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We’ve spent the last week or so exploring Spain, on our first “proper” holiday since we moved to Portugal 18 months ago.
We had a great week, despite the weather’s best efforts to spoil it for us. I can testify that being on the southern coast of Europe offers no immunity from the whims of clouds and pressure systems. We joined thousands of tourists on the coast, running from tapas bar to tapas bar in search of shelter from rain and apocalyptic thunder and lightning. Knowing that all our friends in England were basking in unusually warm April sunshine at the time didn’t exactly help with our morale, not did the marble-sized hailstones that abruptly ended the one good day we had by the pool!
We made the best of it though and explored a range of towns and cities in Andalucía. Spain has a great road network, and all the places we visited are easily accessible from the Algarve, if not for day trips, then for weekends.
From our villa, which was ear-poppingly high in the hills and exposed to plenty of rain and wind, we ventured out on day trips, which typically involved a scenic drive, the exploration of a city and plenty of stops for tapas and strong little Spanish beers.
Our stops included chav-chic Marbella, which we liked far more than we ever expected. We decided to go somewhere “a bit English” as it was the day of the royal wedding, and were surprisingly charmed by the place, especially the narrow streets of the old town, which were festooned with flowers. Sure, there were a few noisy stag parties and plenty of “is she a hooker or is she actually dressed like that?” moments, but we had a fantastic day there, despite torrential rain. I’m sure for some, Marbella is a tacky nightmare, but it made a great day out.
Tarifa, just a short ferry ride from the coast of Africa, was a great contrast. Tarifa has a very laid-back, hippy vibe, and is packed to the gills with all kinds of surfers from wind to kite. The seafront, with its views of Africa, is extremely down-at-heel and covered in graffiti, but you can’t help but think it would lose its vibe if it were cleaned up. The old-town is charming and similarly chilled-out with lots of good-looking trendy young things zooming round on mopeds and popping in and out of the quirky shops.
On our last day we visited Cadiz, somewhere we had popped into briefly on a previous holiday. I’m glad we made a return visit armed with a guidebook, as the city is quite sprawling with distinct old and new towns. The old town made me think of a less touristy Seville, with plenty of tapas bars, and monuments and churches at every turn. I am a big fan of cities-by-the-sea and Cadiz offers a great beach, which stretches the whole length of the rather less appealing “new” town. Cadiz was lively and vibrant and had the added benefit of providing us with the best tapas of the holiday. It’s hard to believe that it is largely bypassed on the tourist trail when it has so much to offer. We will be back.
Our holiday gave us the chance to regroup and reprioritize after a hectic year and a half of moving abroad. The main thing that came out of it is that we need to make sure we frequently stop, breathe, and remember why we moved to Portugal in the first place. We seem to have a natural inclination to “revert to type” and focus too much on work, money and bureaucracy, when we should be paddling in the sea and watching the sunsets.
Today was out first day back at work and we got up very early for a run as the sun came up over the Ria Formosa. (Oh yes, the weather is perfect again now—isn’t that ironic?) I certainly feel re-inspired after our break. Let’s see how long it continues!