I have spent Christmas at home. I have spent Christmas Day with family away in the UK. I have spent Christmas Day with friends in their homes. I have spent Christmas Day alone. What I have never done is spend Christmas Day abroad and with strangers – not until now!
It has been 3 long years since I last breathed Spanish air and considering what prohibited that, I am more than grateful to be “yma o hyd” (still here) as the popular Welsh patriotic song defiantly proclaims.
Enough of the past, it cannot be changed, the future is a dream, for what we have is merely the present and it is that present I choose to live in.
Leaving behind in Wales after a sub-zero Nordic style blast of snow and ice to be greeted by 21 Celsius blue skies on the Costa del Sol, was most welcome.
Christmas is mix bag of good and sad memories, a time of stress with all the preparations and then of course the added turmoil of buying for others. Add into the pot the “cost of living” crisis and the deep desire to be humble; I decided a enough was enough. Our Christmas gift budget would go to charity and our food shop would be pocket money on holiday in the sun. With my fondness for Spain and their less commercialised Christmas way of life, it did genuine feel like an escape from bedlam!
Taking advantage of mobility scooters in favour of the rental car was a definite “good shout”. The ability to explore the beautiful city of Fuengirola as a pedestrian was both tranquil and educational. The city is a mix of architectural history, commerce, green spaces, and culture. Add to this the sublime cafes and restaurants together with the close proximity of the Mediterranean; in a matters of a handful of 100 metres you enter several different worlds.
Food and drink is the mainstay of any holiday and finding where to get that cheap lunch or authentic local cuisine, and of course the best coffee break; is a necessity. Add to that something that we don’t often do on holiday – make friends. That sounds quite anti-social for such a social animal as I. The truth is having experienced so many people who are transient, the ones I levitate towards are those who are resident here. Irrespective of nationality one makes friends with ‘the inn keeper’ and not the ‘wise men’.
More of the friendships later, firstly the food. I was blessed to have my fill of tapas and Andalucian style dishes. From Habas con Jamon to fried Padron peppers, from Madrid style Tapas Bravas to mixed Paella, and of course the nibbles you get when you order a simple beer, it has been a gastronomical odyssey. I would normally stay away from such places as “Paddy’s Irish pub” or “The London Times Olde English Inn”. Being “Cymro dros y mor” and not a “Brit Abroad”, I don’t feel the need for a ‘full Anglerish” to set me up for the day. Conversely for a lunch, a brunch or a coffee break, I don’t need Michelin starred prices at the restaurant either. Having enjoyed a hearty toasted sandwich and chips for €3.80 (£3.46). A good coffee varies between €1.20 and €1.70 (£1.06 and £1.51), which is much cheaper than the Wales, unless you go to the Carmarthenshire Coffee Company, we normally do at home. Then eating out is more affordable than home.
Despite Brexit, war in Ukraine, fuel prices, energy hikes, and the cost of COVID, the bars and restaurants in the heartland (the places where the Spaniards visit) are full. People meeting, eating, drinking and socialising without that metaphorical ‘grey cloud’ of anticipation for “what now?”, hanging precariously over their heads.
Life isn’t a bouquet of roses out here, however most definitely a box of chocolates. Whether it is seeing the sun again, sleeping peacefully, experiencing new sights and sounds, or just the air – this break was needed; though I didn’t know it at the time. Having been running on low for so long, it has been a time to recharge.
Enter then the unusual aspect of making new friends within the transient community. No we didn’t mingle with gypsies (nothing wrong with that by the way). I refer to visitors, like ourselves: tourists, holiday makers, sterling cash cows and the like. This started on Christmas Day as we ate a wonderful meal here at Club La Costa. The couple at the next table made eye contact and we exchanged smiles. At the time, I thought that was quite the new experience. Later the lady asked if I could assist her with her iPhone. She told me her grandson was travelling to Australia and she knew there was an update. I, of course, obliged.
When we retired from our table to the lounge for coffee (by now I needed a compfy chair), they eventual joined us and we started our ‘holiday romance’ of the plutonic kind. Others came and went. Good cheer, different senses of humour, and sometimes needing to translate remarks made in jest (not guilty ma’Lord – for once!). Further sessions followed and another was added to the group. A lovely lady from London whom, like us has ‘weeks’ but with another company and decided to escape the bleak midwinter in England.
The rest is history – we shared some deep stuff as one does with passing ‘friends’, hopeful to meet another day but logically, most unlikely. I have always thought of life in terms of a train journey with the old style carriage compartments. We travel a leg of the journey sharing said compartment with people. A true “Brief Encounter”.
As I said earlier, live in the present – in a moment. In that moment be kind, be considerate, be hospitable, be humble, be open, be safe, be loved & radiate love, and most of all, be grateful.