Category Archives: Ibiza

Concrete Jungle The Place I love

Torrevieja

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The town of Torrevieja is a short drive from our house.  The small city dates back to 1802 and is named after the old watch tower (Torre = tower and Vieja = old).  I have heard a number, and read a lot more, comments on how awful the place is and how crime-ridden by people who have not been there in recent years (if at all).  So large cities with high rise are not my kind of place but to my surprise I find I like many parts of this particular city.

The buildings are, in the main, not that tall.  In fact smaller than other large tourist towns I know well in the northern Costa Blanca such as Calpe, Denia, Javea and of course, Benidorm (which I don’t know well as one visit was enough!).  The place is truly international with influences from as far apart as Italy and the Caribbean, with one of the most diverse populations in Spain.  In 2014 the population is recorded as 108.063 of which around 47,000 are Spanish and the rest a wide mix from across the globe.  Native English speakers make up about 11%-12% of the total population, which is pretty much in line with the overall percentage in Spain and lower than some other coastal towns. To give you some idea of how the town has expanded the current population is around four times larger than in 1990 and twice that of 2000.

The town’s blue flag beaches, long promenade, fishing port, yacht club and harbour make up the sea front.  Much of the tourist area of town has undergone an up-date with new pedestrianised areas, new theatre, new out of town concert venue, new tourist information office and much more.  The narrow streets are packed with individual shops and bars run by the Spanish, not ex-pats, with residential apartments above, many to only five storeys.  The town has somehow maintained its identity whilst catering for international visitors which swell its number to 500,000 in high season.

Torrevieja

So is it crime ridden?  In the past the police force was over-stretched due to the very rapid expansion of the town, which stopped when the property boom ceased.  These days they seem much more on top of things and crime rates are comparable to other medium sized sea-side resorts.  As with resorts, cities and busy market places around the world there are pick-pockets and other opportunistic criminals taking advantage of the relaxed holiday makers.  But this is the same the world over.  If you take care of your belongings you will be ok.  As for comments I have read about ‘bars on windows’ I can’t help but laugh.  Window and door grills are, and have been for longer than the tourists have been coming, part of the way Spanish properties are built.  The sudden increase in eastern Europeans living in Spain a few years ago but unable to work in Spain caused a problem as they had to steal to eat but their numbers have declined as they have realised they can do better in other countries where they can find work or claim benefits.  In recent times the fact that there is no long-term benefit help to the unemployed has left some individuals desperate and feeling they have no option but to resort to crime to feed their families has become a challenge, but overall crime rates are not something to fret about.  Since the town made it illegal to buy from the ‘looky-looky’ men with their fake goods touted on blankets along the sea front they have almost disappeared.  Do I feel safe walking around Torrevieja?  Yes.  Do I feel safe walking around London?  No.

Church square

Perhaps one of our favourite pass-times when we go to Torrevieja is to visit Valors and enjoy their chocolate y churros, on the opposite side of the road to the square by the church of the Inmaculata Conception.  The original church, like much of the town, was destroyed by a major earthquake in 1829 and the current church was built in 1844 using the stones from the original watch tower (Torre) in the foundations.  If you have children then the fun fair and Park of Nations are a must.  Or if you prefer more cultural surroundings then have a coffee in the Casino (which is not a casino but a restaurant and art gallery and social centre).  If you are there for the right week in August then you can experience the Habaneras Festival which has been run annually in the city for over 40 years.  This is a music festival and competition where the music is a fusion of Cuban and Spanish.

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Torrevieja grew from the salt industry, still a major employer, producing half a million tons of salt a year.  There are two lakes, Laguna Salada de la Mata and Laguna Salada de Torrevieja, but they are more commonly known as the blue lake and the pink lake.  The Parque National surrounds the blue (La Mata) lake while the pink lake is a hive of industry.  The lakes, together with the Mar Menor to the south and the Santa Pola salt lakes to the north, create a unique micro climate, one the World Health Organisation lists as one of the healthiest in the world; particularly good for those who suffer with joint or respiratory problems.  Combined with the warm average winter temperatures (higher than the Costa del Sol and several degrees warmer than north Costa Blanca) of over 10 degrees (usually upper teens in the day)

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Memories of a young Traveller Childhood Spain – more oddities.

Childhood Spain – more oddities.

