Sunday, 2 December 2007

Sunny Torremolinos: A long way from Home

Hola from Andalucia!

From Paris Libby and I went to Madrid, where we met up with Paddy, my husband. Amazing how a week away can make two people like each other again!

From there, after an exchange of keys and cash and info., Libby took the train back north to Sahagun. Patrick and I took another train, south, to Malaga... and from there to his son's sunny apartment in beautiful downtown Torremolinos.

I can hear your eyes rolling! Really, Torremolinos is not such a bad place!
'Torre' was once a tiny fishing village along the Meditteranean coast of Spain, but in the early 20th century it was 'discovered' by northern European vacationers. Waves of ruthless (and often tasteless) property developers moved in during the 60s and 70s, and the place is now covered in high-rise apartment blocks, amusement arcades, souvenir shoppes and bars, bars, bars that attract working-class vacationers from all over Europe, but mostly the industrial midlands of England. Torremolinos was the first fishing village to suffer this fate, and now the naysayers say all of Spain's beautiful coastlines are being trashed and paved and done to death.

But like most nay-saying, these statements are usually made by people who've never been to Torre, or they last had a look at the height of the horror, back in, say, 1978 or so. Things are improving now, I think. Torre 'jumped the shark' in the 90s sometime, and is settling in to a somewhat tired, tattered dotage.

Patrick's son Matt, who is about 40 years old, grew up in Torre and still lives there, in a sunny ocean-view apartment right downtown. He likes it. It suits him fine. (He's another bilingual descendent of ours, and God bless 'im he handles our chats with Paco the Red Attorney for us.) He was educated in local schools, and can read, write, and make cogent arguments as well as anyone. He has a great book collection. He's seen Torremolinos change over the years.

The 'lager louts' and all-night clubbers who once raved through the streets are now instead catching cheap flights to Ibiza, Spain's answer to Daytona Beach. The cut-rate concrete-block timeshare sharks are now busy exploiting new frontiers in Croatia and Bulgaria and Turkey. They've left Torremolinos to the people who've been coming here for decades, and the businesses that sprang up to serve them.

Here are English-language bookstores (!!!) and pubs and fish-and-chips shops, and tea parlors and restaurants with proprietors offering anything you might want, whether you are from Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Wales, USA, Italy, France, China, Japan, or Asturias. (Yeah, there are still tons of Spaniards here, too.) I love the newspaper kiosks here, because I can compare the headlines from The Daily Telegraph or The Daily Mirror in London, Paris Match or Le Monde, Il Figaro, Der Stern or Suddeuschland Allgemeinischer, or good ol' El Pais. The whole world is boiled down here. It would be easy to be an expat in Torre, because it's not really Spain. You never really have to learn to speak Spanish here, long as you have money.

Most of the people strolling the streets are age 55 and over, and Spanish is not their native tongue. Just speaking English can be challenging, though, as every accent from the UK is going on... many of them are as incomprehensible as Basque.

It's a fun place to visit. Aside from the sea glistening on the horizon, and the tropical sunshine, much has been done over the years to raise the tone in town. Wide shopping streets have been closed to vehicle traffic and paved with shiny marble... creating a wheelchair and stroller-friendly surface for old and new people. (Unfortunately the same shiny streets are incredibly slippery when wet. And they've installed huge fountains all over, too. So when it rains or the wind blows, watch your footing, granny!)

Palm trees abound, and good shops, and outlets for all the fashionable 'pret a porter' labels. (For the serious designer stuff you have to head west down the coast to Marbella, or east to Malaga city. There are good rail links either way.) You can buy English and German appliances here, too... we're in the market for an electric teakettle, and this is the place for it. And chances are the storekeeper speaks English of some sort. Unimaginable in Castilla-Leon, and I'll admit I enjoy being lazy.

And Lazy is why we are here, and lazy is what we are achieving. Patrick, especially, needed a break from Moratinos. He has spent the last three days on a corner of the sofa, reading the newspapers in his private sunbeam, occasionally making faces at Baby Sam, and generally letting everyone else wait on him. Good, healthy relaxation, way overdue!

And on Tuesday we head up to Alpujarras, into the mountains south of Granada.
Still, I look forward to seeing The Peaceable again. Libby says nothing has changed, the dogs are still loons, the pilgrims keep passing... We'll be there ourselves, again, by the end of the week.

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