No longer a seventies cliché…

On-the-beachI think it was Jess Conrad who recorded a song called that – right after his other classic ‘This pullover.’ (Found a wi-fi signal now. So I was wrong – it was actually Steve Bent in 1976, Sharing Jess’s listing in Kenny Everett’s Bottom Twenty. Tell you about my work with Cuddly Ken sometime.)

Way back then Spain was considered a bit of a joke. It was all absurdly crowded beaches surrounded by terrible high rise hotels and multi storey car parks (hard to tell the difference. I stayed in one once – ended up being towed away, and I didn’t even have a car.) There were English pubs, fish and chip shops and Celtas cigarettes at 6d for twenty. It was embarrassing to admit that you’d been there.

But that was then. The years have been incredibly kind to Spain, and the country has been incredibly kind to itself, and is now wonderful. Natural beauty, a stonking road system and some of the most delightful seafronts in the world. Add a predictable and placid climate, with a lack of humidity that would make the Caribbean jealous, and you have the perfect destination to head for if you have holidaying in mind. Ok, the aforementioned beaches probably still exist, but they no longer have that tired yellowing Kodachrome look that the travel brochures used to wave despairingly in front of our noses.

Today’s Spain is cool. You will always find a café with a warm welcome, tapas and a friendly gin and tonic served in a glass like a bowl with a stem.

And all this is building up to the fact that Spain has become so utterly fabulous since those miserable seventies days, that the Duncan family not only grace the place with our presence, but actually own a little pad down there near Murcia. Swimming pool about twenty yards away, a cute little town called Sucina about five minutes away, and a wide choice of dream destinations around the Mar Minor within spitting distance.

What we do is this. We cram the car with Cathy’s latest taste in curtains, candles, pictures, cooking utensils and new bikinis. Add the boys and us and head down to Portsmouth to pick up the Brittany ferry that will whisk us down to Santander or Bilbao (where there’s a hilarious museum called the Guggenheim, where artists can break the rules by very nearly fooling all the people all the time.) We drive on board and before you know it we have dumped the suitcases in our neat little cabin (where you can have a porthole for a bit extra) and it’s off to the bar for wine, Pringles and watching Portsmouth, with its wonderful Spinnaker Tower, disappear into the romantic sea mist.

The journey takes about 24 hours, by which time we have enjoyed a dinner which is about a hundred times better than it need be, at a lovely table by a window, slept well (unless the Bay of Biscay is playing up) had a fantastic breakfast (unless the Bay of Biscay is playing up) and landed on Spanish soil, rested and ready for the nine hour drive to our gorgeous pad. This we do in bite-size chunks, with plenty of coffee and comfort breaks (as those extraordinary transatlantics say) and arrive, tired but happy, in the underground car park that has a lift that takes us direct to our door.

On our last visit several exciting things happened – I painted a very big picture that now graces our lounge. Cathy remade all the beds and then announced our bed wasn’t big enough so we bought another. Sam (who flew in later because of school commitments) gave the place his wholehearted blessing because the wifi worked so well. Jamie fell into the pool, which was numbingly cold but he came out giggling. We cooked at ‘home’, ate out alfresco, caught up with wonderful friends and stood apprehensively as one of these friends put up some shelves for us.

And it was time to go home. For details of the return journey simply reverse the description a few paragraphs back. The Bay of Biscay was playing up, so small white bags were in evidence – except for Sam who slept through the whole thing.

Lovely wonderful time. Jamie still says he wishes we were back there, which we will be for August, and the rest of us agree.

Spain has really got its act together – like an end of pier comedian who has moved on to Shakespeare, having shaken off the critics who suggested he could never make that gigantic transformation.

I could show you about five hundred carefully composed photos to prove how beautiful this lovely country is, but for this in-depth article I will show you only one.

And it’s not of pop balladeer Steve Bent…