One year I remember the hotel advertising that one night they would be showing an English film in one of the bars.  Rumours abounded about what it may be but a Bond film was the clear favourite.  We all settled down to watch, too many people packed into room so it was hot.  A Tom and Jerry cartoon came on and we laughed at the antics of the feuding friends.  A nice touch for the children before the film, so we thought. Then another Tom and Jerry, then a third and even a fourth.  It was getting a little boring, we had seen them all before!  Eventually, Tom and Jerry-ed out, we welcomed the interlude.  My sister and I, along with most of the other children, were packed off to bed while our parents settled down to watch the much publicised film.  In the morning we were told that our poor parents had had to endure another hour of Tom and Jerry cartoons!  I have no idea why the Spanish hoteliers thought a couple of American speechless drawings represented the best of the British film industry but, being British, no-one had any intention of complaining!

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Until recent years there were no UK daily papers available on the actual day, you could buy them at an extortionate price the day after they were published.  Hence we would never really know what was happening back in old Blighty while we were on holiday.

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It strange to today’s youngsters to think that we didn’t have any contact with our friends or family for an entire fortnight.  No English TV, no internet, no mobile phones, no emails.  How did we survive?!  Each year Dad would ensure my grandparents and a friend knew the name of our hotel, its location and through which travel agent in town we had booked our holiday so if we needed to be contacted we could be.  I don’t ever remember any emergency requiring Dad to be called so maybe, just maybe, we did ok surviving without today’s technology.

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Memories of a young Traveller Childhood Spain – with my Grandparents

Childhood Spain – with my Grandparents

On our second visit to Spain my Dad had thought it would be a great idea to take my Grandparents (his parents) away with us.  My Grandmother had never been outside the UK and my Grandad’s only previous experiences had been whilst serving during WW2, mainly in North Africa.  My relationship with them was probably unusual, I was not close to either, although my relationship with my Grandad grew closer over the years.  My Grandma had never forgiven me for being born a girl and I can honestly say although I saw her almost every week of my childhood we were almost estranged.  I wasn’t therefore particularly excited about them coming along.

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My strongest memory was that I saw my stern and fierce Grandma, a woman who usually frightened me, laugh and smile.  My Grandfather I remember as being fun but always saying or doing the wrong thing.  I suppose today you would call his comments racist and bigoted but it was the 60’s, pre EU days, his memories of sights from the War still playing over in the back of his mind.  My Dad was forever apologising to people for his behaviour.  He hated the food, the ‘foreigners’ and the heat!  He told a ‘bloody crout’ to ‘go back to his own country’ and when Dad pointed out that as we were in Spain we were actually the foreigners he replied that he was British so couldn’t possibly be foreign!

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However my strongest memory of them is at the beach. Grandad with dad taking me into the sea and between them swinging me high as I ‘jumped’ the waves.   Grandma sitting under the thatched sun shade knitting, wearing her flowered frock and hat – and still in her stockings!  Despite everything they both said it was the best holiday they had ever had.

My Grandma died in 1985 and a year or so later my Grandad holidayed in my Aunt’s apartment on the Costa del Sol and when he met the lady who looked after the apartment for my Aunt it was love at first sight.  Doreen had lived in Spain over 20 years so was not inclined to move back to England now she was a pensioner in her early 60’s.  So at the age of 86 my Grandad moved to Spain to spend his last years living as an ex-pat.  He and Doreen had 7 happy years before she died of cancer and my Grandfather outlived her by another two years, staying in Spain, living to the ripe old age of nearly 95.  A happy but rather ironic story!

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Live Web Cast on Spanish Property

We will be doing a live web cast on the Bank Holiday 29th Aug 10am-11am  about Spanish property on the Costa Blanca and Costa Calida, explaining the buying process and showing a selection of properties. https://www.facebook.com/spanishdreamproperty/

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Memories of a young traveller Childhood Spain-Barcelona

Childhood Spain – Barcelona

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One year we stayed close to Barcelona.  To be honest my strongest memory of this holiday was that it was quite unremarkable!  I know I met a fun bunch of people and spent hours in the pools messing about with my friends.  Our parents got on well but it wasn’t a friendship that was to last much beyond the holiday.  The beach wasn’t the best either, the sea becoming too deep for me quickly and the waves were large, so we stayed around the pool at lot.  The food was different too to that eaten on the islands and further south.

