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There and back again....

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Well last Friday I'd handed in my notice and had to pack up for an early plane flight - packing took a bit longer than expected and as K had to visit the Archery Club to sort out some stuff - as it was we didn't get to bed until midnighet and were up again two hours later for the trip to Bristol airport and our flight.

No problems boarding and time enough to have breakfast, my sister and her party (her daughter aged 2 and 2 additional friends of hers) cut it fine arriving literally as we were boarding. The flight was pleasant enough and before long we were flying over the west coast of Spain following the coast down to Murcia airport.

Sun and warmth greeted us as the doors opened and we diembarked with a bit of a wait for K to collect the hire car from the local town 2km away. Our little group had hired 2 cars and before long we were driving around the Mar Menor onto the sand spur of La Manga and arrived at our apartment - rooms were allocated and the refurbishment met with approval - both kitchen and lounge/dining room have been extended and new bathrooms fitted.

The early arrival meant we wandered off to Cabo De Palos for late lunch in search of the cheap restaurant we'd visited last time,it looked derelict however so instead an expensive (the most costly of the holiday) ensued at The Miramar. Once we'd paid a kitty was set up and we went to local supermarket El Arabol for our first group shop - buying our essentials for the week and a cheap cut of loin of pork for tea - cooked by yours truly on a bed of potatoes and covered with tomato and served with salad and washed down with a cheap 2 euro bottle of lovely red wine and some Don Simon Sangria to follow. K and I stuck to the red all week, along with copious litre cartons of Don Simon and mucho cervaisa, the other women preferring to knock back bottles of Jumilla Rose.

Sunday was market day at Cabo De Palos, where realisation of handling a larger party became apparent as we intended to shop and eat there, however one of our party wanted to stay in the lovely apartment - enjoying the sun and the beach. Much clothes and vegetable and nibbles buying later and after buying two spit roast chickens our plan for a meal at the restaurant (now busy after looking closed yesterday) was altered to eating at El Arabol, great choice lovely food and beer and wine and all dirt cheap.

Evening meal was prepared by me again, with ratatouille and potatoes and more wine, night temperature was a lovely 16 degrees, although one of our party crashed before dinner and the rest not long after. They all preferred early nights!

Monday involved going to the large city of Cartagena - we (K, Z and myself) know it is large because we got lost missing hours of shopping time and arriving just as siesta started. The stress tips me over the edge and I find a tobacconist and buy some cheap Spanish tobacco for around 50p. The other three women and baby were exhausted so they headed off home, we did shopping in Oysho, women's Secrets and El Corte Inglais and I could have bought lots of clothes but for the fact a Spanish XL is wayyy too small for me. We soaked in the countryside of orange trees and mountains and blue skies on the way home and another of our party took over doing the cooking highlighted the difficulty in not knowing portion controls for 5 adults and two children, there was masses left over - so i utilised it for a paella the next night.

Tuesday we took easy spending the day on the beach literally a few steps from the apartment and made sandcastles and dug out a boat on the shore of the Med. They have really small surf and hardly any tide - it felt strange to me so used to Devon's coastal surges and vitality. A cloud thought about appearing and eventually my mind had a thought and we stocked up on seafood for the paella all incredibly cheap - the total cost per head was one euro!

Wednesday and K and I leave the group looking after Z (who wants to spend time with her baby cousin) and we make the three hour drive to Javear (or Xabi) to see B and J. Stopping off for lunch at the head of the Algar river and have our photo taken at the waterfalls there. The long drive gives me a chance to read George McKay's book on Glastonbury: a very English Fair which is fascinating and I realise how lucky we are and how new the festival experience is. Much of the history of festivals is relatively recent - no older than myself, the book is fascinating as is the countryside we're travelling through.

B and J's apartment is lovely - fantastic views over a town unspoilt like it's neighbour Benidorm by high rise apartment blocks due to a height restriction. It's great to meet B and J again and for them to give us insights into Spanish life as well as introducing us to other Brits who have emigrated and interestingly we review restaurant prices on their benchmark for the rest of the week. Talking of restaurants they take us to a great cheap Chineses called Wok which offers all you can eat buffet and much wine (I get very full and slightly slurry). Both bars and restaurant despite the European smoking ban allow me to smoke indoors! Fabulous! J has work the next day but for B it's Spanish Constitution Day and a holiday so we talk about life in Spain and their festivals (didn't realise most summer festivals in Spain are night affairs - the day being too hot). By breakfast beachside at a cafe - K and I are thinking how wonderful it would be to live here in Spain with it's space, it's uncongested roads and it's friendly policy to immigrants.

We arrive back at La Manga around three pm after an aborted plan to hook up with Z and the others in Cartagena as the shops are shut. We've found out there is a Medieval Christmas market in Cartagena however and leaving Z again at the apartment with the rest of our party K and I slip back to check out Spanish nightlife (our visit to Xabi has clearly given us an appetite for it) the port city is alive! It's packed with Spanish out promenading under the wonderfully Xmas decorated streetlights. The whole place is a throng of Spanish just milling about. We join them for olives, nuts and coffee and walk down to the night clubs on the port side. They're horribly synthesised clubs (the kind you get all over Europe and we could be anywhere even the UK) so we leave and head for the port on La Manga eating at a busy (=good) Italian restaurant cheaply and it's lovely food. We arrive home before closing time but at the beachside apartment everyone has already gone to bed.

Friday is a different story, suddenly the people we are with realise they are missing out on the fact Spain sleeps in during the afternoon and comes out to play at night. We do the same looking after my niece while the others shop in Cartagena and spend our time lazing by the pool. The afternoon we eat at the boat restaurant on La Manga, overlooking the inland sea (the Mar Menor) more gorgeous seafood and delicious Postre and we're stuffed and take ourselves off to the park next door - however the weather is turning, clouds and winds rise! We return to the apartment - watching the gorgeous sunset birds migrating and the bats circling in the fading orange sky it's warm and sultry. We stock up on Don Simon and eat most of the food stocks we have left - chatting and reading and packing for the early morning return.

Saturday dawn is amazing, the (now) cloudy skies bands of red and grey and the sea like strawberry blancmange - everything is tinged in burnt gold and liquid orange. Many photos aqre taken before the bags are put in the car and the convoy leaves La Manga destined for the airport. No problems leaving apart from a small fracas over bag weight but eventually the Don Simon boards the plane! The return journey starts well enough but wind and rain rise as we head for Blighty. The landing is like something from Alton Towers and the grey vertical rain, floods on the roads and strong winds bring us back to earth with a bump.

Last night was the Archery Club's Xmas meal but unfortunately i think we were too exhausted to fully enjoy it.

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