fearing I'd miss Jim, I headed back to the hotel and sat on the bed waiting. I dozed a bit, still no Jim, so I went down to reception and waited there. He arrived much later and I was not too happy! We drove to Ben's apartment, in the rain, and sat in there waiting for the lads to get washed and dressed. No tea of coffee available! We decided to go for a meal and went to an American style bar also overlooking the marina. All day breakfast was just too tempting and Jim and me indulged ourselves. Ben was then supposed to show us around Porta Banus but made a pretty crap guide!! Still, we did see some more of the place and I managed to take some photos in the gaps between showers!
We headed back to Zoo Lounge, had a couple of drinks, then made our way back to the airport. Well, we tried. Got very lost around Porta Banus and ended up in the golf complex, which made us very late. We had the car to drop off but couldn't find the right place to leave it. We decided to dump it in the car park we had found and just made it onto the plane. The following morning an irate assistant phoned and said 'why did you not leave the car in our place?' Well, if we could have found it we would!
My overriding impression of the Spanish is that they are surly, rude and dislike the English. The shop assistants in particular were unfriendly. I don't understand their attitude as in my experience, if you are pleasant to your customers, they are pleasant too and leave happy.
All in all I'm really glad we made the effort to go. I can now visualise Ben in his surroundings and will pop over again before too long. I think he'll make it in his bar, as long as he can survive the winter months. Fingers crossed.
It was lovely to be back in Ireland and the cats were overjoyed to see us. Danny, the lad down the road, did a sterling job of looking after them so we gave him 20 euros for his troubles. We had to take them to the vets this afternoon, Sandy for his 2nd vaccination and BlackJack for his first. 60 euros down the pan! After much playing out today and their trip out, they have slept all evening.