My strongest memory is of the excursion into Barcelona, a city with unique architecture and atmosphere.  It’s Spanish, but not quite so, due to the strength of the Catalonian culture.  Franco was still in charge on my childhood visit so the city residents were supposed to speak Castellano, the national language, but Catalan could still be defiantly heard.   After touring the city, of which from that visit I remember surprising little, we visited the famous Barcelona football ground.  Stood near the top of the stand looking down on the pitch it would be fair to say that as a non-fan of the game I was decidedly underwhelmed by the experience.  One memory stands out clearly, the pride with which we were told this pitch had the ‘greenest grass in Spain’ – as a child from the UK I just couldn’t understand why I was supposed to be impressed by the stuff that grew the same colour in my own back garden!

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Many years later I returned to the city, this time with Dave, and it had a totally different effect on me.  The Catalan culture and language plus its unique architecture give Barcelona a very different feel to the Costa Blanca.  It is a city I intend to visit again one day.

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Memories of a young traveller Childhood Spain – Sunburn and donkeys and coach trips Part 60

Childhood Spain – Sunburn and donkeys and coach trips

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We didn’t use sun screen in those days, we used oil on our bodies.  No one worried about skin cancer and getting sunburnt was just part of the holiday.  We used large amounts of ‘after sun’ to cool our hot skin every evening.  We even laughed about how red we were and how you could spot the new arrivals as they were so pale or so pink.  I blistered on several holidays on my shoulders and back, but it was never considered a concern – how times have changed.

coach trip

Highlights of the package holidays were the excursions.  Early in the holiday you would select your choices and on the appropriate day we would pile onto the coach with our hotel issued paper bag containing out packed lunch.  We visited caves with underground lakes, old Spanish villages that clung precariously to the hillside, waterfalls of icy mountain snow melt, vineyards with bodegas, potteries and glass blowing factories, to name just a few of the trips.  At each we would buy souvenirs that would take pride of place back home on the mantle until our next holiday.

A spanish doll

I collected a huge array of Spanish dolls dressed as Flamenco dancers, all sizes and colours, taking at least one home each year.  Each year at least one person boarding the plane would be carrying a two foot high donkey wearing a sombrero, wondering why it had seemed such a good idea to buy it!  But to me that was a symbol of the Spain I knew and loved – donkeys wearing sombreros pulling carts.  Privately owned cars were few are far between in the rural areas in the 60’s and early 70’s, people used bicycles, donkey and cart or walked.  Spain was a relatively poor country and the roads were full of potholes and bumps.  The other common sight on the roads were old tractors – rusty, noisy and belting out black fumes – but pulling a cart in which sat the family.

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Memories of a young traveller Childhood Spain – friends

Childhood Spain – friends

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It seemed each year we met a particular family that became our friends, some for just the holiday but some became long-term friendships, a few even life-long for my parents.  In fact we remained friends long enough for me to attend at least two weddings of my childhood holiday friends.

On one visit to Majorca our new friends had two children with whom we later holidayed again a couple of years later in Ibiza and when teenagers we hired a couple of boats on the Norfolk Broads.  Their son was two years older than me and one very bored siesta time, when we were supposed to be resting away from the heat of the day, about ages 8 and 6, I remember sitting with him on the balcony trying to aim Spanish Smarties (that didn’t taste that nice) at unsuspecting sunbathers four floors below!  Fortunately we were never found out!

One year we met a family on the plane and got chatting.  Their youngest daughter, Tracey, was a year younger than me and we became firm friends.  It was a friendship that was to last many years and as teenagers we visited each other’s houses for holidays without our parents, she lived in a very rural location in the Cotswolds and I in suburbia in Surrey, and we both envied the other’ one’s location!

That particular holiday when I met Tracey there was a children’s fancy dress competition, the catch being that all the costumes need to be made from crepe paper, which the hotel supplied in reams of all colours.  My sister, Tracey and I entered as ‘The Three Bears’ in wonderful costumes made by Tracey’s mum (who was a good seamstress) and I had a notice written on card saying ‘The Three Bears’ hung around my neck.  I was the middle size so I was Mummy Bear.  The winner was a ‘fried egg’(!) and we came second, but were announced as ‘The Three Blind Mice’.  And our runner-up prize?  One pair of swimming arm bands to share between the three of us!

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